Before Nim left us to go back to the UK, we made sure we had a second trip to Patan for her to spend some more time with friends there, and for the us all to explore the historical area of the Kathmandu Valley’s other city.
We followed the Lonely Planet’s ‘backstreets of Patan’ tour, from the city gate to Durbar Square. These winding streets were different again the the hubbub of Kathmandu, and the touristy feel of Bhaktaphur. These streets were where regular Nepali life was taking place. These were the streets where mini-Rob had cycled around when he used to live here.
A highlight was the self-explanatory Golden Temple, where slightly creepy brass monkeys watched us walk around the central shrine and investigate hidden courtyards and balconies.
A little further, we got chatting to a sixth generation Thangka artist, who took some time to explain the meaning of some of the mandalas we had admired.
Finally, after a lunch break we split up; Nim and Rob went to visit the Didis, while Sarah and I continued the sightseeing by exploring the maze of backstreets and alleyways.
One of the last tips in the Lonely Planet tour was to visit the temple in honour of the Kumari, the living goddess. After all, the book said, it’s not often you get to take a photo of a sign pointing to a living goddess.Well we got a bit more than that! The central courtyard was deserted; we took a few photos of the sign and were about to go when a man came out and said we were free to go inside as long as we took our shoes off and left a donation. We figured there must be more to take photos of inside so headed in, only to be given a private audience with the Kumari herself. Well, she is actually one of many Kumari. Every city in Nepal seems to have one, but wikipedia assures me that she is the second most holy, and that they only meet with important guests. It is strictly forbidden to take photos of her, but both received a tika blessing, and sat for a moment with her.
It was an amazing but strange experience. Although it seems she lives a very privileged life in Nepali standards, she was very young and it seemed a very lonely place for such a young girl. She will live there though, her feet never touching the floor, until she reaches puberty; paraded and presented for ceremonies. I couldn’t help but feel sad for her.
Sarah and I reunited with Rob and Nim at Durbar Square, for some final sightseeing. By this stage though it was ridiculously hot and a massive storm was clearly rolling in over the hills. Also we had to
escape say goodbye to Sarah’s new best friend, a singing bowl seller who had fallen in love at first sight. He showed off his knowledge of languages (how to say singing bowls in German, Spanish, French and not really Italian), and then listened adoringly as she explained all the reasons she did not need a singing bowl, or a tour guide.
It was a great last day with Nim, and Rob and I will definitely be back after trekking to spend what’s left of our budget.
Nic & Rob