As everyone who reads this knows, I live in China, but recently I went to Nepal on a two week trip. And now that I am back in China, all that I want to do is go back to Nepal, such an amazingly beautiful and cultural place with breathtaking scenery and some of the nicest people I have had the, pleasure of meeting in a long time. I don’t know if it is just the thrill of travelling and that feeling of pure freedom, or if I am taken by Nepal, either way…I feel restless now that I am back.
Anyway, my trip started on an early morning in Guangzhou where I boarded a 5 and a half hour flight headed for Kathmandu. Incidentally, if I had flown out from Hong Kong it would have taken me around 24 hours to get to Nepal, can’t quite understand the logic behind that one!
Upon arriving I had to fill out a form and get my visa upon arrival, and then once past all the laborious security checks I was finally in Nepal getting bombarded by taxi drivers all trying to get me to take their taxi. One thing I felt instantly was that Nepali people are a lot more tactile than Chinese people and will not hesitate to grab you and touch you.
It gets to the point where everyone is pretty much offering the same deal which was 100 Nepalese Rupees to get in to a place called Thamel, the main thoroughfare for tourists and travellers, and also where the majority of hotels are situated.
After a short time of going between a few hotels we finally found ourselves at a place called Hotel Festoon run by a man called Babu Thapu and his brother, at a good price and the rooms being clean and spacious and fitted with a ceiling fan it fit the bill perfectly. The hosts were our first real introduction to the friendly nature of Nepali people, always happy to help very chatty. Anyone that finds themselves in Kathmandu should definitely check in to that hotel, it comes highly recommended.
So we were only intending on staying in Kathmandu for 3 or 4 days, so upon arriving we just had a wonder around the local area and soaked in the atmosphere. One thing that became instantly apparent for me was that Kathmandu, and later I was to discover the rest of Nepal is a sensory overload. The sights, sounds smells, colours…everything combined together to make it an overload on the senses. The colours in this country are just amazing, bright, vibrant and contrasting!
Anyway, we woke up on the second day with the plan of touring around the main Durbar square of Kathmandu. There are three in all, and each one is within a different district of the city, we visited to of the three during our stay, and you shall see the other in another blog entry.
Anyway the weather we woke up to was terrible, the time of year that we went was the tail end of the monsoon season, and it certainly felt like it. We got in a little rikshaw; which is just a bike that pulls a big trailer on the back that the passengers sit in, and headed for the Durbar Square. We found some shelter and then waited out the morning downpour. Durbar square has in excess of 40 temples, and the city Kathmandu is itself named after one of the temples within the square. It was my feeling that individually any one of these temples would have been a spectacle, however when surrounded by all the other temples they all seem to just fade in to a bit of a nothingness that is quite underwhelming. The one temple here that did however stand out to me was the temple of the Kumari, and it was not for any beautiful architecture, but for the Kumari herself. The Kumari is a Godess, and she is chosen as a little girl and spends the whole of her childhood within this temple, unable to leave. No one is allowed to take photos of her, and seeing her is only allowed rarely. We were fortunate in that she made an appearance in the window whilst we were there. The only thing that really struck me was that she looked a bit sad and a bit bored at being stared at.
After pounding the streets for a few hours we decided to go and get some lunch before going to the monkey temple in the afternoon. The food out in Nepal was simply amazing, the traditional meal had is called a Dal Bhat which comprises of some rice and an assortment of curries, usually 2 or 3 curries in small dishes, some pickled curried vegetables, a poppadom and if you are lucky, some yoghurt. Locals eat this with there hands, they pour the curries over the rice and dive right in. I attempted this once or twice with little success and went back to using my spoon. Free refills on rice and any of the curry sauces are a standard, which is awesome if you are a hungry lad After lunch we headed on over to the monkey temple, named thus because there are a crap load of monkeys in this temple…funny that!
Just as we arrived to the top of the temple (there is a long climb to get there) the heavens opened again and we were forced once again to seek shelter and wait out the rains! And no sooner than the rains stopped than a swarm of monkeys flooded out throughout the temples grounds. These monkeys are not worshipped in any way and if anything seen as a mild annoyance, but being the Buddhist way, they are not allowed to harm them. So they are tolerated and the cause of a attraction for many tourists. The temple itself is actually rather amazing, with a big spire thing in the middle with the eyes of Buddha on surrounded by all these cylinders that devout Buddhists spin when making prayers as they walk around the central spire.
On the way back down we met a lovely girl from Belgium called Charlotte who told about a good place to go and get dinner called the Phat Kath. So that was exactly where we headed for out dinner, and once again I had myself a Dal Bhat, the best one I had in my whole time in Kathmandu I’d have to say.
The next day brought more rain, and this time it was unrelenting! We headed out nonetheless towards something called the Boudda, which is a huge spire type thing with the eyes of Buddha painted on it, this is the largest of its kind and it is pretty awe inspiring, it is surrounded by what looks like bunting, but they are prayer sheets on colourful pieces of cloth. We moved on then from the Boudda and walked for about half an hour asking for directions all the way for a place called Pashupatinath. Whenever someone dies they are bought to this place immediately and there bodies are cremated. Depending on the social status and wealth of the family depends on how grand the ceremony is, when I was there the ceremony going on was amazing. The plinth that the body was laid on was covered in festoons of bright orange and huge amounts of fabric were covering the body. Being in this place was a very strange and surreal experience and felt wrong in some ways, where people were in mourning of there loved ones there were others (myself included) watching in a kind of morbid curiosity. I kept thinking that it must have been horrible trying to go through their grieving whilst a horde of tourists were gawping and taking photos. Needless to say that I did not linger too long here and we made our way off to get some food. That afternoon was spent in a relaxing manner going around the local streets getting some bits and bobs that we wanted before preparing to leave for Pokhara the next day.
Next week we shall continue with the journey through Pokhara, a rather touristy place, but deservedly so as it is beautiful!
Thank you for reading and I will see you next week.