Mountains are always inviting, the hills are always welcoming, the plains are truly vibrant, but many a times in life, we are bound by the concretes. The city just does not let us go anywhere. While trekking, hiking or camping would ideally come to our minds for a recreational vacation and exploration, the city and its spaces through its concretes can also provide sufficiently to celebrate a weekend in a unique way.
Kathmandu Valley is both profane and sacred. While this city seems so indifferent and is sandwiched between the ugly towers and its shrinking rivers, the city has its own unique charms to keep you awestruck, if you are really willing to stand and stare a bit.
Once we stand and stare, we will actually realize that this city that we often find struggling for its visibility between the dust and its sloppy streets, actually oozes with ancient fragrances and offers vibrant colors of our day to day lives.
Kathmandu Valley unveils its treasures in the narrowest of its lanes. Three major Durbar Squares – namely Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square and Bhaktapur Durbar Square are its life lines, which keeps its tangible heritage alive and where Gods and Goddesses come alive.
I am today talking about a Saturday in Patan Durbar Square. One of the most intriguingly structured spaces of the ancient city, Patan Durbar Square and its adjoining lanes offers you the most vibrant theatrical experience you can earn within a matter of few hours.
A Saturday in Patan Durbar Square
Wear your comfortable casual outfit, carry average money – approximately 500 rupees and carry a camera. It could be any kind of from – mobile to compact digital or a DSLR. If you’re driving towards the Durbar Square, stop by Badriko Haluwa store in Jawalakhel and begin your morning with the warm and freshly prepared jeri, swari, takrari, haluwa and sel. Now proceed towards the ancient homes of the Malla Kings of Nepal – Patan Durbar Square.
Seat yourself either on the benches placed before the Patan Museum or find yourself comfortable sitting on one of the steps of Krishna Mandir. Breathe for a moment and observe the intricately built architecture in the monuments of the Square. You could now indulge yourself in feeding the pigeons – the early guards of this heritage site. What is so special about the pigeons in Patan is that they come to your hands as you begin to feed. While you will enjoy a completely warm and tickling experience, you will side-by-side help those elderly women selling pigeon grains, earn their living.
Now walk behind the Krishna Mandir towards the famous Honacha Newari eatery, where you can grab your glass of locally made black or milk tea. Come back to the Square and wait for the sun to illuminate the courtyard. Soon will arrive the Square’s known heroes – the chappal heroes of Patan. Clad in daura suruwal,dhaka topi or bhadgaunle topi and the same chappals (slippers), these elderly men of Patan add to the flavors of the neo-classically built Durbar Square. In no time, you will observe how the whole of the Durbar Square is filled with friends, families, onlookers, couples, friends and more. It will echo between its ancient charms and modern hymns.
After about an hour, walk towards Chyasal, one of the oldest settlements in Patan. From the courtyard before Bhimsen temple, take a right turn, and then walk ahead. The best thing about walking through this lane is you don’t need to ask anyone if you don’t know where you are, because you will ultimately come back to the Durbar Square or will reach the famous Banglamukhi temple and if not then the road to Sankhamul from where you can just make a sharp U-turn. Even if you are lost for a while, you will basically get to see the four Ashoka stupas that surround Patan. Chyasal is a beautiful maze of streets filled with the fragrance of historical diversity in the lifestyle of the Newar majority. From traditional carpet weavers, to the God makers; the one who make those statues, to sweet sellers, and people wearing their traditional outfits, Chyasal is like a modern day museum come alive.
About an hour in Chyasal will fascinate you sufficiently and now walk back towards the Durbar Square. On the way will arrive the Golden Temple. Walk in to witness this 12th century built huge Buddhist monastery adorned with a golden façade. Come back to the Durbar Square and now walk in to the famous Honacha Newari eatery to try those amazing baras, aalu and other delicacies.
If you’re a pure vegetarian, you could walk into any of the restaurants around the Durbar Sqaure – Third World, Café du Temple and Durbar Cafe restaurants are the ones providing you an aerial view of the Square. Once done with the hunger, peek into Patan Museum, a poignant example of successful restoration showcasing rich and traditional Nepali sacred art in an intricate and classic architectural setting.
By now, you’re almost done with your trip for the day. You can conclude it with either the refreshing kulfi found at a store just below the big bell of the Durbar Square or walk in to the lane next to Honacha and try the local barfi of Patan, one of an experience of its own.
Patan Durbar Square and the streets adjoining is one among countless such places in Nepal. So the next time, you just feel like you don’t have enough time and money to hit the roads, try any of your streets, for each of them will tell you the story of their own, each of them will indulge your mind and soul creatively. Other than so much of gems that they have to offer you, they will sell you in abundance – warmth and countless smiles, all for free.