The long, lazy morning of Bandipur

Trip Start Nov 15, 2005
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Trip End Aug 15, 2008


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Where I stayed
Bandipur Guest House

Flag of Nepal  ,
Wednesday, June 11, 2008

 Fortunately, Bandipur more than made up for the disappointment of Gorkha. Only visiting here on the recommendation of a friend, I discovered a beautiful little town, attractive in a way that seems so lacking in most Asian countries. So typical of a colonial hill station, but for the fact that Nepal has never been colonised - this is all home grown.

Bandipur is the product of Newari artisans, a minority of the Kathmandu valley well known and respected for their craftsmanship. A hill tribe so conveniently located on major trading routes, they have been exposed to skilled artists from many cultures, and have taken elements from many to create their own, distinctive style. The one street running through town, flagstoned and blessedly free of motorised transport, is all elegant brick and wood exteriors, carved roof struts and Mediterranean style shuttered windows, leading to the tiny town square; hordes of children, grubby and adorable, run and scream, playing games about the cafe tables and the miniscule but beautifully proportioned temple and library; a symbol of the town's once-important status. Though the town is now mostly ignored (beyond the handful of tourists that pass through) since the construction of the road through the valley beneath, the library remains open and still is in constant use. Plants and flowers grow everywhere, as if coming through from the verdant surrounding hills. The open shop fronts beneath overhanging porches of the lower floors give glimpses of wooden interiors, dark but solidly constructed, though sometimes in much need of a clean.

Not the most developed town in Nepal, the atmosphere of the town benefits enormously from the lack of cars and bikes, tv and blaring radios. People walk slowly and smile more; they stop to talk with their neighbours. Hordes of children safely play in the street throughout the early morning, until the endless streams drift off to school at 10, initially thought surprisingly late. In the evenings they return to run around until nightfall; the town is almost all asleep by 9.30.

Though smaller than Gorkha, Bandipur caters to tourists in a much better way. A half dozen hotels, about the same amount of cafe/restaurants and a tourist office! Admittedly never attended (that I noticed), but a tourist office nonetheless. With the help of EU funding, tourism has been well controlled here. An industry that could have overrun and destroyed such a small community has been held in check. There are no souvenier shops lining the streets, no travel agencies, only the same grocery shops that have probably been here for years, the owners with no concept of 'tourist prices'. They have even produced a useful, local area map, suggesting short walks about the hills. Even better,  nobody hassles the few tourists that are in town. None of the 'one sweet, one school pen, one rupee' that plagues Kathmandu and Pokhara, and if people act sensibly and don't give when that eventually starts (an inevitability, I'm afraid), it may never really appear. This is a relatively prosperous, rural community; they don't need to become reliant on the tourist dollar. So the service may be a little slow on occasion, what does it matter? This isn't a place where anything needs to be rushed.

There's just one area where some improvement is needed - hotel staff. Specifically, at the Bandipur Guest House. Ideally located where the jeeps drop you off before town and not lacking in character, they captured the lions' share of the business in town. Which is quite unfortunate, because other places have cheaper, cleaner, more airy rooms, and much nicer staff. Also, the staff of the Bandipur are all smiles until it comes to complaints. Say, if a guest, not having been informed of the curfew, is locked out and would have had to sleep in the street with the stray dogs were it not for the kindness of a guest at another hotel, fortunately still awake and possessive of a spare bed (thanks again, Carlos!) They were really quite rude with me, wouldn't admit they were in the wrong, still tried to charge me for that night, and then tried to overcharge for the remainder. I wasn't ever so happy. The Pradhan guest house, on the other hand, were far more pleasant and accommodating.

There's really very little to do in Bandipur. Even so, I manged to spend four days here. One was occupied with a walk out to Ramkot, a village some two hours distant, through settlements of the Gurung and Magar ethnic groups. A pleasant walk, it was great to experience the hospitable, local life of these places. Ever ready with a cup of chiya (sweet, milky tea), one Gurung family were especially kind, providing us with shelter from the midday sun and something to help us on our way - much needed, since between the three of us walking, we had only remembered to bring a couple of litres of water and one packet of biscuits. Not much for a four hour round trip! Despite the lack of verbal understanding, we still managed to communicate a surprising amount; we learned of the beautifully weathered matriarch's son and daughter, working in Utah and Hong Kong (respectively), and she seemed quite taken with the music of Coldplay; she wasn't shy about dancing, either. I'm not quite sure anyone managed to get Marc's impression of a baboon, though. Me included. On the return journey, we were taking a short break there again as the local schoolchildren stopped off on their way home. I guess the two hour walk to school explains why the schools start so late in Bandipur, and why the children always seemed to outnumber the adults five to one.

As is so often the case, the people I met here helped persuade me to stay a little longer than planned. A typical, lazy morning in Bandipur would involve meeting for breakfast at one of the street side cafes, watching as the morning school run would build up and suddenly dissipate; after that, a second cafe, a little closer to the small library and main square, quieter without the children and centre for what little activity was taking place. Around midday, our cafe migration would progress to the shady 'Ke Garne', out of the sun with beautiful views of the surrounding hills, where we could finally consider doing something with the day. Let's hope this place doesn't change anytime soon.
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Comments

starlagurl
starlagurl on

Very nice...
Looks like you found a little slice of paradise. Keep it up!

Louise Brown
TravelPod Community Manager

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