With no ill effects from last nights curry, ready to leave the remainder of Delhi for the end of the trip and get to Nepal asap. Let the hotel sort the taxi to the airport and transfer to Kathmandu
and all went to schedule. A long wait getting Visa sorted at Kathmandu airport but chatted with other westerners including 4 5th year students from Boston, US also wanting to do Annapurna Sanctuary trek. Having provisionally agreed to walk it together, surprised to find the Tibet Guest House that I'd provisionally contacted to find room availability had sent a pick up. Exchanged e-mail addresses and went different directions.
Kathmandu immediately less chaotic than Delhi.
Motorbikes appear to be the vehicle of choice but certainly more organised. Everything still very dusty and a bit run down. However quickly arrived in Thamel
, the famed tourist area in Kathmandu. Narrow streets lined with market fronted shops and prayer flags overhead give a flavour of Nepal, but clearly an immitation. Regardless, straight away feel more relaxed with at least 25% of people western backpackers and the rest locals happy to wait for the shoppers to come to them rather than playing hard sell. Checked in and popped out to investigate Thamel. Quite happy to complete my trekking shop by purchasing "100% genuine" North Face trekking trousers and Okley shades for a total of $20.
Even salesman surprisingly honest when I tried to pay in Indian Rupee not knowing that it was worth more than Nepali Rupee, so got money back ! Choice of restaurants equal to many English cities and treated myself to steak. Lovely !
Next day priority was to go down to Durbar Square. Widely accepted as the heart of Nepalese culture, only a short walk from Thamel. Set across two adjoining squares awesome sight with numerous multi roofed temples epitomising unique historical buildings of Nepal. Most of the temples date over 300 years old built by various kings. Great to wander around and good for photo opportunities. Avoided the many tourist touts, maybe missing out on a bit of the background, but enjoyed taking in the scene.
Went for the tour of the palace instead. However focussed solely on King Tribhuvan (last king who moved Nepal in to a democracy). 1st few rooms were very enjoyable but there is only so many photos to see before it becomes monotonous (not to myself - filter best photos of Asia before showing to friends !!).
Heading back to hostal when rickshaw driver offered lift anywhere. Not fussed either way managed to negotiate him down for ride to Pashupitinath temple. Listed in one of my nerdy books as in the 1000 things to "Make the most of your life", it was a must see. Thought I was quite light until seeing the poor rickshaw driver struggling up numerous hills through Kathmandhu towards temple. I tried to be nice by getting out a few times on some steep slopes, but then I was paying him !
Pashupitinath temple famed for being final resting place for many Nepalese as the recently deceased are openly cremated on the river bank and washed away in to the Bagmati river.
Smell of burning immediately hits you before getting to the river and quite oppressive. Walked over to the opposite side of the river and watched numerous bodies being washed in the river before being laid on a bed of wood and the pyre built around before being covered in marigold flowers. Really humbling watching such an outpouring of grief and feeling slightly awkward that this has become a tourist attraction. Walked around rest of temple which is jammed with impressive shrines and walked up the hill for a better view over the main temple and surrounding shrines. Avoided the holy men touting for money for a photo before leaving with a lasting impression.
My rickshaw driver still waiting, he then offered a lift to Boudhnath stupa. As it was next on my list, renegotiated a price and set off.
Garden of Dreams
Boudhnath is one of biggest stupas in world and most revered outside of Tibet. A major Buddhist pilgrimage site, especially for Tibet exiles. Hidden by just one row of shops, it jumps out at you as you walk down the alleyway entrance. Impressive structure, especially as it dates from 6th century. Supposedly contains hair and teeth of Buddha himself, but shrine has been completely sealed for over 300 years so noone can really say. Regardless, another impressive and peaceful place of meditation and reflection. The circular surround to the stupa now full of artisan shops and cafes, so took the opportunity for a rooftop lunch and took in the view.
Heading back to hostal, driver pointed out Garden of Dreams. Also recommended in guide so had a qick stop. Small but well maintained gardens providing a very peaceful hideaway. Good for photos but a bit of a romantic couply place. Left the lovers to it and headed back to hostal. No sooner back in the rickshaw when sirens directly behind us nnearly causing us to crash in to a cow grazing in the road. Overtaken by a coroner in a charging Suzuki Swift with a coffin half out the back of the boot and tied down with string. There's some unusual sights in Nepal.
Kathmandu has sold out a bit to tourism, but I still love the place.