Sunday 27 August 2006

Nepal: medieval Bhaktapur

We hired a private car to take us to the medieval town of Bhaktapur, about 10kms east of Kathmandu. The journey was hampered by bicycles carrying drain pipes and bookcases, tuk-tuks laden with concrete reinforcing bars and bizarrely, a large group of men dragging an enormous log with ropes, Stonehenge style. We learned later this was a religous pole called a 'lingo' which is dragged to a local town to signify the start of Indra Jatra festival. The resulting traffic jam caused our driver to divert through lush green paddy fields dotted with orange-stained brick kilns to reach the former capital of the valley.

After paying the relatively hefty entrance fee we encountered the unofficial ‘tour guides’. There were unmistakable signs that ‘madam’ was beginning to get a bit frazzled around the edges with these chaps who loiter a few steps in front of their prey until it weakens. When my cunning use of Arabic, Spanish and dumbness failed, madam resorted to mild hostility, which generally worked.

We wandered through the ancient city crammed with temples and intricately decorated buildings to the back streets where life continued at a less than leisurely pace. Women cut vegetables and fruit, men cleared their throats with great passion and children played with scraps of material around docile animals.

Lunch was taken high above the main square where we could observe teenage ‘tour guides’ honing their skills on unsuspecting tourists. Your have to admire their perseverance.

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