Bandipur (pronounced 'ban-DI-pur') is a national treasure. Draped like a silk scarf along a high ridge above Dumre, the town is a living museum of Newari culture. People here seem to live centuries apart from the rest of the country and more than 70% of the buildings are traditional Newari houses, with carved wooden windows and overhanging slate roofs. It's hard to believe that somewhere so delightful has managed to escape the ravages of tourist development.
The Bandipur Social Development Committee has shown remarkable maturity in opening Bandipur up to tourism. There are just a few places to stay and eat and money from tourism ventures is ploughed back into restoring temples and houses. Bandipur remains very much a living community - as you wander around the narrow streets, you'll see farmers tending market gardens, women carrying baskets of freshly cut fodder, children stacking cobs of corn on wooden stakes, and goats, buffaloes and chickens wandering around as if they owned the place.
Bandipur was originally part of the Magar kingdom of Tanahun, ruled from nearby Palpa (Tansen), but Newari traders flooded in after the conquest of the valley by Prithvi Narayan Shah. The town became a major stop on the trade route between India and Tibet and traders invested their profits in temples, slab-paved roads and towering brick shop-houses. Then, 50 years ago, it all fell apart. The new Pokhara-Kathmandu highway passed far below town and traders picked up sticks and relocated to Narayangarh. Even today, many buildings are empty, though some have found a new life as restaurants and guesthouses.
As you may have gleaned from the communist graffiti, locals have some sympathy with the Maoist cause, but there have been no real problems here since the police post was abandoned in 2002. For more information on Bandipur, visit the website www.bandipure.com.