Bhaktapur Nepal | City of Culture & Town of Devotees

Bhaktapur Nepal - Residents off to work?

One of the gates to the city of Bhaktapur Nepal.

We arrived around 8:30 on a January morning to a city enshrouded in mist – one of the most magical sights I’ve ever experienced.

We came from the west, having spent a night in Kathmandu about 10 miles away; and the van we hired let us off at a ticket booth just outside one of the gates. The entrance fee cost US$10, which I only remember because the ticket was printed specifically in English, with a US price listed on top.

Bhaktapur Nepal the Town of Devotees

Early morning fog added a magical quality to Bhaktapur Nepal.

The residents of Bhaktapur were just coming awake, though the shrines and temples all stood silent and somnolent.  Though everything seemed to lie still, we could sense movement here and there. People hurrying off to work, the farms, or wherever they go so early on a January morning.

Even the 3 year old who insisted on accompanying us on this day trip seemed to feel the peace of the place. He was unusually quiet for a young person just coming out of his terrible twos – for the first hour anyway.

As the fog rose and dissipated, the city woke up and came alive. Architectural detail became more apparent, and we all could readily appreciate the craftsmanship of each individually carved window and each tribute to the deities.

Bhaktapur is an ancient city, and once served as the capitol of Kathmandu Valley in Nepal through the 14th through 16th centuries, which may explain so much artistic splendor in the architecture.  However, a 1934 earthquake destroyed many of the temples and buildings in Durbar Square. The German government helped restore much of the city in the 70’s and 80’s, reviving many medieval structures.

Exploring a Bhaktapur Nepal residential neighborhood.

A winding passage through a Bhaktapur residential area.

Despite the significant help from Germany, Bhaktapur inhabitants are very self-sufficient. They farm the surrounding countryside and continue to chip away at ancient stone and wood to maintain the temples and homes within the city walls.  You’ll see scaffolding everywhere, as restoration continues on.

Most of the workers and Bhaktapur inhabitants are Newars, a people grouped by the common language called Nepal Bhasa. The Newaris primarily practice Hinduism, though about 15 percent are Buddhists.

TIP #1: When traveling India and Nepal, don’t be surprised to see specific ticket windows for the natives and separate windows for foreigners or tourists. The fees will differ too.

TIP#2: Some areas of Bhaktapur are off limits to non-Hindus. These areas will be guarded, so no worries about accidentally violating someone’s sacred space.

NOTE: You should know that there are THREE Durbar Squares in the Kathmandu Valley, one at Bhaktapur, one in Patan, and the third in the city of Kathmandu itself – and that UNESCO (or the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) lists the entire valley as a World Heritage Site.

AlternaWeddings Go Global

I have had the honor of marrying people to each other—close friends and friends of friends—in a handful of weddings that have taken place in various settings, states and countries*. But I think everyone deserves a chance to be the center of attention and the object of adoration for a day, even if they’re not getting married. 

Reuters picked up a story from China about a woman who decided to throw herself a wedding.  She didn’t have a groom, but she had the money to get herself a wedding dress, rent a venue, hire a wedding planner and photographer, and invite 30 friends.  She even had enough for a honeymoon in Australia!  Chen Wei-yih, I salute you!

Chen Wei-yih photo from

Photo credit:

Plus I love this quote:
I was just hoping that more people would love themselves.” 

On a Psychology Today blog post entitled “Should Newlyweds Get All the Loot and Other Impolite Considerations”  Bella DePaulo, author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After had a conversation with Jaclyn Geller, author of Here Comes the Bride: Women, Weddings, and the Marriage Mystique.  Here’s what they said that I think is relevant here:

Bella: In your book, you give voice to a complaint I hear often from other single people – they are expected to subsidize all of the weddings and showers of their married friends and relatives, but the important milestones in their own lives are not similarly recognized. But what’s a person to do?

Jaclyn: I suggest that when every person turns 25 he or she gets a party. The celebrant can register for house wares, furniture, linen. He or she might even have a ceremony that involves committing to important people, one of whom might be a lover. But these material rewards would not be contingent upon finding “the one.” There wouldn’t be this mad husband-hunting mentality. It’s moving that the older generation wants to help the next generation get a start in life, but reserving this support for those in amorous couples is outrageous.

I like it!  But the part about “committing to important people” reminds me of a conversation I recently had on Facebook with some friends from high school. (Just to be clear, we were all in high school together, I wasn’t having this chat with people who are currently in high school….)  I was sharing an article I found while doing research for a client about our friend Jonas, whose wedding photography was featured on Offbeat Somehow, our back and forth joking ended up creating the idea of a group wedding for all of us in Sri Lanka (where I live).  How great an idea is that?! 

Watch this Duran Duran video, Save a Prayer–a fabulous Sri Lanka travelogue–and decide. 

Save a Prayer from the album Rio

Honestly, people rarely travel unless it’s for something as monumental as a wedding. The honeymoon is included, since we’ll already be on a gorgeous tropical island. And we’ll definitely avoid awkward questions from old aunties about when we’ll start having a family.  If they were even to be invited, I’m sure they’d be afraid to ask!    

It’d be like Muriel’s Wedding, without the legal ramifications. We’d just be sharing friendship, celebrating life and making memories. As far as I’m concerned, there is not a thing wrong with that.

I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do, I Do

On a more serious note, there is a fair amount of social discrimination worldwide toward unmarried people.  Check out the Alternatives to Marriage Project at . They fight for rights like being able to visit someone you love in a hospital without having to be blood-related or legally married to them, among other things. 

And now before you go, here are a few more things to consider:

*I’m not able to legally marry people outside of the U.S., but I can conduct the ceremony and have an official on hand to sign papers and such.

For the price of a ticket and lodging, I might be willing to travel just about anywhere for your alternawedding!  And I know a great photographer who’ll do the same…

Here’s a Multicultural Wedding Ceremony I’d be willing to perform for ya!