Escape to Kathmandu

The trip back to Kathmandu from Chitwan took 5 hours. It was an interesting journey

Kathmandu valley is enormous and takes an hour from one side to the other. It is split into 3 large districts. The city centre is chaotic. Cars, motorbikes, trucks all delicately weaving around each other like a vehicle ballet without any traffic lights or accidents. We also noticed how much cleaner Nepal is to India.

The traffic was intense and we were pleased to eventually arrive at our boutique hotel in the Boudha district, a more upmarket part of town. The hotel was elegant and beautifully appointed with a good restaurant.

The hotel was originally a staging post for Tibetans leaving Tibet in 1959 and has been recently refurbished. It’s called The Shambaling.

The district has the most important stupa in Nepal called the Boudhanath stupa and is classed as the city’s no 1 attraction. It has a lot of history and a lot of Tibetan people live here. It’s fascinating. We are saving this until we return in a week and have more time.

We had a driver for the following day. We went to the ‘monkey temple’. It’s high on a hill, hundreds of steps up and looks over the expanse of the city.

Lots of stupas and intricate carved woodwork.

In the centre of the city is Durbar Square where the city’s Kings were crowned. There are medieval buildings, although most buildings were 17th and 18th century. It was badly hit by the earthquake a few years ago. The building that gave Kathmandu its name the Kasthamandap which was a pilgrim shelter from the 12th century but roots dating back to the 7th century was sadly largely destroyed.

A lot of it has been rebuilt and very well restored. They charge foreigners 1000 rupees (£7) to enter the square, there is a lot to see. It helps to fund the restoration. It has 3 loosely connected squares and a huge variety of wooden temples, palaces and sadly stumps of buildings lost to the earthquake. UNESCO are doing an amazing job for this historic city. It’s a fascinating place to people watch.

There is a living goddess called the Kumari Devi. She is chosen from a particular caste of Newari gold and silversmiths, picked at an early age, 4 years old. She has to meet 32 strict physical requirements including eye colour, shape of teeth and sound of her voice. The most recent Kumari, three year old Trishna Shakya took on her role in 2017.

She lives in a very intricate building in the square called the Kumari Bahal and when groups of people enter the building she comes to the window for about a minute. We were lucky to see her. There are gestapo like guards who inform you to put your hands together, bow your head and say namaste and definitely no photos. Her parents can see her in the day only, she cannot go to school and only leaves the building 7 times a year in a gilded coach drawn by men. When she menstruates that’s it, they find the next living goddess. It must be a very strange life for her.

The top window is where she appeared

We are returning to Kathmandu after the walking tour and will spend more time exploring this very interesting city.

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