Morning in Bhaktapur. I’ve had a great sleep, and now I’m hungry so I head up to the rooftop to eat breakfast. It’s still hazy out there, and I’ve learnt by now that the mountains I can just about make out through the haze are definitely not the Himalayas in any capacity. Om, the receptionist boy who checked me in yesterday and lugged my suitcase up to my room is in the kitchen cooking breakfast, and Suresh is busying himself taking photos of the guests to put on booking.com (the hotel has only recently opened). There’s no choice of what you get for breakfast; it’s one thing only, and luckily it’s delicious. I get an egg cooked into the salty lentil pancakes I watched some women making in the streets of Kathmandu, and it’s so good I ask for another.
Today, then, it’s time to explore the other parts of Bhaktapur that I didn’t see yesterday. First I make my way back to Thaumadi Square, which by this time in the morning is once again filled with people and tour groups clambering up and down the steps of Nayatapola Temple. I make my way down the market street I walked a bit along yesterday and head towards Dattatreya Square. The street is lovely, with its overhanging Newa carving buildings and temples dotted along the way.
I find myself in a square that is interesting. A large temple stands ahead of me, and there are shops and a museum lining the square. It’s nice, but I preferred Thaumadi Square, if I’m honest. I take a few pics and try to understand what a French tour guide is telling her group (I’m a bit rusty on the old French). I’m standing next to the temple when I see an old man sitting outside a shop, and just at the last second I noticed that there is another chap staring mournfully out of the window above the shop. I click the shutter and get the shot. The picture is seen on Instagram by an account called Zero Turbulence, and I receive an email from them asking if they can share it. I’m quite pleased with this, so I say yes and watch the likes sail past 200, making it easily the most popular picture I’ve ever put on Instagram (even if it’s not likes gathered by my own account).
I spend a few minutes wandering around, taking some more shots, and then make my way back down a side street. It is only afterwards that I realise that I have just seen Dattatreya Square, which is one of the most important squares in Bhaktapur. Oops. You’ll be glad to know that I came back later on when I passed through Bhaktapur en route to Pokhara and stayed another night after going to Nagarkot; I spent an afternoon thoroughly appreciating the square, and for brevity’s sake I’m including some of the photos I took later here in this post. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I was really taken with the bright colours of the tika that is splashed about everywhere, and one of my most favourite pictures I took on the entire trip was taken that afternoon: I call this one Eye’ll Be Watching You. There’s certainly no evils getting through that door…
On to Pottery Square next. I’m quite excited to see this, as I’ve had a desire to learn pottery for a couple of years and never did manage to find a class in Seoul. I had a go at making a small pot in Japan, of course, but that was just a quick ten-minute thing. I make my way back through Thaumadi Square and down the street that will lead me to Pottery Square. Round here the signs of earthquake damage are a little more pronounced. Although Bhaktapur wasn’t hit as hard as Kathmandu, it still did suffer quite a bit of damage. Interestingly, the city officials rejected the offer of foreign aid to help rebuild and instead implemented the fee charged to tourists to enter the city and gave the rebuilding work jobs to its residents, which has resulted in a much quicker and much better reconstruction job than has been happening Kathmandu.
Pottery Square isn’t that big, it turns out. But then again, neither is Bhakatapur as a whole. Out in the middle of the square there are clay pots drying in the sun, and there are several shops selling ceramic and pottery items like owls, pots and other decorations. I was hoping to see potters’ wheels spinning and kilns blasting away, but I only see one small occasion of this when I bumble down a tiny alley between two buildings. Still, it’s an enjoyable site, and I try to get some pictures, of course. As it’s lunchtime, I head to the rooftop of a cafe I have read about and spend a pleasant hour sitting in the sun watching the comings and goings around the square over a plate of fried buffalo mo:mo.
The last destination, of course, is now Durbar Square. It’s just a few minutes’ walk from Pottery Square, since Bhaktapur really isn’t that big. Of the three main squares, it is the one that had been hit the hardest by the earthquake, and restoration work is still ongoing as I wander around. I’m plagued by tour guides again as I enter, and I spend most of my time hiding from one insistent chap who wants me to come to his painting school. The Kama Sutra-esque Newari carvings on the roof of one temple are an interesting diversion, admittedly, but I don’t feel that I really spend enough time enjoying the square or learning about it.
By now it’s late afternoon and the sun is beginning to fade. I head back to the hotel to relax for a bit before heading out to dinner. Just as last night, it’s completely dark and no one is around as I wander the streets. Again the bells are clanging and bikes are zipping around and people are at the temple lighting candles and praying, and once again after 7 pm it all goes dark and silent and only a few tourists are straggling around. It’s time to head back and arrange my onward journey to Nagarkot and get ready to go and see Mt. Everest.