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Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks – Day 2: Patan and Bhaktapur

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Patan – streets around Durbar Square

Come along on our journey as we travel Nepal In 2 Weeks – Day 2: Patan and Bhaktapur!  On our second day in Nepal, we took a day trip from Kathmandu to visit Patan.  A pretty city with a long Buddhist history making for an impressive collection of palaces and temples.  Unfortunately our morning was off to rainy start.  We got caught in a torrential downpour and the streets around Durbar Square were completely flooded.

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Bhaktapur – flooded streets

Patan was also hit hard by the earthquake and again, my heart ached to see so many temples in ruins.  There were signs of hope however, as many sites displayed donation signs with the flag of the  supporting country on them.

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Patan – Krishna Mandir Temple with Garuda statue on column

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Patan – metal works

Patan is known for its metal craftsmanship and many temples were adorned with beautifully detailed metal engravings.  We picked up a souvenir metal statue from one of the many metal shops that lined the cobblestone streets.

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Bhaktapur – Naga Pokhari

The rain finally ceased mid-morning and we were able to enter the Patan Museum.  The museum was formerly the residence of the Malla kings and houses an impressive history of Buddhism and Hinduism in Nepal.  There are over 200 metal figurines as well as historical photos of Kathmandu. The dark, narrow hallways displayed fascinating relics including a large ceremonial bench covered with magnificent engravings of snakes.

20170523_Patan & Bhaktapur-2453Patan – Golden Gate & Patan Museum, Durbar Square

From the museum we moved into the Patan Palace that consisted of three courtyards that were adorned with incredible carvings: Keshav Narayan Chok, Mul Chok and Sundari Chok.

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Patan – The Patan Palace

The royal bath in the Bhandarkhal Garden has recently been restored and dates back to the 12th century.

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Patan – The Patan Palace – Bhandarkhal Garden

I loved the sunken fountain in Sundari Chok.  Just look at the detail on each of the figurines! I’ve never seen a fountain quite like this before and was so impressed. The fountain was commissioned by King Siddhi Narsingh Malla in 1647 and each stone alcove is devoted to members of the Hindu pantheon.

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Patan – Patan Palace – Sundari Chok, Tusha Hiti

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Patan – Hanuman Statue, Narsingha Statue

Of the three Durbar Squares in the Valley, Patan’s Durbar Square is considered the most harmonious and elegant. Patan was also much less hectic than Kathmandu, and I appreciated the peaceful vibes of the square, despite the rain!

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Patan – Durbar Square

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Bhaktapur – Ugrachandi statue

In the afternoon, we headed to Bhaktapur, the third of the medieval city-states in the Valley and a short drive from Patan.  Named the “City of Devotees” Bhaktapur is home to some of the finest architecture in Nepal, but was also heavily damaged by the earthquake.

 

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Bhaktapur

One of the least damaged areas was Naga Poktari, a 17th century water tank that is framed by stone serpents.  An impressive serpent towers at the end of the tank, where water poured out of a dhara in the form of a goat being consumed by a makara.

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Bhaktapur – Naga Pokhari

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Bhaktapur – Naga Pokhari

The Vatsala Durga Temple was severely damaged but King Bhupatindra Malla’s Column still stands tall in front of the temple.  The bronze statue of King Bhupatindra Malla sits peacefully at the very top, and is similar to statues in the Durbar Squares of Patan and Kathmandu.

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Bhaktapur – Vatsala Durga Temple, King Bhupatindra Malla’s Column

The Taleju Bell is also in front of the Vatsala Durga Temple and was erected in 1737 to mark the daily morning and evening prayers at the temple.  There was something beautiful about this large bell sitting defiantly over the pile of rubble.

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Bhaktapur – Taleju Bell

The Siddhi Lakshmi Temple was heavily supported by beams but the guardians of the temple: female and male attendants leading a child and a dog, horses, rhinos, human-faced lions and camels; still stood their guard.

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Bhaktapur – Siddhi Lakshmi Temple

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Bhaktapur – Taba Sattal damage

Behind the Siddhi Lakshmi Temple, two large stone lions can be found.  Some say they are protecting the palace, while others claim they are watching over the site of a lost temple that disappeared in the earthquake of 1934.

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Bhaktapur – stone lions

We visited an art school where students with disabilities learn about art and sell their own work, such a wonderful idea!  Most impressive was the sand mandala that the students of the Dalai Lama made for the school.  The detail on the sand mandala was exquisite.   Traditionally after sand mandalas are completed they are swept away to symbolize “impermanence”.  Nothing is permanent – I couldn’t agree more.  Human nature tries to fight against this in regards to, for example, relationships.  We take them for granted and find it hard to let go when it is unrealistic to assume they will last forever. 

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Bhaktapur – paint school. Mandala sand painting by Dalai Lama students.

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Bhaktapur

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Bhaktapur – Potters’ Square

Dedicated to Bhairab, the incarnation of Shiva in his fearsome state, Bhairabnath Temple was built in the early 17th century and was rebuilt after the 1934 earthquake.

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Bhaktapur – Bhairabnath Temple

Nyatapola Temple is the most impressive temple in Bhaktapur.  This perfectly proportioned five storey temple is the tallest building in all of Nepal and was built in 1702, surviving both the 1934 and 2015 earthquakes.  Legendary Rajput wrestlers Jayamel and Phattu line the stairs, which are also guarded by elephants, lions, griffons and two goddesses: Baghini and Singhini.

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Bhaktapur – Nyatapola Temple

Bhaktapur is renowned for its woodcarving, and we picked up a fearsome looking Shiva mask from this amazing mask store.  Picking one mask was a hard decision!

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Bhaktapur – where we bought our mask

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Bhaktapur – earthquake damage

A couple of goats hung out in front of the Dattatreya Temple, that is also guarded by the same two Malla wrestlers that are found at the Nyatapola Temple.  Speaking of woodcarving, this temple was supposedly built using the timber from a single tree!

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Bhaktapur – Dattatreya Temple

One of my favourite door shots of the whole trip!  These bright sky blue doors may have seen better days, but still added a happy splash of colour to the otherwise brick and wood architectural landscape.

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Bhaktapur “Blue Possibilities”

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Bhaktapur – Dog Days

As evening came upon us, the sun finally came out and cast a magical glow over the bustling main street of Bhaktapur.  I loved our day trip to these fascinating city-states!

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Bhaktapur

Back in Kathmandu, we ventured out into the winding streets of Thamel to find this tiny hole-in-the-wall restaurant.  As far as dive restaurants go, this one did not disappoint! We devoured the tasty noodles and had our first taste of the famous Himalayan dumpling: the momo.  A flavourful, juicy morsel wrapped in a soft, steamed wrapper.  We predicted many momos were going to be consumed on this trip!  Especially the buffalo momos…

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Kathmandu – Yangling Tibetan Restaurant, Vegetarian Chow Mein

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Kathmandu – Yangling Tibetan Restaurant, Buffalo Momos

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Kathmandu – Yangling Tibetan Restaurant, Spicy Chicken Momos

Have you ever tasted a momo?  Let me know what you thought of my second day in Nepal!  

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath "Monkey Temple". Prayer wheel on Swayambhunath Stupa

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks – Day 1: Kathmandu

My boyfriend and I were all set to travel to Nepal in 2015, but a week before departure the earthquake devastated this beautiful country, and we had to postpone.  Over a year later, we were rebooked for our Nepal adventure!  We had originally booked a tour with Annapurna Foothills Treks and Expedition and we were happy to hear that they would honour our deposit even after so much time had passed.  So come along on our much anticipated journey, as we travel Nepal in 2 weeks – Day 1: Kathmandu!  

After a fourteen hour layover in Hong Kong, we landed in Kathmandu and were greeted by our lovely guide at the airport.  We got our first taste of a third world country before we had even reached our van.  We were swarmed by a few locals who wanted to assist with our bags.  Tired, with our guard down, we assumed that they worked for our tour company.  They immediately asked for a tip and started to harass my boyfriend for more money once his wallet was out.  I sensed something was wrong and luckily he only gave away a twenty before I stepped in.  While I’ve travelled to poor countries before, Nepal still took me by surprise.  Even though I knew to a degree what to expect, reality was still shocking.  Despite this one incident though, once I became comfortable with my surroundings I became immersed in the beauty and peace of this country.

The next morning we met Bijay, our awesome guide for Kathmandu.  Kathmandu is unlike any city I have ever visited.  The narrow streets are packed with motorcycles, cars, carts, people and animals.  An intoxicating ever-present smell of incense lingers in the air, along with clouds of dust and exhaust while the constant beeping of car horns keeps you on your toes. Kathmandu was made the capital of Nepal after the invasion of the Kathmandu valley in 1768 by Prithvi Narayan Shah and the creation of the Shah dynasty.  For decades, the city’s infrastructure has been struggling to sustain itself.  Massive earthquakes destroyed much of the city in 1934 and 2015, and the city was flooded with tens of thousands Nepalis who were escaping political violence in the early 2000s.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks-Day-1-Kathmandu. Swayambhunath "Monkey Temple"

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks-Day-1-Kathmandu. Swayambhunath “Monkey Temple”

We journeyed just outside the city to the hilltop Buddhist temple and Unesco World Heritage Site of Swayambhunath, the “monkey temple”.  Covered in holy monkeys with prayer flags strung from every corner, I felt a mystical energy in the air.  I took a deep breath of incense and gazed up at the bright white Stupa that sat towering in the centre.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath "Monkey Temple" - stupa platform with religious monuments and monkeys

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath “Monkey Temple” – stupa platform with religious monuments and monkeys

The site is impressive and intoxicating, peaceful yet chaotic with statues and detailed carvings lining every door.  We walked among the many shrines, ringing bells, temples and Nepali people chanting mantras.  How wonderful it must be to be able to visit a place like this in your daily life.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath "Monkey Temple" - Shantipura - sky symbol, peace

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath “Monkey Temple” – Shantipura – sky symbol, peace

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath "Monkey Temple" - Dipankara Buddha made from a single stone

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath “Monkey Temple” – Dipankara Buddha made from a single stone

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath "Monkey Temple" - Mahakala statue

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath “Monkey Temple” – Mahakala statue

We observed Nepali people praying and making offerings to statues like Mahakala (above).  We spun the prayer wheels and learned the Buddhist mantra “om mani pad me hum” which means, simply to invoke compassion.  I love that.  I think we could all use a reminder to be more compassionate to each other.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath "Monkey Temple". Prayer wheel on Swayambhunath Stupa

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath “Monkey Temple”. Prayer wheel on Swayambhunath Stupa

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath "Monkey Temple". Eastern stairway.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath “Monkey Temple”. Eastern stairway.

The view of Kathmandu from the Stupa was spectacular, an awesome way to start the day!

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath "Monkey Temple". View of Kathmandu.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath “Monkey Temple”. View of Kathmandu.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath "Monkey Temple". Top of stupa.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu.
Swayambhunath “Monkey Temple”. Top of stupa.

The top of the Stupa is topped by a gilded spire painted with the eyes of the Buddha, eyes that we would see all over Kathmandu.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath "Monkey Temple". Stupa with air symbol and prayer flags.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu.  Swayambhunath “Monkey Temple”. Stupa with air symbol and prayer flags.

I loved the prayer flags hanging like vines everywhere.  They became a comforting, recognizable symbol throughout our trip.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Swayambhunath "Monkey Temple". Holy monkey.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu.  Swayambhunath “Monkey Temple”. Holy monkey.

I managed to snap one decent photo of a holy monkey.  Even though they were crawling everywhere, they are fast and like to jump along the roofs.  I really need to buy a longer lens…

 

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square. Bell beside ruins of Kasthmandap

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square. Bell beside ruins of Kasthmandap

We then headed out to the area hit hardest by the earthquake, Durbar Square.  Also designated as a World Heritage Site, Durbar Square is the heart of the old town and was where the city’s kings were once crowned.  The restoration process has been slow, and it was heartbreaking to see so many temples in heaps of ruins.  Photos at the sites displayed the original structures, some dating as far back as the 18th century or older.  The comparison made the damage even more devastating.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Gaddi Baithak palace

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Gaddi Baithak palace

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Trilokya Mohan Narayan Temple

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Trilokya Mohan Narayan Temple

When I saw the intricate wooden detailing on the temples that were still standing, my heart felt heavy at the thought of how much work lay ahead.  They say that rebuilding Durbar Square will take 5-7 years, which probably means closer to 8-10 years.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Nautale - Basantapur Durbar

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Nautale – Basantapur Durbar

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Kumari Bahal

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Kumari Bahal

The home of the “living goddess”, Kumari Bahal was particularly interesting.  A real girl lives in this impressive building and is only permitted to leave once a year for the Indra Jatra festival. Once she reaches puberty, she reverts back to being a mortal and a new goddess is carefully selected.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Kumari Chowk

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Kumari Chowk

The detail on the balcony and doors is stunning.  I loved learning about the symbolic meaning behind all the various elements, and how everything is connected.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Kumari Chowk

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Kumari Chowk

 

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Nasal Chowk (Nine storied palace, Kirtipur Tower, Basantapur Tower)

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Nasal Chowk (Nine storied palace, Kirtipur Tower, Basantapur Tower)

Nasal Chowk in the Hauman Dhoka Palace was one of the few places we could enter. The most famous courtyard of the palace, Nasal Chowk is named after Nasadya, the God of dance.  The space was used for performances, rituals and coronations, as recently as 2001.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Nasal Chowk (Nine storied palace, Kirtipur Tower, Basantapur Tower)

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Nasal Chowk (Nine storied palace, Kirtipur Tower, Basantapur Tower)

As you can see the detailed carvings that adorn the chowk are absolutely incredible.  Snake imagery is common throughout, symbolizing rebirth, death and mortality in Hinduism.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Nasal Chowk (Nine storied palace, Kirtipur Tower, Basantapur Tower)

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Nasal Chowk (Nine storied palace, Kirtipur Tower, Basantapur Tower)

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Nasal Chowk (Nine storied palace, Kirtipur Tower, Basantapur Tower)

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Nasal Chowk (Nine storied palace, Kirtipur Tower, Basantapur Tower)

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Degutaleju Temple

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Degutaleju Temple

Degutaleju Temple is also part of the Hanuman Dhoka Palace.  Degutaleju is another manifestation of the goddess Taleju, who embodies the living goddess Kumari.  I remember our guide also telling us this was the “love” temple.  With Nepali people sleeping and begging among the crumbled ruins, I was struck by the tragic beauty in this scene.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu, Durbar Square, Kal Bhairar

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu, Durbar Square, Kala Bhairab

We were getting used to seeing statues covered in offerings and the Kala Bhairab monument in Durbar Square was no exception.  Bhairab is the deity Shiva in his terrified state and is the protector of temples and women.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Vishnu Narayan Temple

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Vishnu Narayan Temple

There is a sense of irony when you see how dedicated the local people are to their faith. They make daily offerings for prosperity and health, yet their country is impoverished and the temples that they depend on now lie in ruins.  Yet, despite their poverty, you feel a certain peace in this place, and overall Nepal has a low crime rate.  There’s something to be said about that.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Shiva-Parbati Temple

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Durbar Square, Shiva-Parbati Temple

The Shiva-Parvati Temple was built in the 1700s by Bahadur Shah, and if you look closely you can see white Shiva and his consort peering out from the upstairs window.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Boudhanath "The Great Boudha Stupa"

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Boudhnath “The Great Boudha Stupa”

After Durbar Square we headed out to Boudhnath, “The Great Boudha Stupa”, that is said to contain the relict of the past Buddha Kashyapa.  The stupa is enormous, one of the largest in Nepal and is perfectly proportioned and highly symbolic.  I loved the area around the stupa, a bustling market filled with monks, pilgrims, religious shops and monasteries.  I could have easily spent a whole day exploring.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Buffalo momos.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Buffalo momos

For lunch, we had our first taste of momos, and it was everything I dreamed.  Soft dumplings filled with juicy buffalo, dipped in a creamy, spiced sauce.  I vowed to eat as many momos as possible on this trip!

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Buffalo momos

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Buffalo momos

We also had a daal bhaat tarkari platter, another staple meal of Nepal.  Curried vegetables and meat, lentil soup, steamed greens and chapati (unleavened Indian bread) are dipped and poured over rice.  Fresh, flavourful with endless refills, I was loving the local cuisine.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Daal Bhat Tarkari

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Daal Bhaat Tarkari

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Daal Bhat Tarkari

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Daal Bhaat Tarkari

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Tasting our first momos.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Tasting our first momos.

Happiness is tasting your first momo!

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Buddha wheel of enlightenment with deer disciples, on top of monastary around Boudhanath

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Buddha wheel of enlightenment with deer disciples, on top of monastary around Boudhnath

As the clouds rolled in we managed to visit one monastery in Boudhnath.  On the roof of the monastery among rows of glowing candles sat this beautiful wheel of enlightenment or “dharma wheel”.  The wheel is one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols and is used to symbolize Buddhism.

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Pashupatinath Temple

Travel Nepal In 2 Weeks- Day 1 Kathmandu. Pashupatinath Temple

We tried to visit the Pashupatinath Temple but unfortunately the rain poured down and the streets flooded.  Luckily we were coming back to Kathmandu at the end of our trip and planned to revisit the temple then.

After a long but awesome day, we returned to our lovely Hotel Shakti in the Thamel area. Clean, safe and cozy, the hotel is conveniently located near plenty of shops and restaurants.  The staff are friendly and helpful and a decent breakfast is included.

Stay tuned for Day 2 of our Nepal trip when we visit Patan and Bhaktapur!

Have you visited Nepal?  What did you think of Kathmandu? Do you love momos as much as me? Let me know if you enjoyed this post on how to travel Nepal in 2 weeks – Day 1: Kathmandu!

Hong Kong In A Day

Hong Kong In A Day

In 2015, my boyfriend and I were all booked to go to Nepal but a week before we left the earthquake struck and we had to redirect to Turkey. Last year we gave Nepal another try, and as a bonus, we had a fourteen hour layover in Hong Kong. Dim sum, BBQ pork, the Big Buddha, here I come! It was no easy feat visiting Hong Kong in a day, but we did it!

First off, I would recommend that if you have only one day in Hong Kong, don’t do what I did! My first mistake was that I had assumed all the markets in Kowloon would be open bright and early. Back home, markets open at the crack of dawn, but not in Hong Kong! We were wandering the empty streets at 8AM, as not much was open until 10AM. So, my recommendation would be to go to Hong Kong Island first and head right up to The Peak to avoid the crazy lines ups. Then go to Kowloon, and finish the day at Lantau Island which is close to the airport.

We started our day super early arriving in Hong Kong at 5AM. While we waited for the gates to the train station to open, we had a coffee from McDonald’s and sorted out our transit card. We bought an Octopus Card which was the easiest and most economical of the transit cards. It covers all modes of transport for $50HK, and we had just the right amount for a day of travel.

Hong Kong In A Day

Hong Kong In A Day – Goldfish Market

After discovering that both the Flower and Bird markets opened at 10am, we stumbled upon the Goldfish Market.  Here I am with a big ‘ol bag of goldfish.  Tempting, but ultimately not a good souvenir.  But the turtles were so cute! Even though the other markets were closed, walking through the quiet streets of Hong Kong was really peaceful, and we past a lot of elderly folk practicing Tai Chi.  The heavy, humid air was filled with the sounds of chirping birds and the faint honks of traffic; the calm before the storm.

Hong Kong In A Day

Hong Kong In A Day – Goldfish Market

Hong Kong In A Day

Hong Kong In A Day – Nathan Street

We continued down Nathan Street, the main street in Kowloon with a similar vibe to Broadway in Manhattan.  A bit grungy and bustling with life; the connecting thread of the city.  Our tour of closed markets continued with the Ladies Market, so instead we stopped for our first bite of dim sum.  As you can see, I’m full of glee at the idea of authentic dim sum for breakfast.  Verdict?  Juicy, flavourful bites of Siu Mai (minced pork and shrimp parcels topped with crab roe) were everything I dreamed they would be.

Hong Kong In A Day

Hong Kong In A Day – Dim Sum near the Ladies Market

Hong Kong In A Day

Hong Kong In A Day

We wandered down Shanghai Street and Reincarnation Street as markets started to open for the day.  The Jade Market had many pretty items, but I felt a bit overwhelmed.  We were their first customers and were pounced upon whenever we stopped at a booth, so we didn’t stay too long.  

The Chinatown in Toronto has the same vibe as Kowloon, so I felt right at home.  The hanging BBQ ducks in the window were a familiar sight, and their perfectly roasted, shining skin looked just as appetizing as I remembered.  

Hong Kong In A Day

Hong Kong In A Day – BBQ duck on Nathan Street

We walked through the very pretty and quiet Kowloon Park.  Strolling among anime statues, gazebos, huge trees, manicured shrubs and more elderly practicing Tai Chi, the park was a peaceful break from the busy city streets.

Hong Kong In A Day

Hong Kong In A Day – Kowloon Park

Hong Kong In A Day

Hong Kong In A Day – Kowloon Park

Hong Kong In A Day

Hong Kong In A Day – Kowloon Park

I would describe Hong Kong as an infusion of NYC and Japan.  The busy, gritty streets of the Big Apple mixed with the Asian grandeur and odd Western influence of Tokyo.

Hong Kong In A Day

Hong Kong In A Day – Space Museum

We ended up at the waterfront, passing the Space Museum and the Clocktower along the way.  I was disappointed that I couldn’t find the Bruce Lee statue, I think it was hidden among the construction that was taking place in that area.  Next time!

Hong Kong In A Day

Hong Kong In A Day – Kowloon, Clocktower

This landmark Clocktower was the last remnant of the old Kowloon railway terminal, and was the last stop for trains coming from the mainland as well as the famous Orient Express from London.  I liked the random, colourful popsicles that were scattered along the fountain in front.  They complimented the palm trees!

Hong Kong In A Day

Hong Kong In A Day – Hong Kong Island

The historical Star Ferries have plied between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon since 1888!  I would definitely recommend taking this short ferry ride across Victoria Harbour to Hong Kong Island.   As we admired the towering skyscrapers that lined the shore, the skies overhead were starting to look quite ominous.

Hong Kong In A Day

Hong Kong In A Day – Hong Kong Island from the Star Ferry

Hong Kong Island was completely different than Kowloon, being the more modern area of the city.  Huge department store complexes, futuristic banks, glass towers and winding flagstone lanes were reminiscent of Tokyo and Los Angeles.  We didn’t have enough time to explore much past the central area, but I found this part of Hong Kong cold and corporate.  

The main attraction here is to venture up to The Peak, the viewing platform in the Sky Terrace of of a huge anvil-shaped mall.  To reach Victoria Peak, we traveled on a tram, a funicular railway that has been running since 1888.  The steep ascent was a bit of an adventure, covering a distance of 1.4 kilometres and an elevation of just under 400 metres.  A tourist trap for sure, but The Peak is still a “must see” attraction in Hong Kong…on a sunny day.  

Hong Kong In A Day

Hong Kong In A Day – view from the Sky Terrace at Victoria Peak

Unfortunately for us, after waiting in a long line and being packed like sardines into the Peak Tram, by the time we arrived at the top the rain had started.  While I’m sure the view of Hong Kong would have been spectacular from the highest lookout  in the city, all we could see was thick and misty fog.  Next time!  Sigh.

Hong Kong In A Day

Hong Kong In A Day – Dim Sum at The Peak

What does one do when you’re rained out?  Go find something awesome to eat of course!  We found this Dim Sum restaurant just outside the main complex, and promptly ordered all our favourite dim sum: Cha Siu Bao (pork buns), Lohr Bahk Goh (pan fried turnip, shrimp and Chinese salami cakes), Har Gow (prawn dumplings) and Cheung Fun (rice pastry rolls filled with shrimp and sweet soy sauce).  Everything was so yummy, it was almost worth the crowds and rain!  Dim Sum saved the day!

Hong Kong In A Day

Hong Kong In A Day

With only a few hours left, we jumped on a cable car and traveled out to Lantau Island – the site of the famous Big Buddha.  Visiting Lantau Island was the highlight of our day in Hong Kong, and I wish we’d had more time to explore this beautiful site.  

 

Hong Kong In A Day

Hong Kong In A Day – heading to Lantau Island on the Ngong Ping 360 cable car

The Ngong Ping 360 cable car ride from Tung Chung to Po Lin is an adventure in itself.  The 25 minute journey sweeps over 4 miles of scenic views of Hong Kong, the airport, the South China Sea and the lush North Lantau Country Park.

Hong Kong In A Day

Hong Kong In A Day – Hong Kong from the Ngong Ping 360 cable car

Hong Kong In A Day

Hong Kong In A Day – Hong Kong Airport from the Ngong Ping 360 cable car

The 112 foot bronze Buddha statue was a breathtaking site to behold, from the moment you first see him sitting peacefully in the distance…

Hong Kong In A Day

Hong Kong In A Day – Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery – Lantau Island

…gradually travelling closer…

Hong Kong In A Day

Hong Kong In A Day – Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery – Lantau Island

…closer still!

Hong Kong In A Day

Hong Kong In A Day – Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery – Lantau Island

 …until finally we were standing at the foot of one of the largest seated Buddha images in the world.

Hong Kong In A Day

Hong Kong In A Day – Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery – Lantau Island

We didn’t have time to climb the 260 steps or explore the monastery, gardens and temples around the island, but I fell in love with Lantau Island and the Big Buddha.  You can almost feel the peace flowing out over the land from this magnificent statue.  I will return to you one day Big Buddha!

Hong Kong In A Day

Hong Kong In A Day – BBQ pork and duck, Hong Kong Airport

A trip to Hong Kong would not be complete without some BBQ pork and duck!  We squeezed in one more meal at the airport – and paid an arm and a leg for it!  Do you really want to know how much this was?  It pains me to write this…but for this dish plus some greens, two beers, two teas (they charged us for tea!) and “complimentary” apps that they charged us for (I didn’t even want peanuts!) – we paid $80 Canadian!!  In comparison, the same meal would have cost no more than $30 tops back home.  But I have to say, the pork and duck were delicious!  I mean, just look at that crispy skin and juicy meat!

As our day in Hong Kong came to an end, we were tired but pretty impressed with ourselves for packing in so much in one day!  Lots more to see – and eat – but at least I know what to do next time (and will definitely avoid eating in the airport!).  By far my most fun layover to date!

BUDGET FOR ONE DAY IN HONG KONG
(includes food, entry fees, transportation and ridiculously expensive meal at airport)
$180 CANADIAN

ITINERARY FOR ONE DAY IN HONG KONG:
6:00AM Depart airport for Hong Kong Island
7:00AM: Hong Kong Island: The Peak
9:00AM Star Ferry to Kowloon
9:30AM Star Ferry Pier: Clocktower, Bruce Lee statue
10:00AM Nathan Road (Kowloon Park, Jade Market, Ladies Market, Goldfish Market, Flower Market, Bird Market)
12:00PM Lunch in Kowloon
1:00PM Depart for Tung Chung
2:00PM Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car to Lantau Island
2:30PM Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery
4:00PM Depart for airport
5:00PM Check in for 7:00PM departure flight

Have you visited Hong Kong before?  How long were you there, and what did you see?  Do you love Dim Sum as much as me?