When I’ve heard the name Kathmandu in the past, it always seemed like a mythical, magical place like Shangri-la or Zanadu. Now I’ve been there and I can definitely say that it’s not mythical but it does have a certain magical quality. Although, you might have to squint to see the magic through the smog and insane traffic jams.
I went with my friends Sharon, Serge, Linda and Julie and here we are at our first Nepalese dinner which was fantastic.
We had a rocky start with our flight being delayed overnight and the airline really messing up the situation. Very unprofessional behaviour from almost every employee that we death with so I won’t be flying with Etihad again. I would also warn anyone who is going to be prepared for a two hour wait at immigration in Kathmandu…the same on the way out.
We didn’t stay in Kathmandu that night but took a crazy van ride to Baktapur which is a UNESCO protected town . The van was hilarious with no interior walls and broken windshield wipers so that driver had to keep pulling over to wipe down his window.
Baktapur was interesting but crumbling and poor. It’s got a neglected air in the evenings but the day is a bustling place with vendors and tourists…not to mention the packs of dogs. The temples and palaces are still in use by the devoted so we could only see part of them but there were a dizzying assortment of red bricked buildings and stone carvings all around us. This was the view from my room.
Most of the buildings and roads are made of red clay brick which give Baktapur a warm, rich feeling. The temples are covered with either stone or wooden decoration and the detail is fascinating. Sharon had photocopied a walking tour guide so I could make a bit of sense of what I was seeing. One particular set of Goddesses was supposed to be so prized that they cut off the hands of the artists so he couldn’t replicate the work.
Walking the streets was interesting because you never knew what might be around the corner.
The first night we didn’t get much sleep as they were ringing the temple bell every two hours to wake the Gods…I’m not kidding here…every two bloody hours. Also, the street dogs would howl and bark on and off most of the night. I self-medicated with beer the next night so the Gods may have been awake, but I wasn’t.
The next day, Sharon, Serge, our new Nepali friend Benote and I went for a hike at the base of the Himalayas. We drove up to Nagarkot to get our first look that those lofty peaks.
You may have noticed a lack of mountains in that last picture…that would our view of the famous Himalayas for the trip….I’m pretty sure that Nepal doesn’t actually have any mountains and that they’ve just created an incredible tourism campaign. It was a nice hike through the forests though.
We eventually started to see a lot of people wandering the trail and then the trail became a road. They were all going to Changu Narayan which is the oldest Hindu Temple in Nepal. There was a big festival and we got to go inside and see what it was all about.
The women were all lined up with plates of marigolds, rice and other offerings to the Gods.
Serge and Sharon got blessed by the yogi who put a glob of coloured rice on their foreheads.
They were also burning incense everywhere so the place smelt fantastic. It seemed that if a Nepali was near a Buddhist temple, he or she was a Buddhist and if they were near a Hindu temple, they were Hindu…very nice inclusion of everyone.
The next few days were spent wandering around the city, shopping, eating and drinking. Nepal Ice beer is on my recommend list for anyone who goes there. We also had some pretty fantastic food. Here we are getting our sizzling chicken with pineapple and apple slices.
We spent our last night and day in a beautiful temple converted into a hotel. Here Linda and I are on the rooftop overlooking Kathmandu…you’ll notice the lack of mountains :)
On the way home I had to take a picture of these cotton candy balls in the UAE…they seem obsessed with the stuff and package it in the strangest ways.
I did a bit of shopping and got a few decorations for my apartment.
It was too short to get a real feel for the country but I’ve decided to stay in the Middle East for the next vacation so I get enjoy my surroundings a bit…I’ve come all this way so I’d better take advantage of it.