Kathmandu Day Trip: Bhaktapur
What binds the citizens of a "state"? Cultural, religious or language similarities? Blood ties? A shared struggle for survival against invasion or resource depletion? A unified government working for the good of all its citizens? Or is it simply internationally-recognized borders?
In Nepal, it is really difficult to tell. The country has dozens of ethnic groups and castes that rarely inter-marry; these ethnic groups do not share common blood ties or language (other than recent adoption of Nepalese as a common tongue). Although 80% of the country are Hindu and another 10% are Buddhist, religious customs vary by sect. Geographical differences in the regions inhabited by ethnic tribes -- from the plains of Tarai to the jungle lowlands to the snowy Himalayas -- have posed unique survival struggles that are not shared with other ethnicities. The government is a ridiculous collection of parties serving narrow interests. Nepal is a nation-state in that its citizens live within a recognized boundary, but within its territory is a multitude of diversity: Chhettri, Thakalis, Tamang, Gurung, Sherpa, Rai, Magar...
In Kathmandu Valley, the Newar people comprise about half the population of the valley. Until they were conquered by the Gorkha King Prithvi Narayan Shah in 1769, three Newar kingdoms existed in the agricultural-rich valley: Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur. Lying at a fertile trade crossroad between Tibet and India, the Newar kingdoms were prosperous. The kingdoms "competed" with each other by erecting hundreds of temples and constructing thousands of wells and baths, many of which you can still see today throughout Kathmandu and the Patan area. Bhaktapur, however, remains the showcase of Newar architecture, culture, and exquisite woodwork.
The 2015 earthquake devastated Bhaktapur, destroying many of the temple buildings and other relics of the Newar "middle age" period. It's worth the USD$15 per person entrance fee, but expect to see lots of ongoing construction in 2018.
We took a local bus from Ratna Park to Bhaktapur. Just ask around and the locals will point you in the right direction. The bus unloads at the entrance to Bhaktapur (and you'll find the return bus to Kathmandu in the same location). Simple!