We arrived at Kathmandu airport at 9:30 PM and just like that the world we were used to changed. Having lived in Tehran for many years I was used to the hustle and bustle, but having been away from it for a long time it was a bit of a shock.
We navigated through the visa application process, baggage pickup (chaos) and met our transport to the hotel.
We had booked the ‘deluxe’ room at Hotel Utse. Well….. what is considered deluxe is a bit different. The room had electricity and running ‘warm’ water and modern art installations. We admired the air conditioner and TV which were just for show. The hotel was kind enough to post the scheduled power outages.
We started our first day with delicious Nepalese and Tibetan style breakfasts. The Tibetan style breakfast came with fresh baked warm bread (in the shape of large pretzels), sweet chilli potatoes and the Nepalese came with fresh baked pita bread and a mild curry potato. The Yak butter was a hit with me.
Then the exploring began, walking around Thamel, the tourist section of Kathmandu. Filled with dusty knock-off trekking gear stores, tour operators and touts. Narrow streets were filled with people, bikes, cars, rickshaws, stray dogs, rubbish and locals running up to you to sell their services. Historic temples and stupas marked the intersections, street signs were no where to be found. Flattened buildings pockmarked the streets, the after effect of the devastating earthquake. However, the energy in the streets was high. The sound of horns and people bustling was overwhelming at first but then became a game of cat and mouse.
We made our way through the chaos to Durbar Square, where the king lived originally. While going through the entrance we were approached by Beshow, a happy, smiling and energetic person offering to take us for a tour. We negotiated a price and off we went.
While the square was badly damaged by the earthquake it was still possible to see the sites and we were also blessed by Kumari, the living goddess. She was a cheeky nine-year-old in dress up clothes. The living goddess gets booted back to her parents once she becomes a woman as the king had carnal thoughts about a Kumari. It would be quite a change to start out in life in a palace worshipped by all then go back to provincial life.
We went from site to site carefully listening to the history, there is a god to worship for every occasion and it was impossible trying to remember the names, even with the pop quiz Beshow subjected us to.
We also visited the Monkey Temple sitting high on the hill overlooking Kathmandu. It is named informally after the monkeys which dominate the temple. It was a beautiful temple and the view was amazing, showing the sprawl of the city.overlooking Kathmandu. It is named informally after the monkeys which dominate the temple. It was a beautiful temple and the view was amazing, showing the sprawl of the city.
Our ever energetic Beshow recommended an overnight tour to a Buddhist Monastery, 47 km away from Kathmandu requiring 4WD access due to dirt roads. We were excited at the thought of off-roading outside of Australia. Little did we know what was install for us. He said we can mediate and chant with the monks and eat with them. It sounded fantastic. We learnt our first lesson of negotiating for this trip, what not to do. More on this later.
We finished our day in the Garden of Dreams which is a beautiful walled off park that provides calm in the middle of the chaos. It was great entertainment to watch the wealthy Nepalese locals take endless selfies, for what purpose we could not fathom
We went in search of food picking out a restaurant after much deliberation. We went from person to person with no luck (remember no street signs) trying to negotiate the streets determined to find the restaurant of choice. As luck would have it after about an hour of wandering someone remembered the place had burnt down recently. Luck finally turned our way again and we met Shiraz, a cheeky Nepalese restaurant owner. He was having a catch up with friends and he invited us to join in the party. We shared a few beers and indulged in momos (Nepalese dumplings) for the first time and vegetarian dhal baht. They were a nice bunch and gave us a glimpse into Nepalese social life. We rolled out of there in a food coma excited for tomorrows adventures.