Nepal Part Three
3rd Mar 2010
Sat 13 Feb
We all take a taxi to Pashupatinath, apparently Nepal's holiest Hindu pilgrammage site. The day before (shivas' birthday) saw 500,000 people descend on this place, thankfully today its a lot quieter! The streets are lined with incense sellers, people selling coloured pigments, souvenirs and small buddha statues. As we get closer to the Mandir, beggars line the street, we hand out small coins to a few of them.
Saddhus walk past in brightly coloured turbans and spectacular moustaches, while we appear to be the only Westerners in the vicinity. A large cow entertains a flock of pigeons to my left while a white faced Saddhu sits in meditation. Only Hindu's are allowed to enter the temple so we climb the stairs to the left and look in over the temple. Past the temple are Ghats where Nepalese come to be cremated.
We take a 30 minute walk to Boudha through vibrant Kathmandu suburbs. Boudha is one of the world's largest Stupas and is an impressive sight, a large white dome topped with a golden spire decorated with the famous all seeing Buddha eyes. Multi coloured prayer flags radiate from the top of the stupa, it is a peaceful place and we stop for lunch at a cafe overlooking the Stupa.
In the afternoon we get a taxi to Patan, a suburb of Kathmandu. The air is cleaner here and the Himalayas can be seen in the background. The main Durbar Square is impressive with the Royal Palace and Patan Museum sporting ornate wooden windows and tiered pagoda style roofs. To the left are some impressive Mandirs with some intricate carvings. The streets surrounding the square are positively medieval with tiny shops and hidden local cafes at every turn.
The evening is spent enjoying some Reggae at Sam's bar in Thamel.
Sun 14th Feb
We take a bus to Bhaktapur which involves a colourful walk through Asan, a thriving convergence of trade. Fruit and Veg sellers compete with cycles, rickshaws, bikes, cars and cows. None of the buses are marked so it purely by chance that I hear one guy say Bhaktapur, we decide to jump on this bus. Its a bumpy journey along what has to be the dustiest, smoggiest road known to man. We arrive in Bhaktapur an hour and a half later, getting dropped at the so called tourist bus park. Touts immediately descend on us to offer their services, we manage to wriggle free and buy our tickets.
Bhaktapur is a lovely medieval town built in dark carved wood and pink brick, herringbone paved streets and narrow alleys complete the picture. Touts are particularly annoying here and I have to get quite stern with a few of them so they leave us alone. We explore the main square, in particular the beautiful gilt copper repousse Golden gate and the ornate Mul Chowk are impressive. For me, the amazing 5 tiered Nyatapola Pagoda is the most impressive sitting on Taumadhi Tol, the focal point of Newari culture in the town.
We stroll through the streets catching the end of a goat sacrifice at a small temple before visiting Potters' square where all manner of pots, bowls and ceramic objects are laid out in the sun. We take lunch at a traditional Newari restaurant, the Sausage Chatamari (egg, tomato, sausage and peas on thin bread) and the Buff Chhuyala (chunks of beef fried with lemon grass, spices and peas) are delicious.
After lunch, we stroll to Dattratreya Square via a vibrant main street which snakes through the town. Shops sell spices, sweets, local handicrafts and toys. The Peacock Window on the square is the most impressive thing here and worth the walk.
The evening is spent at an upmarket Thai restaurant celebrating valentines day on a double 'date'.
Mon 15th Feb
Kathmandus' fluctuating power grid means we can't take a hot shower in the morning, we are both a bit hungover and in a foul moods. We do the walking tour to Durbar Square which takes in a few Stupas and temples, Asan Tole, once the main commercial street in Kathmandu. The streets are lined with everything including the kitchen sink and busy with locals shopping.
Durbar Square for us was not as enjoyable as Patan or Bhaktapur. In addition to trying to dodge traffic, the touts here are especially annoying and does little to improve our bad moods. The pick of the bunch in Durbar Square is the Shiva Parbati Mandir and the Kumari Chowk which houses a living goddess - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kumari_(children)
Back to the hotel the power is now on and are bad moods have thankfully subsided despite the fact that I have inadvertently trodden cow shit from Durbar Square all over our carpet! After some delicious vegetable momos for lunch we retire to the rooftop on the hotel to toast the sunset with a Nepal Ice.
Andy arrives at 7 armed with more Nepal Ice and we spent their last hour reminiscing a fantastic trip before Andy and Jung-Ok leave for the airport to fly home. Dinner is at the beautiful Dencheling Restaurant set in a lovely garden with open fires. My cheese, chili and mushroom curry is outstanding and the waiter manages to get the recipe for us to take home.
Tue 16 Feb
We take a taxi to Swayambhu ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swayambhu ) where we have to climb a set of very steep steps past beggars and hawkers. We arrive at the top dripping in sweat and are greeted with a stupa covered in scaffolding which has become something of a curse for us on our trip. Nevertheless, there are smoggy panoramic views of Kathmandhu and we take time to stroll around the temple complex while monkeys scavenge for scraps of food.
After lunch at a local Thakali canteen we spent the afternoon trip planning before heading out for a tasty steak at the New Orleans Cafe, or last night in Nepal.
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