NEPAL’S BANDIPUR: A LIVING MUSEUM
An ancient, natural, fortified market town, Bandipur is a little jewel often overlooked by tourists visiting Nepal. It is Nepal’s best kept secret, and still provides that rare experience of being discovered for the first time. This small town is approximately 150 kilometres from Kathmandu enroute to Pokhara. It provides an unrivaled view of the Himalayan panorama and overlooks the Marsyangdi river valley and highlights the Newari culture, once vibrant in Kathmandu but now rarely visible, in its authentic form. One of Nepal’s bestkept towns, it is home to the Newari people and a living museum of Newari culture – a beautifully preserved village crowning a lofty ridge, its main street lined with traditional row houses. Time seems to have stood still here, although it has taken a lot of effort to preserve this magic while developing the town as a destination. Derelict buildings have been reborn as cafes and lodges, and temples and civic buildings have been pulled back from the edge of ruin. With its attractive 18th-century architecture, pedestrian zone and outdoor dining, it has a distinctly European feel. Its eagle nest location, idyllic farms and orange groves make it a stunning destination..
The Newars are Nepal’s historical inhabitants, which is why the majority of its striking architecture reflects the Newar’s imprint. While walking through Bandipur you can’t ignore the red-brick mansions, courtyards and bronze ornamentation which gives an idea of what the ancient Newari town of Kathmandu would have looked like in olden times, before it was overrun with shops and tourists. Many of these stunning buildings have been renovated and turned into accommodation for tourists wanting to break up their journey between Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Bandipur is a winding, fifteen minute drive from the highway town of Dumre, midway between Kathmandu and Pokhara. It was on a chance detour we took on our way to Pokhara that I happened upon Bandipur, enroute to Kathmandu. What we found was a revelation of Nepal’s best-kept secrets. Our plan was to halt at Bandipur for half an hour for breakfast but the tranquillity of the place overtook us and we spent the next many hours exploring it, not wanting to leave at all.
Bandipur was originally a part of the Magar kingdom of Tanahun, ruled from nearby Palpa (Tansen), but Newari traders flooded in from Bhaktapur and Kathmandu after the conquest of the valley by Prithvi Narayan Shah. The town was an important stop on the India-tibet trade route until it was bypassed by the Prithvi Hwy in the 1960s. In the 1800s, Bandipur grew in wealth, as traders came loaded from Tibet with musk pods, mountain herbs, animal skins, and horses. Calico, tobacco, glassware, and kerosene came in from British India. However, when Nepal opened its doors to the world in the 1950s,
Time seems to have stood still in Bandipur