If you have any interest in wooden carvings you’ll be overwhelmed by the abundance in the Kathmandu valley. The three towns of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur were once separate kingdoms and rivalry between the Newari kings led them to compete to produce the best architecture. Typical Newari palaces and temples are covered with intricate woodcarving and the artisans of Nepal have long been famed as some of the best on the Indian subcontinent.
Wandering round these towns you’ll inevitably see the finest architecture and woodcarvings in the old town centres, the Durbar Squares, which are now world heritage centres. But the most rewarding thing is to wander randomly down the narrow lanes and alleys – you’ll coming across small squares and courtyards with old stone statues of the Buddha or of Ganesh, worn smooth over years. And you see woodcarvings in all shapes and sizes – carved window frames, beams with a small figures sandwiched between the brickwork and roof struts with mythical creatures and erotic details.
In backstreet workshops you’ll see men and women carving new panels for the hotels and tourist souvenir models of the famous buildings. The age of the Kings of Kathmandu commissioning the finest craftsmen to out-do the Kings of Patan and Bhaktapur is in the past but Nepal isn’t just a museum, woodcarving as a working practise is still alive and well.