16 to 19 April: Kathmandu, Kathmandu Valley, home
MI: the last few days have been filled with shopping and showing Harm around Kathmandu and the valley, since Chris, John and I have all been here and around the sights before.
We allocated a morning to shopping on Wednesday (16th) but this became part of the daily routine, in and out of shops!
Kathmandu is a lively city, dusty, noisy and really good fun. Nothing shocks the boys so everything is taken in our stride. Lots of mangy animals, a few beggars and colourful holy people, stuff happening on the streets almost 24/7.
The river that runs through Kathmandu is more than filthy, its a health risk, formed by years of dumping rubbish and cremated bodies into it. Actually, calling it a river is an over statement, it is more a slow flowing creek. There are plenty of stupa's scattered through the city at regular intervals, and a bit of added colour due to the new year celebrations.
The main square of each of the royal towns in and around Kathmandu is called Durbar Sq. We wandered the streets of Kathmandu's Thamel area to Durbar square where we went straight to a roof top cafe for a beer and lunch. Harm was excited by Freak Street, where the hippy movement in Nepal took hold in the 70's. The palace was interesting but a little too long for our collected attention spans. Chris just sat in the palace entry courtyard, initially being entertained by the palace guard doing some routine. Their yellow socks and playing recorders summed up how intimidating they were! Unfortunately for Harm we didn't get to visit the karma sutra temple, to his disappointment.
That evening we had dinner, and watched the sun set through the smog, at the Bodinath Stupa. Cool place to people watch with lots of monks and prostrating buddhists.
Thursday our plan was to go visit the second and third palace towns, of Patan (just south of Kathmandu) and Bhaktapur to the east. Packed overnight bags so we could hang in Bhaktapur.
The Patan Palace is set up as a museum, and is celebrated as one of the finest restoration efforts in Southern Asia, thanks to significant input from Austria. Spent a couple of hours exploring and then all squeezed back into the tiny little taxi that had waited after taking us there from Kathmandu. Harm gets the front seat because it has more space but he reckons the negative of seeing the near misses up close outlays the benefit!
Arrived at Bhaktapur and made our way through the crowds to one of the main squares where we had all, excluding Harm, stayed before. Got a nice place just back from the square, with double glazing, which we later found was more just two layers of noise conducting or even amplifying glass, if such a thing exists.
The Newari people (Nepalese caste I think) from villages all over come to Bhaktapur for their new years celebrations and they walk the streets with drums, and other musical instruments chanting and dancing and making a racket. Cool for the first few hours, but did just become noise by the time we had hit 12 hours of the same repeated 5 or so bar tune.
Friday started with some early morning exploring and donuts of sorts from a street vendor. The most interesting thing this morning was watching the balloon salesmen make their own hydrogen! That's right, like the Hindenburg or the hydrogen bomb! Best part was the way the guy crossed himself when he was finished.
From Bhaktapur we headed back to Kathmandu via Pashupatinath Temple. The temple is a holy place where people are cremated on large fires and then the ashes swept into the sacred (filthy polluted) waters that flow through the temple complex. Around a dozen fires burning and we got a pretty good feel for all parts of the process!
Got dropped off at the edge of Thamel so the shoppers could buy their last couple of items and made our way back to the hotel, after a couple of bar stops on the way. Had a fun last night with Thai, sizzling chocolate brownie, cards, mojito's and reflection on the past month which was unanimously agreed as being a wonderful life experience.
See you all soon, over and out.