03 March 2013

A Day Trip to Bhaktapur

These guys are totally a Vice Magazine "Do."

The medieval town of Bhaktapur is one of the most impressive sights in the Kathmandu Valley, a storybook city complete with towering temples and bustling artisan squares. Bhaktapur was once a powerful kingdom that regularly battled nearby Kathmandu and Patan and was the capital of all of Nepal in the 15th century. However, its glory faded (no one ever sees it coming, do they?) and by the 19th century the formerly grand district was relegated to a market city, eventually falling into decay. 

The situation was dire for Bhaktapur's architectural treasures by the 1970s. Thankfully, a German development fund stepped in and provided money for restoration work, and the city is now a major tourist attraction and an example of a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for 'living heritage." People live, work and play alongside ancient temples, and so the buildings feel less like roped-off exhibits and more like a rich and vibrant part of daily life. 

So why on earth did it take me, the big heritage nerd, four months to get here?! Bhaktapur is only 45 minutes from Kathmandu (if the traffic is good) but it always seemed to elude me. Something always came up - a leisurely lunch, a day of yoga, a monster hangover after a good 1905 party - until today. I happily headed to the city (also known as Khwopa in the local Newari tongue) with a couchsurfer and a new pal for a day of touristy sightseeing.

We spent the afternoon strolling the pedestrian-only streets, stopping to admire the architecture, gaze up in monolithic squares and sip chai in darkened shops. Here are some of my favourite images from a picture-perfect day in "the city of devotees," Bhaktapur.

People come to chat and mingle on the temple steps. Beats hangin' out at the mall.

                                                     The dumb smile on this horse's face made me laugh all day.

Crafting gorgeous pots by hand in Potters Square.

 The aptly named Potters Square, one of the many artisan sites around the city.
(insert pot joke here)

 A 14th century temple.
A small winding street.
If you lived here, you'd be home by now.
 Totes reminded me of Sweetums.

 Half-peeled Hanuman on a pretty pink wall.
In the words of British art historian Percy Brown, this solid gold gate is "the most lovely piece of art in the whole Kingdom; it is placed like a jewel, flashing innumerable facets in the handsome setting of its surroundings'."

Nyatpola Temple, a five story structure built in 1702.
The stunning Durbar Square at sunset. Goodnight, Bhaktapur!


Anonymous said...

Text & visuals. Beautuful. Well done.

bipin said...

some snaps of bhaktapur durbar square http://bipin.me/bhaktapur-durbar-square-winter/

Muzzammil said...

Good one! We (family) are coming to Nepal next month and hoping to visit Bhaktapur for a day or two, especially after reading your post.