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Patan, the Beautiful City

Patan Travel Blog

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Old Woman selling flowers in Patan

5/30/07

New Videos Uploaded - Scroll to the bottom to see a couple of videos that Cindy made of the incredible Golden Temple in Patan (old capital of Nepal). 

Since we haven’t done all that much in Kathmandu, we figured we would wake up early and grab a taxi to Patan, reportedly the oldest city in Nepal and also known as Lalitpur, both names being a shortened version of the Sanskrit name Lalitpattan or the “Beautiful City”. Emperor Ashokha was said to have visited the city around 250 BC when he erected four large stupas marking the four corners of the city.

King Malla statue in Patan
Some of the temples and palaces were built as early as the fifth century, but many were built by King Shiva Malla of Kathmandu who defeated Patan and unified the valley in 1597.

The ride there was uneventful until we reached the outskirts of Patan where there was a large sewage/drainage project underway (we are not sure if it was planned or emergency) that caused us to have to bail out of the taxi and walk the last several blocks through ripped up streets with open sewage. Oh boy! And we haven’t even had breakfast yet…

We did another walking tour from one of the guide books that started in Patan’s Durbar Square (remember Durbar means palace and many cities in Nepal have this square) where the old woman in the orange sari was selling flowers to be given as offerings at the many temples in the large courtyard.

Temple details in Patan
The courtyard of Durbar Square is jam packed with temples, statues and stupas and the small streets and alleyways are filled with great sites as well. You can see several shots of the square (one towards the beginning of the pictures today and one towards the end) and the many multi-roofed temples in the courtyard in some of the uploaded pictures here. The picture of the large column with King Malla atop it faces the palace and it is rumored that, as long as the bird standing on top of the head of the cobra protecting the King remains perched there, the King may one day return. One of the palace windows and doors remains open, awaiting his return (reportedly along with a large hookah for him to smoke!). Also, in the event that the bird ever flies off, supposedly the giant stone elephants you see in front of the temple will come to life and walk across the street for a quick drink in the Manga Hiti well across the street.
Elephants in Patan's Durbar Square
You can see the mythical Makara double headed crocodile water spout in the Manga Hiti a few pictures later. Also, we loved the little guy in the picture of the Garuda statue holding his trident defiantly in the air from the top of the Palace. We aren’t sure what his meaning is but we really liked him J .

After wandering around the square a bit and turning down offers of “tour guides” who’s English was less than spectacular we started off on the path of our tour, this time in reverse since the end of the tour actually started in the square. This does make things a little more difficult for the geographically challenged, but we persevered and managed to find our way. After wandering down the alleyways past some small temples, we made it to the famous Kumbeshwar temple which is one of only three, five story temples in Nepal.

Patan Durbar Square
It is really old (1392) and supposed to be very sacred. We found it covered in pigeon crap and wandering goats and not so special (and you already know how Cindy feels about pigeons…)

A bit further through the alleys after visiting some Bahal courtyards, we came to the Kwa Bahal or “Golden Temple” which is on a small street hidden behind a relatively non-descript entry way. Inside it is fantastically beautiful with an inner courtyard and small golden temple flanked by prayer wheels, two giant elephant statues and monkey statues in each corner in addition to the main, three tiered temple with a silver façade. You can see from some of the pictures how richly detailed and incredible all of the artwork is, most of it covered in gold, silver or both. The small temple in the center is also surrounded by large temple lions and literally covered in superb small metal castings of various gods.

Garuda statue and funny little guy on Museum roof in Patan
There is a small monastery upstairs as well. Legend has it that the turtles that wander around the premises are good luck and the older people (like the man in the shot with the prayer wheels) feed them. Cindy has a video of this but we will have to upload it when we have bandwidth. For such a small little temple, we spent quite a bit of time here. The rest of the tour worked its way through more small streets and past nice Bahals with small stupas eventually ending up at the Pim Bahal Pokhari which is supposed to be a lake or pond but, perhaps due to the drought or overuse of water (Kathmandu is critically short on fresh water, mostly due to tourism) the pond was merely a muck filled brick cavern (we did snap a shot of a small pedal boat stuck in the mud in the middle but that is only for those who “almost own a mega-yacht” as a certain two of our friends…

We decided to visit the museum in one of the palace buildings as it has recently been renovated by a joint Austrian/Nepali project and is really nicely done.

Mythical Crocodile waterspout in Patan Hiti
Often, when you go into museums in this part of the world, the displays are ill-lit and the descriptions, if any exist, not great. This place was a beautifully redone Newari palace that was really great and had good displays, especially in regards to how the lost wax method of casting sculptures is used. We were virtually the only people in the museum (not counting the mostly sleeping guards in each room) and we strolled around at leisure, resting in the second story with great views of the courtyards of Durbar Square. The shots of the Buddha head and the four cool little “ethnic” sculptures were particular favorites. We walked downstairs and walked around the very pretty garden and restaurant where we ran into three Dutch kids who were trying to decide whether to go into the museum or not (the entry fee is fairly steep for here, 250 Rupees or about $6).
Five Roofed Temple in Patan
The man who took our tickets when entering the museum came over and asked if we would tell them that the museum was worthwhile (which we did) as he is very proud of the restoration and the restaurant. They thanked us and then we wandered around the garden which was very pretty (in addition to being filled with pot plants). We had lunch overlooking Durbar Square and tried a new beer, Gorkha Beer, which wasn’t bad but had a little bit of a weird flavor. If you visit Encinitas (San Diego, CA) then ask Brad to see the shot we took specially for him of the beer with the courtyard in the background…

We decided to walk part of the way back to Kathmandu to see one of the four Ashokha stupas before crossing the Bagamati River where we found a cab that would take us back to our hotel.

Sleeping Goat in Patan
We had earlier made plans to meet a friend of Karma (from our trek in Sikkim) who is Nepali and a travel agent to hand off a CD that I burned for Karma. We relaxed for a bit at the hotel and then walked over to the Nirvana Hotel (which I don’t believe is owned or operated by Courtney Love, Dave Groll or Krist Novacik…) and met Karma’s friend Razzu.

Razzu is as nice a guy as Karma and we ended up having beers and appetizers in the pretty garden courtyard of the hotel before he insisted on treating us to dinner at a Thai place in Thamel. Razzu gave us several ideas about itineraries in Nepal as well as bringing up the subject of going to Tibet which of course is always intriguing, even though we are both somewhat ambivalent about supporting the Chinese via tourism in Tibet.

Golden Temple Roofs in Patan
Razzu is a native Tibetan but has lived here since he was quite young when his parents fled after the Chinese invaded (“liberated” in their lingo) in 1959. Actually his story is quite interesting. He and Karma go back to school days in Kalimpong India and have maintained a friendship since then. His dad was a trader, working the Nepali-Tibetan trade route prior to the Chinese invasion and, it ends up, had a Nepalese wife and a Tibetan wife (Razzu’s mom). Neither knew of the other until everything fell apart with the invasion and his dad moved his second family to Kathmandu. You can only imagine the fireworks that caused. Anyway, we immediately liked him and were comfortable talking with him and will now have to think about Tibet as a possible journey.
Temple Details at the Golden Temple
We asked Razzu if he had any other people heading to Lhasa and he said he didn’t personally, but would check with some of his peers and get back to us. As far as a Nepal itinerary, we will definitely go to Pokahara and probably Bandipur and are considering going to the Royal Chitiwan Reserve which is a nature park in southern Nepal (but kind of hot right now). Nothing like last minute planning…

On a funny note, we mentioned that someone at the hotel had said that June first (which is also the sixth anniversary of the Kathmandu massacre of the Royal Family) is full moon and there would be big celebrations at Bodhnath, another of the local temples we are planning on visiting. Razzu said “whoever told you that must be Hindu because full moon celebration at Bodhnath is tomorrow night”.

Monkey and Jackfruit Statue at the Golden Temple
Guess we will change plans…

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Old Woman selling flowers in Patan
Old Woman selling flowers in Patan
King Malla statue in Patan
King Malla statue in Patan
Temple details in Patan
Temple details in Patan
Elephants in Patans Durbar Square
Elephants in Patan's Durbar Square
Patan Durbar Square
Patan Durbar Square
Garuda statue and funny little guy…
Garuda statue and funny little gu…
Mythical Crocodile waterspout in P…
Mythical Crocodile waterspout in …
Five Roofed Temple in Patan
Five Roofed Temple in Patan
Sleeping Goat in Patan
Sleeping Goat in Patan
Golden Temple Roofs in Patan
Golden Temple Roofs in Patan
Temple Details at the Golden Temple
Temple Details at the Golden Temple
Monkey and Jackfruit Statue at the…
Monkey and Jackfruit Statue at th…
Elephants at the Golden Temple
Elephants at the Golden Temple
Old Man and Prayer Wheels at the G…
Old Man and Prayer Wheels at the …
Silver Carvings at the Golden Temp…
Silver Carvings at the Golden Tem…
Buddha Head at the Patan Museum
Buddha Head at the Patan Museum
Cool Ethnic metal sculptures at th…
Cool Ethnic metal sculptures at t…
King Malla Statue in Patan
King Malla Statue in Patan
Patans Durbar Square
Patan's Durbar Square
Video of the insides of the Golde…
Second part of the Golden Temple …
Patan
photo by: Stevie_Wes