Even though Nepal is currently going through the aftermath of the earthquake, a topic I discussed in the last post, we had more adventures in the country we want to share. After spending time in Kathmandu we left for the nearby town of Bhaktapur, a city filled with as many important temples as Kathmandu with it's own local specialty dish to try.
Bhaktapur felt a lot like a quieter, smaller Kathmandu, located about 13 kilometers away from the capital in the Kathmandu Valley. At one time in the 15th century it served as the capital of Nepal. The old city and palace courtyard complex in Bhaktapur is largely preserved and draws many visitors, including us.
The influence of religion, both Hindu and Buddhist, is as obvious here as it was in Kathmandu, although there appears to mostly be Hindu architecture that draws the crowds.
Walking through the main plaza of the city we encountered a large crew of men ripping up the old, uneven stonework and laying down a new plaza. All the work they did - removing the old stones, laying the new stone and brick, and mixing the mortar - was done by hand. No machines were on site even to carry the heavy blocks they were laying. This is a scene we saw all over India and many cities in China. Manual roadwork is still going strong.
The gates to one temple were guarded by two lions. Lions or dragons or some other animal standing guard is a motif we've seen in many countries in Asia, including China, and like China there is one male and one female lion standing outside the gates. At the Forbidden City in Beijing, we learned that you could tell which lion was male and which was female by looking at their paws - the female held a cub under its claw, the male a globe. In Nepal the gender of the lion is indicated in another matter. Look at the two photos below to see if you can figure out how they indicate the sex of the lion.
Our favorite part of our stay was simply walking around the city. The weather up in the mountains was cool and crisp and felt like the fall in New England creating the perfect atmosphere for a stroll. As we wandered the city streets, we got a chance not only to take in the ancient architecture, but the people as they went about their daily lives. Bhaktapur was smaller than most of the cities we visited in India and felt slower and calmer. Some of our favorite photos are below. As always, you can click on a photo to see a larger version.
Our hotel had a rooftop restaurant that allowed us to look out across the city and the nearby mountains. We ordered a glass of house wine and Nepalese brandy, specifically ordering both because we were surprised to see them as listed as Nepali origin. The brandy was clear and tasted, well, not like brandy (perhaps moonshine?) and the wine did not have a flavor that one would normally associate with wine. Fortunately, both were cheap and sitting up on the roof with the view more than made the experience worth it.
Fresh yogurt is a big thing in Nepal, so we helped ourselves to a bowl of "king curd," as it is called in Bhaktapur. Like lassis in India, the top layer is thicker and more coagulated, in an enjoyable way. The bottom is regular texture yogurt, with sugar added for sweetness. Yum!