Renowned as the capital and the most developed city in Nepal, Kathmandu is a city of images. A colourful and artistic mélange of Palaces, ancient temples and modern architecture. And here we are, in the heart of Nepal.
Objective: Find a hotel to stay. As expected, taxi drivers and hotel brokers swarmed around us. Heeding to the advice of my uncle, we decided to try searching in Thamel district, the tourist heaven in Kathmandu. Bustling with foreign tourists, Thamel is the center of Kathmandu’s tourism industry. Prima facie it might look very posh, but you can always find cheap accommodation there. “Deutsch Home” (People pronounce it as Dutch Home! ) was our humble host. The caretaker was a 4 foot guy who replied to all our questions with Yeah yeah yeah. For NR 700, the 3 bed room in the heart of Nepal city was pretty decent, with attached bath. Freshened up and the next important decision awaited us.
Where to go and how? The hotel receptionist came to our aid. He suggested possible trip plans and we set out on a Kathmandu expedition. We found our self walking through the narrow bricked roads shadowed by old buildings, yet crowded with the busy life of Kathmandu. The streets were crawling with vendors selling everything from A to Z. It was hard to negotiate through the vendors and 2 wheeler’s that sneak up alarmingly close to you before turning away.
Nepal, being a Hindu nation, was in a festive mood due to Dashain, the Nepali version of Dusshara. Owing to the festivities, the Palace Museum was closed for a few days. So all we could see were huge closed gates, after walking over 2 km. One thing you would notice, are the beautiful graffiti on the walls near footpaths.(Something that I’ve never seen in India).
Another interesting observation is that, if a passerby tell you that your destination is just 10 mins walk, it’ll take you at least 16 mins. Or if someone says, it’s just a km away, it’ll be over 1.6 km away. I guess Nepali’s have an obsession for 1.6 (Note that 1.6 NR = 1 INR). So keep the 1.6 factor in your mind. The best way to get around the city is by Micro (An over-sized Maruti Omni is what I’d call it). It’s like a share-auto in India. There are buses as well, but not every route.
Our next stop was Patan Durbar Square. It is a really beautiful architectural marvel located in the middle of a commercial part of Kathmandu. It is one of the 3 old cities that make up the Kathmandu Valley. The elegant and well designed temples add to the grandeur of the place. We could feel the hustle of business around us and we did spend some time walking through those streets. We nearly had a shock when we inquired the prices of a few curios being sold in the street. It was more than 10 times the price we anticipated. (Well if intend on buying it, you might as well bargain to bring it down by, say 800%).
The next destination was the sacred Pashupathinath Temple and took a bus from Patan. The main temple is restricted to Hindus. Being a non-Hindu, I found myself photographing around the temple, while my friends went for a darshan. Being one of the holiest Hindu places of worship in Nepal, Pashupathinath Temple was crowded like any other day with pilgrims and tourists. Something that we noticed was the cremation grounds next to a small river flowing by the temple. The Pashupathinath Temple complex has a number of old shrines behind it, atop a small hill. It kinda felt like we traveled back by over a few centuries. Dozens of small stone carved shrines in a silent hilltop shaded by huge trees and guarded by hundreds of monkeys intrigued me! We walked around the whole complex and then went out through the other side of the hill. We had our eyes on our next destination. The Boudhnath Stupa – One of the largest Stupas in Nepal.
We walked for over a mile, through the housing areas of Kathmandu and arrived at Boudhnath Stupa. The moment we entered, you felt as if we were in Thailand or some other Buddhist nation. It was magnificent. The eyes of Buddha seems to be watching you. As you circumnavigate the Stupa, there are lots of high-class handicraft shops around you and a numerous Buddhist monks. There are 2 small Buddhist temples around the Stupa as well. We did spend quite a lot of time clicking photos of this ancient Stupa The colourful and lively nature of the place is bound to allure any tourist.
It was already 6.30 pm and it was getting really dark. We were literally exhausted, but had to cramp into a 12 seater tempo carrying over 20 people. And to make matters worse, we walked the wrong way for about 20 minutes or so, before we realized it. Finally, through the narrow maze of commercial streets, we arrived at Thamel. We could hear Bob Marley and other great singers through the open terrace of exotic pubs. The soul of night life in Kathmandu, Thamel is your place, if you wanna have a booze party at night.
Back in our room, the sounds of night life felt a bit too annoying, but well, since we were too tired, we slipped off into a deep slumber in no time.
We have another great adventure waiting for us tomorrow.