Neither of us slept particularly well, what with the drunken tourists on the street outside shouting at 1am and the bed sheets trying to strangle both of us during the night, we were both a bit bleary eyed when we woke this morning. However, we had already decided to continue visiting our UNESCO sites by going to one of three medieval city-states in the Kathmandu Valley and had pre-ordered our breakfast for 8am so we forced ourselves out of bed. Feeling significantly more awake after a coffee and omelette with toast, we head out to the Bagh Bazaar to catch the bus out to Bhaktapur. A slightly weird situation of no bus stop, but four different roads that you need to stand in depending on where you want to go. I asked a policeman who didn’t know where we needed to go (clearly, I had said the town name wrong) and, after a lot of asking, we found the right place and got on a bus immediately. A rather nice hour and a half journey dropped us just outside the town entrance and we walked the rest of the way in and got our tickets (an eye watering $15 each – reminds us of Sri Lankan tourist prices!!). Many Nepalese still use the own town name (Bhadgaon) or the Newari name (Khwona) which translates as ‘City of Devotees’. The town had three major squares of towering temples that were considered some of the best religious architecture in the country. However, this is the first place where we have really seen extensive earthquake damage. The main Durbar Square, which had already been devastated by the earthquake in 1934, was a few damaged buildings, a huge pile of rubble and several massive photo posters of what the temples used to be like. The other squares showed less signs of destruction but there were buildings being held up by pieces of wood and had huge cracks in the brickwork. As such, after visiting what was left of the three main squares, we decided just to wander around (following the Lonely Planet walking tour) to investigate the narrow cobblestone streets which wind between red-brick houses, some of which are barely standing. The streets join together in a series of squares and courtyards that are peppered with temples, statues, cisterns and wells – some faring better than others. Amongst the backstreets (and away from the ‘tourist’ areas) were corrugated metal structures that were being used as homes for people whose houses had been destroyed in the earthquake. For me, the hardest thing was watching people work on their jobs as craftsmen, in a building that was clearly unsafe. Obviously, they need to work to provide for their families – working to make money is their priority – not making their home safe to live in. Really hit home about how lucky Jayne and I are. Walked back to the bus stand and caught the bus back to Kathmandu. Jayne got chatting to a young boy on the bus who clearly wanted to practise his English whilst I, who had given my seat up for an old man (much to everyone’s surprise!) was swaying back and forth between someone’s crotch and someone else’s armpit!! Were held up for a while as they blocked the road off to let the Nepalese president through – in her armoured car and with army cars, an ambulance and a 20-horse escort. Back at the hotel to rest for an hour before heading out for dinner.
Sunday 8th May 2016