My activity for the day was to travel to Panauti, which is about 35 kilometres away from Kathmandu. However, notwithstanding the short distance it still takes anywhere from 1.5 hours to 2 hours to get there by bus due to a combination of the many stops, poor road conditions and traffic.
I took a bus from the Purano Bus park which is mostly used by locals. That fact proved problematic as everything was written in Devanagari which makes anyone reliant on the Roman alphabet effectively illiterate. After walking around and asking random people “Panauti?” I finally found a bus going to the town. Again, after some gesturing and such, I eventually learned that you pay on the bus, and that they ask you to pay midway through the ride. It came out to 60 Rupees which is less than a dollar so it is certainly a bargain.
The bus ride was a lot of fun in particular because of the little boy who was working on the bus who had a pretty melodic voice and was hanging off the bus saying something that phonetically sounds like “En pa Panauti” in order to gather more passengers along the way. Given that I have ridiculous amounts of gear, you get the full interactive experience here:
The bus effectively operates like a public transit bus, people get on and off along the way and pay according to how far they are going. Here’s my bus and a picture of me on the bus:
New Panauti isn’t exactly the most picturesque town in the world, but the old part of the city is a very brief walk from the bus park. New part of town:
Gate to the old part of the city:
It’s nice to explore the old part of the city because you can’t throw a stone without hitting random temples and pagodas. You can walk through alleys into isolated courtyards and run into something worthwhile. Some pictures of the old city:
The main attraction in the city is the Indreshwar Mghadev Temple which is situated in a big square surrounded by other temples. It is by far the largest temple in the town and it dates back to the 15th century, though the first temple went up in the site in 1294. There is a decent, but poorly maintained museum next door. Here is the temple:
For my tastes the square was a little too dry and solitary. There are some locals milling about but they don’t seem as comfortable hanging out there as they do in other parts of the town. I actually preferred a nearby square with smaller temples precisely because it is used by the locals, and also because it is right next to where the two rivers converge:
The thing that impacted me the most about my visit to Panauti was the white temple that you see in the back of the picture. For one, it is an unusual structure, but I also read that the temple was constructed to serve as a spiritual hospice of sorts. The idea is that the very elderly or sick who wish to draw their last breath in a spiritual place live out their final days in the temple. This is not some ancient forgotten practice. When I walked by, I did see four very elderly men sleeping inside. Here is a close-up photo of the temple. For obvious reasons I did not take a photo of the area where the men were sleeping, but that area is around the rear of the photo:
You use a pretty little wire footbridge to get across the river to a solitary temple on the other side:
Here is the temple seen from across the river and from its own side:
I spent a couple of hours in Panauti and hardly saw any tourists. That may explain why I could not find any restaurants that looked safe to eat at, and all the places mentioned in my guide book had disappeared. From my conversations with locals, the political situation in Nepal (riots some eastern areas of the country near the Indian border) and the earthquake have severely affected tourism. As such given that there were no places for me to rest, I decided to head back to Kathmandu after a few hours in the town.
When I was in Panauti, I read a tourism brochure bragging about the high quality of the road linking the town to Kathmandu. As such, I thought it apt to film my perspective of the bus ride on the way back on said high quality road. You can watch it here: vimeo.com/138154597
Here is a picture of my perspective on the bus:
And a picture of the neat seating area right next to the driver:
These transport devices are prevalent in Nepal, can’t say I’ve seen them elsewhere before, but maybe they’re a thing across the region:
The end of my bus ride was rather interesting. Just as we entered the city, the main roadway downtown was blocked for some reason. You would expect that when a bus full of people have paid to go to a certain destination, the driver would find an alternate route to that destination. You would be mistaken. At that point the bus driver decided to just turn around and start the return journey to Panauti. So I was effectively stranded by the airport, about 5 kilometres away from my hotel. In the end, my cab ride downtown was twice as expensive as the full bus journey.
As I mentioned previously, there are no working traffic lights in Kathmandu. It’s been a while since I saw a traffic officer so when I got downtown, I took a picture:
I was pretty exhausted by dinner time and had to skip lunch due to the lack of eating options in Panauti, so I decided on the most comfortable looking patio in the Thamel neighbourhood. I played around with some long-exposure pictures there:
I couldn’t resist taking my last photo of the night. A strangely specific government department: