Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Morning Coffee in Patan

On our final full day in Kathmandu we took a taxi to Patan.  Patan is one of the oldest known Buddhist cities. It is a centre of both Hinduism and Buddhism with 55 major temples.  Having visited Durbar Square in Kathmandu - and having once been to Patan before but having absolutely no recollection of it - I was keen to see it.  Joal suggested going to the Si Tichhu restaurant and going right up to the top to get the best view of the square.

Patan Durbar Square is one of the three Durbar Squares in the Kathmandu Valley, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The architecture is Newa with the main temples being opposite the palace.  There's also a large bell.  The square was heavily damaged  by the 2015 earthquake.  Some of the structures are being rebuilt with the help of the Swiss.

Afternoon tea in the Garden of Dreams


We returned to Kathmandu with a couple of days left to explore.  On the afternoon we got back we decided to walk to The Garden of Dreams, which wasn't far from the hotel.  This is a neo classical historical garden, also known as the garden of Six Seasons which was created in early 1920. After the completion of this garden, it was considered as one of the most sophisticated private gardens of that time.  Within the garden walls are six pavilions, each dedicated to one of the six seasons of Nepal. Today, only half of the original garden is in existence. It was restored in cooperation with Austrian Government during the period of 2000 to 2007.

Peaceful Pokhara

We decided to spend the middle of our week in Pokhara, about 200 kms away from Kathmandu.  We took a bus from Kathmandu and it took a bit over 6 hours to get there, with stops for breakfast, lunch and a burst tyre!  Pokhara is the base for trekkers to the Annapurna Range, which contains 3 of the 10 highest mountains in the world.

Heading up to the Himalayas we caught our first glimpse of snow covered mountains in the distance.
We arrived in Pokhara mid afternoon and walked down to the Phewa Lake for something to eat.  We returned there for sundowners as well!  The lake is really beautiful.

The following morning I got up early to look at the sunrise.  It was spectacular to see the high mountains from the roof of the hotel which gradually turned from blue to pink as the sun came up.

We decided to walk by the lake after breakfast and then catch a taxi up to the World Peace Pagoda on the hill.  We first walked to the Kedareswar Mahadev which was beside the lake in a small park.

Even though we took a taxi up to the World Peace Pagoda there was still a bit of a climb at the end.   We had visited another Shanti Stupa before when we were in Leh (Ladakh).  The aim is to build 100 of these around the world. This is number 71 and was completed in 1999.

From there we walked down to the lake.  It takes about 30 - 40 minutes to get right down to the bottom of the hill and then we had to wait for someone to come across with a rowing boat to get us back to Pokhara.  I'm glad we decided to walk down - not up!  The rowing boat stopped at another small temple on an island in the lake, the Varahi Mandir.

We wandered back to the lake again for sunset - if you look carefully you can see the Shanti Stupa on top of the hill.

At times it got quite cloudy - so we had planned to go up to a viewpoint to watch the sunrise, but as it was cloudy we didn't go.  Generally, though, the views were lovely.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Temples of Kathmandu

On our second day in Kathmandu it was Holi.  We did try to go out to walk to the Garden of Dreams, but discovered that many people were throwing water and coloured powder, so we retreated back to the hotel to wait it out.  Later in the afternoon, when things were a bit quieter, we took a taxi to 2 temples on the outskirts of the city.

The first place we went was the Buddhist stupa known as Boudhanath. The ancient Stupa is one of the largest in the world and it's surrounded by about 50 Tibetan monasteries built by the influx of refugees from Tibet in the 1950s. As of 1979, Boudhanath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The stupa was built on the ancient trading route from Tibet, and Tibetan merchants have rested and offered prayers here for many centuries.

We spent about an hour here, and then moved on to another temple complex called Pashupatinath. This temple is considered one of the sacred temples of the Hindu faith and since 1979 has also been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This Hindu temple precinct is a sprawling collection of temples and ashrams built over many centuries along the banks of the sacred Bagmati river.   Cremations take place on the banks of the river.  Only Hindus are allowed into the temple - visitors have to look at the main temple from the other side of the river.

Monday, March 27, 2017

New Year in Nepal

In India we always get a week's holiday for Holi - the festival of colours that marks the end of winter and the start of spring.  Holi is traditionally the Hindu New Year.   It's a pretty crazy time in India, so this year we decided to try our luck in Nepal.  We planned to fly to Kathmandu, spend a few days there, travel to Pokhara, and then back to Kathmandu again for the end of the week.  It was a lovely time to visit Nepal - the temperature was about 10 degrees cooler than in Mumbai.  Actually on the first day that we got there it was cold and rainy.

We walked through the muddy streets as far as Durbar Square.  It was immediately clear that there was a lot of damage from the earthquake 2 years ago, as some of the buildings had been completely destroyed.  Others were propped up or were in the process of being rebuilt.

Kal Bhairav (representing Shiva in his destructive manifestation) 

Basantapur Durbar - a 9 storeyed tower built in 1770.
Part of the palace complex

We went into the Kumari-ghar Temple of the Living Goddess, and then went back again at 4pm to catch a glimpse of her at the upstairs window.  She didn't stay long - someone had a camera and she quickly disappeared.


After Durbar Square we went to Swayambhunath, the "monkey" temple.  It was quite a walk up to the top - but there was a great view over Kathmandu.