Thursday, 9 October 2014

Culture and Architecture

I'm not much of a history buff but the culture and architecture of Nepal is quite fascinating. There are so many interesting temples, shrines, gods, goddesses and intricate designs.

On the way back from Nagarkot we stopped at the city of Bhaktapur and later went to Durbar Square in Kathmandu. Both are protected heritage areas and both had an entrance fee with money being used for conservation and restoration efforts.

One story I found particularly interesting was Bhairav which "represents deity Shiva in his destructive manifestation. This is the most famous Bhairav and it was used by the government as a place for people to swear the truth." We were told that a person accused of a crime would be put in front and people could ask the person questions about the crime. If the person didn't speak the truth they would start bleeding from the mouth and die.

Edge of carved door in Bhaktapur
Statue of King Bhupatindra in Bhaktapur
In Bhaktapur
A wrestler and the elephants in front of the Five Storied Nyatapola Temple
The famous Five Storied Temple
Small carving in the coffee shop we stopped at in Bhaktapur
Door carving in Bhaktapur
In Durbar Square
There were lots of pigeons in Durbar Square thanks to so many people feeding them.

Colorful carving above the door into the Hanuman Dhoka Palace, Durbar Square
In Durbar Square

Mountain Views from Nagarkot

We decided to stay one night at Nagarkot, a small hill-top village about an hour and a half drive from Kathmandu. From there, you can see the sunrise over distance peaks -- assuming the weather is clear.

It was nice to get out of the city and see some of the surrounding countryside. The monsoon season is just over so everything is lush and green.

As we got to our hotel late in the afternoon it was getting very cloudy and rained for a short time. It's difficult to see in this photo but there are some terraced fields on the hillsides.

The narrowest/diciest part of the road . . .  but that never deters large buses or cars squeezing past in opposite directions.

 Sunset view from our hotel.

We woke up at 5:30 am to get a good spot to watch the sunrise. Luckily our viewing area was a little more safe and secure than this one.

The sun has almost arrived! The birds are waiting for it too.

The fog in the valley added some drama to the view. 

The mountain peaking up from behind the dark hill about a third of the way from the left of this photo is Manaslu, a mountain we attempted to climb in 1999. Shishapangma (2001) is also supposedly visible but it has a less distinct summit so we were unable to identify it. 

After breakfast we went on a short hike before our ride came to pick us up.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

All the Animals in the Zoo

Dear Karsten,

I missed you at the zoo! I would have loved for you to see all the different animals. But Uncle Andrew and I took lots of pictures for your mommy and daddy to show you.

There were lots of deer and these two were very curious about us. Or maybe hoping we would have some food for them! Can you see their horns? They are called a four-horned deer but you really only see two of them. The other two are smaller bumps in front of their main horns.

The white pelicans look the same as the ones we see at the weir but are a different species. 

They have a nice big pond to swim in. People can also rent little boats to paddle around the water. The water has lots of algae in it which is why it looks so green. 

First time I've seen a hippo out of the water! Usually all you see are their noses. He has a big mouth! Uncle Andrew got a funny photo of all the hippo's teeth. 

This rhinoceros was having a bath. Can you see his horn?  Another one was thinking about having a bath but then went to play with a stick.

There were lots of very brightly coloured birds. It was hard to get photos of them because of the wire fenced areas they were in.

The ostriches with their long necks are funny to look at.

 I think this giant turtle is bigger than you are!

And the elephant is even bigger! In the afternoon they let people ride the elephant but we were there in the morning so didn't get to do that. You have to climb a ladder to the top of a platform and the elephant walks up beside it so that you can get on for the ride.

 The elephant has BIG FEET.

And a big trunk for gathering things to eat.

All the animals had nice big pens to live in and were well taken care of. There is a children's play area and there were lots of kids and their families visiting the zoo.

I hope you like these pictures!

Love Auntie Shelley

In the Garden of Dreams

Andrew and I found another tranquil little gem amongst the chaos of Kathmandu. Having walked by a large walled area many times on previous visits, we wondered how on earth we could have missed it.

Originally designed and built in 1920, the Garden of Dreams suffered more than 30 years of neglect before seven years of restoration work and extensive renovations. It was opened to the pubic in 2008. Hence, why it didn’t come to our attention until this trip.

The gardens are beautiful and colourful. There are several small seating areas and it seemed as if you could almost always find a quiet place to relax. You can hear noise from the busy street outside the high walls but inside there were few people. 

The Garden of Dreams was originally the private garden of Field Marshal Kaiser Sumsher Rana who won the land from his father (then the Prime Minister of Nepal) in a card game. It’s only about half its original size, having been taken over by the sprawl of the Thamel tourist district and coming very close to being completely demolished before a last-minute save from the wrecking ball. 

We enjoyed a quiet morning here and then came back later for supper and to enjoy the evening lighting. Andrew got some nice night-time photos.
The pavilion that now holds the Kaiser Cafe. We had both morning tea and supper here.
A shaded seating area and water feature with koi.

One of several small seating areas.

The tiered grassy area is used for seating during special events.
This little elephant was originally placed at one end of the pond in the photo above.
During restoration he was moved to be closer to his mom.

Laxmi, the goddess of wealth and abundance.
Design in the walkway.
Our other little oasis . . . the garden and seating area at the Nirvana Garden Hotel.