Durbar Square and the Old Town

Day 32


A night disturbed by car horns, barking dogs and loud music. Thamel’s not the best choice for a good night’s sleep! After breakfast I went out in search of a SIM card for my new Nepalese phone. I followed my nose ending up on the outskirts of Thamel and more inside the heart of “real” Kathmandu. It was really hot and dusty out here and a stressful but interesting experience wandering the streets. Some of the buildings looked ancient and were falling apart. You can see into most of them through open shutters and doors. Garages, carpet shops, food shops, tailors, craft shops, you name it, crammed into these narrow blocks. Rickshaws, motorbikes, buses and minibuses crammed full of people stormed past. Fruit and veg sellers displayed their wares on the streets alongside old balance scales and weights. School kids in uniform wandered around in groups. Sometimes beggars were sitting on the pavement, often with missing limbs or crutches. Shopkeepers stood outside their shops or sat on their steps, as the shops are so small.

How old is this building? Who knows – but all of these relics are still lived in.

Some street decoration…

Wow! What an interesting vehicle! I’ve never seen one in Kathmandu – I’d better photograph it because I’ve never seen anything like it!
It’s what the Nepalese call a tractor and they haul heavy loads around. They’re very noisy. Despite my initial interest, a few days later, outside of Kathmandu I’d seen hundreds and I’d be sick of the sight of them!

Within an hour I’d found a phone shop, collected the bits and bobs I needed for registration and my new SIM would be active within the day. Sorted. I made my way south, getting a bit lost in the process and wandered around the old town, coming across a nice temple where school kids were playing tag. At the Durbar Square I bought my ticket (15 quid, a lot for Nepal!) and wandered around marveling at the ancient palaces and temples. The light was too bright for good photos unfortunately. I went into a big courtyard and witnessed some seriously risky work by painters who had a wobbly bamboo scaffold to climb up to the windowsills they were painting, watching them shuffle along the window ledge two stories up with no safety rope. Gurkha soldiers guarded some of the courtyard doorways but were happy to have their photos taken.

One of the palace courtyards in Durbar Square

There’s no ladder, they just climb up that scaffolding as it wobbles dangerously

Gurkha guard

Some of the interior courtyards in the Square had lots of religious stone carvings inlaid in the every wall, and in the middle of each courtyard were big steps below ground level – in the old days these would have been pools. You couldn’t take photos here and signs warned you were on CCTV, guards constantly watched you. Outside, holy men (babas) wandered around with colourful yellow or red robes, sporting big beards and painted faces. You have to tip them to get a photo, with the bad light I didn’t bother. I got my ticket upgraded to a multi-day pass at the site office, where there were also rows of souvenir vendors in the yard selling all manner of “antiques”(good luck finding something older than ten years!). The empty chariots from Indra Jatra yesterday stood in the road.

Rows of “antiques” sellers outside the square

Indra Jatra chariot

I wandered back towards Thamel, tired, thirsty and mentally exhausted from the stressful streets. Again I got a bit lost. The area is full of narrow, unsigned roads which bend or become dead ends – there’s no logical layout. There aren’t even proper addresses for places in Nepal, they just have the name of the building followed by the area name. I had a late lunch and did some blog updates. I moved up to the restaurant’s roof garden in the evening as I continued to work. Roof terraces are a common and attractive feature in Nepal, looking out over the rooftops to the hills beyond with birds of prey circling the skies. They’re much quieter than street level. The full moon beamed down casting a silver light over Kathmandu. It’s a relaxing place to unwind. Late evening I returned to my hotel intending to sleep, but got carried away writing my diary and because of this combined with the heat and noise, I ended up going to bed about 4am! So much for adjusting to Nepali time!

In the old town


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