Friday, January 20, 2012

Kathmandu, day 2 (part 2); Patan, Lalitpur

January 20th, 2008

After Boudnath, I asked the taxi driver to take me to Patan, another city in the Kathmandu Valley, but outside the actually city.

It is a place renown for its heritage, dating back to the third century BC. Patan's center, Patan Durban Square, is a UNESCO site, with its unique wooden architecture, it is the former residence of the Malla rulers, now an open museum.

What really brought me to Patan, though, is that it's famous for its arts, particularly is bronze castings of Buddhas and Hindu deities.

Since I was there, I figured I should check out the amazing Patan Durban Square first, but it wasn't long before two young girls, about 8 or 9 years old, came over to talk to me about the history of the square. I've seen this trick before, someone comes over, starts a friendly chat, then tells you that you owe them money for being your tour guide. it's what turns a visit to Angkor Wat from a cheap one to relatively expensive. I told the girls right away that i wasn't going to give them any money and they said that was fine, they just wanted to talk to me, I could help them with their English. That sounded that a fair deal to me and just like that, I had two new friends. I told them I'd come to look for a casting, and they lead me to the street lined with studios and shops, each taking one of my hands in theirs.

Though I would prefer to find a Śākyamuni Buddha, I'm more interested in just finding one with decent form (all it's fingers and at least a pleasant face). As we started entering the row of shops one door at a time, I was a little disappointed with what I was seeing. Some nice things severely overpriced, but they were mostly Hindu deities, White or Green Tara, or Manjushri, who the people of the Kathmandu Valley must love! Actually, I'd seen much nicer statues in Thamel for about the same prices. The two girls kept pointing out statues to me, none of them Śākyamuni, and after a few shops, they'd learned quite a few names.

About half way down the street, the girls pointed out a temple for me to see, the Mahaboudha Temple, Temple of a Thousand Budhas. Inside is a tall tower, totally hidden by the surrounding buildings, modeled after the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhdaya, covered with one thousand tiny clay Buddhas.

We continued up the street until we visited the last of the shops, without any luck, and the girls finally asked if we could not go into anymore shops. I was pretty disappointed at not having found anything, but I'd seen a few statutes in Thamel that would have to be good enough.

Walking back to the square, a man waved at me and I waved back but didn't realize until later that it was a man from my favorite Nepali restaurant in Seoul! It's too bad I didn't recognize him, I just really didn't expect to see him there...

Since the girls had been really good companions, I offered to by them lunch and they were really excited to go to one of the tourist restaurants, that they'd never been able to go into. Café de Temple has great views of the square so we went up to the rooftop tables. The girls were really excited and wanted to try pizza for the first time in their lives. We ordered, then I looked at their dirt covered hands and told them if they wanted to eat, they'd have to good wash their hands first. They both leapt up and dashed to the washroom. One of the young men at the table full of Canadians from Vancouver next to me started talking to me and asked if they were my children. "No," I said, "I met them on the street and offered to bug them lunch." "oh," he said, giving me a strange look, as if I might be a pedophile or something, and that was the end of the conversation.

The girls came back, passed the clean hands check, and sat down just as the pizza arrived. They picked at it a little awkwardly, I couldn't tell if they really liked it at first, but once they saw me pick up a slide and devour it, they seemed more confident and enjoyed it.

I noticed that the smaller girl had a hole in her nostril but no loop like the other girl. I asked her what happened and she said she'd lost it and that her mom hit her many times for losing it. After eating, we went into the market, were I'd noticed a jeweler, and I bought her a little gold stud. She wasn't able to push it through the closing hole, but she was happy anyway. She said when she got home, her mother would help her get it in. I felt sorry for the girls. They'd probably been sent to the square to earn/beg for some money and ended up spending most of the day with me. I'd noticed the younger one had huge bugs crawling through her hair, which in turn made my skin crawl. I told them they could both pick out one thing from the market and they both wanted shoes.

We headed back into the square one last time, and I was about to get a taxi back to Thamel to continue my hunt for a Buddha, when I got swarmed by their cousins and aunts begging me to buy something from them. As soon as the woman appeared, the girls suddenly flipped and started begging me for money. I very really disappointed and mentioned that I'd just bought them lunch and gifts, but that didn't help. I had the feeling that just had to act this way in front of the aunts, who were about to drive me crazy trying to make me buy something. I had been on a little bridge taking pictures of the bells hanging from the eaves of the old building, when they ambushed me from both side, leaving me no escape. To tired to argue, I bought a few little things from them, said goodbye to the girls, and got in a rickshaw back to Thamel.

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