Kathmandu: Eight Years Later

Flying toward Kathmandu, the line of snow-capped mountains on the horizon looked more like a bank of clouds in the blue sky. But then we dipped down for landing into a blanket of smog. Once on the ground, we were glad of our face masks. Traffic was heavy, with mostly motorbikes, but unlike in India, Nepalis don’t sit on their horns. The level of street noise was more bearable for my now noise-sensitive ears. The population has exploded like in India.

Happy at leaving Varanasi before Holi (not our favorite festival), only to find the Nepalis also celebrating. Youth and children roamed the streets throwing color until evening when things calmed down. We should’t have been surprised since Hinduism and Buddhism are practiced side by side in Nepal. Buddhist statues sit alongside Hindu deities at all the monuments.

Nine years ago, just before the 2015 earthquake, we came here not knowing what to expect. How could we have known history would come alive through the architectural wonder of Durbar Square in both Patan and Kathmandu? We were apprehensive about returning, to face the devastation coupled with reports of increased crime and prostitution in Kathmandu. But we didn’t see it and were glad to be back.

Thamel, where the budget hotels are located, is still a rabbit warren of narrow cobblestoned streets. Tourists and trekkers seem way down but maybe because the season hasn’t started yet. Everybody seems to be on the hustle but you can’t blame them; tourism and so much else hasn’t recovered since the earthquake.

Gerard asked a few locals where they were when the earthquake hit. Among those we spoke to, no one knew anyone who died. Today the city is still a mix between empty lots and construction. In spite of foreign aid pouring in, it’s rumored that rebuilding didn’t start for years. One explanation: “If we did the repair work, the money would stop coming.” But there are other reasons including lack of organization and finding skilled artisans..

Still vibrating with the impressions of Varanasi, Durbar Square with its intricate architecture and wood carving required a cultural shift in our attention. Even though this was our second visit, the beauty of this 3rdC Royal Palace complex was a feast for our eyes and in much better condition than we’d expected.

Next day we waited for the drizzle to stop, then climbed up the 365 steps to the Swayambhunath or Monkey Temple.

Nine years ago, the steps were of no consequence. So many changes during those years. Surprisingly, the hundreds of stone deities of both religions surrounding the large Buddhist stupa, escaped unscathed.

Unfortunately the nearby Patan Durbar wasn’t as restored as Kathmandu because either it suffered more damage or has taken longer to recover. It was hard to see the deterioration of what had impressed us so much before—some of the finest Newari temples and palaces in Nepal.

Posters around the complex boasted the involvement of Germany, Japan, China etc., then why is it taking so long compared to Kathmandu?

Thankfully, the Patan Museum, with financial help from Austria, has reopened its gilded entryway and still contains a wonderful collection of Newari sculptures and artifacts.

8 thoughts on “Kathmandu: Eight Years Later

  1. Hi Bobbi and Gerard, Thank you so much for your beautiful photos throughout your trip this year❗️. As always I love seeing th


  2. Ohhhhh Bobby fantastic pictures! Thanks for sharing your insights and your visuals to allow us to know this area of the World 🌎


  3. Sorry to hear that Varanasi has changed so much…thanks for sharing your adventures…..heading out to the Hinterlands next week for ten days…best to you……


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