Suitcase and World: Kathmandu. The Lovely Patan.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Kathmandu. The Lovely Patan.

Also known as Lalitpur, Patan is the second largest city in the Kathmandu Valley and I fell in love with it the moment I stepped foot in its Durbar Square. In fact, I loved it so much I went there twice.

The first time was on October 3rd which was my first full day in Nepal. On that day, I woke up bright and early and armed with my itinerary I headed for the hotel concierge. I laid out what I wanted to do and a short discussion later and I had a firm game plan for the day along with a driver and a car. Half hour later, I was in the car with Ahlay (spelled as it is phonetically pronounced) and we were heading down the road towards Patan, my first stop for the day.

It was a picture perfect day - bright sunshine, warm enough to be comfortable in a short sleeved shirt and just the right amount of humidity in the air. I'm loving the weather in Kathmandu!

Though it was only a few kilometre drive to Patan from the Tibet Guest House, the usual traffic mayhem meant that it took nearly half hour to get to our destination.

Ahlay dropped me off at the ticket booth and for 200 NPR, I got my entry ticket. It was a bit puzzling at first - buying a ticket to enter a city but it turned out to be true also for Bhaktapur and Kathmandu.
While I bought my ticket, Ahlay parked the car and we met back up a few minutes later. Turns out that his wife is from Patan so he knows the area well and with him as my guide, we started our walk through Durbar Square. The place is packed with ancient monuments, temples and shrines of different architectural styles, metal and stone sculptures, bells of all sizes and people some just milling about and others going about their daily lives.

After a short while walking through Durbar Square, I decided to head into the backstreets. Ahlay followed me for a bit but I think he thought I was crazy going off the tourist path so we went our separate ways - agreeing to meet back up in front of the Patan Museum.

I was trying to decide which photos of Patan I wanted to load up on this blog posting but as I scrolled through them, I quickly realized that a) I wanted to post up everything and b) after the first couple of temples, I got so caught up in experiencing Patan that I failed to note the names of any of the other places I stumbled upon. So, here are a few highlights.

Krishna Mandir. A temple, dedicated to Lord Krishna, which was built in the 17th century.

Kumbheshwor. The only temple with five roofs, this temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Only Hindus are allowed inside Hindu temples. Though Ahlay said that I could probably get away with it. After all, he's a Hindu and with his Mongolian heritage, he looks as "asian" as I do. But I decided not to - don't want to insult any of the true Hindus.

Then I came across Hiranya Varna Mahavihar otherwise known to tourists as the Golden Temple. This is a Buddhist temple that was built in the 12th century. There were Tibetan monks chanting in the small chanting hall on the second floor so I tiptoed my way pass them to exit onto the balcony to capture these photos.

Looking down on the center courtyard of the Golden Temple.

Looking skyward at the roofs of the Golden Temple.

View of architectural detail.

The rest of the photos that I took while I was wandering through Patan have been uploaded to a Picasa album. Click on the image below to start the slideshow.
Nepal. Kathmandu Valley - Patan

When I bought my entry ticket to Patan, I was given a map to the city. When you look at it, the first thing that you notice is that there are no street names - just the names of temples, monuments and other landmarks. Nice, but not very useful unless you can already equate the name of building/landmark to it's location on the map :-(

So, as you would expect, without a "real" map to guide me, I got lost wandering around. Fortunately, with the help of a few Patan natives to give me walking directions, I managed to make it back to Patan Museum with minutes to spare.

The Patan Museum is housed in a former palace that was built in 1734. Both inside and outside, it has been lovingly restored through the joint efforts of the Nepal and Austrian governments. It is a little gem of a museum. Although it does not house a large collection of antiquities, what it does have is artfully displayed and there are excellent descriptions of each exhibit item. This museum, is hands down, the best museum of its size, that I have ever been to.

Front Entrance to Patan Museum.

Once inside the front door, I bought my entry ticket. I wish you could feel the ticket itself. Nepal has a paper making heritage and so this ticket is printed on paper that looks and feels like it's handmade though I'm certain it's not.

 I headed for the stairs leading to the first exhibition hall.

Lining the stair walls are carved wooden struts that hold up temple roofs.

The interior of the museum has been restored so you begin to appreciate interior architectural design of a Nepalese building.

Wood carvings adorn entryways.

Inside each exhibition hall, objects are artfully displayed and more importantly, well described! The predominant theme revolves around religious objets d'art- both Buddhist and Hindu.

Along two walls of the building are cushioned lined window seats where you can sit and enjoy a view of Patan below. I loved sitting on these seats and watching the world go by from above.

Though I took my time to walk through the exhibit halls, it is a small collection. About an hour later, I was back outside - this time to a beautiful little courtyard that's located behind the building.

I sat down, on a wooden bench, under a large jasmine vine and enjoyed the scent of the blooms the view and the tranquility of the day. A few sips of water and I was refreshed and ready to meet back up with Ahlay. There was a temple next door to the Museum that I had wanted to go to and so that was where we would head. After that, it was goodbye to Patan and onto our next destination - Bhaktapur.

I would return to Patan on October 18th- this time bringing Margaret, Claire and Barry with me. I suggested that they go visit the Museum which they all did and they seemed to appreciate it as much as I did. Margaret and Claire had to leave to visit a tailor - Margaret had a fitting appointment! I took Barry down the backstreets that I had wandered through two weeks earlier. It was the start of Dashain when we were in Patan and so the temples were filled with Nepalese with offerings to the gods and particularly, to the goddess Durga for whom the celebration revolves around. We too, soon got lost, wandering the streets but eventually did make it back to the Durbar Square. Festival celebrations were going on in all the temples but somehow, we seemed to miss them all. No matter as we were enjoying our time in Patan.
Patan is a lovely place and I hope it will always be that way for future generations to experience and admire!