Oh Kathmandu, what have you done? An urban sprawl of rough concrete buildings under a reddish grey haze of pollution that blots out the snow peaked mountain views that I remember from 30 years ago. A seething mess of development where waste and sewage pour from its guts in an uncontrollable and unplanned fashion. Manic congested roads filled with new cars and motorbikes bought on finance. The green pleasant rice fields that filled the valley have all gone, replaced by ugly concrete buildings with poisoned land between.
But when you search, those special places are still there in amongst the chaos. Old brick temples, incense smoke, colour, worship, holy men, pilgrims, and bells ringing. You just come across religious stuff going on within this mega city. It’s very atmospheric and it’s what has made Kathmandu such an important place in all of history.
As we cycle to Bhaktapur along the old road we start to get glimpses of the giant Himalayan peaks in the distance as we leave the clutch of the Kathmandu haze. We enter the Durbar square of Bhaktapur and are met by colourful masked dancers. The towering temples surround us as we bump over the brick square. Narrow streets lead off with tall brick houses that have carved wood balconies. The place has been shaken by the earthquake and there are a lot of collapsed buildings and others that are leaning and propped up.
By the evening the square is filled with the noise of drums beating melodiously, chanting and singing, bells ringing, and a lot of people gathering and carrying out religious ceremony. People being chased by gods they tell us. A man pouring milk from a large kettle for resting folk who are sitting on the ground.
A wedding procession comes crashing through, with a riotous brass band and big drums. Men in smart suits and women in expensive, brightly coloured patterned saris, dancing enthusiastically in the street ahead of the wedding car containing the bride and groom who look expressionless.
Our break in Kathmandu has been interesting and wonderful to meet up with Katy and Belle.