Kathmandu Valley Part I

Central Nepal

October 2017

Here we goooo! This is the very beginning of my journey that is subject to this blog. It began in October 2017 and still continuing since then. When I was starting, yes I was sensing but nevertheless I didn’t imagine how immense gifts it would bring to my life.
My first solo journey was in 2008 when I traveled through 11 countries in Europe and United Kingdom. I really had amazing experiences and returned home with a great energy and enthusiasm that was showing me that this is my thing; to travel. But this time it was different. Arriving at the end of my 30s, I was now having more mature reasons and more meaningful motivations to hit the road.
My beloved cat, my life companion, my girl Iizi whom I’ve lived together for 12 years passed away almost five months ago. Soon after her death it was so clear in my heart that I should go on a long journey that I had been dreaming of since my childhood. I was sensing that it would be a spiritual journey to the unknown. And the call was obviously from the East. Nepal and India would be my first destinations and I would see what would come afterwards.
In couple of months I did all my preparations, plannings, sold or gave away my belongings, closed my house and I was ready. Finally I was at that airplane on the way to Nepal.

My first stop in Nepal was Kathmandu, the capital. It is located in the east part of the country that has an elevation around 1.400m above sea level.
Even a couple of minutes walk shows you what a colourful city it is. It has a multi-ethnic population within a Hindu and Buddhist majority. Its culture is enormously diversed and mostly influenced by Indian and Tibetan culture; in music, dance, art and crafts, languages, religions, festivals and food.

If it is your first time in the east, in the countries like Nepal and India, it may be little surprising for you to see this chaotic appearence of the cities. You may get puzzled inbetween the disordered traffic, garbages here and there and dust in the air. In a relatively poor country Nepal, infrastructure is not well constructed, many roads are unpaved and unimproved so sometimes you have to close your mouth, nose and eyes because of the dust. Air pollution is a major issue in Kathmandu. Nevertheless soon you start to see the harmony in this chaos.
One other important reason for this dust is the reconstructions that started after the massive earthquake that struck Nepal in April 2015 with a magnitude of 7.8. Sadly it killed nearly 9000 people and destroyed many cities including the old cultural heritage. Nepal is still trying to recover from this disaster. There are many NGOs and volunteers who still try to heal the wounds.

Thamel is the touristic center of the city that hosts many guesthouses, cafes, restaurants and gift shops. To me real story begins when I get out from the touristical areas. I find myself in the center of daily Nepali life. I always prefer to walk inbetween different neighbourhoods even if it is a long distance.

Wandering around freely gives you the chance to witness many little humble markets, extremely beautiful women in their colourful dresses, children playing outside in the alleys, many poor dogs here and there, pigeons up in the sky, the smell of incense and spice in the air.

Kathmandu valley is the home of Newars that are the indigenous inhabitants. They see themselves as the caretaker of Nepali culture so that they have been preserving their culture and traditions through many centuries. By the influence of religious ethics, kindness and harmony is refined in their attitudes. I find them extremely sincere and kind. I don’t feel like a stranger as I am always welcomed warm-heartedly. The greeting ‘Namaste’ opens every door between the people. It means ‘I greet the Divine in you.’ When you smile to them, they know that the whole universe is smiling to you. So they smile back with their open heart. Rather than just witnessing, I choose to connect with them through glances and little talks.

I am so much enjoying to wander around the colourful little farmers markets. Due to the suitable climate and fertile soil of Kathmandu valley, the diversity of vegetables and fruits is amazing. It is pleasing me not to see industrialised products but the products of small scale farmers.

The diversity of vegetables and fruits influences the cuisine. The food is so delicious here. The staple food of most people all around Nepal is Dal Bhat. It consists of rice and lentil soup, generally served with vegetable curries and chutney. Momo, a type of a dumpling is one of the most popular fast food. Pakora (fried vegetables), thukpa or thentuk (noodle soup), pickles, lassi (yoghurt based drink) are the other delicious foods. Street food is common, you can find many delicious and cheap options in the stalls.

Kathmandu is known as the ‘City of Temples’. In 2006 UNESCO declared the seven groups of monuments of Kathmandu as a World Heritage Site. These are; Durbar Square, Patan, Bhaktapur, Hindu temples Pashupatinath and Changunarayan, the Buddhist stupas Swayambhnath and Boudhanatth.
Bhaktapur is one these places. Taumadhi square (above) is the old city center with temples around. In the picture above the one in the middle is the Nyatapola Temple which is a 5 storeyed pagoda style temple that dates back to 18th century. It is the temple of Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of prosperity. And the one on the right is Bhairab Nath temple that is 3 storeyed temple of Lord Bhariab, the dreadful aspect of Lord Shiva.
I had very special moments here in Bhaktapur that is known as the ‘City of Devotees’. That makes sense as I was on my journey in the willingness to devote myself into the wisdom. As I arrived at this square, seeing Bhairab Nath temple in front of me, I became petrified with astonishment. It had a very special and strong aura that attracted my whole energy.

Then I realized it was the perfect place to greet my whole upcoming journey with my spirit. I approached and first rang the huge bell. Suddenly its high sound reverberated in the whole square. It felt like as if my spirit was allowed to enter through a blissful gate. As I came by the altar my heart started to beat so fast. Senses of love, compassion, great respect and gratitude started to arise in me. I prayed for the blessing of my intentions, of my heart’s call to my journey. A deep connection with the whole union made itself visible with a great power that burst me into tears.
It was like every energy that accumulated in me became boundlessly free. I cried for the beauty, union, light, trust and love. I was so grateful to these moments that enabled me to let myself to the immense order of the universe. I entered through that gate. I would learn later with countless experiences that I was now in the field of the great unknown that would teach me who I really am. Months later I realized the link. This was a temple of Shiva and Shiva would be one of my greatest guide and companion in my path especially in India.

In Kathmandu in each old city there is a Durbar Square that is the place of palaces (above). The monuments of Kathmandu have been influenced over the centuries by both Hindu and Buddhist traditions. Therefore these squares are highly impressive with many Hindu and Buddhist temples. You sometimes feel like you are on a movie set.

We see the squares of Basanthapur and Bhaktapur above. These squares are also used as souvenir markets from time to time. What impressed me as well is that Hindus and Buddhists mutually live in harmony. They pray at the same temples, they celebrate the same festivals together peacefully.

Squares host festivals and celebrations as well. I came across with a one week long festival on the traditional Kartik dance. I had chance to watch the performances that also gave me idea about the traditional Newari music.

Patan (Lalitpur) is one of the oldest Buddhist cities. (above) It is a huge open air museum with 55 major temples and 136 courtyards that dates back to 1600s. It is a marvel of Newar architecture where the walls and floors are tiled with red bricks. Patan is also known as the ‘city of fine arts’. Its museum has a broad collection of religious objects, bronze statues and carvings of wood and stone.

Above we see the Keshab Narayan Chowk in Patan.

There are so many more things I would like to show you about Kathmandu valley. So now I invite you to join me for the second part of this exploration.

The Author