Many, many friends!
Historically Kathmandu was made from smaller towns that eventually grew together into the large city that it is today. Leadership of the country resided in some of the smaller towns at different times in history depending on who had the power. The royalty in the town occupied buildings located in the town's Durbar Square. There are four Durbar Squares in the greater Kathmandu area and today we visited the Durbar Square in Patan (southern part of Kathmandu). In legend and in fact, Patan is the oldest city in the Kathmandu Valley and was the capital of a powerful independent kingdom and still maintains a defiantly distinct identity. Its nickname is "Lalitpur" which means "City of Beauty." The vibe of Patan is less frantic than Kathmandu and is known for being a more artistic community producing much of Nepal's fine metalwork. Also, Patan's Durbar Square is smaller and less touristy than Kathmandu's Durbar Square, and because Patan is a city of artisans the city's buildings have more architectural harmony and incredible detail!
Patan is quite a distance from Boudha (the area of Kathmandu where Tashi and Lakpa's house is located) so we knew we were going to have to take either a cab for between 1000 to 1200 Rupees (Rs) or get lucky and find a local public bus to get us somewhere near Patan for a cheaper price. The bus system here is confusing because the destination on all the busses is written in Nepali Devanaagari script and there isn't a schedule with bus numbers to know what to look for.
So we decided to find a main street that eventually leads to Patan and stand on the correct side of the road to find a taxi or bus, which ever came first. Asking the destination of a bus is more difficult than one would think. The bus operation requires two people: one bus driver and a person who stands in the doorway yelling their desination and taking people's money. Of course they are yelling in Nepalese so we had no clue where any of the busses were going, however we happened to ask the exact bus that we needed to get to Patan's Durbar Square. Lucky dogs! So we quickly squeezed on the bus before it moved. The busses are not very big, therefore some people can sit and the rest either have to stand or ride on the roof. Sometimes the busses get so full that people also hold on to the outside in the doorway.
The ride was actually very pleasant and not crazy because there were so many vehicles on the road and they couldn't drive fast. At this point in our day we had walked along a busy street for about 30 minutes and riden on a bus for about 15 minutes when I couldn't stop itching my nose! Oh my gosh....I just couldn't get it to stop until I blew my nose to see that I seriously blew dirt out of my nostrils! In a matter of 45 minutes I managed to breathe in that much dust from the air! Maybe I should buy one of those fancy masks so many Nepalis wear?
The ride was about 30 minutes and the whole way John and I were trying to figure out how we would know when to get off the bus. Eventually a landmark let us know that we were getting close and when we tried to get off the bus when the second bus guy told us to ride the bus until the last stop. It was nice to know that he was looking out for us and willing to help. The bus ride ended at the bus park and we were back on the streets in Patan.
We slowly navigated our way to the Durbar Square and enjoyed the lack of motor traffic in the square. The old buildings in the square were a sight to see with incredible detail in their architecture. Many of the buildings had external wooden supports keeping the walls in place and that I assume is the result of the April 2015 earthquake. I was especially facinated with the carved wooden supports under the roof eaves of many of the buildings. They were incredibly detailed and there were many of them on each building. People, street dogs, and pigeons sat and roamed the square creating a mellow vibe. We even decided to take a tour with a guy named, Vinod. Vinod gave a great tour explaining the meaning behind each building in the square and even took us to a Buddhist temple just off the main square. The temple also had intricate detail in its metal architecture!
We capped the day off with a tasty Indian dinner at a rooftop restaurant overlooking the square and watching the sun set behind the distant mountains. As we were leaving the restaurant our waiter asked us some questions about our stay in Nepal, about our religious beliefs and then shared that he just recently became a Christian. We had a wonderful conversation talking about his conversion and the importance of compassion towards others as an important part of Christianity and Buddhism. It was a magical evening!