By Kripa Joshi
No matter how many times we have heard it, or how publicized the fact is, one has to be in the moment to truly fathom the rich culture of this fascinating country, Nepal. And I know just the place for those of you who are tired having spent hours stuck in jams, those who have bumped over endless potholed roads and want to just take a deep breath of relief. The simple solution is to just drive away. Things are changing and you now have multiple destinations to choose from not just Pokhara or Mustang. One such option is Bandipur — a home away from home where the art and culture is much more evident than one can find in the Kathmandu Valley.
Bandipur is a quiet, secluded and beloved hilltop settlement in Tanahun district of western Nepal. Bandipur has the look and feel of a place which has has come relatively unscathed through the ravages of time. It is not the place to find adventure or adrenaline rush, but a place to be at peace and enjoy finer things in life. As Bandipur lies between Kathmandu and Pokhara, a side trip of a day or two while traveling from Kathmandu or Pokhara is well worth the time and money spent.
One can find the evidence of Bandipur being an ancient settlement by its vibrant culture, the magnificent Newari house that is draped with the curtain of colorful flowers. I must say these houses don’t look any less beautiful than the houses we find around Italy. The long streets with café and little bakery shops in the sidewalks is the other attraction of Bandipur. A great variety of accommodation now exists in this classic Newari town that used to be a bustling hub for trading in the yesteryears. But now it offers places with great view of mountains and hills.
Much to my surprise I was showered with love from the amazing people and kids I got to meet while I was there. It made the journey much more remarkable. The locals have such pleasing personality that you will never want to leave the place. They are really helpful and provide you with the most memorable experience that you have ever had. For those who want to see the real Newari Culture, to know more about daily living life of Newari, to see chicken and goats running around, I strongly advise to spend a night here in Bandipur, to relax, to enjoy the scenery, in a total quiet and serene ambiance.
Bandipur Bazaar is not a big and bustling marketplace. There aren’t exotic souvenir shops or the crowds of shoppers. It seems like time travelling into the medieval period of Nepal far from the traits of ‘modern taste’. In the past, Bandipur was a funneling point of trade made by the Newars. Today, they have successfully preserved its culture and architecture. Bandipur bazaar is filled with distinctly recognizable ancient Newari buildings, house carvings and house designs. Walk through the Bandipur bazaar and be amazed by the artistic buildings, humbled by the simple yet contentful lives of locals and happy that you finally found a place to be at peace. A traveler’s hidden haven, Bandipur provides much-needed tranquility and peace which are severely lacking in other famous tourist spots of Nepal.
Enjoying majestic sunset is a must if you are in Bandipur. The best spot to do so is on top of a hill named Gurungche. Ask around locals for the direction of Gurungche hill which isn’t far and just sits in the north-east direction of Bandipur bazaar. The hike upward the hill takes around 15 minutes and is relatively easy. On top of the hill, apart from the glorious views, there is also a temple of Thani Mai which interestingly doesn’t have a roof. Local beliefs say that the Thani Mai goddess represents light and the open-roof structure of the temple allows the goddess to spread light all around. You can relax and watch the sunset while being surrounded by a calm wheezing sound of wind. Do not forget to bring your camera as you are sure to get some picture-perfect shots here.
The hike from Bandipur to Siddha Cave should be a priority while you are in Bandipur. The hike is downhill and takes 1-2 hours depending on your pace. The route zigzags through a forest so you can get some much-needed tranquility and peace from the outside world. However, be careful as there are not many direction signs. Simply choose the road which looks more travelled.
Siddha Cave is the biggest natural cave in Nepal. Though the entrance is small, the cave is humongous inside. It is also terribly cold. Also, bring a bright torchlight as the ones which you will be provided aren’t nearly bright enough. You can see bats and some limestone structures which loosely resemble cauliflowers, crowns, seashells etc.
The best way to get to Bandipur from Kathmandu is to take a tourist bus to Dumre and then hike the rest of the way to Bandipur. From Dumre, you can take a 4×4 jeep to Bandipur at a price of around Rs.500 or you can hike up to Bandipur which will take around 3 hours. We recommend the latter. There are also local buses going to Bandipur from Dumre which only cost Rs 20.
About the Author
Kripa is an aspiring travel writer and blogger. She is currently studying BBA at Ace International Business School. She has also worked at AIESEC Nepal. She loves to travel and write in her spare time. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org