A colleague of mine had told me that the Kathmandu valley was perfect for a fortnight break, rather deciding to visit several areas demanding long hours on the road. With a more leisurely appraisal of an area of particular merit, we would see much more of the way people live. And so it turned out.
We followed his piece of advice, bought plane tickets and booked a hotel room in Kathmandu as a base for exploring the surrounding towns throughout the Unesco Heritage site that constitutes the Kathmandu Valley. If you are planning a visit to the Kathmandu region, our experiences and tips will definitely be of help.
The town of Sanga, about twelve miles east of Kathmandu, boasts one of the world tallest Shiva statues. We were fortunate that the day of our visit happened to be a Shivaist religious festival. As a result, the road that led to the temple was packed with pilgrims and street vendors. The men were mostly dressed in white kurtas while women wore coloured saris or salwar kameez. The statue is built on the top of the hill but you have to descend long flights of steps, pay your respect to the various small altars that are built on the way down and then go up again. Many benches are scattered on the way up to provide people a place to rest
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Literally, “place where tigers play”, Dhulikhel is a pleasant city some twenty miles east of Kathmandu. We met absolutely no tourist despite its proximity to the popular areas. It is a good base for hillwalking in the Himalayan foothills. The old city is an intriguing medieval area, although some of the buildings have collapsed following the devastating earthquake in 2015.
Life progresses at a slow pace on the main square where families gather, cook and play music behind a small temple. Dhulikhel was an entertaining half-day stop that left us time to make images of people and chat with them
Panauti is one of the earliest medieval towns in Nepal and is home to the country’s oldest temple. In ancient times the settlement developed along the salt-trade route between Tibet and India. Today, apart from the temple, the old part of the city has disappeared. Although we did not spend a long time in the town we were lucky to arrive in the middle of a religious festival. We seem to have a knack for this. The women’s clothes were again an explosion of colours
From Nagarkot, if you are lucky, you can view part of the Himalayan range, including Everest. The sky was clear when we left Kathmandu but when we arrived at Nagarkot, the Himalayas were shrouded in the clouds. You could catch a glimpse of the peaks only when the clouds cleared up for a few minutes.
Fortunately, Saturday is the Nepalese weekend so we discovered a large field where women were entertaining themselves by dancing while the men were tending the barbecue or playing cards. On the way back to Kathmandu via Chandu Narayan, we stopped at a roadside farm where we met some of the farmers; it was a welcome break from the winding road and the ever-intrusive potholes
Approaching Kathmandu, we still had a few opportunities to take shots either from the car or during brief stops. Thanks to the poor state of the roads, you rarely reach 15 mph, so it’s fairly easy to stop whenever the fancy takes you.
I had packed my recently acquired Ricoh GR2 for the trip to Nepal. Most photography sites seem to honour the GR family as the ultimate street cameras. I always find these comments rather limiting because the GR is a pretty able camera that is very versatile, not just for what many imagine is “street photography” but as a very compact camera well suited to travel.
It is good for architectural images, landscapes, environmental portraits and of course street shots. The crop mode allows you to keep a distance when needed and not push your camera into to people’s noses. It is stealthy enough not to frighten people and just looks like a point-and-shoot camera but is packed with a 16MP APS-C sensor and a really sharp 18.3 mm f/2.8 lens (28 mm full frame equivalent).
Throughout the fortnight break, I shot using the positive film simulation with apertures varying between f/5.6 and f/8 in most cases. One problem with this camera, though, is that it tends to attract dust. I tend to dust-proof mine with Sellotape on the lens hood, combined with a UV filter to protect the lens. Otherwise, the sensor would have been spoiled within a day, thanks to the retractable lens and its propensity to trap dust.