Although we were in Kathmandu, Nepal, for the opening ceremonies for the Early Childhood Development Center (ECDC), we had free time to look around.
14 May – Saturday
Yesterday we arrived in Kathmandu and went to our hotel, Park Village Hotel and Resort. We then walked to ECDC with Tom Morgan for our first visit with Pushpa Basnet and her children. At ECDC we met a couple from Germany, Joachim and Helga Schulze and their daughter Kerstin, who lives in Singapore. They have been supporters of ECDC and were here for the opening. Helga told us about a temple a short distance from our hotel that we should visit.
The Budhanilkantha Temple is a Hindu temple north of Kathmandu and close to ECDC. At 7:30 AM, the monks gather to wash the Sleeping Vishnu statue. According to one of the locals that greeted us near the statue, the statue was discovered by a farmer while he was plowing his field. This is one of a couple of stories about the origin, none of which have been proved true, or not.
Unfortunately, we never made it there in time to see the ceremony. However, on our first visit, it was Saturday which is their weekly holy day and the crowds were very large. As you can see in a couple of the photos, the of people waiting to lay gifts at the feet of the statue was quite long.
After this visit we went to the ECDC facility for the opening ceremonies.
15 May – Sunday
We started today with another visit to the Budhanilkantha Temple, and a leisurely stroll around the nearby neighborhood. Today the crowds were significantly less than yesterday. This made for easier viewing of the grounds.
Outside the temple grounds…
16 May – Monday
Today we took a tour of Kathmandu. Our guide was recommended by Monique Kovacs Nathan, our friend from the U.S. Embassy. Deepak Risal was and excellent guide. We were picked up from our hotel at about 8:00 AM, where we had gathered with Sharon Kuggelmass, Kerstin Schulze and her parents, Joachim and Helga.
Our first stop was an area near Rani Pokhari, which had been partially drained of water so it could be worked on.
From here we wandered through markets, past temples and into throngs of people, during the rest of our first stop. Here are some of the things we saw:
Just across the bridge, we met our van for a short ride to the Unesco World Heritage Site of Swayambhunath, a complex with an access of 365 stairs (we drove up), lots of monkeys and a beautiful stupa.
The next stop on our tour was for lunch. Deepak gave us two choices, one of which served typical Nepalese food – which is what we chose, unanimously. Unfortunately for me, he didn’t give us the complete details, as I’ll explain. We soon arrived at The Bakery, across from the U.N. compound.
When we sat down and were given menus, I decided to order my first Everest beer (one of the 3 major Nepalese beers). I told the waiter and pointed to the menu. He didn’t seem to understand, at first, so I repeated my order. Still no understanding of what I wanted to drink. I was getting rather frustrated with the waiter, and less than pleased. I had the same problem ordering my food. Only after my beer arrived, I heard the conversation at the table, explaining that all the waiters were hearing impaired and that we were supposed to use some simple sign language (which was shown on signs around the restaurant – that I hadn’t seen).
After lunch, we headed to our second World Heritage Site, Patan Durbar Square. This area sustained severe damage from the earthquake in April, 2015. Some of the building have been repaired, but there is still much destruction visible all around.
Since we were so close to another temple, the Golden Temple, our guide recommended we walk a few blocks to visit it. We all agreed and off we went.
The Golden Temple was worth the diversion.
We then headed to the final stop, the World Heritage Site, Bhaktapur Cultural City. This site consists of 3 major squares: Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Taumadhi Square and Dattatreya Square. As you can see from the photos, there is still much damage from the earthquake in April, 2015.
We then were taken back to our hotel, with just sufficient time left to change clothes before being picked up by the staff of ECDC, who were taking us to dinner. Dinner was at a restaurant that Pushpa and her brother and sister had played in when they were growing up. At that time the building had be abandoned and they were told it was haunted and, therefore, they must not go near it. That was one of those parental commands that made it all the more interesting to disobey.
The restaurant is now Bhojan Griha. “The historic residence of the royal priest was built over 150 years ago. It was on the verge of collapse and took over 6 years to restore.” We sat on cushions on the floor and enjoyed an excellent Nepalese meal and a traditional show of dancing and music.
Our trip was exciting and rewarding. We made many new friends that we hope to see elsewhere throughout the world.