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Templemania in Kathmandu Valley

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After spending 16 hours on the horror that was “Namaste Deluxe” we were pleased to get off and stretch our legs once we finally reached the Kathmandu ring road. We walked on past the taxi drivers hanging around the bus drop point and attempting to steer us into their cars, as they always charge about double to tourists from such places, and we can find our own way, yeah...

Well once we were round the corner we checked our location on GPS and realised we had in fact marched off in the wrong direction. Being too stubborn to return past the taxi drivers we searched for another road that would take us in the correct general direction. After about 5 minutes of dallying to find a road across a river that was blocking our path, we were heading the right way into the city and found a small café bar for a tea and loo break (the owner was very sweet when we asked if they had a toilet, saying “it isn’t very clean”, we used it and it was absolutely fine, we had to explain we had just spent a month in India!) We chatted with the owner about the upcoming elections and checked with him what a standard short taxi fare should be (as we are not yet used to Nepalese Rupees) then set off again. We soon found a taxi to take us the rest of the way to the central area for a much more reasonable price than those shouted at us near the bus, still more than local price, but we don’t mind that to an extent given our relative wealth, as long as they don’t take the p1ss!

Arriving in the Freak St/Durbar Sq area was a v pleasant surprise (and we are both grateful to one of Rachel’s ex colleagues who gave the tip to stay around there rather than the more touristy Thamel where we would probably have otherwise ended up). The temples and other buildings were amazing and the area had a pleasant general feel, we immediately liked it miles more than any Indian city we have visited. We found a good room overlooking the main square for only 800 NRP (£5), it even had a small balcony over the square (though by small we mean that only one of us could stand there at one time). The place was nice and bright with lots of plants in the courtyard area outside of our room and a colourful roof terrace from where we could sit and watch the goings on in the square. We explored the local area for the rest of that day and agreed we definitely liked Nepal.

On the morning of the second day we decided to visit Swayambhunath, aka the Monkey Temple, set on a high hill overlooking Kathmandu. As the name suggests, there are lots of monkeys there and not shy ones at that, we have heard they sometimes slide down the rails of the steps on the hill and were disappointed not to witness this. It was a fairly steep climb to the top, but definitely worth it. The place was full of temples, statues and a large white and gold central stupa – which is a mound like structure where Buddhists meditate – with large Buddha eyes looking out over the city. We felt very chilled out as we sipped Himalayan coffee/Iced lemon tea in a rooftop café and looked forward to exploring the city further.

We followed the Lonely Planet walking tour from Dubar Sq up to Thamel the next day, looking quite the tourists bumbling around the streets with LP under arm, map in hand and puzzled faces as we tried to make out if we were looking at the right things. But it was a good way to ensure we saw lots of the ‘not to be missed’ sights, mostly temples, elaborate windows etc. We ended the walk with a visit to the very fancy “Garden of Dreams” and by trying a Tibetan ‘Tongba beer’, which is hot water poured over fermenting millet and served in a small open barrel – as you do! We went on to have a few drinks around Freak St (having found it was much cheaper than Thamel), bought some v cheap (hippy!) clothes and some beady jewellery. Tess even had Rach put two dreads in her hair and we smoked shisha, so we looked quite the travellers by the end of day 2 in Nepal!!

For some more culture we visited the nearby towns of Patan and Bhaktapur. We went by foot to Patan as it is only a few kms from Kathmandu, it is also similar though on a much smaller scale. We wandered into a number of lovely courtyards and stumbled upon the Kwa Bahal Golden Temple, which was impressive and rather bling. We realised in the main square (also called Durbar Sq) that we were supposed to pay a foreign visitor entry fee. We didn’t really have enough for this (appreciating that foreign tourist money pays to conserve these places but it was about $10 each which is a lot from our budget, plus we weren’t planning to stay long). So we left and re-entered from a different side, took a few sneaky pics then had a drink in a rooftop place overlooking the square so we could have a good look without needing a ticket, before heading back to KTM.

The following day we took a bus to Bhaktapur, a medieval Nepali town of cobbled streets and containing yet another Durbar Square, filled of course with temples and stupas. This place was quite amazing (and here we did pay the entry fee!) One minute we were staring at Nepal’s tallest temple, then we were wondering through tiny, ancient alleyways, then we found ourselves walking through very rural areas with lots of rice fields and village huts watching people working the fields. There was also a ‘Pottery Square’ which was filled with handmade pots, vases and various clay trinkets and where you could see people working on traditional (hand-spun) pottery wheels. We pondered having a go and it all being very Ghost… though it would likely be more Deidre Barlow…

We had decided to spend the night here as it made a nice change from Kathmandu and would allow us to enjoy the place further once the day-trippers went home. We did so and had another mooch around the following day when it was quieter, though there were still plenty of folks about even at 6:30am. Unfortunately our plan to capture the place at sunrise didn’t pan out as it was a very hazy morning, so we had to make do with the pics form the previous day with all the tourists in. As it was the beginning of Diwali (called Tihar here in Nepal), we got to try some special foods made just for the festival which was a treat. We then made out way back to Kathmandu where we had left our luggage and got our previous room back ahead of our early bus to Pokhara. Despite the next day’s early start we thought we should make the most of having a Friday evening in Kathmandu so we walked up to Thamel see some live music in a few bars. It was fun to see this Nepali style, though after sampling three bars we found the same theme throughout of long-haired Nepali boys with black T-shirts doing reasonable but not brilliant covers of Guns N Roses and the like, one did play a Sublime song which Rach was v impressed by (it’s a band she likes a lot but are not massively well known), until realising they seemed to be making up the lyrics as they were really not right… It was a good evening though and we were glad we had gone out. Next day though was a 530am get-up to take our “luxury” bus to Pokhara, Nepal’s 2nd city. What would that journey bring?

Posted by TessAndRach 09:59 Archived in Nepal Tagged st kathmandu bhaktapur freak

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