Archive for the ‘Kathmandu’ Category

  • The living Goddess

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    Another thing which may surprise backpackers while travelling in Nepal is to find out about the existence of a living Goddess, the Kumari Devi, a little girl living in the Kumari Bahal in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square.
    One legend explains how a paedophile king of the Malla’s dynasty maintained sexual relationships with a girl. As a result she died and the king inaugurated as a penitence the practice to venerate a little girl as a living Goddess. This girl is chosen from a Newar silver or goldsmiths caste and has to fulfil several requirements such as age, eyes colour, voice sound, horoscope… Her reign finishes with her first period and the process to find the new Kumari starts again.

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    Note that it is not allowed to take pictures of the Kumari without a special permit, so we borrowed this pic from the net.

  • Patan

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    Patan is also known as the city of beauty (Lalitpur) and it might be because of the huge amount of stupas and “bahals” (interior courtyards) spread out all over the city. Its Durbar Square has an even higher amount of ancient buildings than Kathmandu’s or Bhaktapur’s (the third city in importance in Kathmandu’s Valley) and it’s an amazing place to visit and discover the greatness of the Newar architecture (XIV to XVIII century). Much more interesting for us, after having visited already the very similar Durbar Square in Kathmandu, was the nice walking tour planned by the Tourism Authorities of the city, which we did independently and which takes you through narrow streets, “bahals” (courtyards), “hitis” (water tanks) and tuns (pools), providing an image of the communal way of life in Newar villages. Patan is only a short bus ride from Kathmandu’s bus stand (around 7 Rupees) and can be visited in a day out excursion from the capital. There are some hotels and restaurants around Durbar Square, although they are a bit more expensive than the ones in Thamel or Freak Street, so we would recommend to stay in Kathmandu rather than here.

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  • God of the tooth pain

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    In one of the streets of Kathmandu’s old town, north from Durbar Square, there is a piece of wood with thousands of coins nailed to it, which are offerings to the God of the tooth pain. This is the most bizarre God that we have found so far and we suggest all the backpackers to go and find it, it’s worthy! The name of the square is Bangemudha, which means “kinky wood”.

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  • Kathmandu surroundings

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    Pashupatinath Temple, Bodhnath, Swayambhunath Stupa and Patan (all of them declared Wolrd Heritage sites by the Unesco) are other interesting things to visit in Kathmandu and are a good example to confirm the healthy cohabitation of the major religions in the country: Hinduism and Buddhism. There are also some bizarre things to see in Kathmandu, like the “God of the tooth pain”, a formless wooden block completely covered in nails and coins, which might help anybody by just nailing a coin to its image. Or the possibility of seeing a “living Goddess” coming out of her window to bless the crowd.

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  • Trash piles in the streets

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    After many days of festival, Kathmandu streets become filthy and full of rubbish. The waste rots after long hours under the sun and is very smelly. There are no bins or garbage containers in Nepal and the waste collection system is almost non existent. The number of cows eating the rubbish is also not enough to get rid it. It was after 1 week when we started to see people cleaning some of the streets. As we discussed with some other backpackers, it is weird to see how Nepali people are used to live among the garbage and filth without even caring the smell and sanitary conditions, something that may discomfort some travellers.

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  • Nepal’s New Year

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    Our arrival in Kathmandu coincided with one of the biggest festivals around the country: Deepawali. We were surprised about the amount of people gathering all around the city, the firecrackers noise and the light decorations in the streets. It was the second day of the Tihar, which happens always on the new moon of October-November and which means the end of the year for the Newar community in Kathmandu’s Valley. So, without having planned it, we found ourselves involved on the celebration of the beginning of year 1128. Nepal festivities and festivals are marked by the moon calendar and happen during new or full moon periods. The official new year in the country starts on the 14th of April and its calendar is 57 years ahead ours, so while we live in 2008, they do it in 2065. At the end of the day, we just didn’t know in which year we were living and decided not to worry about the number, we are just travelling around Asia and time is not something to worry about!!

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  • Kathmandu

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    Kathmandu is not only the capital city of the kingdom, but the biggest and most chaotic city by far. Its narrow streets in the old town are bustled with motorbikes, taxis, cycle-rickshaws, people rambling along the road and street pedlars. Kathmandu’s history is very rich and you just need to wander around to get involved by the magic and mystery of its past. This is the city of temples and mystic, the place to admire Buddhism and Hinduism at the same time and a real paradise for backpackers, which offers everything they may need during their trip: joy, fun, shopping and cheap accommodation.
    The north part of the city center is called Thamel, an area full of budget hotels and lodges, which concentrates almost the whole leisure spots of the city: music bars and clubs, cinema, restaurants, shops and internet points (very much needed to update this travel blog after being isolated in the mountains). Everything can be founded here and this is why most of the young travelers prefer to stay there.

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    Other options for accommodation (the one we chose due to its relative quietness) is Freak Street, a small area south of Durbar Square, where backpackers used to settle down during the hippy decade. There are some cheap hotels with good standards and it is just a few steps from Kathmandu’s most amazing tourist point: the Durbar Square. We enjoyed the great choice of meals and restaurants (which was most welcome after so many days eating the same food during our trek in the mountains) and the long walks to several of the main attractions of the city, while the short way we did every time from our hotel to the Thamel area was always too loud, too crowded and too unpleasant for us. Travellers should be ready to stand this hassle all over Nepal, specially in Kathmandu, unfortunately we couldn’t get used to it and it got to our nerves more than once…

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    Getting lost in the old town’s small streets is one of the best things to do in Kathmandu and the best way to find hidden treasures, which seem not to be as appreciated by locals as they are by tourists: while groups of Japanese visitors flash with their cameras the slim figure of a rare standing Buddha, two local woman use the same image to tie a rope and hang their washing. The magnificence of the city can be summarized in the Durbar Square, a complex consisting on 3 vaguely joined squares full of temples and palaces (“Durbar” means palace and here is where kings used to have their residence), where you can spend your time easily and don’t realise at all.