A little boy plays with a turtle toy outside his family’s shop
8:30AM | A Surreal Start
Rule #3: Kathmandu is Extremely Dirty…Wear a Mask
Adjusting my sleep schedule ahead of time appeared to work–I slept very well the first night. Joe was off to work at US Embassy and I was out the door at 8:30 with Jayanti. Walking the streets of Kathmandu was very surreal, if not for the language barrier from my gracious and delightful host–she speaks very little English and I can only say hello/namaste and my name is Al/mero naam Al ho.
Did You Know? Nepal’s flag is the only one in the world that isn’t rectangular.
I don’t exactly know what I expected before coming–and I only researched the history of the country as I wanted to be fully immersed in surprise on arrival–but the third world country with very few good paved roads showcased homes and buildings still derelict from the April 2015 earthquake. Many shops in muddy raised concrete cells with a curtain as a store front. Cycles, buses, and walkers are everywhere.
I quickly learn that Kathmandu 1) is extremely dirty 2) is very crowded 3) has lots of traffic 4) has lots of stray dogs and 5) is generally safe.
Electricity is important. Proper wiring? Not so much.
Rule #4: Stray Dogs are the norm…don’t be weird and try to pet them
We walked through a market of fish, chickens and produce, then stopped for coffee in dilapidated cafe resembling a deserted shop in Kensington, Philadelphia. I was told the minute we walked in the house not to drink the water, so you could imagine I was a bit nervous ordering a coffee here. Seeing that Jayanti was up for ordering an entire meal, I felt slightly more relieved. The Nepali coffee (“milk coffee” they call it) is amazing.
9AM | Pashupatinath Temple
Sadhus awaiting a weary customer to receive tilak (tika)
The monkeys are everywhere, like squirrels in America. If you aren’t careful they will get a hold of your belongings, like this rascal who stole the woman’s bag of fresh flowers and fruit.
Rule #5: Monkeys Are Like Squirrels in America
Off to Pashupatinath Temple, one of the oldest and most sacred in the Hindu world. There are lots of monkeys everywhere and I am really fascinating by them, though they are like squirrels to the locals. Jayanti goes inside the temple for a few minutes while I must wait outside (Hindus only). Then we buy a ticket and go in and look around the rest of the temple area, which is much larger and vast than I could have imagined.
Cremation ceremony: deceased body at left being laid, burned body at right
I was most fascinated to see the memorial and cremation area — Antyesti — along the Bagmati River where bodies are wrapped, blessed and burned.
12:30PM | US Embassy Tour & Lunch
Lunch at Nina’s America restaurant, blocks from the US Embassy
2PM | Swayambuh (Monkey Temple)
A monkey sits atop the stone wall at Swayambuh, Monkey Temple
Sanjib Bhujel, Jayanti’s brother, becomes my gracious guide for the afternoon.
I meet Sanjib (Jayanti’s brother, who will be my afternoon guide) and Bama (Joe’s housekeeper).
A baby monkey hangs onto a baby temple
We take the bus again to the US Embassy, escorted through security by Colonel Evans (who is greeted by every officer with a stiff salute, which is stunning to see since I’ve known this guy since high school) and tour the small complex, following Joe around in his desert camo.
We walk to lunch at Nina’s around the corner from the embassy. I am very much looking forward to my first Nepali meal…but it turns out to be an American joint favored by embassy workers. Slightly disappointed by the hamburgers, pizza, and spaghetti, I am happy to see chicken curry on the menu, which I try with the locally brewed Gorhka beer. Not bad. Jayanti heads home and Joe goes back to work.
Sanjib and I grab a bus to Swayambunath (monkey temple) and explore the high climbing terrain. Lots of monkeys here make me realize only tourists take pictures of the monkeys.
3:30PM | Kathmandu Durbar Square (Temple Square)
Temples at Kathamandu’s Durbar Square are covered in pigeons
Sanjib and I grab a crazy taxi ride to Durbar Square. The driver was zig-zagging around pedestrians, tight spaces, and down alleyways that look like only people should walk. We explore Durbar Square for about half hour. Many ruined temples and buildings from the 2015 earthquake. We step inside the building where Kumari (virgin living goddess) lives.
The sacred cow (because of it’s ability to give milk and relative to the women goddesses) can be seen wondering the streets everywhere
5PM | Thamel
Nighttime in Thamel is best if only for the lights and color
We head up to Thamel, shopping district. Nothing interesting here unless you love jewelry and crowded streets. We start walking back because I am late for dinner with Joe and Jayanti and Sanjib is headed to a mountain resort with friends. We stop in a hat shop and Sanjib wants to buy me a monkey knit cap. I’m not a fan. He insists, but I just wouldn’t wear it. So I choose a nice Nepal hat and he is happy to buy it for me. Then he buys a funny owl hat for Joe. We taxi back and mostly sit in ridiculous traffic caused by the poor road system. Sanjib is off after he gives Joe the funny owl hat.
6:30PM | Dinner at Bouddhanath Stupa
Bouddhanath stupa, the eyes representing Buddha
Drive up to Hyatt hotel to park, then walk down to stupa Bouddha where we have dinner at at River Rock Cafe (yes more American). Joe gets two pizzas and orders me the Nepali sampler (that Jayanti shares with me). My first taste of Nepali is wonderful, though the spicy chili chicken dish is hot, even for her pleasure. We walk around the stupa then back to the car and home. Joe and Jayanti play Tigers and Goats while I read a bit about the Kumari from the book Joe has on his shelf–fascinating story. Fading fast from the long day, I shower and get to bed by 10:15.