Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Nepal Getaway! (Day 2)

Today was my second day in Bhaktapur!

Having gone to bed so early the previous night, I found myself getting up as early as 5:30AM today. I guess I was excited for the things in store for the day. I had my breakfast at the hotel. I tried their Bhaktapur Planet Breakfast Platter. Here's a shot:
Toast, sausage, omelet with masala, crepe with home-made chocolate, Bakhtapur youghurt with fruits, freshly brewed coffee.

The previous night I asked the friendly staff at Hotel Planet Bhaktapur for help me in getting a trustworthy guide. Here, you will have the option of getting two kinds of tour guides. One is a local tour guide and the other is a professional tour guide. Local tour guides are any one around the corner willing to show you around. Professional tour guides are qualified and licensed by the government. Local tour guides will cost less, they might ask for USD 10 when they show you around and that might be good for a couple or three hours. A professional tour guide will cost you more, but according to the hotel manager, it is more worth it, because local tour guides might give you wrong (untrue) information. Since, I trusted the hotel personnel a lot, I opted to get a professional guide.

The professional guide together with the taxi cost me approximately USD 44. Not bad considering the cost of city tour packages in other developed countries. He took me to several major places in Bhaktapur and took a little over 6 hours. It was a personalized tour, because I was the only person he was touring and I got to ask as many questions as I wanted with undivided attention.

Krishna, my guide for the day, arrived at the hotel a little bit past 9:00AM. The hotel had already made the arrangements for the taxi that would take us to the sites that we will visit. This was already included in the above quoted price.

View of Bakhtapur from the top, on the way to Changu. Changu is 1,541 meters above sea level.

Shops on the way to the temples at Changu Narayan.

The first stop was Changu Narayan. Considered as the most ancient pilgrimage site of Kathmandu Valley. There is a Rs. 100 (USD 1) entrance fee for this site which foreigners must pay at the entrance. The site dates back to 5 A.D. It houses temples for the Hindu god, Lord Vishnu (protector god) and Lord Shiva (destroyer god). During this tour I was oriented with the religious consciousness of Nepali Hinduism and Buddhism. My guide shared information vital to their faith. His insights made me appreciate the complexity and similarity of faiths. One thing that came into my mind while I was listening to his sharing is: all religions in the world, regardless of how diverse, always aims to give man direction and goodness in life. He shared many information, but I guess to keep the integrity of the stories, you should come to Nepal and listen. Remember to ask your tour guide:
  • What/Who is th Garuda? 
  • Why is it that only two out of the three main gods in Hinduism are worshiped? 
  • Where was Buddha really born? Nepal or India? 
  • How can you differentiate the temples dedicated to Vishnu and Shiva? What are the distinct markers in these temples' design? 
Temple in Changu dedicated to Lord Vishnu.

Temple in Changu dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Residences outside the temples' compound.
I also found out from the tour that Nepal has another official calendar used primarily for religious or official purposes. They call it Vikram Samvat / Bikram Samvat. They have just celebrated their new year and the Gregorian 2014 year coincides with the Bikram Samvat 2071 year. This is an added knowledge for us who are only aware of the Chinese Lunar, Gregorian and Hijra (Islamic) calendars.

After the this first tour, which took about an hour and a half, I bought some souvenirs from a shop very near to where our taxi parked. They had very interesting things and at reasonable prices. The shop owner even prepared some Darjeeling tea for me and Krishna.
The souvenir shop. You won't miss it on the way back to the carpark.

The next stop was the historical and ancient city of Bhaktapur. Bhaktapur is known for it's preserved architecture which dates back to 12th Cetury AD. The development of this city did not come overnight. It's buildings date from 12th to 17th century, built in a course of several centuries. They are very rich in history. Bhaktapur was the capital of the kingdom which was known as Kathmandu Valley.

Durbar Square is where the royal palace is situated. There are three Durbar Squares in Nepal. Bhaktapur has the oldest and most beautiful of all Durbar Sqaures. Kathmandu Valley, which was composed of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, used to be governed by one king. When the king died in the 15th century, his sons decided to divide the kingdom. One governed Kathmandu, another governed Patan and the other Bhaktapur. This is the reason why you will find three Durbar Squares in the Kathmandu Valley.
Shops at Bakhtapur City.

Peacock carving. One piece of wood, two artists one on the left and the other on the right, 6 months to make.

Random place withing Bhaktapur City.

One of the many temples at Durbar Square.

Palace in Durbar Square

Temple at Durbar Square. This temple is significant. Ask your tour guide why. This is a copy of the one in Patan's Durbar Square. Let's just say it was the result of sibling rivalry.

We had lunch at a restaurant in the square. This place used to be the army barracks that housed the soldiers who protected the king centuries ago.

Mixed Chowmein for lunch.

The restaurant where we had lunch. This building used to be the ancient army's barracks.

Bakhtapur was named World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979. The list and order of places which we came to see at Bhaktapur City were:

1. Changu Narayan - oldest temple dating back to 5th Century AD. 1,542 meters above sea level.
2. Til Madhab Temple - temple with five pillars.
3. Dattatraya Square - temple dedicated to both Vishnu and Shiva.
4. Durbar Square - Royal Court and Palace.
5. Taumadhi Square - five storey temple.
6. Pottery Square - place where pottery is kneaded, molded/formed, sun-baked, cooked.
7.Siddha Pokhari - the biggest man made pond in Bakhtapur. There are several "pokhari(s)" within the district. The primary purpose of these man-made ponds is to assist residents in case a fire breaks out.

Taumadhi Square. The five-storey temple dedicated to the spouse of Shiva.

Pottery Square. A woman preparing the pots before/after it is/was sun-baked.

Clay pots being sun-baked at Pottery Square.

Siddha Pokhari. You can see the Himalayas at the background.
Thanks to my professional tour guide, Krishna! I gained a lot of significant information about Nepal's culture, history and religion.

After this 6-hour sojourn, we headed back to the hotel. I stayed in the hotel, rested and took a couple of pictures on the roof deck.

Picture 1: Cisterns and the sunset. These cisterns indicate the places where red clay bricks are made and 'cooked.' Most houses and buildings in Kathmandu Valley are made of red bricks. They are cooked to make them durable and stronger.

Picture 2: Himalayan Mountain range at the background.

I had dinner at the hotel. I still preferred the food there than the one I had for lunch at Durbar Square. For dinner I tried some of the house specialty, pasta and brick-oven cooked pizza. The restaurant was full an I was already seated, when two ladies Isa and Giovana, both ladies from Italy joined me at my table. I shared my pizza with them because the serving was very generous. We exchanged stories. They were lovely people. I remember the old postings at Jollibee Megamall back in the 90's, "Share a table, win a friend!" I guess it proved to be true for me at Nepal.

The day began and ended with excitement, food, learning and meeting new people!

P.S. Bakhtapur is also famous for it's yoghurt called "King's Gourd." The hotel makes its home-made style and it is VERY VERY GOOD! I ordered one to go before I retired to my room to type this blog entry. Here's how it's served here at Hotel Planet Bhaktapur!

No comments:

Post a Comment