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On the road to Bandipur

Nepal day seven

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Near Tiger Tops Tharu

We were up early to pack before breakfast as we were being picked up at eight. The Tiger Tops staff gave us a friendly send-off but we weren't sorry to be saying goodbye to our rather cramped and damp tent.

Our driver Nar arrived on time, and we said goodbye to fellow Selective Asia travellers Norman and Dorcas, with whom we'd spent a fair bit of time over the last few days. They were going straight to Pokhara while we were to spend a couple of nights in Bandipur first.

We drove back along the roadworks-strewn road we'd travelled here on, very bumpy and dusty. But there was always something interesting to see, of course.




On the road to Manakamana


Eventually we got on to a better and more scenic road, following a river and starting to climb.

Near Manakamana

Our tour company, Selective Asia, had suggested that we break the long drive from Chitwan to Bandipur with a ride up to the temple at Manakamana and I had agreed, as I love a cable car ride. I was expecting a ride to a viewpoint overlooking the mountains, perhaps with a café, and of course some sort of temple. But what we found there both surprised and enthralled me.

Until 1998 when this cable car (the first of its kind in Nepal) opened, temple pilgrims had to make the long slog up the hill on foot. Today they are whisked up the nearly three kilometres in around ten minutes. The cable car, the vision of local businessman Laxman Babu, has transformed access to the temple for them and opened it up to tourism.

The Manakamana cable car

First we had to board and the queue to do so was long. Perhaps that should have given me a clue that this was going to be a rather different experience to the one I’d anticipated. We shuffled forwards but when we got to the ticket checkpoint part way along we were taken aside and told we needn't queue as we had 'foreigner privilege tickets'! We were ushered on board the next car along with a friendly couple from Singapore and enjoyed the ride up with them.

The views on the way up, looking down to the rice terraces below and along the valley, were wonderful.




Views from the cable car

As soon as we alighted we realised that this was no relaxing viewpoint! Instead we were faced with a real assault on the senses, the town that has grown up around the temple. And we loved it! So much colour, so much activity, so much buzz.

The streets were lined with stalls selling everything from the most obvious (garlands, temple scarves, beads, images of the gods, lamps and incense) to the more surprising such as children’s toys. When we asked a guide about the latter later in the trip he had a simple explanation. Parents often need something to pacify a fractious child on a pilgrimage they are too young to understand or appreciate. Some stalls offered chickens and goats which I am sure were destined to be sacrificed at the temple. There were also items aimed more at the tourist market, such as wood carvings, but they were in the minority. This town clearly caters primarily to worshippers.

On the streets of Manakamana




Come and buy!


On the streets of Manakamana

The coloured scarves worn by many temple visitors were, I also learned later, a more durable substitute for the traditional marigold garlands. Many pilgrims like to collect scarves from every temple they visit as a record of their devotion.

With no idea where we were going we simply followed everyone else, taking photos as we went and stopping off for a cold drink in one of the cafés. Eventually our steps led us to the temple, as we had hoped. It was surrounded by people and pigeons, full of noise and activity, and positioned with a stunning view towards the Himalayas.

Manakamana Temple

Bells were ringing constantly as they sent their prayers upwards. Signs said no photos of the temple were permitted but everyone was taking them, so we joined in, but avoiding close-ups of the shrine itself.


Manakamana Temple

There has been a temple on this site since the 17th century, although the current building dates primarily from the 19th. It has been often restored, most recently after the 2015 earthquake. The temple is dedicated to the goddess Bhagwati, an incarnation of Parvati. The name ‘Manakamana’ means ‘wishes of the heart’; pilgrims visiting here believe their wishes will be granted by the goddess. I found the following story about the founding of the temple:

The Queen of the 17th century Gorkha King, Rama Shah, was said to have magical powers that only her devotee, Lakhan Thapa, knew about. One day the Queen’s husband became aware of her secret when he saw her in the form of a goddess and Lakhan Thapa in the form of a Lion. Soon thereafter the King mysteriously died and the Queen, as was the custom of the day, committed sati (ritual immolation) upon her husband’s funeral pyre. Prior to her death, the Queen had promised her devotee Lakhan Thapa that he would soon again see her. Some time later while plowing a field, a farmer discovered a stone from which blood and milk were pouring. When Lakhan Thapa learned of this he was convinced it was a sign from the dead queen, and at the site where the stone had been discovered he constructed a temple in her honor.

Source: Sacred Sites

At Manakamana Temple

The views from the terrace where the temple stands were awesome.

View from Manakamana Temple

At Manakamana Temple

When I reviewed the shots I took here later, I found I had been photo-bombed. Yes, I could easily crop or clone the fly out but I thought this was rather fun!

View from Manakamana Temple, with fly

Onwards to Bandipur

Eventually we decided we should go back down to meet up with Nar. The queues to do so were much shorter than coming up, the views were even better, and Nar was waiting for us at the foot.

We continued our drive but soon encountered a traffic jam, with a broken-down lorry blocking the opposite side of the road. Luckily we weren't held up for long. A little later Nar suggested a stop, choosing a cafe with wonderful views and excellent coffee.

Stop on the road to Bandipur

From there it wasn't too far to Bandipur. We turned off the main road and started to climb, with views of the Himalayas opening up to our left. The old part of the town is closed to traffic so Nar had to park on the outskirts. He'd already called our hotel, the Old Inn, to tell them we were about to arrive, and two staff were at the parking place to meet us. The young girl made light work of pulling our larger heavy suitcase up the hill and even up some steps.


We reached the hotel, in a beautiful old building, and checked in. We had a large room on the second floor with a view of all the action on the street below.

The Old Inn, Bandipur


Our room

We unpacked a bit to give our clothes a chance to air out after Tiger Tops, then went downstairs to get online. But the WiFi connection was frustratingly poor so we went out to see if we could find better in a café. We did, but not for long, so we resigned ourselves to having only limited connectivity for our two days here.

Instead we took a walk along the main street, checking out possible restaurants for dinner tonight and of course taking photos. Two boys took great interest in my camera, so I let them look through the viewfinder and have a go at pressing the shutter. Their efforts weren't great, but they obviously enjoyed trying. I thought afterwards that they were probably unused to seeing someone use a viewfinder rather than a screen to compose and shoot, as on a phone.




Bandipur scenes and details

Back at the hotel we enjoyed the view from the rear terrace as the sun set on the Himalayas.

Evening view from the Old Inn

When we went out in the evening it was to find many of the shops, restaurants etc lining the main street lit up with strings of coloured lights. We weren’t sure if this was for Diwali (which had finished a few days previously) or a regular feature of the town, but it was very pretty whatever the reason.


Bandipur at night

After checking out several restaurants we settled on one with a few other customers and a raised terrace with a view of the street. It was just about mild enough to eat outside. We shared a plate of vegetable momos then both had dal bhat - mine veggie, Chris's with chicken curry. Washed down with a couple of Gorkha beers it made a pleasant enough meal, and we enjoyed watching the Bandipur world go by. Tomorrow we would explore more thoroughly.

Posted by ToonSarah 11:37 Archived in Nepal Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises mountains temple hotel roads nepal cable_car street_photography

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Beautiful views from the top of the cable car. Bandipur looks pretty by night with the strings of lights.

by irenevt

Thanks Irene, glad you're enjoying my Nepal posts :) I will catch up with your posts too one day!

by ToonSarah

I too am glad that you didn't edit your photobomber :)

Manakamana looks interesting and Bandipur relaxing :)

by hennaonthetrek

Thanks Henna, I loved both places!

by ToonSarah

quite a day with photobombing and everything!

by Ils1976

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