INCREDIBLY BEAUTIFUL BHAKTAPUR

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“Man never made any material as resilient as the human spirit.”   ~ Bern Williams

August 07, 2013. Wednesday. Our second day in Nepal.  Despite half lethargic, I fought a good battle with the alarm in my phone that morning. I had to hear it snooze thrice before my senses finally came into full conscious state.  It’s 7AM on the phone but a quick glance on my wristwatch on the desk showed it’s 9:15AM already.  The discrepancy was obviously due to the fact that the time in Malaysia, where my family and I are currently based, is 2 hours and 15 minutes ahead of Nepal.  I took the effort of interrupting my family’s restful sleep.  Not long after, Tina, Gabby and I rose from the king-sized-bed of our cheap but spacious suite and made ourselves ready for a day’s visit to the City of Devotees or what the Newars called, Khwopa or Bahdgaon. We planned a Do-It-Yourself-day trip to Bhaktapur!

We could’ve taken a minibus from our accomodation in Kathmandu to Bhaktapur at around 20 rupees per pax for 40-minute-ride but we prioritized speed and convenience this time.  Not that we’re in a hurry to get to our destination but we wanted a more comfortable trip.  With dusty and bumpy road, inside a minute taxi cab without airconditioning unit, I never meant luxurious but just comfortable than taking a minibus.

A few meters outside Thorong Peak Guest House, Suzuki hatchbak taxi cabs were parked at the narrow and busy alley of Thamel. Drivers were actively waiting for passengers like eagles in hunt for prey.  I walked towards one of them and asked him how much rate would he charge for him to take us to Bhaktapur.  “One Thousand Rupees.”  the driver replied in a blink. I never tried to haggle as the cost was exactly half than I expected and it’s quite a steal for a 12-kilometer-ride from Kathmandu.  I looked at Tina and Gabby and we all hopped in. Bhaktapur, here we come! 🙂
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Thickly populated streets of Thamel, the touristy area in Kathmandu, Nepal.

After almost an hour bumpy taxi ride along those muddy and narrow brick alleys and dusty public roads, with all windows up and no airconditioning, we safely arrived in Bhaktapur; just in front of the ticket booth to Bhaktapur Durbar Square.  Similar to Kathmandu Durbar Square, there was a volume of local touts waiting at the gates, who offered us a guided tour inside for US $5 per hour, complete with flawless English annotation. With mutual courtesy, we declined, smiled and walked our way the entrance of the plaza.

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At 8 years old, Gabby’s  admission fees to all places we’ve been to in Nepal were waived, even his Tourist Visa

One of the many things my family and I admire about Bhaktapur was it’s a less crowded place. We saw less tourists compared to the volume who flocked to Kathmandu Durbar Square the day before.  Perhaps because of its distance from Kathmandu. Or probably because it’s still monsoon season in South Asia until mid-September and by October onwards, the many tourists who long to experience Nepal will begin to flock like migratory birds.

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Namaste. It means I salute the god in you.

Good morning, Bhaktapur!  It’s our pleasure to be here!

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Sleepy Bhaktapur at mid-morning. 

It was already half hour past 9 in the morning and notably, tourists were out of sight yet. Good!  We owned Bhaktapur Durbar Square for a moment!  We started taking touristy shots.

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Behind those all-choreographed-photos were more natural and candid moments…

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Tina : “Picture! …One, two…”
Me : (Ready!)
Gabby : “Hay naku, whatevs!”

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Tina : “Picture! …One, two…”
Me : “Wait, I’ll check for wifi signal; I have to Instagram this!”
Gabby : *walk-out*

Of course, those captions were just for laughs! 🙂 For the record, Gabby’s not grumpy the whole time in Nepal, and those facial reactions were unintentional and were just caught on cam by her mom while she’s taking test-shots.

Going back to Bhaktapur Durbar Square, the plaza gradually became alive before our eyes!

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Each day is a journey.  Local people walk by the square en route to their destinations. 

Then we found love in Bhaktapur.

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A lady puts red tika to her man as a blessing in front of the Hindu deity, Hanuman. 

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Lovely atmosphere, is it not?

Bhaktapur is utterly picturesque! Everything built during the Malla Kingdom around 16th and 17th centuries and beyond, with their ancient Newari architectures that combined intricate woodcarvings in the pillars and windows of temples and palace to the various exquisite stone and metal sculptures of deities and guardians in a plaza so historic that anyone could imagine, looks nothing short of magnificent! Bhaktapur is a spectacular visual feast!

Indubitably, my amateurish photos don’t do it justice.

While we were in awe at the beauty and serenity of our surrounding, I kept telling my family that we’re neither lucky nor fortunate but very blessed to be given an opportunity to experience what seemingly like another world’s grandeur. At that point, my silent wish and prayers went out to heaven for more people to be inspired to travel and travel with their love ones and create a journey of their own. Experiences are always priceless!
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Of course, we didn’t let the opportunity pass us by.  So with our love for each other and our love for photographing each other (uhmm, doesn’t that sound like narcissim? Not! …But a celebration of this trip to Nepal and posing for posterity!), we took a ton of photos at Bhaktapur Durbar Square.  Fine! Only a few, in our standards at least, as our stomachs were already growling for a much-needed breakfast.

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We savored breakfast within the Bhaktapur Durbar Square, just in front of a Hindu temple with Kama Sutra carvings. Yes, you read it right. The insanely artistic carvings in wooden struts, supporting the temple’s roofs and ceilings, of mostly missionary positions and menage a trois of humans and yes, with animals, were stratigically installed for protection against the virgin God of Thunder. Need I say more?

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Colorful souvenirs being sold near the facade of Shiva’s Cafe Corner.

Breakfast was at Shiva’s Cafe Corner (Authentic Kitchen). We wanted to taste more authentic Nepalese dishes so we ordered their breakfast specialties – Dragon’s meat and dinosaur’s eggs. Of course, the last part was a big joke! We had these plates of continental breakfast plus hot coffee with milk and chocolate for Gabby. Everyning’s fine except for the bacon strips. It has a little taste that our tastebuds disagreed. It must be buffalo’s; we regret that we didn’t ask.

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Look what technology gave us!  We’re together but less time spent with each other. Oh, well. Thanks to travel! 🙂

After breakfast, we met an old Newar woman who barely speaks English. Her being handicapped to communicate verbally with us was nothing compared to her Swan Neck Deformity and Ulnar Deviation on her hands.  In simple English, she’s suffering from the signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis. She tried to communicate softly in Nepalese but we’re mutually lost in translation.  What Tina and I understood was her gestures when she showed her hand deformities.  Ugh, the downside of aging!

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On a lighter note, youngsters were spending their break time from a nearby Secondary School within the square and we came across a few of them.  Tina asked their names and tried to jot it down on her smartphone.  She never expected that these teenagers would be delighted.

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Class Picture. Guess who learned new lessons?  (From left to right) Meet Rukedesh, Umesh , of course Gabby and Danr.

Meet Kareeshma, the 14-year-old local resident of Bhaktapur who posseses one of the most gorgeous faces in Nepal that we’ve seen (Read: Ordinary Nepalese men and women, from being security guards at the airport to souvenir shop vendor in the streets can give any good looking celebrity a run for their money). We’re not sure if Kareeshma’s aware of her potentials to become a movie star or at least, an amazing model in prints and whatnot.  Honestly, she never asked a cent from Tina and me after we took multiple photos of her. She was content by mere looking at her pictures.

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After our brief interaction with Kareeshma, Gabby became successful in asking me and his mom to take his jump shots at one of our favorites spots in Bhaktapur, a countless times.  He reached a point of almost exhaustion in joy, so he finally stopped and he requested if we could go inside the Art Museum. We did and paid a very minimal admission and camera fees, but frankly I didn’t enjoy it. Not because the century-old pieces of stones with Newari inscriptions, Thangka paintings and Hindu god images aren’t interesting but in my own opinion, everything outside that building is literally an open museum to behold!

Then we strolled our way to Nyatapola Temple.  We passed by stunning terracotta road and alleys lined by souvenir shops that were equally enticing.

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Lateral of Bhaktapur, en route to Nyatapola Temple.  Happy to be here!  🙂

We never walk this beautiful alley everyday. Never.

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Erected in 1702 during the reign of King Bhupatindra Malla, the 5-tiered tallest temple in Kathmandu Valley, Nytapola Temple still stands with all its might at 30 meters above Taumadhi Tole.  From Rajput wrestlers Jayamel and Phattu, elephants, lions, beaked griffons with horns of a ram and two goddesses, the stairway to reach the Nyatapola Temple is lined by these guardians in stone figures.  Within the Taumadhi Tole are souvenir shops that sell exotic items from Hinduism and Buddhism that best complement the temple.  This area in Bhaktapur is something that will linger in our memories forever.

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The drizzle came too perfect for us to seek refuge at Cafe Nyatapola in time for lunch. We had Mixed Chow Mein, Macaroni and Cheese for Gabby and Clubhouse Sandwich that had buffalo instead of chicken. This time, it’s for real that we had buffalo on sandwich. I prefer it rather than chicken because there’s outbreak of bird flu virus in Kathmandu during our visit. For dessert, we had the famous yoghurt of Bhaktapur. Creamy, tangy and cheesy. Delicious! Huge servings and affordable too!

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We finished our lunch and the raindrops were gone. Time to go out of Cafe Nyatapola and head straight to Potter’s Square.

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“Ma, which way? Is it right or left?”

One of the most fascinating areas in Bhaktapur is the Potter’s Square. In all modesty, it exposes tourists and visitors to the ceramic industry that serves as a means of living.  It was an eye-opener not only for Gabby but for Tina and myself to see and experienced a slice of lifestyle of some people in Bhaktapur.

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Unknowingly, we already passed by the so called, Potter’s Square.  Because of the recent drizzle, the small plaza was emptied of pots that were supposed to be drying under the heat of the sun; we missed the square and continued our walk to a few meters more.  After asking local people for directions, the next thing I knew was my hands were filled with mud, trying my best to come up with a small masterpiece.

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Gabby followed and tried making his own pot. Apparently, the mechanical potter’s wheel was too big and too low for Gabby, so he had his efforts.  Nonetheless, it was so nice to see him smile and happy with what he did.
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I wrote down the names of the two Nepalese potters we met but I regret I lost the paper somewhere.

We paid the first friendly potter at total small amount of 250 Nepalese Rupees (US $ 2.54) for allowing me and Gabby to experience their work. It was the price he humbly asked. Too cheap I know; not even enough to buy a decent 3 meals at least. I wish I could’ve given him more.

Then we were invited by the second potter at the next shop. He offrered FREE trial of his electrical potter’s machine.  He and Gabby made cute little pieces together easily. While Tina and I were gladly documenting the scenes.

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That wonder and smile on Gabby’s face. On that moment, Tina and I were the happiest parents in the world!

Then, it was time for the trainee to become the champion. 🙂

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The second potter informed me that it takes 3 days minimum to dry a piece, because after making it for few minutes, it must be dried for at least 24 hours and then set in inside a huge brick oven for 3 days or more. Then and only then, they can earn money.

We bought two pieces from the second potter’s shop and brought them home as souvenirs.

We left Potter’s Square in Bhaktapur and walked our way to but a few more souvenirs en route to the gate where we took the taxi cab back to Thamel in Kathmandu.

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Bhaktapur’s beauty goes beyond its woodworks and woodcarvings, stone sculptures and temples; more than being considered Nepal’s cultural gem. Bhaktapur is incredibly beautiful because of the strength and resilience of its people. Obviously, their strength doesn’t come in force but from their bravery and willingness to live.  The local people of Bhaktapur consciously continue to preserve their heritage and lifestyle with almost no modern technology and mostly dependent on their skills, creativity, culture and craftmanship. Their devotion and dedication to their gods, their arts, their tradition make them one of the most beautiful and wealthiest people! They’re beautiful and strong because they’re able to thrive and smile their happiest despite and inspite of.

After bidding goodbye to the potters we’ve met, I asked Gabby of what he learned. Our very own wonder boy replied that he noticed they’re doing a difficult job simply to earn money.  I thought living in Bhaktapur is for the brave and the willing.

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Namaste. Dhanyabad (Thank you), Bhaktapur!

It was only our second day in Nepal.  It’s still surreal. Everything’s beautiful.

I cannot express how happy I am that I experienced Bhaktapur with Tina and Gabby.

To be continued.

*A life journey of mine, an epiphany of travel for you, made possible by Malaysia Airlines.

This Nepal Blog Series includes :

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40 thoughts on “INCREDIBLY BEAUTIFUL BHAKTAPUR

    1. we fell in love with bhaktapur! you’re luckier you got to stay there for almost a week (or was it more than 7 days?).
      if we get a chance to go back to nepal, we wouldn’t hesitate to revisit bhaktapur! 🙂

      awww, thanks for the compliments! 🙂

  1. Awesome pictures, as usual…..like a pro now hehehe….love the shots.
    I’ve never known Nepal that much until I read your blog, pretty interesting place to visit.
    Love the shots when Gabby was making a pot, what great experience for him. Did you and Tina try it too, same time? Like ghost movie? hahaha joke

    1. nepal is soulful. ang ganda ng bansang iyon despite poverty; their character and heritage shine through. 🙂

      it was only me & gabby who tried making pots, si tina nag video (official bidyograper, hehehe!) will post the videos
      she took as summary for this blog series 🙂

      thanks, missy!

  2. there’s no doubt that tina and gabby enjoyed the beauty of Nepal. 🙂
    a beautiful documentation of the neighboring country, kudos to you docgelo… you did again!

  3. Beautiful pictures, Doc Gelo! I really love your Nepal posts. So colorful and heartwarming. It’s now officially part of my bucket list. Yay!!! =D

    Looking forward to more Nepal entries!

  4. Hello there!

    I’m a Nepali (and a Newar) and I felt soooo proud and happy reading your blog. Thank you so much for your effort and appreciation!

    Reading your posts and seeing the pictures made me realize how utterly non-caring, for lack of a better word, most of us Nepalese are regarding our heritage, not because we don’t care, but because our daily lives are so intricately ingrained to it that we take all these things that tourists like you admire for granted. You and your pictures truly made me miss my home!

    Hope you and your beautiful family continue enjoying Nepal. How long are you staying there? Which places are you visiting?

    And I can see you have done extensive research on Nepal (you got the names of the temples and the Hindu Gods exactly correct. I could never have guessed the name of the temple in Ktm Durbar Square) And yes, that mountain you saw is Everest. I too get totally awestruck when ever I see that majestic sight from the airplane window. Just gets to me every time! So I don’t think I need to suggest places for you to go. But just be careful while travelling. Yes, people are the most welcoming, but there are obviously some crooks who will be just eyeing to get money out of you. Taxi drivers are annoying as hell. And try to kindly bargain them with a smile, most of them may comply.

    1. Hi Vp,

      Namaste. Despite and in spite of everything, we fell in love with your country, your people and your heritage.
      We felt very blessed to have an opportunity, perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime one, to visit and experience Nepal even for 5 short days.
      It’s an honor and my pleasure to receive such generous words from a Nepali and a Newar at that, like you.
      Dhanybhad! Thank you very much for taking time reading my blog posts and making the effort of leaving a comment.
      I really appreciate it!

      We are back in Penang, Malaysia, where we are currently based but I’ll continue to share what we experienced, what we learned, and
      what we enjoyed in Nepal in a number of blog posts following this one. Hope you stay tuned.

      1. Nepal does have its share of delights I have to say. And I’m happy you guys enjoyed it overall. I am kind of surprised you brought your kid along, because Nepal isn’t necessarily for kids. My cousin’s son who is of the same age as your son, and was brought up in the US, could not stand Nepal at all, with all the traffic, daily power cuts, lack of McDonald’s, and all. I am glad that at least your son seems to have enjoyed it!

        And seems like you just stayed in the capital and the valley? Because there are plenty of other places to visit beyond that. Hope you can manage that the next time you go there!

        Best wishes!

        1. mushy as it may sound, but nepal is a dream destination for me. experiencing your country even for 5 days only was such a robust tick off my bucket list;
          even more gratifying that i went there with my wife, tina and our son, gabby. we cannot be grateful enough!

          yes, it’s not a place for everyone. here in this post, i mentioned, living in bhaktapur is not for everyone, it’s only for the brave and the willing.
          we experienced electrical cut offs in thamel, kathmandu where our hotel, thorong peak guest house was situated. good thing was, it has its own generator used during black outs. however, we also felt effects of intermittent power supply in food establishents and some places we went too.

          to be honest, i didn’t brief gabby that much on what to expect about nepal, but i’m proud, that perhaps at age 8, he’s matured enough for his age
          and didn’t demand on going to theme parks but was content on unesco heritage sites we went to. i don’t recall he insist on finding mcdonald’s or any of his favorite fastfood joints but was happy to savor what we feasted as a family during meal times when we were there.

          we went to kathmandu, bhaktapur, patan and nagarkot. so i will so appreciate if you will stay tuned and follow the succeeding blog posts about our experiences and places we enjoyed in nepal. my wife also took a few videos which i plan to upload on this blog at the end of my blog series.

          thank you very much!

          namaste.

  5. Nepal is so beautiful, and made more so with your skill in taking photos! Love your portraits. Do you ask for their permission, by the way? Or are those stolen shots? I have to overcome my anxiety when taking pictures on the streets. >_< Btw, Gabby looked so happy with his clay pot!

    1. i just took the first photo on this blog post on a whim while we were walking en route to potter square in bhaktapur. i couldn’t resist not taking my shot as the old nepalese man’s posture presented itself. but in the case of kareeshma, that 14 year old beautiful girl and all those kids in uniform, we spent time talking to them and asked permission from them to be photographed. kareeshma’s pretty inside-out. she didn’t ask even for a cent of payment for her portraits. she just asked us if we liked nepal and smiled her widest when we replied that we found her and her country beautiful. 🙂

      asking permission before taking photos of people remains a sign of courtesy.

      thanks, aleah!

      i’m currently brewing a follow-up to this blog series; will post soon!

  6. The first photo alone is a testament you’re not taking “amateurish” photos Doc Gelo! You might just get published again in Lonely Planet magazine. The heavens truly have blessed you on this trip – I realized it’s monsoon season in Nepal but it looks like you really didn’t have any serious downpour at all.
    Your great experiences on second day tells us that yes, journeys are indeed made by people you travel with – the photos of Gabby creating his own piece at the potter’s shop. THAT is priceless!

    1. Hi Dennis,

      It’s a once-in-a-lifetime journey for the three of us and as mentioned, we’re eternally grateful!
      I know Gabby, despite his young age had picked up a lesson or two from what we experienced during the entire trip. Things that neither Tina nor I would read in books. It might be a short-5-day-trip but everything’s overwhelming!
      Yes, that pottery-making in Bhaktapur was fun! Gabby obviously enjoyed it!

      Coming from you, whom I truly respect in the field of (travel) blogging and photography, thank you for appreciating my photos!

  7. I was amazed and in awe while reading your entry, Tito Doc. I wish I could do the same. Well, maybe in the future. Your shots and detailed entries made me feel like I was with you in Nepal. Hopefully your next trip will be here in Europe? 😉

    1. hi kite, kamusta na? thanks for reading my blog posts about nepal.
      europe trip next time? hmmm, paging, malaysia airlines! *joke only*
      but who knows? we might bump into you soon in UK! *wishful thinking*

  8. I’ve been following you on FB and twitter but it’s only now i was able to finally catch up on your Nepal series (blame it on the busyness of life…) and seriously, when i went through the posts i was inwardly going “Whoa!” with each and every photograph. You really have an eye for superb images and the candid shots are just amazing! Galing galing galing… Not to mention the experiences and cultural immersion your family went through, most of us can only imagine of actually experiencing those. These are the kinds of experiences that will really last you a lifetime. Good job, your photos deserve to be out there for everyone to see.

    1. wow! thank you very much carla, for those kind and inspiring words!
      my passion to blog is fueled once more.

      nepal in general, really left us in awe.
      stay tuned for a few more blog posts; i’ll draft a follow up this weekend! 🙂

  9. Namaste. Stumbled upon your blog looking for Filipinos who have been to Nepal. I was weighing my options, whether to go to Kathmandu or someplace else considering August is rainy season. (Scheduled to go on the same month, August 2014). Your blog posts and photos won me over! What an incredible place. Thank you.

    1. hello francesbeanp,

      your words made my day!
      thank you very much!

      you’ll enjoy your nepal trip next year, i’m sure!
      the place is wonderful! i want to go back if given a chance.

      again, many thanks!

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