Travel Notes from Chapagaon, Nepal
I had a choice: it's either i explore Chapagaon since i am already in Patan (Lalitpur) or i venture to the other side near Bhaktapur to Sankhu. I chose the former because it was more convenient. I reckon i can do Sankhu on my next visit. I found myself on the same walk going to Lagankhel Bus Park. As usual, the smell of jasmine, incense and burning fuel still envelopes the air outside the durbar square. I looked for a bus heading to Chapagaon, but instead of a bus, i found a mini-van. It appears as if there are only a few trips that day so i managed like a scout and rode on this particular van. Even if i only had half a seat, and the waiting time took more then 20 minutes on an enclosed dilapidated van, i was getting excited to visit Chapagaon. Again, most people I've talked in Patan know of the area but haven't visited which made me giggle in excitement. The mini van started to roll at around 12NN. The time estimates here are always conservative. The trip from Patan to Chapagaon didn't take too long. And the approximate 1-hour trip ended up only about 30 minutes.
When i arrived in Chapagaon, i saw a signage of the Bajrabahari Temple but all words are in Nepali. I trusted my instincts and went up to the gate. I walked further north and see the vast open woods. I've read about the rich bird sanctuary in this area. The sign in the north entrance helped me a little identify a few birds scrambling around the thick forest. A few minutes later, a blasting sound was heard. As i approach, i discovered a family dancing and obviously, on a picnic. On one side, a group of about 50 Gurkhas were stationed eating Dahl Bat. Chapagaon is almost forgotten. There were no tourists and you can only get by pre-reading as there's no information stated in any of the desk. But once you step in the square near the temple, you could almost imagine how it must have been hundreds of years ago. The temple is situated in the middle of the forest so it made the trip there more cinematic. There were a few elderly chaps sitting by the steps and bewildered by me. I smiled, and felt at home immediately.
An hour later, i found myself walking east towards a highway overlooking the valley. I told myself that if i walk straight i will be lead to an even more amazing view. Of course, it wasn't the case. Walking for about 5 kilometers lead me to a dead-end. I stopped for a bit, and finished the remaining water i have in my bottle, and asked for directions. True enough, i was already located outside Chapagaon in an unheard town i sadly forgot. They pointed me to go back where i was and head south instead. I followed their advice and continued walking.
If the temples littered around Chapagaon were located in an isolated ground, this would definitely have the Angkor Wat and/or Bagan feel. But the structures were located along the highway, next to a house where a family of five lives, next to a shop where school products are sold, and definitely next to a water tank infiltrated by green molasses. As i walked some more, i realized how off the beaten path this place is. When i started taking photos of the house exteriors, everyone looked at me and they started chatting about me. I nodded in Nepali and told them i am a tourist, and continued on with my quest to take more amazing stills. At each direction, a dead-end appears, whether be it a steep cliff, or rice paddies. I saw an old man playing a flute in one corner. In this day and age, have you ever seen a man play the flute that's not for show? I paused for a bit and listed to him. His music is so beautiful that i have recorded it on my GoPro. Back at home, you would pay premium to watch a musician perform, here in Chapagaon, you end getting lost and you can watch a star reborn. I remembered someone asked me where i was from. And i remember telling the curious man about my home town. A few minutes later, i stumbled upon a seller. I was going to ask him for the bus to Lele Valley when he asked me if i was from the Philippines. This is how small Chapagaon is. People know everyone.
After waiting for half an hour without any sign of a public bus heading to Lele, i decided to forego my plan and just stay in Chapagaon instead. The remaining hours lead me to public baths, even more emerald looking rice paddies and old local people impossibly walking up and down the gravel staircases. It's little instances like this that you feel how fortunate our lives are back in the comfort of our homes, where a taxi comes in handy to cool off during midday. This couple whom i met while i was scrambling to go on top must be aged between 70 to 80 years old. The old man is resting and catching his breath while the old woman is rubbing his back. I stopped for that moment. It was so beautiful to watch. This particular incident cemented my love for Chapagaon. Sadly, there were no hotels or guest houses in Chapagaon. If there was, i would have stayed at least a night here.
The trip to Chapagaon satisfied my urge to visit off the beaten path places in the Kathmandu Valley. True, i couldn't find any restaurant serving food other than dahl bat and momo, and walking is the only means to go from north to south, but the feeling of discovering this place is so worthwhile. Chapagaon is a superstar. I could literally see Chapagaon to exist in every tourist's itinerary five years from now.
Because at that day, i was going to no particular direction at all, i stumbled upon a farmer who wanted to help me get to where i want to go. But of course, it would be too hard for him to understand if i tell him that i just want to go for a walk and i'm heading nowhere in particular. He started smiling at me as i take continuous shots of the rice paddies and every cobbled step i see. Minutes later, he started to descend to another village and i saw him wave his hands to say goodbye to me. Oh, Nepal! I am so in love with you. ;)