A while back, my husband took his first trip to Nepal. Although he had visited both China and India several times, he had never managed to explore the small and mountainous country sandwiched between the two. He flew into the capital, Kathmandu, a busy and crowded city surrounded on all sides by mountains.
Long ago (in the 15th century) the Kathmandu Valley was divided into three separate kingdoms or city states: Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. In each city state the ruler built a handsome palace, surrounding it with a public square, ornate temples and statues on tall plinths. These three squares still exist today, and the most famous of them is Patan Durbar Square. (If you look on the map above, Patan is just south of Kathmandu across the Bagmati River).
The most important building in Patan Durbar Square is the Royal Palace which is enormous and stretches along the east side of the square. Above you can see one of the entrances to the palace with two carved stone elephants.
Across from this entrance is the Krishna Mandir temple. While most of the Buddhist temples and indeed the Royal Palace are constructed of red brick and timber, this Hindu temple is unusual in being made of ornately carved stone with accents in gold.
While my husband was visiting the square, he noticed lots of people in colourful costumes. It turned out they were making a Bollywood film! In this picture you can see some of the dancers relaxing during a break on the steps of the temple. They have bells on their legs and bamboo pipes to play, so I’m sure their dance number must have been brilliant!
The next day, it was time to climb into the mountains and visit a small village called Chokati. It was a long trek, and the views were spectacular. At one point they came to a deep valley with a river rushing past far below. The only way to reach the village was to cross a rickety suspension bridge with quite a few boards missing!
I’m glad to say the group made it safely across and managed to reach the village. As they approached they could see little houses perched on a steep green slope. Chokati is an agricultural community and the main crops they grow are rice and corn.
Up close, the houses are very simple. This is where my husband stayed during his time in the village. Although they have very few possessions, you can see they still like their satellite TV!
Here is a picture of some corn drying outside one of the houses. The ones strung across the top still have their husks. Once they are dry the kernels of corn can be ground into flour to make bread.
My husband received a warm welcome in the village (which included having a red mark painted on his forehead and a lovely garland of flowers placed around his neck).
The most colourful character in the village was the medicine man, or shaman. This ancient practice dates back 50,000 years, and when someone in the village is ill the shaman will perform a drumming and chanting ritual to call upon the spirits to help heal his patient. In the photo below you can see the drum made of animal skin stretched over a wooden frame, and the curvy stick the shaman uses to beat it.
As always, my husband felt he had to come home with a souvenir of some sort, and he found the perfect thing: a traditional Nepalese trumpet which can collapse down like a telescope, fitting perfectly into his suitcase!
It’s made of hammered metal, about one metre in length, and if you want to see what they sound like, have a look at the short video HERE. Thankfully, our trumpet is never played – it’s just a very handsome ornament!