The Brick City

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I studied at the Rochester Institute of Technology whose campus was affectionately dubbed “Brick City.” Today, we found another brick city, and this one was infinitely more interesting and beautiful.

We rented out a scooter. This was a very unmanly thing to do by Nepalese standards. Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to learn to ride a fully manual motorbike and Kathmandu and its environs was not the place to do so. Immediately after leaving the four streets of Kathmandu’s tourist district, Thamel, that were familiar to us, we got hopelessly lost. We honked our way through the old town, navigated the rutted maze of alleyways, fought our way through greater Kathmandu traffic, and skillfully avoided the gaze of the ubiquitous traffic cops by admiring the top floors of buildings on the other side of the street instead of ahead of us. After numerous inquiries we were on our way to Bhaktapur, the third historic city in Kathmandu Valley.

Upon arriving and paying the extortionate fee of 1100 ruppies per person, we settled down for some food and a fantastic bowl of juju dhou, or the king of curds. It was an unbelievably creamy, sweet, and delicous yoghurt which cannot be adequately described. This made us quickly forget the huge (by Nepali standards, it was only $15) city entrance fee and paved the way for us to enjoy the city.

Bhaktapur is phenomenal. Everything, including the roadways, is made of bricks. The whole town is a living museum. The beautiful architecture and historic atmosphere does not end at the boundaries of the Durbar Square. Each street has buildings with intricate carvings, ornamental windows, and bricks. Every so often one finds a pokhari, or walled pond used for washing, relaxing, and cooling off. People live their normal life, thresh their wheat on the streets, and hang out in the shadows to relax. Of course, there are the countless temples and shrines sprinkled in the maze of the streets. Walking through small passages from street, to ornate courtyard, to small alleyway, to temple, and out onto another street makes one feel like in a fantasy movie. When we were there, there were barely any western tourists there, and the amazing atmosphere of this city made it our favorite of the three ancient cities of Kathmandu valley.

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