A travel journal
to Kathmandu by SeenThat
Quote: Kathmandu’s festivals put life to any written descriptions of medieval cities. Narrow streets without sidewalks, humans, cows, and rickshaws competing for them; colorful idols of any shape and color; sadhus playing with cobras; and sharp incense odors covering up more natural ones transform a visit here into an unforgettable one.
Durbar Square – the Royal Quarters host the Indra Jatra Festival and are a feast in any other day of the year as well. Its medieval ambience was kept even after the reconstruction that followed the 1933 earthquake. Some of its most interesting sights are open to the public only during that event.
Boudhanat – one of the largest stupas in the world offers one of the best known sights and a look into the life of the Tibetan refugees life in Nepal. Patan – a city across the Bagmati River from Kathmandu, just 5km away from its center, offers a much richer Durbar Square than its bigger sister.
Bhaktapur – the third largest town in the valley has the best Durbar Square of the three, with the biggest pagodas in the country.
Thamel – the backpackers’ center of Kathmandu is a sight in itself; it is about a 20-minute walk north of Durbar Square and has a unique ambience. The place is an excellent shopping center for your trekking gear and used books, as well as offers food in adapted styles from around the world.
Arriving to Kathmandu by air is very economical from Bangkok; return tickets are sold there for around . Otherwise, India makes a good entry point by air and by bus. If you enter by bus, consider stopping at the Chitwan National Park before getting to the capital. Internal flights are available to Lukla, for the Everest Trek, and to Pokhara for the Annapouna Trek. Sightseeing flights to the Everest and back are available from the tourism agencies in Thamel. Tours to mysterious Bhutan can be bought – at a substantial price – and with the limitation that the entry or the exit from that country must be done through air. Hence, flying there from Kathmandu and leaving by bus to India is a reasonable choice.
On a more local level, small buses span the 14km to Bhaktapur (10NPR), but the Thai-style tuk-tuks will take you in a more private fashion (250NRP). The town itself is small, and it is actually faster to walk along its narrow alleys than to try to use the various tuk-tuks and rickshaws available as local transport.
Attraction | "Board a taxi in Kathmandu and say…"
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 27, 2009
Attraction | "So I’m in Kathmandu"
Attraction | "Indra Jatra Festival"
Nepal offer many festivals during the year in a kaleidoscope created by its different ethnic groups that have each kept its traditions. The most colorful one is Indra Jatra, which occurs in late September. The central event takes place in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square, which is completely packed; to get a good place, you should arrive a couple of hours earlier.
It is a celebration of various events that coincide in date. The event giving its name to the festival is the release of Indra from its captivity. Indra was the ancient Aryan god of rain who was allegedly captured in the valley by its inhabitants while searching for flowers. His mother, Dagini, rescued him with promises of heaven to the captors. This legend marks the transition from the rainy monsoon season to the fine months and gives a strong hint regarding how to plan your trip to Nepal. The short autumn following the monsoon is the best season for trekking; I began my trek there the day following Indra Jatra. A second reason for the festival is giving homage to Bahirab, which is a manifestation of Shiva as the destroyer of human ignorance and evil.
The impressive Seto (White) Bahirab face statue, in the northern outskirts of the square, is open only 3 days each year during the festival. For the joy of the locals, free beer flows from a tube emerging from its mouth in the evening of the first festival day. Kumari, the girl goddess, appears in an adorned chariot, with which she travels to the old palace and the old city. She is forbidden to touch the ground. Hence all her movements are somewhat cumbersome, and servants carry the little girl on their hands whenever she needs to move. Before the main event in the afternoon, you can visit her palace by the square’s main entrance at its southern side. The living quarters are closed but the inner yard is a masterpiece of Newari woodcarving.
The third event commemorated is the conquest of the valley by Prithvi Narayan Shah in 1768. Unlike other festivals in the country, this one has a central event in which the king participates from the old palace on the eastern part of the square. Kumari salutes the king from her chariot and a ritual dance of the god Kali, in which he fights an elephant, takes place just below the king’s balcony. The setup of the event within that fabulous medieval square, among the colorful temples, the surreal chariot and the goddess on it, the red-haired Kali and the cloth elephant, creates a fantastic sight that will not fade from your memory in the years to come.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 11, 2005
Basantapur Durbar Square
Attraction | "Base Camp"
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 1, 2009
Attraction | "If You Reached Keep, Don’t Read Me Anymore!"
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 24, 2009
Kathmandu Environmental Education Project (KEEP)
Attraction | "Kathmandu: Tribhuvan International Airport"
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 29, 2009
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