We have about an hour and a half’s drive to our first stop and Kishor tells us about some of the political and royal history (it was good to reinforce what I had read up about yesterday). I was surprised to hear that the main revenue for Nepal (approx 30%) is foreign remittance (people working abroad and sending money home), followed by a rapidly growing tourism industry (currently at around 20-25%).
Although the big cities all merge into each other, there is a point that we suddenly realise that we are in a much more agricultural area and have entered Bhaktapur. We turn off the main highway and drive through some delightful rural countryside where the rice is just about to be harvested. The fields have been drained and the crop is starting to yellow and dry off. In some areas we can see they have started to harvest (by hand) and the crop is laid down in neat bunches. Along the roadsides we see rice grains laid out on sacks to dry out further. It is stored in this state in sacks and then just milled as required.
Adding to the rustic feel are the cobs of corn hanging out to dry from people’s windows and even hanging from the roofs of restaurants. We see people carrying all sorts of loads on their person, by bicycle or motorcycle, and their peculiar tractors. Everything is transported – we even see a tractor-load of eggs.
Then we are back on the bus to Bhaktapur; walking up the steep steps to the main heart of the city – running the gauntlet of the people determined to sell us everything from jewellery to ceremonial knives. Bhaktapur dates from the early 8th century and was the capital of Nepal in 12th -15th centuries. Along with the ancient kingdoms of Kathmandu and Patan it has a large central Durbar Square surrounded by various palaces, temples and stupas. The earthquake damage is very visible and there are piles of rubble, buildings propped up with wooden beams, some surrounded with bamboo scaffolding and others that have already been repaired. One of the old temples is decorated karma sutra style.
Our first main stop here is to have lunch at a little restaurant with a very welcome shaded terrace. I can’t go past my favourite fresh lemon soda and momos (dumplings) again. There are all sorts of different types including in a chilli sauce or sizzling with capsicums and onions. Jenny and I decide to share some Chicken Kothey Momos and some Vegetable noodles.
Bhaktapur is also known as the cultural capital of Nepal and under its World Heritage status operates as a living museum for the Newari culture. There are traditional crafts of every nature all around and Kishor takes us to see and hear about how some of the quality products are made.
First stop is a demonstration of the traditional Nepalese singing bowls. Good quality ones are made of seven different types of metal and are more than just a work of art. If the bowls are tapped or stroked they start a vibration that is in tune with chanting Om. We are shown a bowl filled with water that when the stick is rubbed around the rim, the vibrations are so strong that water droplets jump into the air. Next up I am a volunteer to demonstrate the use of the bowls to help with calming headaches: a large bowl is upended on my head and he strikes it repeatedly with the stick – it is in fact surprisingly calming. But wait there is more! You can also use the bowl for therapeutic healing of backache: again I volunteer for the demonstration – the base of the bowl is placed against the back and struck. As it vibrates they move it up and down. I like the idea of this but think it would be best if the bowl came with a cute guy to perform the therapy!
For this and other similar tours see:
Peregrine Adventures (Comfort tours)
Geckos Adventures (for 18 to 30s)
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