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Lost and Found in Bhaktapur

June 29, 2013
From atop the Nyatapola Temple, the view of Bhaktapur and the surrounding hills of Kathmandu valley.

From atop the Nyatapola Temple, the view of Bhaktapur and the surrounding hills of Kathmandu valley.

I’m kind of doing these posts out of chronological order, but I decided to start with a good story from last weekend. The plan was for all of us (the volunteers living in the house) to make a trip to Bhaktapur, an old town resting within the larger bustling Kathmandu metropolis on our day off. There were no defined plans apart from this; we kept saying, “Let’s just take it easy today, we’ll just go with it.” Divided into two groups, we set off to find taxis which would take us to a main bus station nearby, and from there we established we’d find each other and carry on to Bhaktapur. No such thing happened! My group – myself and three other girls – arrived at the bus station, which was bigger and more chaotic than we’d anticipated. Naively I had believed that it was going to be manageable, that we would just immediately find our other group. Instead we stood at the mouth of tightly stacked old buses, fronted by young boys shouting in Nepali the stops and destinations for their vehicle in hopes of attracting more passengers.

We waited at the corner by the bus stop for about 30 minutes, walked around the station hoping to find them, and finally we just decided to continue on and find a bus which would take us to Bhaktapur, our logic being that we couldn’t imagine the other group giving up and going back home.

I was convinced we were lost – the way the bus driver over-exuberantly (perhaps more so exasperatingly) confirmed the bus’s destination as Bhaktapur, the venturing into an unfamiliar part of the city – but thankfully those suspicions were dispelled as we piled off the bus at the side of a massive intersection bearing the sign “भक्तपुर Bhaktapur”. After asking many kind locals for directions, we find the entrance and pay an entree fee, and being a non-Nepali visiting that area is exponentially more expensive which is, I suppose, unsurprising, but some of us in the group weren’t really happy about it. I personally found it more than worth it. After reaching the top of the hill of winding stone streets up to the square, you are met with beauty beyond description in the Nyatapola Temple, the Bhairab Nath Temple and, from the top of Nyatapola, a view of Bhaktapur and greater Kathmandu embraced by endless rolling hills.

(From left to right:) Nyatapola Temple and Bhairab Nath Temple in Bhaktapur.

(From left to right:) Nyatapola Temple and Bhairab Nath Temple in Bhaktapur.

So, we sit down for lunch at some place with free Wi-Fi and, checking Facebook to see whether we can contact the others, I find a message from a person in the other group saying, “Where are you guys? We decided to just go back to the volunteer house”. Shocked that they’d simply just give up and go back home, we respond telling them we were already at Bhaktapur and for them to come too. Unfortunately it didn’t occur to us until they had left to give them specific directions of where/when to meet! Lesson not learned the first time around, apparently. We went back down to the entrance of Bhaktapur, hoping we’d see them, despite the fact that there are something like 13 entrances to the town (!). After a while, we decided to wait in the main square (pictured above), and eventually we just figured we’d walk around and make the most of the trip, hoping they would do the same.

Faded sky-blue doors beside an art gallery in Bhaktapur.

Faded sky-blue doors beside an art gallery in Bhaktapur.

Beautifully ornate door and archway, with statues at guard.

Beautifully ornate and intricately carved wooden door and archway, with statues at guard.

Admittedly I was looking at these things devoid of their context and history, and while I wish I’d known more about their specific meanings, I don’t feel as though I need any added information to appreciate the visceral, immediate beauty of the structures. Looking back, that day was a total blur, but I do remember being constantly struck by the imposing detailed artistry of Bhaktapur, its Durbar Square. The end of that day, back at the volunteer house, someone asked everyone what their favourite part of the day was. For me, it was when the two groups finally reunited, in Durbar square, Bhaktapur.

I was taking a photo of something, and behind me I hear someone shouting my name. Confused, wondering how many Erika’s there could possibly be where I was at that moment, I turned hesitantly and then completely to see one of the dudes from the other group running toward me, followed by the other two, looking sombre and tired, but relieved. It’s hard to put into words how exciting and happy that moment was! I wish I could say that the  rest of the trip was a breeze, but it wasn’t – we had a major detour using the Kathmandu bus system… again! – but I what I can say is that everything that came after meeting up with everyone felt easier to handle.

Til next time,

E

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