Bhaktapur, Nepal – Durbar Square and Taumadhi Tole

Bhaktapur is a town located about an hour away (by bus) from Kathmandu. It is known in its position as a historical trading route to Tibet. By now the strikes had finished, thankfully, so we took the bus there, it was a pleasant ride costing us only twenty rupees (roughly twenty-five cents).  We walked around Bhaktapur’s Durbar Square first, admiring its cobblestone streets and numerous temples (some with extremely explicit carvings!) before doing a walking tour of the old town. Everywhere we turned there seemed to be women threshing grain or rice, or doing some kind of handicraft.  We had lunch high up on Cafe Nyatapola which is located in a former temple, overlooking Taumadhi Tole. Later we tried the yummy ‘king of curds’, a sweetened thick yogurt which Bhaktapur is renowned for.

West entrance with two large stone lions built by King Bhupatindra MallaSonya at Fasidega Temple flanked by elephant guardians at the bottom of the steps and lions and cows aboveThe spire of the Siddhi Lakshmi Temple
One of the pair of two lions at the east entrance to Durbar SquareA pair of stone lions at the east entrance with the Siddhi Lakshmi Temple in the backgroundSonya sitting on the steps of the Siddhi Lakshmi Temple
Siddhi Lakshmi Temple, Lohan Dega or Stone Temple, the steps up to the temple are flanked by male and female attendantsStairs of the Siddhi Lakshmi Temple flanked by camels, man-lions, rhinos and horsesVatsala Durga Temple with a bell on the temple's plinth
Vatsala Durga Temple with a bell on the temple's plinthSmaller bell on the Vatsala Durga Temple's plinth, popularly known as the barking bellGolden Gate or Sun Dhoka is the entrance to the 55 Window Palace
Goat's head protruding from the mouth of a makara (crocodile demon) at Naga PokhariKing Bhupatindra Malla column, the king sits with folded arms studying the magnificent golden gate to his palaceKing Bhupatindra Malla column with the spire of the Vatsala Durga Temple in the background
Stone carvings of the Vatsala Durga TempleVishnu as Narsingha, the man-lion incarnationHanuman appears in Tantric form as the four-armed Hanuman-Bhairab
Looking over Durbar Square facing EastBrick shikhara style Shiva TempleNasamana Square, with a Garuda statue without a paired temple
Entrance to the National Art Museum flanked by two stone lionsFive story Nyatapola Temple, the highest in the Kathmandu ValleyFive story Nyatapola Temple, the highest in the Kathmandu Valley
The road from Taumadhi Tole to Durbar SquareThe stairway leading up to Nyatapola Temple is flanked by guardian figures at each plinth levelIntricately carved wooden windows, a Ganesh is seen above the entrance
Alley to the North of Durbar SquareWomen threshing grains in the alleys near Durbar SquareA small unknown shrine
Entrance to Mahakali Temple with snow lions flanking the entranceStone Buddha statues with residential buildings in the backgroundNava Durga Temple a Tantric temple with golden door guarded by metal lions
Wakupati Narayan Temple with metal ribbons providing a path for the gods to descendSonya with an orange garuda statueA metal lion on the roof a temple holding the Nepalese flag
Dattatreya Temple with entrance guarded by two Malla wrestlersDattatreya Temple with Garuda topped pillar and entrance guarded by two Malla wrestlersDattatreya Temple with Garuda topped pillar and entrance guarded by two Malla wrestlers
Triple-roofed Bhairabnath Temple (also known as the Kasi Vishwanath or Akash BhairabView of Taumadhi Tole from Nyatapola Temple15th-century peacock window, reputed to be the finest carved window in the Kathmandu valley

Bhaktapur Walking Tour

  1. Sun and Moon Plagues
  2. Terracotta Ganesh Window
  3. Mahakali Temple
  4. Mahalakshmi Temple
  5. Temples
  6. Shikhara Temple
  7. Ganesh Shrine
  8. Prashan Nashil Maha Bihar
  9. Nava Durga Temple
  10. Wakupati Narayan Temple
  11. Tachupal Tole
  12. Inacho Bahal
  13. Chaityas, Statues, Shrines and Lingams
  14. Hanuman Statue
  15. Chuping Ghat
  16. Khalna Tole
  17. Kumari Temple
  18. Bhagwati Temple

Swayambhunath, Kathmandu, Nepal – Monkey Temple

A trip to the Buddhist temple, Swayambhunath, was on the agenda for day two. The temple is also known as the Monkey Temple and is located atop a hill west of Kathmandu. We took a stroll there early in the morning.  As soon as we reached the temples, we saw a monkey hanging off a Buddha statue. The climb up to the massive white stupa was tiring, but we were entertained by the monkeys and store vendors along the way.  Although strikes were still on, tickets were still required to be purchased. The top offered wonderful views of Kathmandu valley. The highlight is the stupa, surrounded by prayer wheels, a religious symbol which we requires to be walked around in a clockwise direction. Also atop the hill is a Hariti Temple, a gompa (monastery) plus small statues and stupas.

Smaller stupas at the base of the hill leading up to the temple
The east entrance gate at the base of the hill with stairs leading up to the temple
A monkey foraging at the base of a Buddha statue
A monkey mask painting on a stone leading to the temple
Buddha statues flanking the entrance to the Monkey Temple
The stairs leading to the large stupa visible at the top
The gold gilding of the stupa seen from the lower stairs
View of Kathmandu from the hill
At the base of the Swayambhunath stupa with the Buddhist Vajra thunderbolt visible
Monkey sitting on the Buddhist Vajra thunderbolt
Various monkey and other animal masks for sale
A monkey sitting on the tip of a temple roof with the main stupa visible in the background
A monkey jumping from a smaller red stupa
A monkey sitting at the base of a stupa watching below
A monkey eating a square of ice-cream with a Buddha statue visible in the background
Stone statue of Dipanker Buddha
Stone Buddhas with the large stupa visible in the background
Six metre high figure of Sakyamuni, the past Buddha
The prayer wheels and oil candles surrounding the large stupa
Travis feeding some eager monkeys bits of banana
Three sitting monkeys
Travis feeding a smaller monkey some banana
Look of disappointment, the banana is all gone
A standing Buddha statue at the base of the hill
A Buddhist monastery at the base of the hill

Kathmandu, Nepal – Durbar Square

Durbar means palace, and this area is very much the centre of the old city where the city’s royalty were crowned and celebrated. Along the way we had already enjoyed a vast array of Buddhist stupas, Hindu temples, shrines during our Lonely Planet walking tour (which, we noticed, so many other tourists were also doing) however were impressed by the number of temples clustered around Durbar Square. Highlights included;

Kasthamandap Temple – the oldest of the buildings in the square, building in the 12th century and which Kathmandu is named after.

Maju Devel – we joined many other Nepalese as we sat on the steps of this 17th century Shiva temple which overlooks the bustling area below.

Kumari Bahal – I was quite surprised to read that the Nepalese worship a real-life goddess – the Kumari Devi – and this is the house where she lives. The Kumari is basically a little girl, selected based on a rigid physical criteria and is tested to ensure she is able to select the correct items of her predecessor. She lives in the Kumari Bahal with her family, making occasional appearances, and is worshipped by the people. Once she reaches puberty she becomes mortal and another girl is selected. We somehow managed to visit on a day where she was making an appearance, a brief but fascinating appearance (particularly watching other people’s reactions upon seeing her). She was a normal childlike, young girl, with a face full of makeup.

Hanuman Dhoka palace – a massive palace complex guarded by an orange Hanuman statute out the front. Inside the palace are museums commemorating King Tribhuvan, King Mahendra and Birenda. Some extremely erotic carvings were evident in the courtyard of the Basantapur Tower.

DSLR camera, GPS, Lonely Planet, backpack, Travis' blending in wellWell known Ganesh shrine, the deity with an elephant headKasthamandap Temple at Durbar Square
Man making garlands of marigold flowers used by HindusTrailokya Mohan Narayan temple with Garuda kneeling before itMaru Ganesh Mandir
Shiva-Parvati Temple with stone snow lions guarding the entranceShiva-Parvati Temple with stone snow lions guarding the entranceShiva-Parvati Temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square
Bhagwati TempleTrailokya Mohan Narayan templeKumari Bahal (House of the Living Goddess) with intricate carved windows
Durbar Square KathmanduGoddess KaliTemple to Kam Dev, a companion of Shiva, with a tall corncob like spire
Hanuman statue cloaked in red and sheltered by an umbrellaTaleju Temple Hindu temple entranceSnow lions guarding the entrance to Taleju Temple
Stone inscription written in fifteen languages to the goddess KalikaA chaitya completely shattered by a bodhi treeHindu deity Shiva holding trident and transport of Nandi the bull
Taleju Temple Hindu temple viewed from the sideGaruda Statue seen outside Taleju TempleKala Bhairab at Durbar Square
View from the inner court of the Hanuman Dhoka (Royal Palace)View from the inner court of the Hanuman Dhoka (Royal Palace)Intricate wooden windows of the Hanuman Dhoka (Royal Palace)
Great Bell elevated atop a white building erected by Rana Bahadur ShahBustling freak street, named due to inhabitants in the sixtiesGarbage lit on fire, a commonality to dispose of waste


We had a delicious Thakali daal baaht for dinner in Thamel.

Daal bhaat, traditional Nepalese staple consisting of dal and rice

Kathmandu, Nepal – temples and cows

Crossing the China/Nepal border towards Kathmandu

The China-Nepal border crossing was one of, if not the easiest, crossing we had experienced during our trip. It took about five minutes in total including the walk across the half Nepal, half China Friendship bridge.

As expected, a number of Jeep taxi drivers approached us. We were told that there was a bandh or strike in Kathmandu and vehicles were not permitted in the city.  The drivers told us that the trip to Kathmandu, about one-hundred-and-fifty kilometres in total, would take about seven hours, as the Jeep/ute would stop along the way until the bandhs were over (at around 7pm or 8pm). Unsure whether to believe what we were told, but with no other option, we agreed on a fare of one-thousand rupees each to take us both to Kathmandu’s Thamel district. Fortunately, along with us was an English speaking Tibetan business lady who advised us that strikes were common and that it should be over in a few days. The drive was quite pleasant, although we were packed in with four other passengers and could start to feel the pre-monsoon humidity increasing. It was hard to believe that only that morning we were at Everest Base Camp where it had been snowing. It was a bumpy ride, through picturesque lush green mountainous jungles.  Every now and then the driver would pick up additional passengers who would sit in the back of the ute, or if their journey was shorter (or the back full), hang off the side of jeep (i.e holding on through the wound-down windows!). Road safety seemed to be of no concern to the Nepalese.

We stopped for a meal of flat, broken rice, chicken curry and tea (which the Tibetan lady kindly treated us), before the driver and group decided it was safe to enter Kathmandu.

By the time we reached our hotel it was about 8pm. We found out that the city faces some major challenges with electricity and our bathroom had none (until 11pm) so we couldn’t shower.  The internet was also not working due to the electrical outage, so instead we walked down the brightly lit tourist-friendly, Thamel Street. It reminded me a lot of Khao San Road in Bangkok – Money changers at every corner, hippy gear, jewellery and all sorts of souvenirs.  We bought a couple of mangoes, some books and headed back to our guest-house.

Walking tours

The following morning, after we had applied for Indian visas, we decided to do a walking tour of south Thamel and visit Durbar Square in Kathmandu. The strike was still ongoing which meant that during the day, there were no vehicles on the road, nor were the shops open.  However, on the upside tickets to the Durbar Square complex were not required, and we were able to wander around free of charge.

Central stupa of Thahiti ToleShigha Bihar with Kathesimbhu Stupa and surrounding smaller stupasShigha Bihar with Kathesimbhu Stupa
Small stupas of Shigha BiharBuddha stone statues inside the Shigha BiharBird resting on a stupa inside the  Shigha Bihar
Hindu temple found inside the Shigha Bihar courtPrayer wheels located around the Kathesimbhu StupaVarious colourful stone reliefs found on the circumference of the Kathesimbhu Stupa
Stone Buddha statues found in the Nag BahalShiva sitting with Parvati on Mt Kailash, her hand resting proprietarily on his knee in the pose known as Uma MaheshwarColourful deity statues located around the Saraswati Shrine
Colourful deity statues located around the Saraswati ShrineSikha Narayan Temple with Rickshaw parked at the entranceStanding Buddha statue dates from the 5th or 6th century
Travis confused with the lump of wood which thousands of coins have been nailedClose-up of coins nailed into lump of woodGanesh statue, is a small recessed area
Triple-roofed Ugratara Temple with two cows in the frontBrass lions at the entrance to the Ugratara TempleThree-storey Annapurna Temple
Narayan shrine with two cows in frontBuddha states outside the Seto Machhendranath TemplePigeons sitting atop one of a pair of lions at the Seto Machhendranath Temple entrance
Brass Buddha statue with resting PigeonsIntricate brass Buddha relief near Seto Machhendranath TemplePigeons resting on a stupa near Seto Machhendranath Temple
Quite streets of Kathmandu due to strikesStone Shiva TempleMetal lions of the Akash Bhairab Temple
Intricate brass Ganesh shrineThe long, rectangular courtyard of the Itum BahalKichandra Bahal or Keshchandra Paravarta Mahar Bihar, one of the oldest bahals in the city
A chaitya has been completely shattered by a bodhi treeStone Buddha statue in the Itum Bahal courtyardCalf found on the streets of Kathmandu
Children ringing the bells of Nara Devi TempleWooden window called deshay madu in Nepali, which means there is not another one like itEntrance to the Yatkha Bahal with stupa visible
Yatkha Bahal courtyard with white stupaIntricate door found in Yatkha Bahal courtyardAnother cow on the streets of Kathmandu, a regular occurrence
Stone Shiva TempleBrass lion at front of Bhimsen TempleSmall stone shrine
Triple-roofed Jaisi Deval Temple on seven level baseChicken standing outside an ornate metal doorWhite five metre high Machhendranath Temple

South from Thamel to Durbar Square

  1. Thahiti Tole
  2. Nateshwar Temple
  3. Kathesimbhu Stupa
  4. Nag Bahal
  5. Parvati on Mt Kailash
  6. Sikha Narayan Temple
  7. Saraswati Shrine
  8. Buddha statue
  9. Wood with coins
  10. Ugratara Temple
  11. Haku Bahal
  12. Annapurna Temple
  13. Krishna Temple
  14. Seto (White) Machhendranath Temple
  15. Akash Bhairab Temple
  16. Kichandra Bahal
  17. Nara Devi Temple
  18. Dance platform
  19. Narsingha Temple
  20. Wooden window
  21. Bhulukha Dega Temple
  22. Yatkha Bahal

South from Durbar Square

  1. Kasthamandap
  2. Singh Sattal
  3. Large tanklike hiti
  4. Bhimsen Temple
  5. Kohiti water tank
  6. Jaisi Deval Temple
  7. Ram Chandra Temple
  8. Tukan Bahal
  9. Shikhara Temple
  10. Musum Bahal
  11. Ta Bahal
  12. Machhendranath Temple
  13. Hari Shankar Temple
  14. Vishnu Narayan Temple
  15. Adko Narayan Temple