Kathmandu Travel Blog› entry 18 of 41 › view all entries
By 9:00 a.m. our cramped and battered Nepalese bus began rolling north from the India border. Within an hour, tall mountains materialized before us like a looming wall of snow-capped granite. The straining bus whined and wound, lurched and leaned; tackling the Himalayas one hill at a time at twenty miles per hour. By five o'clock, our sluggish transport leveled onto a high plateau and clattered into Kathmandu.
The first of February brought a new month and a new world ... Nepal: "The Roof of the World." During summer months, clouds veiled the Himalayas and made glimpsing the peaks an intermittent event. But in winter, countless summits soared into crisp blue skies and towered above the lush Kathmandu Valley.
Narrow cobble-stone alleyways wound through the old, southern, part of Kathmandu. Many of the buildings were built of red brick and ancient timbers and they leaned and bulged precariously. Easy-going traffic was made up of bicycles, pedestrians, bicycle rickshaws, and a few human-powered carts. Cars tended to be found more in the northern, modern part of the city.
Durbar Square was the heart of the old city. That open-air plaza contained more than fifty shrines, towers, and multi-tiered temples of both the Hindu and Buddhist religions.
Food in Kathmandu, like in India, was excellent. A common meal consisted of rice with dahl, a soup-like topping of lentils; steamed vegetables; and chapatis, a flat bread. Available meat included chicken, pork, goat, and buffalo. We usually followed meals up with a Yak cigarette and a glass of chai.
We spent nearly two weeks in Kathmandu. Exploring on foot and on bicycles, every day in the old town surprised us with new places to discover and new eateries to try. Since my first visit in1976, those few remaining hashish outlets of the 1960's, along Freak Street, had been replaced by souvenir dealers, restaurants, and trekking shops. I was curious to see if Monk's Pleasure Room was still there. That dark and mellow, candle-lit den had three walls lined with pillows and low tables. A young boy shuffled to each, then knelt to spin joints of hashish and marijuana for laid-back travelers listening to Pink Floyd or the Moody Blues. But, like that summer of '76, it was difficult to remember just where Monk's was.