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King Pratap Malla’s statue.

I am so blessed to be able to travel around the world and see exotic countries such as Nepal. When I was a child of 6 or 7, one of the first movies I remember seeing and loving, was From Russia With Love. No silly, not because of the women (sheesh, I was 7 years old . . . yuck), but because of how cool, debonair, and witty James Bond was; and equally important, the foreign, exotic and mysterious places where he lived and visited, London and Istanbul, respectfully. I had two dreams back then – neither of which came true – become a professional baseball player or a secret agent. Oh well . . . LOL. 

A pair of these tigers guard the entrance to HD Square.

A pair of these tigers guard the entrance to HD Square.

Side view of tiger statue.

Side view of tiger statue.

So, I was reminded of those long ago dreams when I visited Hanuman-dhoka Durbar Square, with my new friend, Ursina Caminada. This square, along with the surrounding area is exotic and mysterious. Something I can easily imagine Ian Fleming writing about in one of his James Bond novels.  Moreover, my thoughts drifted back to the grace I have been blessed with, which allows me a “glimpse” of the Nepalese culture.

These school girls were likely on a field trip and were very gracious in allowing me to photograph them.

These school girls were likely on a field trip and were very gracious in allowing me to photograph them.

For purposes of this post and brevity, I will refer to this World Heritage Site monument zone as HD Square. The first thing you see when you come through the southeast entrance (Ganga Path) are two tiger statues that stand sentry. You also can see Basantapur Durbar, also called Nau-talle Durbar. It was built by King Prithvi Narayan Shah in 1770. This dominant nine-storied Basantapur Durbar (Kathmandu Tower) was built along with three other towers named after three other ancient cities of the valley – the Kiritipur tower, the Bhaktapur tower and the Lalitpur tower.

Basantapur Tower. Ursina and I would later climb this 9 story tower, as well as visit the adjacent buildings, which were a museum.

Basantapur Tower. Ursina and I would later climb this 9 story tower, as well as visit the adjacent buildings, which was a museum.

Built in 1757 by King Jaya Prakash Malla, Kumari-ghar is the home of the "Kumari" or living goddess who is considered to be an incarnation of the goddess Taleju. The woodcarving on this building was wonderfully detailed.

Built in 1757 by King Jaya Prakash Malla, Kumari-ghar is the home of the “Kumari” or living goddess who is considered to be an incarnation of the goddess Taleju. The woodcarving on this building was unbelievably detailed and intricate.

The only negative about this World Heritage Site, was the fact that you are practically assaulted by vendors and other trinket sellers touting their souvenirs. Additionally, upon entering the site, potential guides will “glom” onto you, immediately going into their spiel about the site, thinking if they yabber enough initially, that their hire is a mere formality by you. If you want a guide, by all means hire one of them, because usually they are quite knowledgeable about the place. However, if you don’t want a guide, make that clear as well (and quickly).

The eastern side of the palace is closed off by this neoclassical (and out of place) building called Gaddi Baithak. It was built in 1908 by Chandra Shamsher during the reign of Prithvi Bir Bikram Shah.

The eastern side of the palace is closed off by this neoclassical (and out of place) building called Gaddi Baithak. It was built in 1908 by Chandra Shamsher during the reign of Prithvi Bir Bikram Shah.

Frankly, it took all my will power to not lose my temper after nearly a half hour of listening to this crap. Even Ursina was frustrated with the high pressure sales pitch directed toward us. Fortunately, it only lasts for the first 1/8 of a mile when you enter the site. My advice to visitors is two-fold: 1. Show absolutely no interest and only say a firm and direct “NO,” when asked about buying one of their souvenirs; and, 2. Wear Nepalese clothing and a respirator mask, so they can’t make out your features (see my picture below) or Ursina’s suggestion for females was to cover every inch of your body as Muslim women do. 🙂

I actually have a good reason for wearing this - I CAN'T BREATH! Seriously, I have had a chronic cough for 3-4 days due to the significant dust that pervades most parts of the city (not having asphalt streets will cause that.).

I actually have a good reason for wearing this – I CAN’T BREATH! Seriously, I have had a chronic cough for 3-4 days due to the significant dust that pervades most parts of the city (not having asphalt streets will cause that.).

For the most part, these guys don't send out "touts" for their trinkets and souvenirs.

For the most part, these guys don’t send out “touts” for their trinkets and souvenirs.

Maju Dega.

Maju Dega.

The next temple we came to was called Maju Dega. It was built in the late 17th century. This temple is probably the most impressive of the “storied” type buildings we saw. Its nine step brick base gives it the size which dominates the skyline of HD square. The wooden doorway, pillars, windows and struts are all beautifully carved. There are images of Hindu deities both inside and outside the shrine.

A close up of Maju Dega.

A close up of Maju Dega.

Intricate and detailed carvings which you find on the outside walls of  the Kumari-ghar building.

Intricate and detailed carvings which you find on the outside walls of the Kumari-ghar building.

Kasthamandap temple.

Kasthamandap temple.

We next visited the Kasthamandap temple, which locals refer to as “Maru Sattal.” This huge and open temple is thought to have been constructed of one single tree. Wow! This three storied building has an open ground floor, underlining its original purpose as a public building. The central image in Kasthamandap is of Gorakhnath and at each of of the 4 corners is an image of Ganesh (the elephant god). The temple was constructed in the 12th century and has been renovated numerous times.

Grape leaves, which worshipers use to craft "plates" for offerings to Hindu gods.

Saal leaves being sold by a vendor, which worshipers use to craft “plates” for offerings to Hindu gods. Thank you Norbu (who works at the Shambaling hotel) for providing this and other information regarding the antiquities at this site.

Kal Bhairav (Shiva).

Kal Bhairav (Shiva).

Further along, Ursina and I saw this huge statue of what we were told later, was Kal Bhairav or Shiva in his destructive manifestation. No idea when this was constructed, but it was set in its present location by King Pratap Malla after it was found in a field north of Kathmandu. This is the most famous Bhairav statue and was used by the government (at one time) for people to tell the truth. Hmm. I have no idea how that was done, nor what they did if they thought someone wasn’t telling the truth. Food for thought, huh?

Hanuman Statue.

Hanuman Statue. One of two lions guard the entrance to the HD Palace.

The kneeling figure of Hanuman, the Hindu God who is always depicted as a monkey, sits on a tall stone pedestal. It was consecrated by Pratap Malla in 1672. To the right of the statue is the golden main door of the HD Palace, guarded by a pair of stone lions. Ursina and I went inside the palace, which is now a museum. Unfortunately, no photos are allowed while inside.

A close up of the monkey god, Hanuman.

A close up of the monkey god, Hanuman.

Gold Nepal flags.

Gold Nepal flags.

Gold Nepal flags.

Gold Nepal flags.

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Golden main entrance to palace.

Some sort of palace sofa that was in a glass room. However, they were doing periodic housekeeping and had the glass door open and allowed us to take a couple of photos (without the glare).

Some sort of palace sofa that was in a glass room. However, they were doing periodic housekeeping and had the glass door open and allowed us to take a couple of photos (without the glare).

Ursina and I inside the palace court yard.

Ursina and I inside the palace court yard.

The ubiquitous "eyes of Buddha" seemingly watching every move we made. Ha.

The ubiquitous “eyes of Buddha” seemingly watching every move we made. Ha.

Jagannath Temple which is the oldest structure at HD Square.

Jagannath Temple which is the oldest structure at HD Square.

Ursina and I must have seen a dozen temples at HD Square, but the oldest one at this site is called Jagannath Temple. It is most famous for the erotic carvings on its roof (which from the ground were hard to make out . . . umm, I did try to strain my eyes though. Grin.). The image of Jagannath stituated inside the temple dates back to 1563 during the rule of Mahendra Malla. The temple has a 3-tiered platform and two stories. The rest of the photos which follow, are a miscellaneous hodge podge of shrines, temples, and Nepal people going about their daily lives. Enjoy!

I believe this is Shiva.

I believe this is Shiva.

Wood door jamb with skull carvings.

Wood door jamb with skull carvings.

This is a close up of a very small carving. There are literally thousands of these detailed and intricate carvings, both in stone and wood.

This is a close up of a very small carving. There are literally thousands of these detailed and intricate carvings, both in stone and wood.

I really liked this gate.

I really liked this gate.

Cool lion or tiger.

Cool lion or tiger.

The back story to this photo is that Ursina and I kept on seeing this little girl and her large family (this is her father) while walking through the museum. Fast forward an hour later, we are in the palace court yard and they asked if I and Ursina would pose for a photo with their family. I said yes, if I could get a picture of their daughter, who had kept smiling at me, when we were in the museum (I think she was fascinated with my bald head. LOL). Anywho, I took this photo of her and dad.

The back story to this photo is that Ursina and I kept on seeing this little girl and her large family (this is her father) while walking through the museum. Fast forward an hour later, we are in the palace court yard and they asked if I and Ursina would pose for a photo with their family. I said yes, if I could get a picture of their daughter, who had smiled at me when we were in the museum (I think she was fascinated with my bald head. LOL). Anywho, I took this photo of her and dad.

Narbu, who works at the Shambaling hotel and assisted me with quite a bit of information about the shrines, temples, and gods of this site. As with all the employees at the Shambaling Hotel, Narbu is an outstanding employee and always has a smile for everyone he comes in contact with. Thank you Narbu!

Norbu, who works at the Shambaling hotel and assisted me with quite a bit of information about the shrines, temples, and gods of this site. As with all the employees at the Shambaling Hotel, Norbu is an outstanding employee and always has a smile for everyone he comes in contact with. Thank you Norbu!

The strength of the Nepalese people is astounding! I am amazed at how much weight they can lift. Additionally, their endurance is second to none.

The strength of the Nepalese people is astounding! I am amazed at how much weight they can lift. Additionally, their endurance is second to none.

Another photo of this guy carrying what I swear was at least a couple of hundred lbs.

Another photo of this guy carrying what I swear was at least a couple of hundred lbs.

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Bagh-chal (Tiger) game. This is a Nepalese game involving 2 players. One player controls 4 tigers and the other player controls up to 20 goats . . . The tiger hunts the goats, while the goats try to block the tigers movements. Apparently, the goal of the tiger is to capture 5 goats and the person with the goats wins if he blocks all the tigers movements. Fascinating game.

Now I know why they have power outages . . . Imagine you're an electrician and you have to figure out this "spaghetti" mess.

Now I know why they have power outages . . . Imagine you’re an electrician and you have to figure out this “spaghetti” mess.