Bhaktapur is one of three royal cities in the Kathmandu Valley and it has an old world charm that cannot fail to captivate. For me, it was a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu and despite being just 30 minutes drive away, it felt worlds apart.
A step back in time
Bhaktapur’s Durbar Square is filled with beautiful pagoda style Hindu Temples, dedicated to various gods and bears a striking similarity to Patan and Kathmandu Durbar Square, although Kathmandu’s square is somewhat ruined by the rows of taxis and tuk tuks parked there. What is unique about Bhaktapur is that its residents have retained their traditional Newari way of life, age-old customs are still observed and unlike Kathmandu, with its chaotic traffic, never ending honking of horns and cloud of smog, Bhaktapur is free of traffic and peaceful. This is because motor vehicles aren’t allowed inside the city, although these days a few motorbikes sneak in.
Bhaktapur is famous for its pottery and I headed to Pottery Square where you can watch the locals at work, each of them in charge of a different part of the pottery process, whether that be preparing the clay, making the pots on a hand-spun wheel or firing them in a kiln, fueled by piles of hay. The square is filled with an array of small pots, which are all carefully tended to, to ensure that they’re perfect.
One of the highlights of my visit to Bhaktapur was testing my pottery making skills in Pottery Square under the watchful eye of a local artisan. I’d like to say it was a moment reminiscent of that famous scene from ghost but it was definitely lacking romance. However I got a great sense of satisfaction creating my small pot and setting it down to dry amongst the others in the square.
Aside from pottery, Bhaktapur is also famous for its Juju Dhau, which is a thick and creamy, sweetened yoghurt. Juju Dhau translates as ‘king of yoghurt’ in the Newari language and it’s a staple dish at Newari feasts. Exploring the backstreets I came across numerous yoghurt shops and a visit to Bhaktapur wouldn’t have been complete without sampling this local delicacy. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it’s really very tasty!
I spent several hours wandering around the streets of Bhaktapur, looking at the handicrafts, exploring the temples and simply
observing local life in this historic city. There are several roof top restaurants and I enjoyed lunch with an amazing view over Bhaktapur, watching people milling around below, feeling relaxed and content. There’s so much to see and do in the Kathmandu Valley but one thing is for sure, Bhaktapur is somewhere that should not be missed and I’m sure I’ll return.