Nepal: The return of Mountain Kingdom

As we wove our way through the chaotic and vibrant streets of central Kathmandu, our guide told us how, on April 25 last year, he had been travelling along the same route with Mountain Kingdoms’ clients just before noon when the earthquake hit: “The whole car just started shaking from side to side… our driver lost control. All the traffic came to a standstill as the tremors kept coming in waves for another 45 minutes.” A major earthquake had struck, resulting in the deaths of about 9,500 people; had the epicentre not been about 60 miles from the capital, the toll might have been much higher.

We were heading for Durbar Square in Patan, about five miles south of the main city, a place we saw repeatedly in news reports following the quake. Seeing the collapsed and damaged temples brought into sharp focus what happened here, but it is a Unesco World Heritage Site, one of seven in the Kathmandu Valley, where only 15 per cent of the buildings were destroyed or badly damaged.

Durbar Square was closed for two months after the quake, but by the time I visited – six months later – it was bustling with visitors again. There is plenty to marvel at. The magnificent Royal Palace, parts of which date back to the 14th century, seemed to be untouched. Inside, we met two students from the University of Vienna painstakingly cleaning an ancient Navari stone inscription – part of the post- earthquake restoration.

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