Sunday, 5 October 2014

Returning to Kathmandu

We arrived in Kathmandu late at night. Obviously I still haven’t gotten my mellow on yet as I found getting through immigration, applying for visa and picking up our bags a rather frustrating inefficient process. The airport hasn’t changed at all since I was here 13 years ago except they’ve got an automated machine now to read your passport, fill out initial paperwork for the visa and take your photo. Of course I swore at that machine more than once!

It’s such a dramatic change to be here, especially having just experienced Hong Kong. Hong Kong has a shiny façade and you have to look for the flaws. Kathmandu is all about the flaws and that’s what makes her so special and interesting.

On the drive into the city from the airport there were few streetlights. The metal overhead doors on the shops were pulled down and only the headlights of a few other vehicles – taxis, motorcycles, and small tourist buses – lit up the area.

I thought I recognized a certain small hill and, sure enough, we soon drove past the gates of the Royal Palace.

Our hotel, Nirvana Garden, is on the outskirts of Thamel, the tourist area of the city. It’s situated on a side street and has a lovely garden area (hence the name and why we chose it). We’ve already found it to be a quiet, relatively peaceful escape from the rest of the chaos. Well, that is if you don't include the 5:30 wake up call from the squawking crows.

View from our hotel room
After breakfast our first morning we wandered up to the Monkey Temple, a place we’ve been each and every time here. It’s fun to see the monkeys but they are nasty! First, you definitely have to hang on to anything you want to keep (i.e. cameras, bags, etc.) and the big males are very territorial especially when it comes to food. They were fighting a bit amongst themselves and we even saw one jump up onto a guy. We were extremely cautious around them!

The long set of steps up to the temple are crowded with people trying to sell their wares. Years ago two teenage girls convinced Andrew to buy some bracelets for me ($1 for three). Spying the ring on my left hand, they shyly asked him if we were married. Was it a love marriage? (As opposed to an arranged marriage.) They giggled and blushed when Andrew said yes.

The temple is visible from quite a distance away
Taking the scenic route to the temple

Many prayer flags blowing in the breeze and sending prayers to the heavens

Walking back towards our hotel later, I realized that to be in Kathmandu means that you have to be aware and in the moment. It’s a constant struggle to stay focused. To not trip on the uneven roads or step in dog poop, monkey poop, mashed bananas and peels, to dodge the bicycles, honking taxis, motorcycles, rickshaws and tourist buses. (There’s no walking and looking at a cell phone here!) To be assaulted by sudden smells – dog poop, rotting garbage, gas fumes, incense, flowers in the garden or passing by a fragrant bush.

A small field area in the middle of the city
We wandered and got more familiar with the area around our hotel in the afternoon, found a coffee shop and had latte and a banana lassi, made some new discoveries and went to one of our favourite restaurants, Fire and Ice, for supper. 

Our welcome necklaces made with fresh marigolds
Thamel - the tourist area
Latte and banana lassi

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