Off to Nepal!

Kathmandu Travel Blog

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The tiny airport in Bharatpur, Nepal and our Buddha Air flight

Kakarbhitta is a relatively laid back border town but with a distinctly Nepalese, non-plains India atmosphere.  Raju said he would probably not be able to drive us any further as his license plates are Indian and they would charge lots of taxes but would find a Nepali taxi man to take us the thirty or so minutes to the Bhadrapur Airport where we could catch our short one hour flight to Kathmandu.   The alternative was a 17 hour bus on crappy roads at night with possible Maoist insurgency - well worth the $128 for the flight we thinkg.

The Dolma Momo "Center" in Kathmandu

The Nepalese side of immigration was much friendlier than the Indian side, no surprise there, and we had been told to pay in dollars rather than rupees as they haven’t exactly updated the plummeting dollar’s exchange rate.  The friendly man at the immigration desk informed us that our visa’s would be $30 each and when we handed him the money, he said there was also a “100 rupee fee”.  Now here is moral dilemma - 100 rupees is about $2.50 and was clearly a bribe to “expedite” our entry into the Kingdom of Nepal.  On the other hand, sitting or rather standing around in a hot, dusty border town for thirty minutes or an hour while the civil servants torture you by not stamping your passport just because you didn’t pay their “good luck money” doesn’t sound like a good time so I pulled out the rupees.

Me futilely trying to access the internet from the Kantipur Temple Hotel courtyard
  The immigration guy responded with “100 for madame too…”  Shit - I was committed at that point and handed over the cash.

Raju found us a local kid with a tiny mini-van that would take us to the airport so we hopped in and headed off down the dusty road with a guy who didn’t speak a word of English but did eventually get us to the airport safely.  The airport itself was pretty funny - a tiny little place (they did have a room marked “VIP” outside the main waiting room but apparently we didn’t qualify).  They actually checked our bags before even entering the airport grounds (not exactly a thorough check). Our flight was on the not-so-well-known “Buddha Air” which I am sure has a stellar safety record.  They guy at the check-in counter was very nice and spoke English a bit.  Our official flight wasn’t until 3:15 and it wasn’t even 11:00 yet.

Nateshware Temple in Thahiti Tole
  There was a flight at 11:00 and there were supposed to be two others prior to ours but they weren’t listed (and had probably been cancelled - they tend to consolidate things…).  I asked the man if there was any way to get us on the 11:00 and he said it was booked but, if the 1:00 went, maybe.  We settled down for a long, hot wait.

Just before 11:00, the man came over and said “Hurry, three people haven’t showed up.”  So we whisked through the most lax security check ever and out onto the tarmac.  The plan was a tiny little Airbus that I had to almost crawl down the isle.  Since we were the last two people on the plane, we got the back row seats which were about as comfortable as a torture device.  The best part was when the flight attendant came by with little plastic cups and a giant bottle of Mtn.

Statue in Kathesimbhu temple
Dew.  There were no seatbelt checks, no security demonstration and the fact that my daypack was in the middle of the isle, potentially blocking panicked flyers in the event of an in-air catastrophe didn’t seem to bother anyone.  Perhaps it is a Buddhist thing - better life next time and all… The last ten minutes or so of the short, one hour flight were really bumpy and I could see out through the pilot’s windshield our landing as we swooped back and forth towards the runway - all in all a fun, thrill ride of a flight.

We found a taxi to take us to our new, high-end accommodations in Kathmandu that we had read about on-line called the Kantipur Temple House which ended up being a really nice place with great staff and located just far enough outside of Thamel (the main tourist area in Kathmandu) to be quiet and secluded.  The rooms are comfy and clean and the architecture is really nice with lots of intricately carved windows, a pretty courtyard and very friendly people.

Kathesimbhu Stupa

Since we got on the early flight, we had some time to wander around Thamel and look for something for lunch.  As we were walking out of the hotel, we met a couple, both of whom worked for the United Nations and had been living in Kathmandu for the last eight months.  We talked to them a bit about Kathmandu, the hotel, trekking and stuff and they gave us some suggestions on places to eat.  We ended up wandering around and stumbling on the Thamel House, a place specializing in Newari food that was pretty nice and fun.  Thamel is quite the traveler’s Mecca with tons of restaurants, bars and curio shops.  Some of the people are a bit pushy but it is relaxing compared to India and pretty fun.

Old windows and crazy electrical wiring in Kathmandu
  The place with the strange, green paint is officially called the Dolma Momo Centerand is right around the corner from our hotel.  We went there for dinner which was momo’s (a.k.a. Tibetan Dumplings) and they were good.  We are not sure it exactly qualifies as a “Center” as you can see it is merely someone’s kitchen but the people were nice enough.  I had buffalo - Cindy opted for vegetarian…

Touristy as it can be, we can already tell that we are going to enjoy Kathmandu and wherever else we head in Nepal.

We woke up early and had breakfast at the hotel before heading out to do one of several walking tours that we had read about in Lonely Planet.

Temple Roof struts at Sikha Narayan Temple
 This pretty cool walking tour goes from Thamel up to Durbar Square which is the main square filled with temples and monuments and is where the seat of government originally was.  Durbar actually means “palace” and there are Durbar Squares in many of the cities in the valley including Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Patan and I am sure others.  Most of today’s pictures are from that tour so here are so hopefully brief descriptions.  Incidentally, just in case you are coming here, there is a more detailed book called “Streets of Silver, Streets of Gold” that has about ten different, more detailed walks around the valley and if you are geographically challenged (like us) and your compasses melted and fell out of your key chains (like ours did in Thailand last summer) than this is a great guide and readily available in Kathmandu.

  • The first picture (not counting the one of me uselessly trying to get wireless internet from the courtyard of our hotel - stop laughing Paul…) is actually of the Nateshware Temple in Thahiti Tole which is a fifteenth century square with a somewhat non-descript Stupa in it.
    Cindy at the Toothache Statue in Kathmandu
      The temple itself is nicer looking than the Stupa.  Upon first arriving there, I was pretty sure that this is where I had stayed back in the 80’s and I later verified that with a local.  Very weird.  Anyway, the legend is that the Stupa was built to keep thieves away from a pond plated with gold.
  • The next few pictures are of a small courtyard with a very nice Stupa that looks a lot like the ones at Swayambunath or Bodhnath that we will visit later.  Kathesimbhu Stupa is in the middle of a large courtyard and is surrounded with lots of smaller Chorten as well as some very cool sculptures.  It is kind of amazing that you can just pop your head in almost any little alley or doorway in Kathmandu and be pretty sure that you will see some very old and amazing sites.
    Pretty Buddha Head in Haku Bahal
  • The picture of the wires and the windows is just because I love the way they haphazardously wire things here - how anyone can figure that out, I don’t know.  Also, the carved wooden windows are particularly ornate and detailed and supposedly, they were some of the oldest glass windows in the Kathmandu valley (obviously since replaced).  About this time, this one guy started following us around trying to sell us Tiger Balm (for some reason, they think all foreigners need to buy 5 jars of the stuff).  We ended up seeing him repeatedly throughout the day, at one point trying to be our “guide”.  We politely declined.
  • The shot of the Temple Roof Struts (we are sure there is an official sounding “architectural” name for these things but we don’t know it so we are going to call them TRS‘s for short…) are of the Sikha Narayan Temple which is a typical Hindu temple seen throughout Nepal.
    Haku Bahal Balcony and Bell
      I love the detailed and colorful carvings (sometimes quite interesting as you will see if Cindy let’s me do an entry later specifically on some of the more intriguing TRS’s seen all over Nepal). 
  • The picture of Cindy next to the weird sculpture thing is on “dental street” which, for whatever reason, is where all the dentist shops seem to be.  This is a monument to the “toothache god” where people actually nail coins to the twisted piece of wood that somewhere has his image on it in hopes that they can cure their oral maladies.  Since I have so far this time made it two months without a dental emergency that I am apt to have, I offered a quick Namaste to the statue.  Around the corner (not depicted here but I have a shot if you really want to see) there is another dental shop with a small Buddha image, about two feet high, surrounded in blue and white tiles.
    Skeleton Guy at the Annapurna Temple
      It is supposedly from the fifth century which reiterates my point that, wherever you look in Kathmandu, there is antiquity mixed with modernity - very cool.  In addition to the “dental shrine”, there is a shrine around the corner where people pray for their eyes.
  • Haku Bahal is another nice courtyard (Bahal’s were originally Buddhist temples built around courtyards, often several stories high) where the shot of the Buddha head with the vermilion colored paste and the orange chrysanthemums as well as the picture of the incredibly carved balcony and windows with the bell and incense burner hanging are located.
  • The picture of the skeletal looking deity at the Annapurna Temple in Asan Tole (Tole means “quarter” or square and is usually associated with a market) is for the goddess of abundance.
    Ganesh Shrine in Asan Tole
      Just as we were reading about it in our guide, several locals came up and walked clockwise around the shrine, touched a coin to their head and then offered it to the goddess, just as described.  We are not exactly sure what the skeleton guy has to do with abundance but we liked him.  Across the square is the richly decorated Ganesh statue which you see all over Kathmandu as he is one of the most revered gods and considered lucky.  Walking out of the square we stumbled across lots of spice sellers selling their goods and really liked the bags of brightly colored ground spices and especially the sometimes massive chunks of Nepalese salt including white, black and pink.  I wonder what the sellers would think if they had any idea what that stuff sells for at home!
  • The next part of the tour walks through one of the busier sections of Indra Chowk where we stopped at the Seto Machendranath temple which is visited by both Hindus and Bhuddists.
    Spice and Salt vendor in Asan Tole
      I was unaware of this previously, but apparently Cindy suffers from peristerophobia or “fear of pigeons“ (she claims it is actually peristero-scata-phobia or “fear of pigeons crapping on your head” and thus did not enjoy this pigeon filled temple so much.  The shot of the old lady (and many more we have at home if you want to see the beautiful golden temple doors or sculptures or carvings) is from there.
  • The last couple of shots are of the Nara Devi temple which is dedicated to Kali, one of Shiva’s consorts generally known for her destructive nature (note the skulls she is standing on…) and of yours truly getting his haircut by a very funny local guy.  He managed to convince me to have a neck and back massage too (including “cracking” my ears which I didn’t know could be done), neglecting to tell me that the massage was three times as much as the haircut.
    Annapurna Temple in Asan Tole
      Meanwhile, a younger guy was busy massaging Cindy’s hands and trying to convince her to come back for a pedicure.  Well, at least I feel cooler with out all that poofy hair!  I neglected to opt for the hair coloring or ear cleaning - enough is enough.

After the walking tour, we popped into a local place called the Cosmopolitan Café on “Freak Street” named for all of the hippies that originally made it a place to hang out in the 60’s and 70’s.  It is right off Durbar Square and still filled with cafes and curio shops but doesn’t have the character it did back in the 80’s.  Lunch was good and afterwards we finished our walk back to Jyatha where our hotel is.  Along the way, we stopped at a local fire station where there were supposed to be antique engines so we could snap some pictures for our neighbor Paul who is a retired firefighter.

Old Woman at Seto Machendranath temple
  We met one of the local firemen who showed us around in very broken English and asked if we could get him a copy of the fireman’s manual - we will have to ask Paul if there is such a thing when we are home.  We had dinner at one of the many, somewhat upscale restaurants that are all over Thamel, this one called The Third Eye is an Indian place with pretty tasty food and cold beer that was only marred by the over the top, annoying New York kid desperately trying to get laid by the English girl he was with by sounding worldly and educated.  Cindy wanted to smack him and we doubt he was successful in his travails - he seemed to even be mildly annoying to the girl.  I thought it was all pretty funny J.
Rickshaw in Kathmandu

Yak_m says:
This is also an excellent blog of yours. Almost feels like being there...
Posted on: Mar 22, 2008
dspinder says:
Hi guys. Guess I am all caught up. Everything sounds awesome. I think we chatted from Kathmandu. Looking forward to your adventures in the land of Bob Seger's dreams.


Posted on: Jun 04, 2007
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The tiny airport in Bharatpur, Nep…
The tiny airport in Bharatpur, Ne…
The Dolma Momo Center in Kathman…
The Dolma Momo "Center" in Kathma…
Me futilely trying to access the i…
Me futilely trying to access the …
Nateshware Temple in Thahiti Tole
Nateshware Temple in Thahiti Tole
Statue in Kathesimbhu temple
Statue in Kathesimbhu temple
Kathesimbhu Stupa
Kathesimbhu Stupa
Old windows and crazy electrical w…
Old windows and crazy electrical …
Temple Roof struts at Sikha Naraya…
Temple Roof struts at Sikha Naray…
Cindy at the Toothache Statue in K…
Cindy at the Toothache Statue in …
Pretty Buddha Head in Haku Bahal
Pretty Buddha Head in Haku Bahal
Haku Bahal Balcony and Bell
Haku Bahal Balcony and Bell
Skeleton Guy at the Annapurna Temp…
Skeleton Guy at the Annapurna Tem…
Ganesh Shrine in Asan Tole
Ganesh Shrine in Asan Tole
Spice and Salt vendor in Asan Tole
Spice and Salt vendor in Asan Tole
Annapurna Temple in Asan Tole
Annapurna Temple in Asan Tole
Old Woman at Seto Machendranath te…
Old Woman at Seto Machendranath t…
Rickshaw in Kathmandu
Rickshaw in Kathmandu
Fruit Seller in Kathmandu
Fruit Seller in Kathmandu
Kali carving at Nara Devi Temple
Kali carving at Nara Devi Temple
Me getting a haircut and massage i…
Me getting a haircut and massage …
Kathmandu Hotels & Accommodations review
Great Boutique Hotel
Kantipur Temple House is a short walk to the main part of Kathmandu and situated in a classic old Nepalese building with fountains, wood carvings, gre… read entire review
photo by: sharonburgher