2017
06.23

Beggar

SYNOPSIS:  Status report and comparison between the three ancient capitals.  Daily life in Bhaktapur’s old town.  There are two sections of images; please scroll down.

Bhaktapur was my final stop.  It is the last of the ancient kingdoms in the valley and I am glad I visited these three UNESCO sites in that order.  I took a real dive in accommodations, but as I went down to the basics inside, the view from Shiva Guesthouse across Bhaktapur’s Durbar Square beat both the views I had in Kathmandu and Patan.  I was smack in the middle of it all.

Shiva Guesthouse has none of the charm of my previous AirBnB places, but it brings together people from all over the world coming here with a variety of interests, NGO-workers, backpackers, “flesh packers” as the more affluent middle-generation is known, trekkers, and more.  A young American girl named Casey and I spent some time together.  If I understood her right, she had come with a team of future medical students and brought equipment to some rural hospitals.  The spectrum of interesting people certainly made up for the lack of comfort.

 

If Kathmandu does not get its act together, it will be history as a magnet for tourists.  Its historic square is too small of an oasis, too damaged, and surrounded by too much dust and dirt.  If it were not for Thamel, the hip, posh and popular shopping and dining district north of Hanuman Dhoka, I would already say:  2 hours, and you should move on and out.

Bhaktapur not only has lovely winding streets full of shops, markets, workshops and interesting architecture; step-down wells, ghats, and temple courtyards, it also has much of its historic temple architecture preserved.  Yes, there is substantial damage from the earthquake, but two things stand out:

Renovations following the devastating 1934 earthquake sponsored in large part by German funds I will proudly say, has stood the test of the 2015 earthquake.   And Bhaktapur does not only have one square worth visiting but three if not four, connected by those lovely alleys.  That makes for a much more complex and coherent ancient city, rather than just an ancient square. 

Tragically, most of the earthquake damage is found in the domestic sector.  Traditional Newari architecture crumbled and if it was not fully damaged by the earthquake itself; it was declared uninhabitable and now funds to rebuild are lacking so… these homes are fully destroyed to make room for new ones.  This will noticeably destroy the coherent fabric of this town.  But there seems to be no easy way out.

For two days I walked through town, observing and photographing life in the streets.  Once again, I will take you on a photo-essay tour. 

And sad as it is, the end of my trip is now in sight.   

3 comments so far

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  1. Interesting that the profession of potter is still around. These do not seem to be artistic pots at all, but just ordinary pots. Just like a thousand years ago, or two thousand.

    • Good observation. Nepal’s artistic talent is poured into metal works (gorgeous!), woodcarvings (everywhere), and paintings (tangkhas). Pottery is quite ordinary and actually quite rare.

  2. And what a trip it was…seemed to be packed with such a grand variety of things, experiences and people. Maybe you have just become a five star expert in how to “do” the world…ET’s Planet Extraordinaire…joining a handful of influential world travelers. I think your influence will be in the richness you bring to your students, friends etc. And, of course, most of all YOURSELF.