While doing a bit of research on Kathmandu we came across a town that is an hour bus ride away, Bhaktapur. One of the best preserved medieval city states in Nepal. Like Kathmandu in 2015, Bhaktapur was hit hard by the earth quake and many of it's temples and buildings were destroyed and damaged. Getting out of Kathmandu and visiting Bhaktapur was now tops on the priority list. Now we just needed to find the bus station and the right bus.
The journey to the bus station was not crazy however it was interesting to leave the tourist area and walk with the local masses. Traffic circles were chaos and controlled by a standing guard on a raised platform that nobody listened to. We knew the direction and after stopping to ask for a help a few times we found the bus we needed. It was as you expected. Old, dirty and rusted with a slight aroma mixture of diesel and pee.
A half full bus pushed out of the station and three stations later people we jammed in to capacity. Nobody complained because this is just how it is. I had Caitlyn sit by the window for obvious reasons while I sat along the aisle. For 20 minutes I had a mixture of butt, crotch and children's faces rubbing against me. The entire trip lasting about an hour cost us 30 Rupees or about 30 cents Canadian.
The bus dropped us at the entrance to the historical section of town and we paid our 1500 Rupees entrance fee. We we given a nice map and great instructions from the ticket seller about the town and where to catch the bus for the return trip. So, loaded with information and a new confidence because we managed a bus from Kathmandu we set off into the old town.
Immediately after you walk through the arch to the town you fall back into time, well except for the shops selling SIMS cards. Most doorways were small to shops and homes. The streets were strewn with debris and many of the buildings had the tell tale signs of earth quake damage.
We wandered up and down steep alleys that opened to grand plazas. The temples were fantastic but there is no way I could remember what they are called or what god they supported. Like many places I have visited on this journey these plazas are meeting places for all kinds of people. They hang around chatting, drinking tea or do nothing but be a part of the scenery. It creates a wonderful and colorful atmosphere.
Many of the temples are being restored but in the mean time they to are being held up by long planks of solid wood. Signs along the fenced in areas show countries from around the world supporting the restoration, particularly China.
Meandering the streets after lunch we noticed a long line of frantic woman heading to and fro with every imaginable variety of water bucket. As we neared them I noticed a large potable water truck from which the towns people were getting their water. It as a jolt of reality. Fifty metres away woman were pulling water from a large open well pit. The well was deep and this was not easy work. However here they were, singing and laughing as they pulled on the draw strings to raise their buckets.
Sometimes getting hit with a bit of reality is exactly what you need when you travel. Nepal is the poorest country in SE Asia and the evidence is there if you choose not to ignore it while shopping for your new fancy hiking gear.
Bhaktapur should be on your itinerary if you come to Kathmandu. It is a short day trip on a crazy local bus and it gives you a new view of the country, outside the touristy Thamel district. The people are warm and ready to talk if you initiate the conversation. A camera is a great ice breaker but do it in a gentle way. Carry your camera on your should so it is not the first thing people see. Start any type of conversation and work in pictures. Not only are most people willing but they are usually excited to see themselves. Now if someone says NO, then leave them alone. Do not try to take a stealth photo. Respect the NO and move on. There are plenty of willing and charming people in the town.