Boudhanath is a 30 minute walk from Pashupatinath. I highly recommend this walk too because you wander through the streets of a local town, you meet people and watch them go about their daily life, you see women in rice fields and kids curiously approach you to speak English to you and ask if you have any chocolate. It’s a relaxed walk and you feel safe. Nearing the entrance to Boudhanath you will get pestered by a woman holding a baby, pleading for you to buy milk or food for her child, this unfortunately is a scam, A Nepali ‘mother’ plays her trade conning tourists to buy over-priced milk for the ‘baby’ (at inflated prices) which she then sells back to the grocer at normal price splitting the profit, so please be hardy and don’t let this scam tug at the heart strings.
You do have to pay to enter Boudhanath because that helps maintain the site. Boudhanath is very small but grand, on entering there is a gigantic stupa in the middle whilst curious tourists and Buddhists on pilgrimages walk around it whilst chanting mantras. Towards the outer area of Boudhanath there are numerous tourist shops offering Mala prayer beads and Tibetan paintings as well as small cafes and restaurants.
After Bhaktapur we ventured to Pashupatinath the next day. Pashupatinath is only 12 minutes away via taxi and we spent the morning there. From Pashupatinath you can walk to boudhanath which will be written about in the next blog post. From all the places we visited in the Kathmandu district, Pashupatinath was my favourite because of it’s deep connection to Hinduism and Tantrism. Many places in Nepal have a split belief between Hinduism and Buddhism and walking around neighborhoods of Kathmandu you see numerous stupas dedicated to Buddha and plenty of shrines dedicated to many numerous Hindu gods & goddess and the Nepalese are lovingly devoted to both spiritual beliefs and so there is a peaceful balance and acceptance of both spiritual paths. However Pashupatinath is distinctly Hindu and only a 30 minute walk away Boudhanath is primarily Buddhist.
Above is a video of my amazing Aunt Valerie from my Dad’s side of the family. Here she is giving a TEDtalk, yes a fricken TEDTALK about working with Sherpas in Nepal! She is a certified Exodus leader and mountain guide, she has lived in Nepal for many years, In 2008 she became the first British woman to climb Manalsu without supplementary oxygen and in 2009 she reached 8,761m, the South Summit of Everest and she is still leading treks today. I absolutely love that there is a woman in the family who has the same free spirit as me and I can only aspire to do great things in my life like she has done.
I don’t intend on becoming a mountain guide like Valerie but I do intend on creating what people would call an ‘unconventional’ lifestyle for myself and future family and there are two things I’d love to do in my lifetime and that is publish a book and be in a TEDtalk (or something of a similar nature). In 2016 I plan to do a TEFL course to qualify me to teach English as a foreign language either through skype sessions to people living abroad or perhaps go live and work in the far east at a school whilst running my own dance, yoga & art workshops perhaps at a health spa or local studio with an emphasis on mental health awareness. Everything I am working on has a therapeutic and holistic foundation to help clients heal their mind, body and soul through art and creative movement. The TEFL qualification will be the lovely yet secure job whilst setting up my freelance business and it will also give me essential teaching skills plus the confidence I’d need to facilitate my own workshops.
Valerie, as a relative has shown nothing is impossible, if you truly want to do something, you will make it happen, it’s all about manifesting what you truly desire in your heart and forging your own path regardless of adversity. Valerie shows true inner strength and courage to have manifested this life in Nepal for herself and yet like me she came from a shitty little town in the UK called Blackpool where very few people aspire for anything and dislike those who think outside of the boxed social norms. Be a circle not a box because circles can’t be defined, they can’t fit into neat categories and they are in constant motion, circle people are always moving and always evolving.
To read more about Valerie click here and here.
The day after our trip to Patan we hopped on a local bus for an hours drive to Bhaktapur. Buses from Kathmandu leave from the bus stop near Ratna Park, A ride from here to Bhaktapur is about NPR 50 but as a tourist, you should expect to pay a bit more. As soon as you get off the bus you enter the medieval age. Unlike the concrete roads that are found everywhere in the world, the roads of Bhaktapur are still make of brick. The houses are still built in Newari architecture, as the Municipality of Bhaktapur made a rule that here the houses and other buildings should be built in this fashion. This place was a favourite of ours, so much so in fact we both agreed that if we were to live & work in Nepal, Bhaktapur would be our home because it’s only an hour commute if you work in Kathmandu, it’s cleaner, quieter (with primarily pedestrian pathways) and it’s known for it’s arts & craft. This place is rather charming with beautiful ancient temples in the centre, a Potter’s square where you can see how the artists hand craft clay pots and vases, an art school that teaches students traditional Thangka paintings and places where you can see wood, metal and stone artworks being carved. Bhaktapur has the best preserved palace courtyards and old city center in Nepal, and is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its rich culture, temples and craftwork. This is supported by the restoration and preservation efforts of German-funded Bhaktapur Development Project (BDP), no wonder Bhaktapur is so much more clean and well kept in comparison to neighboring towns! Germans are renowned for their efficiency & cleanliness.
KHWOPA is the ancient name of Bhaktapur. The term “Bhaktapur” refers to “The City Of Devotees”. “Khwopa” actually refers to the masks which are believed to have been worn by gods and goddesses. Bhaktapur is popular for different forms of mask dances based on lives of different deities and therefore, it was named “Khwapa” which later came to become just “Khwopa,” which is also near to meaning masks.
After a couple of days settling in Thamel and getting our bearings we hopped in a cab that took us to Patan for the day. Patan is about a 15-20 minute taxi ride from Thamel and is another district of Kathmandu.One thing to note whilst using taxis, always barter with the driver first to fix a price before you hop in the vehicle, they don’t use meters and because you are a tourist they will charge what they think they can get away with. Your fare within the Kathmandu city should only cost about 200 Rupees (£2 or $3). These taxis are every where and they drivers are usually trying to find their next customer which can be a real pain in the bum when walking down the street and you’ll pretty much get at least five drivers shouting from their window “Taxi?! For good price!”
Arriving in Patan, I was a little underwhelmed, not with it’s ancient history but with the area in general, it is not very well kept to the point it had lost it’s charm and well it just wasn’t my favourite place to visit whilst in Nepal. The Durbar Square is very similar to the one in Thamel only dirtier and so many bored locals loitering about and dropping litter & spitting doesn’t make for grandeur when trying to enjoy the stunning architecture. However Patan is known for it’s rich cultural heritage and with it’s arts & craft. It is called city of festival and feast, fine ancient art, making of metallic and stone carving statue. Sadly the city received extensive damage from an earthquake on 25 April 2015 and numerous ancient temples were either severely damaged or completely destroyed.