There were three main Durbar Squares in Kathmandu: Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur. All three received heavy damage from the 2015 earthquake. However, of the three, Bhaktapur was most in tact at the time of our visit. Bhaktapur also had a more rich but quaint feel, so we opted to visit and stay in Bhaktapur which was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Bhaktapur was one of the three major civilization centers in Kathmandu. Durbar Square in Bhaktapur housed the royal family in the 1600 and 1700s. In order to get into the city tourists must pay 1500 NPR per US citizen. Small children were free. The city was small at nearly 6 square kilometers, but packed with goings on. It reminded me of a classic medieval city with its brickwork, narrow winding streets, and activities. Even though it is steeped in history, artifacts, and monuments, there were plenty of modern activities. We stayed near the local university which teemed with youth activity. There were no fast food that I recognized, but scooters zoomed up and down the steep streets.
Our host at Krishna House was amazing and prepared a super awesome and tasty breakfast every morning. They even supplied some yogurt, a food that Bhaktapur was famous for. Kylie and Alyssa inhaled it!
Solar heating and cloudy short days meant no hot water which was a bit challenging. Side note: Hot water has not been common on our trip. In the tropics, no hot water was needed. In other regions with power problems, they use solar heating options. Technically it should work fine, but in an area like India where the sun was blocked from the pollution, hot water would not flow. At best, it wasn’t glacial cold.
We walked around town going through Durbar Square, Tuamadhi Square, Dattatray Temple, and the many shrines and Pokhari’s along the way. (A pokhari was a man made pool. It was explained to us that these were made not for drinking but to aid with putting out fires). Side streets were plentiful and full of life. Many scars of the 2015 earthquake remained. We saw buildings nearing the completion of their renovation with new bricks and rebar. We also saw dilapidated piles of bricks collapsed around the doorways that once provided entry to someone’s home, but now remained as a reminder of how suddenly life can change.
We spent an entire day walking up and down the streets and alleyways of this dense town. Within this six square kilometer city, there was more than 80,000 people. It was dense, but at the same time quaint. It had a very different feel from Thamel and Kathmandu.
At the base of the brick and tree symbiosis, was a Buddhist shrine dating back to 600s.