Bandipur Bucks the Trend

My first stroll through the village of Bandipur shows some concerted effort to maintain the central market area’s original appearance and ambiance. Lonely Planet guidebook even goes so far as to say that the central plaza, with its storefront cafes and restaurants, has a “European feel” to it. If that means clean streets, a semblance of architectural continuity and integration, and a relaxed, vehicle-free area that privileges pedestrians, then maybe so. I learned later that as little as five years ago there were parts that were unpaved by the big slate slabs and thus little more than a muddy path. Now, however, the main ridge-top pathway is all done in large stones that, due to a high silica content, shine in the afternoon sun.

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The area was a bustling hub of trade coming from India to the south and Tibet to the north in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was a funnel that the Newar state thought strategic, and its altitude helped it remain malaria free. All went well until the Kathmandu > Pokhara highway was built in the early 1970s, which bypassed Bandipur and caused a major decline in economic livelihood. “The people were not easily and readily sidestepped by the construction of the road and fought for a different route in the planning process. In the 1970s, when the first demonstrations for democracy took place in Nepal, the people of Bandipur stormed the little garrison. Several people were killed and the soldiers fled. Again, when the district headquarters were to be moved, the people demonstrated and occupied the administration. The civil servants fled during the night. Even the king was flown in by helicopter to calm the situation. However, the decline of the little town could not be reversed.” (Wikipedia)

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I make it to a guest house’s back terrace where I’m the only person enjoying the western view to the mountains. Of course there is some construction but otherwise, it’s quite pleasant and compensates for the watery coffee. I will try again.

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For the first time in what feels like months, I am not awoken in the middle of the night by voices, barking, or roosters. Yes, the foxes come around but they coincide with the usual 2:30 a.m. toilet run, and I am soon back to sleep. This rest does more to heal me than anything else.

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