Due to the delay on the road from Birgunj to Kathmandu, we only arrive at Balkhu, bus station south of Kathmandu at 8:30 pm. Under a torrential rain, we try to bribe our Jeep driver to take us to the hotel but he calls us a cab, preferring to bring back another passenger living close to his house
Balkhu is in the south of Kathmandu and as we did not go to Patan yet, not far from there, we took care to book a good and comfortable hotel in Patan
However, the hotel does not have a restaurant and arrived at 21h, we have no choice but to wander around Patan (always under the torrential rain) to try to find at best an open restaurant, at worst a store. But everything is closed and we have to be satisfied with some fruits offered by our hotel
Of course, the next day, we have a great breakfast at the hotel before visiting Patan’s Durbar Square, which is represented on JB’s phone hull (anecdote of the why of the how of this hull here)
Unlike Kathmandu ‘s Durbar Square or Bhaktapur, many temples here are surrounded by gates so that one cannot climb on them or get too close. And this is only put in place since the earthquake. It is frankly the Durbar Square that I like the least in the Kathmandu valley, and despite the recommendations of travelers, I do not see why, except to flee the pollution of Kathmandu, that we should stay and sleep here. One morning is more than enough
Durbar Square is the generic name used to describe plazas and areas opposite the old royal palaces in Nepal. It consists of temples, idols, open courts, water fountains and more. Before the Unification of Nepal, Nepal consisted of small kingdoms, and Durbar Squares are most prominent remnants of those old kingdoms in Nepal. In particular, three Durbar Squares in the Kathmandu Valley, belonging to the three Newar kingdoms situated there before unification, are most famous: Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, and Bhaktapur Durbar Square. All three are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
However, the market next door is very interesting and less oppressive than in Kathmandu. There are a lot of jewelry stores, which pleases me a lot. It is obvious that the manufacture is still handmade. The jewels are rather ostentatious, in the style of the Nepalese, with a lot of relief and details. It is necessary a good technicality to make this kind of jewels. One also sees in these stores of small boxes or statues or even miniatures of temples in silver/green/yellow gold. A thought suddenly crosses my mind: it is quite possible to set up a business of artisanal manufacture of offshore jewelry in Nepal and resell on sites like Dawanda and Etsy. As long as the design comes from Europe, the jewelry will sell very well. Even if the price of silver is set internationally, in reality, a kilo of silver does not have the same value in France as it does in Nepal. Jewels, if they do not exceed a certain weight, aren’t obliged to have a goldsmith’s hallmark. I note myself to make a small test for fun and see if the business can work. If it does, I might be able to continue my nomadic life
Nearby, there are a multitude of stores selling metal objects. Here in Nepal, despite the production of beautiful pottery objects that we saw in Bhaktapur, the dishes used by the Nepalese are made of metal. They have for example a tray with several small compartments, one for rice, one for potatoes, one for vegetables, one for dessert etc. The metal objects are exquisite and precise in every detail. I have a weakness for metal gargoyles, small in size but as beautiful as those of Notre Dame de Paris. These objects are too precise to be handmade, I am sure they use casts
We also see some florists selling plates in sheets. It’s true that in some restaurants they serve us in plates like this and I always found the solidity of such a plate extraordinary. In Vietnam, we are satisfied with two banana leaves that we close with wheat stalks for take away
The technicality of Nepalese craftsmen is remarkable, especially for woodcarving and miniature drawing. By way of comparison, the wood carvings I saw in Africa did not reach this perfect level of finish. The miniature drawings seen in Udaipur, India (which is the specialty) were not as accurate as the hand-drawn Nepalese mandalas. However, they are poor in stone/marble carving like the Vietnamese while the Indians still master this art wonderfully. Speaking of handicrafts, I note to enroll, if I can, in a traditional paper cutting workshop (with scissors) when I will be in China
We will spend the rest of the day resting at the hotel and enjoying the ripe mangoes bought at the market (always 100 rupees per kilo or 0.83€).