The long, lazy morning of Bandipur
Trip Start Nov 15, 2005
248Trip End Aug 15, 2008
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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
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'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
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.