Traveled: April 2014
I took off to Kathmandu Durbar Square from Swayambhunath temple by foot. Google map said it’ll be 2.8 km away. It took me an hour to reach the square but that included a stop to a small eatery along the way, where my tired feet, complaining stomach and the scent of steamed momos have led me.
A short rest and a satisfied stomach after, I continued walking towards the durbar square, while bearing the perfect formula for maximum dust adsorption: a sweaty feet and dusty road.
The road started to get crowded as I reached my destination, but that's already a given considering that Kathmandu Durbar Square is nestled right in the heart of Kathmandu city. As with Bhaktapur and Patan Durbar Squares, Kathmandu Durbar Square is surrounded by ancient Newari architecture.
Trailokya Mohan Narayan temple, the tallest in the square (Unfortunately, it was completely destroyed by the 2015 earthquake)
Statues of Shiva & his wife Parvati, looking out from the top window of the Shiva-Parvati Temple
The square is also home to the Kumari, the living goddess. It’s a shame I was there at an hour that the Kumari is said to show herself at the window of Kumari Ghar to give a blessing, but I missed the opportunity to get a glimpse of her.
Sari-sari store, Kathmandu style
The square is an active hub for devotees, people selling goods (food, ritual items, souvenirs) and services (guides, trishaw), tourists, students, locals and people taking their selfies.
Kathmandu Durbar Square is also home of the old royal palace of the former Kathmandu kingdom.
The Hanuman Dhoka Palace Complex
The intricate wooden carvings never failed to amaze me
Already tired, but satisfied with seeing three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in a day, I headed to the Ratna Park to catch a transportation that will get me back to my homestay in Gwarko, Lalitpur. I decided to take the advice of my homestay host to take the cheaper route back by riding what locals use, the mini van.
The traffic officer confirmed to me that mini vans bound to Gwarko are passing through the Ratna Park. And there it was shortly after a few minutes of waiting, a mini van was approaching and the traffic officer signaled that that's the mini van I should be taking. The mini van was empty and a bunch of local passengers came rushing by as it stopped to pick-up passengers. As if having a déjà vu of an MRT scene during rush hour in the Philippines, I successfully squeezed inside the van. Thanks to my years of experience of commuting in the Philippines for giving me the inspiration.
I thought it’s going to be a familiar experience until the van, already full, stopped to pick up even more passengers. I was wondering how on earth can the driver and the accompanying conductor/barker defy the long-proven concept that no two objects can occupy the same space at the same time? I wasn’t sure what just happened but I found myself cringing for space, with about 8 or 10 people, I think, standing and bended inside the van, inhabiting any available space there is just to get to their destination.
Want to get local in Kathmandu? For a price of Rs 20, this is the best way of getting in touch with the locals…I mean, literally. For about 25 minutes in this situation, and worst of all smelling the stench of all the day’s worth of hard work, coming home to my homestay, where a nice warm shower awaits me, is the sweetest thing ever.
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The strong earthquake that shook and caused grief and damage in Kathmandu happened a year after I traveled to Nepal. Hence, this and my other upcoming posts about Nepal are pre-2015 earthquake time. Let us continue praying for Nepal's recovery.