There’s still a touch of the exotic to Kathmandu; Hayes’ “One-eyed Yellow idol to the north of Kathmandu” lurks in the haze of our imagination. For all its urban sprawl, its pollution and impossible traffic, on a misty winter’s evening as you gaze down on the city from the high Buddhist stupa of Swayambunath ‘the Self-born’ and the setting sun glints off the pagoda roofs of the temples of Old Kathmandu and gilds the great snow-caps of the high Himalayan peaks along the northern horizon you truly feel the allure of this once hidden city.
Kathmandu and its sister cities of Bhaktapur and Patan were created by the immensely talented Newars whose trade networks between India and Tibet earned them the prosperity to indulge their artistic and architectural endeavours. Our tours of the Kathmandu Valley celebrate this high, sophisticated and wealthy civilisation that flourished in this fertile Himalayan valley.
You will visit the celebrated silver smiths, marvel at the fabulous brass work in Patan, pose for photographs with the highly photogenic ‘Holy’ men or Sadhus who haunt the touristy spots – especially the hugely sacred temple of Pashupatinath possibly the most holy in Kathmandu and also the location of the cremation site.
But our favourite spot is the magnificently preserved and restored city of Bhaktapur – away from the din and bustle of modern Kathmandu, still retaining its medieval calm. Streets paved in Kathmandu’s beautiful and famous brick. Here the temples and palaces of the Malla kings stand in proud and magnificent relief with a city-scape that has deliberately been maintained in its original form with the skyline dominated by the magnificent Nyatapola Temple – each level guarded by a vast stone guardian deity.
In the splendid Darbar Square is the Golden Gate the most beautiful such specimen in the entire country and opposite it is the pillar with the seated Malla king. The square appears more spacious than that of other cities due to the destruction caused by the Earthquake of 1934 but it also allows one to appreciate the beauty of the place. The Newars were famous for their woodwork and the peacock windows carved from sal wood in the palace that presently houses the museum is a must see.
We always stop for lunch in the strategically located Nyatapola café. Climb to the top and find a table on the balcony and you can while away the hours absorbed in the fascinating melange of people and traffic that passes below you. Farm ladies dressed in their distinct black and red-bordered saris carrying fresh vegetables in vast baskets with head-straps; an ancient Mercedes gaily bedecked carrying a groom to his wedding; a tiny motorised tiller with a tiny trailer carrying carefully wrapped new pottery somewhere.
And within the framework of this marvellous architecture that gave the world the pagoda roof now associated with China and Japan. Bhaktapur is a world heritage site but one of the top attractions is the square of the potters. From here we continue to the Eastern rim of the valley to the ancient trading town of Dhulikhel strategically located on the old trading route to Tibet. Here from a delicious hotel you can enjoy the most spectacular panorama of the high Himalayas stretching all the way east to Everest itself.
By Marcela Kunova - 20th April 2017
Nicola Shepherd, founder and CEO of The Exploration Company, organises unusual trips for HNW and UHNW clients ranging from birthday parties at an Indian Maharajah's palace to reliving Sir Vivian Fuchs's 1950s expedition to the South Pole. Citywealth caught ...
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