Destinations, Nepal

Harvest time in Bhaktapur

May 17, 2011

Colourful buildings in Bhaktapur, Nepal

Dodging buses belching exhaust and minivans careening up the hill and out of the bus park, it looked like trying to take local transport to the ancient city of Bhaktapur instead of hiring an expensive taxi was going to get my friend and I killed.

“Bhaktapur?” we asked one driver hopefully as we sidestepped yet another battered school bus thundering past. It was almost an hour since we’d left the backpacker haven of Thamel on a search for local transport.

The driver, who looked about 12 years old, nodded. He motioned for us to board and at the same time released the handbrake so that we had to grab the handrails and swing ourselves up the stairs and onto the moving bus.

As we stumbled to our seats the driver turned up the stereo until the vehicle shook with bass.

His wing-man and ticket collector leaned out the back door shouting, “BhaktapurBhaktapurBhaktapurBhaktapur!” He thumped the side of the bus with his fist in an attempt to drum up business as we careened out of the parking lot and into the Kathmandu traffic.

The ancient city

Bhaktapur is one of the Kathmandu Valley’s ancient cities, and its third largest. It’s easy to visit on a day trip from Kathmandu and if you can find the right local bus without getting run over, it only costs 50 rupees. Hiring a taxi costs around 800.

A doorway with eyes in Bhaktapur, Nepal

Listed by UNESCO, Bhaktapur has city status but feels more like a village.

Like Kathmandu, it has its own Durbar Square and nearly all the rabbit-warren back streets seem to lead to it. It has more temples than Kathmandu or Patan, the Valley’s other ancient gems.

Wandering Bhaktapur’s streets and alleways is like taking a walk back in time 400 years.

Many aspects of life seem largely unchanged and the buildings certainly don’t look like they’ve been modernised at all.

A collection of corn at harvest time in Bhaktapur, Nepal

Decorated for Diwali in Bhaktapur, Nepal

Our crazy local bus arrived well before the package tourist hoardes from Kathmandu so for a couple of hours as we wandered the village it was mostly just us, the odd local and of course the odd holy cow.

A holy cow in Bhaktapur, Nepal

A friendly local in Bhaktapur, Nepal

The shady streets of Bhaktapur, Nepal

By lunchtime, though, it was a different story.

Not only was it the day before Diwali so locals were out in force buying up big at the market but it was harvest time.

Visiting the market in Bhaktapur, Nepal

Harvest time in Bhaktapur, Nepal

The town’s squares were filled with tarpaulins covered in drying grain, where local women (and their young children!) sorted it into sacks.

Sacks of grain at harvest time in Bhaktapur, Nepal

Then school let out, and the squares quickly filled with kids causing mischief and buying treats. Their excitement about the upcoming festival of Diwali was palpable – it really did feel like the day before Christmas.

Treats for sale in Bhaktapur's Durbar Square, Nepal

Visiting Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur is an easy day trip from Kathmandu (once you find the right bus). Your guesthouse can organise a taxi to take you there and bring you back, but the bus is considerably cheaper.

An entry ticket to the village costs about 500 rupees – there are ticket booths located at every entry point so it’s almost impossible to get past without paying. We were asked to show our tickets several times. And why would you want to skimp on the cost anyway when the funds go back into preserving the site?

You can see all the major sites in a morning but it is possible to spend the night. There are a few guesthouses in and around Durbar Square and although we didn’t stay, we were there early enough to see how different the city became once the the tour buses from Kathmandu arrived.

Spending a night or two in Bhaktapur might be a relaxed alternative to the frenzy of Kathmandu (and it’s bus parks!) and the hassle of Thamel.

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  • Reply Naomi May 17, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    What an incredible place!! I love the photo of the women sorting grain :>

    • Reply MeganRTW May 18, 2011 at 7:03 am

      It was a great day – every visitor to Kathmandu should try to get out into the Kathmandu Valley – it’s such a different world!

  • Reply Vishal May 19, 2011 at 1:50 am

    Hi Megan!

    I’m glad you enjoyed the difference that Bhaktapur offers from Kathmandu. Ahh! I miss my home, juju dhau, gopal ice cream, street food, etc.

    • Reply MeganRTW May 19, 2011 at 6:43 pm

      Hey Vishal, thanks for your comment! Gopal ice cream?? I’ve never heard of that, you must tell me about it. Where in Nepal are you from? How long have you been living away?

  • Reply Vishal May 20, 2011 at 7:22 am

    Hi Megan!

    I was endorsing my dad’s ice icream. 😉 I am from Birgunj, South of Nepal. I lived in Bhaktapur for 2 years before moving to New York for studies. I’m graduating this Monday! Now I’m trying to find work here or anywhere in the world. Australia seems awesome though; I applied for a few jobs through Let’s see what happens! I’m sort of the nomadic type too. 🙂

    • Reply MeganRTW May 21, 2011 at 5:35 pm

      Wow, congratulations on graduating Vishal! New York must be an exciting place to live and such a contrast to Nepal. Australia is a great place to live and work – best of luck with the job search. Do keep in touch – I will definitely be heading back to Nepal and India in the not so distant future so I’d love some local insights.

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