Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Living Museum

The villages of Bungamati and Kokhana are only 8 km from city of Kathmandu, but they look like they belong to another era. These rural villages lie right next to each other and date back to the 16th century.

 Bungamati from a hill

Here,  traditional Newari life still thrives the way it did centuries ago. Bungamati is known for its skilled woodworkers.

The dwellings were made of brick and wooden windows. 

Khokana is a 15-minute walk away from Bungamati. Our leisurely trek to the next village gave us a chance to ask our guide questions about the era when the hippies all flocked to Katmandu in the 60s and early 70's.  Apparently, hashish was abundant and legal (the sadhus, Nepalese holy men, use them with regularity)  and many hippies chose Kathmandu as an "enlightened" destination or even a place to live. Possession of hashish by regular citizens has been illegal since 1973.

Then he pointed to the side of the road...

well what do you know...marijuana plants just growing there, like a..um..weed?

They were just there on the side on the road, and our guide treated it like "oh yes, marijuana--there are some here..(ho hum)" and didn't give it much attention!

Walking through Bungamati and Khokana is walking though a living museum. The whole scene could actually pass off as a tourist set up, but everything felt so authentic, it had to be the real thing. 

See that bronze (or copper) basin used to wash laundry? It's just a regular palangana for them! I was so tempted to buy it off the laundry woman (For what? to use for a foot spa!) right there and then. There were lots for sale in the stalls in Thamel in Kathmandu, but I just didn't know how I was going to take it home.

A metal stall in Thamel, Kathmandu

Khokana is also known for producing mustard seed oil. I don't know exactly what it's used for, but I bought myself a small bottle to try out for a massage. I believe in supporting local production of anything, and since we weren't going to be taking home any marijuana...

Even our guides bought themselves the mustard oil

And even how rural this place was, some parts of it were paved with what looked to me like Indian slate! This of course could be Nepalese slate, but whatever its provenance, this stone is quite expensive and I only see them in affluent homes here in Manila.

All activities happen outdoors--men carving, women weaving, washing laundry, washing hair...

Bungamati and Kokhana were a nice leisurely break from the city chaos of Katmandu. It's definitely worth a visit.

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