Kathmandu and mayhem
After a delay of three hours in Bangkok we arrived in Kathmandu. The airport is interesting. We were all loaded on a bus and driven the 50m to the terminal from the plane, would have been much faster to walk! They send you through security screening on the way OUT of the terminal which is a bit backward. No one seemed to care that every second person set the metal detector off, including me. It was the same 17 years ago when I was last here☺️.
A driver from the hotel met us at the airport and weaved us through the mayhem that is Kathmandu’s traffic. There don’t appear to be any road rules except a vague notion of keeping to the left. Unless of course you need to pass, in which case it’s ok to drive into the oncoming traffic who all seem to just go around you 😅. No one goes very fast and are all very courteous, so it works, sort of.
Today’s excursion has been to Durba Square which is home to some extraordinary Temples. Unfortunately a lot of them were damaged in the recent earthquake. Some restoration is underway, but it all seems a bit hap hazard.
We are working out how to deal with the ‘touts’. These are the street sellers and guides all trying to sell you something. Most are OK, a simple no thanks works. Others will tell you their life story and try to get you talking. Always followed by the sales pitch. Much harder to get rid of!
Pashupatinath and Bodhnath
I can’t pronounce them either!
Today’s expedition was to walk the 5km to Pashupatinath temple. This is the most important temple in Nepal. Built in 1696 so it’s over 320 years old. Only Hindus are allowed in the main temple. We paid for a guide, who spent nearly two hours explaining all the buildings and the rules around the cremations that take place there every day (up to 50 a day) . Their whole attitude to death and reincarnation is very different and very open to public viewing. There were a number of cremations taking place while we were there. Photos are all OK.
We then headed off to the Bodhinath Stupa which is the largest in Asia. You all walk around it clock wise and spin the hundreds of prayer wheels as you go. So I know we now have good Karma and will be reincarnated as something nice like one of Pauline’s chooks 😀
Lunch was a Nepalese specialty, momos (dumplings). We ordered too many as usual and couldn’t eat them all. All up with two teas is cost 600 rupee, which is about $7.50au.
The taxi from Bodhinath to Thamel where we are staying was the usual dodgem cars. We did learn a couple of new techniques. To do a right hand turn through a wall of traffic, just flash your lights, beep the horn and turn into all the oncoming traffic, no problem. The second technique is a variation on this and it used to join any main road from a side street, just flash your lights, beep the horn and cut them all off. We also learned that the taxi drivers never appear to have change. Which of course is another technique designed to get you to just not bother. Pauline of course would have none of it and went off to the nearby money changer to get the correct amount😕
The Monkey Temple
Today we checked out the other big attraction in Kathmandu, the Monkey Temple. It’s a round version of the Bodhnath stupa on top of a large hill to the west of Kathmandu. Great views over the city through the smog. Lots of people praying and of course the ever reliable touts!
Crossing the streets is a lot like the driving techniques. Of course without the benefit of horn or headlights or a car body. You just walk out into the oncoming traffic. Not for the feint hearted😕. We usually wait for one of the locals to act as a decoy. It also explains why 40% of road fatalities are pedestrians!
It had to happen, on the way to the Monkey Temple we found the ice cream shop. And the winner so far is Cardamon flavoured ice cream😊. We went back for seconds!
On the way back we found the Samosa shop the locals all go to. So a win-win for the trip to the Monkey Temple. Four large and very tasty Samosas for lunch. At the bargain price of 60 rupees (about $0.75au) for four!
There are lots of shops selling North Face and other popular brands at ridiculously low prices. They all look so well made that you wonder if they are copies or the real thing. That is until you wander down the street with all the fabric shops and other haberdashery. You can buy rolls of North Face and Gortex labels ready to sew on your new creation. Even the printed marketing labels and guarantees are available 😂
Some of the more entertaining advertising used to get trekkers in –
Tonight we are meeting up with the other trekkers and Kim our leader to go over logistics etc. Our gear is already sorted and loaded into the waterproof duffle bags that go on the horses. Apparently horses are the same price as a porter but can carry twice as much.