Lalitpur (and/or) Patan
On a map, it seems to be a suburb of Kathmandu, but Patan–officially recognized as Lalitpur– is actually one of the oldest cities in Nepal, with roots dating back to the third century BCE. It was the seat of rulers during several different dynasties, and the Kathmandu Valley was at the crossroads of trade routes between ancient Asian settlements.
Patan Durbar Square is one of the seven UNESCO World Heritage zones listed under the Kathmandu Valley, and admission is 500nrs (approx. $5).
A microbus from Ratna bus park near Thamel takes 15 minutes to get to the city gates of Lalitpur, and should cost no more than 20nrs.
Instead of making a beeline to the square, though, we wandered the streets and alleys of old Lalitpur. Narrow passageways lead to sunny courtyards, each with community altars in the center. A lot of the old Newari buildings are still standing, though in varying states of decay.
It costs 50nrs for tourists to visit the Buddhist temple Hiranya Varna Mahavihar, otherwise known as the Golden Temple of Patan. The imposing temple stands tall over a small, fragrant courtyard. We lingered among the elaborate wooden carvings, the sculptures and the strange, tarnished metal they called gold. (I googled it up later and it is supposedly gilded copper.)
There was a huge crowd of people on the temple steps at Durbar Square, all watching the filming of a movie. The square was sent back into time, with a farmers market set up and animals being dragged around by people in costume.
When it was time to shoot scenes, the crowds were ushered out of the camera’s focus and areas roped off. From the few scenes they went through, over and over again, it looked like a English movie set in the 1940s, about a couple in Nepal, probably hunting down holy artifacts Indy style.
Wasn’t a good day to be touring the palace and the square but I enjoyed the experience of watching a movie being filmed. Aside from that, I really enjoyed wandering around Lalitpur and would even go as far to recommend other curious folks to stay a night or two.