In front of me is the tiny village of Bandipur, its entirety fitting in my vision, replete with Newari architecture that Nepal is so famous for.
Located just 45 minutes away from Mugling, the birthplace of commercial dal-bhaat and a pitstop for the Thakali Thali, it is a little known part of this Himalayan country that I am eager to get to know.
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Monarch of Quaintness
Everyone I know in India has either been to, or plans to be in, Nepal at some point. Kathmandu, Pokhara and the Everest Base Camp are on everyone’s wishlist.
But I had never even heard of Bandipur, Nepal’s most charming town, a living museum of Newari culture.Perhaps, I think, this is because it is a trade route inhabited by farmers and traders. It’s amusing how one thinks that if we haven’t heard of a place, it may not be special. The lack of a direct flight and traffic towards Pokhara has kept Bandipur hidden for some time but that only adds to its charms.
Stunning and still untouched, clean and uncluttered, the homes blend into its natural beauty.
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Abandoned buildings have been recreated as lodges and Newari and Thakali cafes, and shrines and public buildings have been towed back from the brink of ruin.
With its striking 18th-century architecture, pedestrian precinct and alfresco dining, it has a definite European feel.
"Mutton momos and alu tama”, he says, with a cheery smile. I had asked my local friend Vivek Sherchan (who was walking me to the hotel) what my dinner would be that evening. I am caught between wanting to laze around at the hotel, soaking in the views, walking the streets and learning how to cook this special Newari dish. I have only two days in Bandipur and realise that this is too little time (who would have thought) to have scheduled for it.
The foodie in me wins and I begin by visiting the kitchen at my friend’s place. I am sous chef to his wife and quickly learn that bamboo shoots aka tama, are mild and versatile, making it a house staple through Nepal.
The lady chef has already made the mutton momos (typically something which thakalis eat), precooked the black eyed peas and done the misc en place. I just stir everything and pretend to have done all the hard work and even politely threaten Vivek and his friends that they would not get dinner for the next two days if they don’t say it’s delicious.
Obviously it’s decadent, spicy and sour and slightly thick from the mustang potatoes and just perfect with the short grain rice and salad.And while I am enjoying my Alu Tama dinner, I have planned my next day. Oh well, I finally get to laze in my hotel which offers breathtaking views and even get enough time to stroll down the gorgeous streets. You lose some, you win some and you can always come back for more.
Best Way to Reach: Drive down from Kathmandu, it takes about 4 hours. Buses and taxis are easily available from Kathmandu.
Best Place to Stay: The Old Inn (Tel: +977 65520110; Email: email@example.com; Tariff: From Rs 4,500 per night, with breakfast) in Bandipur Bazaar is a good option. Another nice play to stay is The Hotel (Tel: +977 65520147; Tariff: Rs 2,000 per night, with breakfast) at Dumre Bandipur Road, Block No 2/3Bandipur.