Patan

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Day 68

09/11/12

After a lie-in I spent some time organising my bags. I was carrying things I didn’t really use and so I had a bit of a clearout. Late morning I walked to the main bus stops in the middle of town and caught a tempo to Patan, one of the ancient cities which is now part of greater Kathmandu. Tempos are 3-wheeled little vehicles slightly bigger than a tuk-tuk which can cram about 8 people in the back. Most of them are electric and so make little noise. We had some entertainment whilst we waited to depart – a guy behind us had his car bonnet open fiddling with the radiator, and it suddenly exploded water all over him!

In Kathmandu they sell books on the street like this

In Kathmandu they sell books on the street like this

The tempo filled up becoming very cramped. There’s a handy metal bar running right along the small of your back just in case you weren’t uncomfortable enough. I’ve come up with a new phrase to help deal with all of Nepal’s little gripes, stolen from Africa. There they say TIA – “This Is Africa” – usually referring to the dangers and chaos of normal life. So for this country – TIN – This is Nepal. We drove for about half an hour in bad traffic (we were only travelling a few kilometers), you couldn’t see anything really through the low and tiny windows. It was super-cheap compared to a taxi, only about 15 rupees (less than 10p!) compared to 250 rupees!

Outside Patan's Dubar Square

Outside Patan’s Dubar Square

I got off at the Durbar Square in Patan. After being pounced on by an entrance ticket I explored the square. It was very nice, packed with a variety of really old temples and buildings of differing styles, very similar to Bhaktapur, and peppered with tourists and locals. I was pretty hungry so made a beeline out of the square to a recommended café which has a nice little walled garden to have lunch. I caught up in the Lonely Planet about all the sights in the area and decided to walk part of their walking tour around the old backstreets in reverse, starting with the Golden Temple nearby.

Durbar Square

Durbar Square

The temple was only small but very old and had a little courtyard lined with golden monkey statues in each corner. One wall was completely gold and set into this wall was a room with the important golden statue inside.

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The other statues and carvings in the temple were very ornate and mostly golden or brass. Old people were chilling out on benches around the edge, reading papers or just watching the pigeons.

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Upstairs I could hear singing, so I climbed some steps to check it out. In a long chamber was a table surrounded by benches and around twenty people singing to drumbeats.

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I watched for a while and then exited to a square outside the temple filled with little stupas. I followed the guide book map for a few hours along little old streets and through loads of tiny courtyards filled with shrines and stupas and passing little old temples, eventually looping back to the Durbar Square.

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Now the sun was lower it was better for photos and so I walked around the square taking in the ambiance and snapping shots.

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I watched as a bizarrely-dressed old white guy set up some metal bowls on the steps of a temple, wearing a Nepali hat and loose white cotton clothing. An old hippy lady joined him carrying a western harp. She started playing chords and the man produced one of the large metal bowls that create amazing hums when hit or “stroked” around the edge with a dowel.

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There didn’t seem to be any purpose for the performance other than for their own amusement and for those around them. Locals soon crowded around to watch, fascinated. The man sometimes lowered the bowl to people’s ears so they could hear its amazing resonance, I tried it and an awesome hum filled my ears. The music suited the mood of the place perfectly as the late afternoon sun turned the square orange.

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A classic example of how Nepal’s ancient buildings are still used for daily life – a convenient place to hang your washing!

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I chatted to the strange man when he took a break, he was American and seemed pretty spaced out. They were in Nepal to play at a conference in Kathmandu, but he said his motive for playing in Patan was to encourage more people to play the bowls. Back home he has a collection of over forty of all different sizes, but it was so expensive to ship them over to Nepal that he bought a new set here instead!

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I stayed for a while soaking up the atmosphere feeling lucky to have come across another nice random event on my travels. Then I wandered around photographing the locals hanging around the square, and hopped on a tempo back to Kathmandu.

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A homeless man lies sleeping in the Square

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Back at base there was no sign of the Belgian sisters so I went out to get dinner in Thamel at a little vegetarian curry restaurant called Shri Laal that I’d been recommended. On the way I passed through Kathmandu’s Durbar Square to find the end of a big concert going on. A combination of western and Nepali musicians were playing traditional instruments combined with jazz instruments. The atmosphere was buzzing with people dancing and singing along and I stayed for a few numbers. The restaurant curry was very tasty and I walked back home through the dark streets.

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The music concert in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square

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