Yesterday, I visited Bhaktapur, a medieval city outside of Kathmandu. It is a beautiful old city surrounded by rice fields with 3 main squares. There were lots of narrow cobblestone streets to wander through, finding small statues and temples along the way.
I got a ride there with one of my friend’s co-workers – who dropped me off and told me to head straight to the gate (you have to pay $15 to enter — which is pretty steep — but the main part of the city is protected and they do maintain/restore the buildings with the fee). I wandered in among red-brick houses until i reached a square–over a cup of milk tea, I was able to figure out where I was. From that point, I ambled for close to 3 hours — following a walking tour suggested by lonely planet which provided me with a great overview of the old city.
As I mentioned, there are three main squares — each with great sculptures and temples. But wandering the alleyways and back streets, where I rarely saw another tourist, was a real treat. I wandered into one temple courtyard – which was being used by a spinner, a wood-whittler who was making miniature rocking horses, and several women winnowing rice (shaking the rice out onto tarps – i don’t know what winnowing means exactly). An old man who was sitting in the shade invited me to have a seat, which I did — glad to be out of the sun. I sat there for twenty minutes or so, sharing the silence and observing the quiet action.
From there, I wandered on — in another spot near the river, I found a couple working with the rice — he was hitting the rice stalks and she was spreading the rice out onto the tarps. He invited me to help winnow the rice (I think) and so I tried — doing it all wrong, she corrected me — but then told me that there were bugs (or something itchy in there) and so I might not want to. Or so…. I think, maybe she told me. Damn, wish i could communicate!
I had lunch in a former temple — the view of the Nyatapola temple made up for the high prices and the so-so food. But it was fun to sit and people watch. A woman from the Ukraine shared my table with me — she and her husband are in Nepal (Kathmandu and Bakhtapur) for 3 days and then onto Bhutan for 4 days — she told me that would be enough time to see Bhutan. (?!)
But all of these temples and such are great…. but what Bhaktapur is _really_ known for is it’s CURD! (translation for many of you: yogurt!) You might be thinking – whatever — how good is yogurt, really? Well, let me tell you — it is AMAZING! I stopped in one place to have a bowl — and it was good. it was really good. But, then I read in the book that you should get it on the street at one of the hole-in-the-wall places — so I did. I got another bowl of curd (for half the price as the other one) in a little earthenware bowl (sorry – no picture of this one!) and ate that bowl up too. It really is so rich and creamy and almost sweet and kind of tart and really, just amazing. i wish i could have that every day for breakfast… and for dessert!
And then, it was time to go home… it was my first time figuring out transportation all by myself on this trip!! Katherine had always been with me the other times (on this trip) to figure out transportation. So, taking a deep breath and reading (and rereading) my guidebook and studying the map, off I went in search of the bus station. Following several sets of directions which I half understood “just go straight and then wait harpumph…”. Finally, many people questioned later — I found it! Or at least, the buddy on the bus (each bus driver has a buddy — a guy who collects the money and rides in the doorway and shouts indistinguishable words that might mean cities or… something) told me it was. So off we went. Fortunately, I recognized a lot of the journey – so at least I knew I was headed in the right direction! I wasn’t sure where to get off — so I kept waiting for buddy to give me the signal. I thought to myself that this is great practice in trust – in truly believing in people’s best intentions – and that they will look out for me.
We arrived in a bustling bus yard – taxis, buses, people, bikes, motos, carts with fruits and veggies, trash, stray dogs. Buddy gave me a vague point to Patan and off I wandered. I asked someone for the zoo (which is a great landmark since there is only one!) – but here in Nepal, you need to be judicious about who you ask for directions — as people will respond, even if they don’t know, as they do not want to be rude.
Heading down the street – I gradually started to recognize where I was and was able to arrive ‘home’. And how great that was — to come back to a space that feels comfortable and warm and safe. I realize how much I like having a home – a place to come back to. Which, of course, begs the question — why would i give up my home for this year of travel? Or what makes a home for me? I suppose that answer is something I need to discover about myself this year.
To finish off, here are some little glimpses of my past days:
- Roof top yoga, sun salutations with the rising sun
- Three sheep and a lamb running down the street near my friend’s house (she lives in the city which begs the question – where did they come from?!)
- early morning runs – seeing people playing badminton, basketball and out walking and running; kids heading to school, women preparing for their days.
I think that I am going to go to Jazzmandu tomorrow night — and then probably go to Pokhara next week for a visit (I was going to work on a farm but the timing is off for it to be really meaningful as I would only be there about 3 days there with transportation time and all…) and then Lisa and I will do something next weekend — so it looks like I will be making a move out of Nepal around the first of the month (probably head to Chitwan to see some elephants and maybe rhinos and tigers (!!!) and then down to Varanasi, India from there). Part of me wants to just stay here – I love catching up with an old friend and spending time together – but it is hard to believe that it will be November soon! Time to push myself and head into India – I know part of my reluctance has to do with heading out on my own and fear in the unknown. I guess all the more reason to push myself into it!
Hope that you are all well! I love hearing from you!
Take care — love – aurora