Nepal Diary :To Kathmandu and beyond – Part I

Nepal Diary :To Kathmandu and beyond – Part I

There were seven of us, from Dubai, at the Tribhuvan International Airport at Kathmandu, Nepal waiting for the Domestic Buddha Air flight to board for Dhangari. It was the 11th of December 2016, and we were travelling for a project supported by our employer Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority. Now, at Kathmandu, the same airport enclosure has both the international and the domestic wing. International has free wifi, dometic doesn’t as we found out during our tour. International has duty-free store, a better equipped food outlet, whereas the domestic arm had only a coffee/ tea/ sandwich shop. But today, the domestic hall was teeming with people. This was becaise of disruptions of flights across sectors and uncertainty over the next ones.The journey to Dhangari was only for an hour or so, but it was middle of December and the weather has been playing spoilsport. Heavy fog for the last 3 days had caused cancellation of the regular daily flights into the north-western town of Dhangari where we were supposed to reach. It was close to 12 noon, the flight was scheduled for 12.30 and still there was no surety that we will fly. Confusion reigned supreme. The wish : To Kathmandu and beyond ..

Jafza Team @ Kathmandu Airport
Jafza Team @ Kathmandu Airport

This was the first time in Nepal for all of us .We had reached Kathmandu the previous evening from Dubai, on a mission with BuildOn – an American NGO with which our organization, Jafza,  has pledged support to help build a school for the village of Jonapur, about 7 kms from Dhangari. We were the ambassadors of this maiden venture, a motley crew of Indians, Pakistanis and Emiratis, six men and a woman. We had flown in with FlyDubai, over Pakistan and then India into Nepal. The last three quarters of an hour were spent flying alongside the Himalayas, as the range and the peaks basked and glowed in the setting sun . Nepal contains part of the Himalayas and has eight of the fourteen “Eight Thousanders” of the world including Mt Everest at 8848 meters. Martha, the BuildOn Trek coordinator was with us, working out the logistics and responsible for handing over the team to her colleague, Nick who would be our trek in-charge for the next 5 days at Jonapur.

Temple at durbar-square
Durbar Square

 

Basantapur Durbar Square

The previous evening, once we could shake off our travel lethargy, we had taken a brisk walk from our Hotel at Thamel through the narrow but bustling lanes of the adjoining marketplace into Durbar Square. There are three different Durbar Squares in and around Kathmandu, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites, and this one is known as Basantapur Durbar Square. The other two are at Patan and Bhaktapur.




Durbar (meaning Ruler’s Court) Square is the central place to visit while you are at Kathmandu. All tourists saunter around into this area where the history of Nepal opens up in its architectural and cultural forms. Parts of this area now houses the Kathmandu Municipality and other administrative departments. The royal palace had earlier been converted into a museum.The sunlight was fading as we arrived at Durbar Square, which needs an entry ticket for all foreigners, though Indians are charged at a discount. The wide open courtyard in front of the palace has turned into a small bazaar with locals spreading their wares for the eager tourists. We picked up a local guide  for the half hour trip around this heritage area to help us in our understanding. The palaces and temples showed architecture with Hindu styles as well the multi tiered pagoda of the Buddhists. One of them also had a dome, prevalent among the Muslims,  and thus proved that Nepal had been ruled by different kings over the ages.

Pigeons at Durbar Square
Pigeons at Durbar Square

The Basantapur Durbar Square has an outer complex and an inner complex. The outer complex includes Jagannath Temple, Shiv Parvati Temple, the Big Bell and the house of Kumari Bahal or the Kumari Choks. The Kumari is a reflection of a living goddess, chosen by a community through mystical selection process, and is a reflection of the Hindu Mother Goddess. She participates in all religious events and lives here at the Bahal house adjoining the outer Durbar Square as a kumari (virgin) till she menstruates and evolves into a woman. The inner square hosts the King’s palace, Royal courtyards of the Basantapur Durbar and a few temples. Around 1000 years old, the Durbar Square with its relics of courtyards, temples, palaces and museums still is the star attraction of your to visit. The square and its adjoining areas have quite a few of tiered temples are mostly made of fired brick with mud mortar and timber structures.

KalBhairav Deity
KalBhairav Deity

The Kalbhairav Temple is built next to the Hanuman Dhoka inside the Durbar Square. KalBhairav is the Hindu God of Time or Death – one who controls both. Built by Pratap Malla of the Malla Dynasty, this single stone Idol facing North is the devastating manifestation of Lord Shiva, one of the three main Gods of the Hindu Triumvirate.

 

The devastating earthquake of April 2015 has had a great toll on this UN heritage Area of Kathmandu and have decimated parts of this historically important and culturally priceless area into a rubble.  The royal Palace which housed the museum is all but destroyed. Most buildings show proof of restoration activities being undertaken, cracked walls and wobbly structures being supported by wooden and metallic columns all around.

Being one of the poorest countries of the world , Nepal has paid a heavy price for the earthquake. Though restoring efforts are visible but it looks that the progress has been very slow.

Durbar Square Palace after the Nepal Earthquake
Durbar Square Palace after the Nepal Earthquake

 

Strolling around the colourful and heavily busy streets of Kathmandu was a pleasant change from the wide open streets of Dubai. Peeking into the shops, with its rich and varied display of items , affordable , made most of us buy a thing or two. I picked up a couple of items from the wide open vendor stalls around Durbar Square and after some heavy negotiations.

Curios and Artifacts at Durbar Square, Nepal
Curios and Artifacts at Durbar Square, Nepal

 

It was a pleasant end to our first day at Nepal. We took to our beds early, a bit tired after the long day, and the next day after a heavy breakfast at our hotel here we are waiting for our turn to board the flight to Dhangari.

At 1 pm the Airport staff officially declared that the flight stands cancelled due to heavy fog persisting at Dhangari. It was time to retrieve our luggage and retreat back to our hotel at Thamel. Beaten for now by the turn of events, we began to evaluate other logistics options including a 25 hour drive across bumpy roads from Kathmandu to the North Western village of Jonapur in Nepal, which we weren’t very enthusiastic about. Other option was to decide on a nearby “safer” airport where flight disruptions looked unlikely – Nepalgunj. Flying to Nepalgunj and then a four hour road journey to Dhangari looked more inviting. 

Tomorrow would be a different day. You can read it here .