Bungamati chronicles

Text by Anuj D. Adhikari / Photo: Anuj Adhikary

Explore an ancient Newari town and pay homage to the gods on an early morning bike ride to the southern outskirts of the city

Skip breakfast because we’ll be riding south towards Nakkhu before dawn. There’s no sugarcoating the first climb to Bhaisepati. With all your might, pedal up to Love Chautara and regain your breath while watching the sunrise if you make it here early enough. No problem if you don’t as the place is better known for its sunset views. The warm-up climb may be somewhat daunting, but what goes up must come down. Take a right as you go downhill from the chautara on a bumpy road that leads to Karyabinayak Temple. Make sure your brakes work fine.

Five minutes on narrow paved roads leads you to Karyabinayak which will already be bustling with a horde of devotees. An engaging conversation with your buddies over fresh tea and the alu chana you get here makes for a splendid breakfast. Note that this is the wrong place to answer nature’s call because the dark, filthy loo is disgusting. A much cleaner one awaits at our next checkpoint in Bungamati.

Follow the road that leads you to Bungamati and be greeted by a strong smell of shampoo as you reach the cobbled alleys. As you may have guessed, many here love bathing in the sun. Navigate towards the mystical courtyard of the Shikhara-style Rato Macchindranath temple that dates back to the 6th century. The massive courtyard surrounded by row houses constructed in traditional Newari style lies at the heart of the old town and is the community’s cornerstone for religious ceremonies, public events and town meetings.

Equally fascinating is observing the locals busy with their usual rituals. Kids play dandibiyo (now on the list of endangered games, right after chungi and guccha, courtesy of PSPs and free WiFi). Women neatly assort rice grains and corn kernels after running their water and cleaning errands. Men and dogs bask in the sun. Leashed goats that survived Dashain stand stoic and motionless. Ducks that survived Tihar outnumber people three to one and wander about aimlessly.

Options to eat are quite limited at the temple premises though warm donuts in the cozy and nicely decorated Tagachiwa Café should provide temporary relief. It would’ve helped if the café guy wasn’t a chain smoker, but feel free to eat outside while enjoying the views. Eavesdrop on a rather interesting elderly gentleman in the café rant about the upcoming elections, his tirade strewn with expletives - definitely not for the faint of heart! A signboard points to a clean and well-maintained toilet which discriminately charges Rs. 5 for Nepalese and double that for foreigners. The horrendous drawings of a man and a woman on the toilet door is sure to make you smile.

Trying not to get lost, maneuver through a maze of identical alleyways and get the last glimpses of the town before you reach the main street. From here, make your way back to the familiar Love Chautara, retracing your ride to the city.

From Top to Bottom:

Locals spend time basking in the sun during Saturdays on winter season.

Ride through back alleys of Bungamati to get up close with Newari culture and architecture.

Community ponds like this one come alive with locals at the break of dawn.

Route: Nakkhu - Bhaisepati - Karyabinayak - Bungamati -         Bhaisepati - Nakkhu
Distance: 16 kms
Time taken: Approx. 3 hours (with breaks)