Durbar Square, Patan, Nepal

Saturday 21st January 2006.

After breakfast I checked my email and replied to one from Corinne. Again the connection was very dodgy so I didn’t worry about sending out a general email to everyone. It is very frustrating to spend 20-30 minutes composing scintillating prose only to have the connection drop out before one gets to send the email. This usually results in a lost message.

Durbar Square, Patan

Again this morning I used a hotel driver to take me to Durbar Square Patan. I had to pay Rs200 to enter this area, and for that I received a tourist guide and map. Some of the temples and buildings in that area are thought to be over 2000 years old while others are only several hundred years old. A large part of the city has been given World Heritage Site status. It is a fascinating area and my camera received a very good workout, capturing over 100 images of this area.

Persistent Guides

As soon as I emerged from the car I was besieged by ‘guides’ offering their services. They are very persistent now that the main tourist time has finished. I managed to convince them that I didn’t need a guide. Sure, engaging a guide I may have learned more and seen more of this amazing place, but I wanted to wander at my own pace. I certainly didn’t want to be obliged to enter shops or other establishments at the insistence of the guides. Often these offers go hand in hand with expectations to buy at certain places only. Going at my own pace and where I wanted gave me the freedom to explore out of the way places and see life as it really is in Patan. I wanted to spend time learning of the real Patan and photographing every day life, not just the temples. The highlight of this approach was seeing and photographing four young boys playing marbles.

Washing Day

People were gathered in the square in force. Saturday is a public holiday in Nepal, the equivalent of our Sunday. It also seems to be washing day. Clothes were being hand washed in tubs in many places, and clothing was hanging from every available spot in the sun to dry like so many brightly coloured signs. Hand operated water bowsers were in every street or square and often had a queue of five or six girls or women waiting to fill their copper pots. Gatherings of men talking on street corners and children playing games in groups of three or four were seen often. I followed two little boys, perhaps aged six or seven, who were eagerly staring through shop windows appraising the relative merits of the toys on display. I managed to get several candid shots of these toy experts. They were just as eager and enthusiastic as any Aussie child.

Feral Pigeons

Wherever I went I saw people going about their everyday tasks. Some people, especially near the temples, had set up their food stalls to provide for those who had come to the area. Others had set out their wares on a one metre square groundsheet on the ground. Still others had fruit and vegetables for sale from their bicycles, their old style hand-held scales weighing the amount the customers wanted. Dogs are common in this area and so are pigeons. These pest birds are so common here one could almost come to the conclusion that the temples had been built with the sole purpose of providing the pigeons with perching and nesting facilities. I actually saw one old woman selling seed to feed the pigeons, as if they needed any help.

The Shops of Patan

Even though some shops were closed most were open and their owners trying to eke out a living. Every street has many ground floor shops selling only a few basic lines like groceries, drinks, chips and lollies through to extensive establishments, their wide variety of wares crammed into a tiny space. Many are merely the front room of someone’s home. Some shops included jewellery outlets, tailors, restaurants – including the oddly named “Happy Memorize Restaurant” (sic) – internet cafes, sewing machine shops, more motor bike repair shops and one plant nursery – the only one I saw in the Kathmandu. This nursery sold only large pot plants. Every home with a balcony had at least one pot plant.

Fast Food – Nepalese Style

Just like the Thamel area of Kathmandu, Patan has few butcher shops. I did see one interesting fast food outlet. I didn’t see any McDonalds of KFCs in Nepal, but this tiny establishment was the next best thing. In a small lane off a slightly larger lane I saw a man with a blow torch attached to a gas bottle. He was using the blow torch to cook a chicken! A short distance on I saw a chook market, a line of beautifully woven cane baskets full of chooks for sale.

In several areas I saw groups of treadle sewing machines lined up on one side of the square or on the footpath. The men manning these machines were all idle, patiently waiting for a customer to come and ask them to do some sewing for them.

Taxi Hassles

I caught a taxi back to the Shangri La Hotel for a late but relaxing lunch in the garden. I had walked in Patan for quite a few hours so I was pleased to sit down for a while. The taxis in Kathmandu are required by law to have meters to charge their customers. The one I hailed had an inoperable meter so we haggled over the price of the journey. He wanted Rs300 (A$6) but I knew this was exorbitant for the length of the trip so he accepted my offer of Rs200 (A$4) which was still a little high. To be fair, he took me on a longer and less busy route back to the hotel so I got to see another part of the city.

An Offer I couldn’t accept

After lunch I walked into Thamel yet again to do some final shopping. Large squads of armed police and soldiers were in evidence everywhere. I had yet another new experience this afternoon. I was approached twice by men offering to sell me marijuana. When refused I was then offered a massage. I didn’t hang around to find out what kind of massage!

Shopping in Thamel, Kathmandu

After exploring for over an hour I found two clothing shops where I could bargain the price down to what I was prepared to pay. I bought two pairs of trousers for Rs1200 (A$24) and two t-shirts for Rs800 (A$16). The trousers were similar to those I used for the trek. The t-shirts both had the same design with mountains and the caption of Kathmandu, Nepal. One is grey and the other is navy blue.


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