Thursday, January 17, 2008


I washed my hair this morning, Friday, for the first time since Sunday. Why would I do such a thing? Well, it was not an experiment in stabilizing my scalp ph or anything, rather I had little choice in the matter. I recently spent a few days in Bhaktapur, and while I had an absolutely lovely room in a newly-opened hotel (all new brick, terra cotta tiles and private terrace with amazing views...), the water heater never managed to bring the water anywhere beyond tepid. A night in Nagarkot, which is over 2000 meters elevation, prolonged the wait. The Kathmandu Valley has been rather cool and cloudy lately.

Now that my hair is squeaky-clean and I'm feeling a lot better, at last I can write about Bhatapur, or Bhadgaon, the third of the Kathmandu Valley's old capitals (after KTM itself and Lalithpur). I love this place. On my first visit to Nepal 10 years ago, I was enchanted by my all-too-brief day trip to the city and subsequently wished I'd spent more time there.

Bhaktapur was founded in the 12th century by King Anand Dev Malla, and still retains an ancient feel. A mere 12 kilometers East of Kathmandu, it is nonetheless far enough away to escape the worst of that city's traffic and pollution. (Lalithpur, on the other hand, is is basically an extention of the capital, seperated as it is by a mere river.) Rather a lot of smoke is created here as well, as the city is ringed with brick factories and massive smokestacks. In town, potters are constantly working the kilns to produce every manner of souvenir (masks, sugar bowls, incense burners, etc) and, well, pottery. The work is beautiful, and very reasonably priced. Bhaktapur also produces much of Nepali's distinctive hand-made paper products.

The prime activities for visitors to Bhaktapur are shopping for handicrafts, wandering the bricked streets and lanes to the various historical squares, and hanging out on rooftops to soak up gorgeous views of the Himalaya. Long ago I visited Bhaktapur during the monsoon, at which time I had to content myself with views of monuments and kite fights (a la The Kite Runner). This time it was clear the day I reached- though it clouded up afterwards- and I managed to snap a few photos of the distant mountains as the sun set.


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