“ Before the early 1800s the only visitors to Nepal from outside Asia were the British−who were only next door really−the French Capucin priests and an occasional German or Russian explorer who had wandered over the border from Tibet.
A place of legend it had an esoteric reputation. Kathmandu Valley was ‘hidden’, a Khembalung, or Shangri La. But that’s not how it presents itself today, at least I thought not as I negotiated my way through streets noisy and dusty with countless building activities, high-rise apartment blocks, and cars of every make, size and colour.
Older people told me they remember rice patches inside domestic courtyards and rice and wheat being threshed on the mud roads. Now they are still threshed on the roads but under the wheels of the many cars. Despite modern amenities do the old look back with regret - do they look back to the village?
Which brings me to this place I found in a corner of Lalitpur municipality. Patan or Lalitpur still retains its ancient toles and is essentially much like the medieval town it once was. It’s outlying phalanges once led into the countryside without pause but are now part of a nascent conurbation.
Still, however, these phalanges provide hubs of respite, places where washerwomen can still do their laundry in ancient ponds or weavers and silversmiths can set up shop and ply their trades.
Where would one stay if one wished to go ‘back to the village’ without sacrificing the creature comforts? In such a frame of mind I wandered into and out of the Jawalakhel Zoo, asked for and was pointed towards the Swiss Embassy, and set off towards ‘Ekanta Kuna’ (a quiet corner), the name the original owner gave this Rana mansion house.
On the way, I found what I was looking for, a place described by a writer colleague as a ‘garden of birds’, Shaligram Village, the location of Shaligram apartment hotel. Situated just as she described it next to the entrance to an old family temple, Shaligram Village provides a sense of community, a place ‘far from the madding crowd’ without gating everything away for good. I decided to stay and throughout my time there came to appreciate why my colleague had called it a garden of birds.
Others may speak of the amenities, the excellent restaurants close at hand, the generous apartments with kitchen facilities and the warmth of the staff. I wandered in, in a serendipity way, and stayed. Since then I have enjoyed the sound of the first cuckoo in Spring, the hoot of the night owl and the cooing of doves. I have seen little children gathering ladybirds for the pleasure of watching them ‘fly away home’, every hue of butterfly visits; and I have watched as the next generation of swimmers splash and laugh in the pool. At night the jasmine perfumes my sleep and sometimes I am even able to reach out and gather fresh plums and persimmons from the boughs.
I don’t regret the journey that brought me here, off the beaten track of urban hotels and guesthouses. I don’t regret it because, as in anyone’s home village, every face is known and everyone knows your face. I decided on first sight that I would stay for a while. Why don’t you? “
(As described by 'The Wanderer')
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