Ancient Crossroads, Patan & Bhaktapur Nepal

Patan is known as the Royal City or City of Beauty and is located five miles south of Katmandu on the southern side of the Bagmati River. It is one of three settlements of the ancient Kings of Nepal with over 1,200 monuments. Another UNESCO site is eight miles from Katmandu, named Bhaktapur or place of devotees with the best preserved ancient city center. It’s also known for the best sweet yogurt, so you must try some.

 

Patan and Bhaktapur are important religious centers for Buddhist and Hindu faiths.

The first historic records show Emperor Ashoka arriving in the valley near Patan with his daughter in 250 B.C. He established the geographic outlines of Patan with four holy stupas. This makes the shape of the UNESCO world heritage site into the symbol of a Buddhist Wheel of Righteousness.

The royal palace of the Malla Kings was first built in the 3rd century B.C. by the Kirat Dynasty and is now a museum and an architectural wonder.

 

although the majority of Durbar Square is from Medieval times. Evidence of severe architectural damage remain from the 2015 earthquake. Scaffolding and bracing of buildings precariously hold walls from collapsing as reconstruction follows a snails pace.

 

It’s not hard to imagine camal trains carrying salt along the twisting streets of Bhaktapur.

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Not hard to imagine Bhaktapur in Medieval times with the intact city center.

It was also a royal city with craftsman in Medieval times and the provenance continues today. Artists work in shops carving wood, metal work, stone, clay, and jewelry.

 

I loved both cities from the history, architecture, and shopping.  I felt sorry for our very patient guides as the ladies kept creeping into doorways. I would have loved to wander with my camera for another round about both places.  This is a photographer’s dream location, because you don’t know what you’ll see from one moment to the next.

 

K-K-K-K-K Katmandu

Bob Seeger wrote the song Katmandu when he was tired of his profession and wanted to escape. Hippy days are gone, but an observant person will notice marijuana growing wild in empty lots and alleys. Let me emphasize that you don’t need drugs to be high in Katmandu, because this city overloads your senses without a single enhancement. This is a place of extreme opposites. People wash themselves and their dishes from a roadside spigot. Modern appliances are taken home on the back of a bike. I found clarity and focus in Buddhist thangka art opposed by lung defying air pollution.

Traffic jams from hell don’t prevent appreciation of unspoiled mountain landscapes. The entire valley is a UNESCO site for important pilgrimages and monuments amid massive filth counter-balanced with beauty.

The profane competes with the revered and sacred. The ancient trade routes for salt, wool and silk continue to run through Katmandu. The amount of diversity and fusion of cultures left in the wake is unsurpassed.

Katmandu is the odd, bizarre, benevolent, always in a hurry, yet most compassionate and loving place on the planet.

Is Katmandu schizophrenia or extreme reality?  It is really entertaining or downright controversial. I can’t imagine anyone not loving it here.

Fifteen minutes out of the airport I saw my first cremation at the river edge. IMG_7795While flames consumed the body,  little girls walked in the muddy water with magnets trying to find offerings in the funeral ashes. Despite this macabre observation, I had a profound experience talking with a Brahman priest who spoke about our mission in life and karma. He blessed me, touching my heart with a force that I still feel today.

Monkeys’ ran around stealing cotton candy. Strange men who call themselves Holy pose around the stupas coaxing tourists to take pictures, for a price. It seemed like a creative way to be a beggar, but who am I to cast accusations? My guide made an astute observation, “Don’t all religions want to be paid?”

Soak it all in. Stop to see. Touch. Smell. Taste using your fingers the local way. Chant mantras with the background roar of motorcycles. Listen to singing bowls and inhale incense. Still your breath. Calm your mind amongst chaos. Dance with joy on the street with someone you don’t know. Reach out. Embrace. If I ever get out of here, I’ll go back to Katmandu.