Kathmandu (Nepal), 14.07.2013
After several days of early bird mornings, today we took it easy. Reading and blogging at breakfast, we planned what to see in Kathmandu. There are plenty of sights in and around the city, and many Unesco listed places. What we had seen the night before didn’t impress us, but we were tired and the air was filled with smog. So we wanted to find out the real face of the city.
At noon we left for the Bodhnath stupa, a huge temple in the northern side of town. The road through the city is indeed not too interesting, with heavy traffic and plenty of fumes from the exhausts of all kinds of vehicles. The stupa, the biggest in the world, is in contrast very beautiful. Both the temple and the square around it are quite a sight. The sky was getting dark with heavy rain clouds, giving the eyes of the stupa an impressive look, framed by many lines of colourful flags blowing in the wind. People walked around the temple, rolling the prayer rolls, the air was filled with the smell of incense. We walked around too, admiring the stupa and the old houses of the square. As we left, the first rain drops started to fall. By the time we were back on the road, it rained heavily as we drove through the intense Kathmandu traffic again.
Our next stop was the Swayambunath or monkey temple. We put on our rain ponchos as we left the car and started climbing up the steep steps to the temple. These steps are one of those cases where a religion really wants to test the faith of the people! By the time we reached the last trees, we saw one monkey, that was probably put there to justify the name of the place 😉 Given the heat and little rain, we took off the ponchos at the ticket booth. We were wetter from sweating then we probably would have gotten from the rain. At the booth I paid the 400 rupees fee with a 1.000 rupees bill, and got a 100 rupees bill back. It is incredible how these tricks are applied on tourists in all parts of the world. The guy didn’t even excuse himself after he gave me the missing 500 rupees bill. Anyway, the panorama of Kathmandu from the temple terraces was amazing. The city is actually huge, extending over pretty much the entire valley. On the northern side the sky was dark and it rained heavily while on the southern side it opened up and the sun started to shine through the clouds. We walked around the stupa, here the prayer rolls were bigger then in Bodhnath and the candle lights placed directly under them.
Having read about a place famous for its momos, the local variety of dumplings, we got hungry and drove into Thamel, the downtown district popular with travellers. We made it through the narrow roads and even found a parking place. Then we took a walk through the streets, with tourist shops left and right selling clothes, souvenirs, tours, fabrics. We passed a communist protest march without trouble. Thamel is still quite hippie, it smells of incense and the atmosphere seemed quite retro to us. We found the Yangling Tibetan restaurant finally on the first floor of an anonymous building overlooking Freak Street, and ordered momos of course, steamed and fried ones. Delicious!! They make them fresh the moment you order. As we ate, we realised we had found back to our discovery mode, walking through towns, enjoying eateries, talking to people. Since we had entered India, we hadn’t done this any more.
After buying some souvenirs for us and friends we walked back to the car and tried to find our way it of Thamel. As we kept looking for directions and followed city traffic, suddenly we found ourselves in the middle of Durbar Square. For once traffic congestion was a good thing, since we had time to admire the many impressive buildings, temples, statues. This place was a sudden overdose of impressions. We parked the car, got the camera and walked back to check out the place more in detail. This part of town is still mainly medieval built, and over crowded with people. The usual buggers are a plague, and here some old men in strange yellow clothes add to the crowd of people asking for money. We ignored them as good as possible to focus on the beauty of the buildings, the flowers being sold on the streets, the colours and smells.
Still amazed we got back into the car. We had time for another sight, and decided to escape the crazy traffic and go to see Bhaktapur, a town just outside Kathmandu and with a Unesco listed Durbar Square. We underestimated traffic, and got lost on the way too. We arrived in darkness, parked the car t the foot of the old town a and walked up the hill. Unfortunately there was very little light, we could admire only few of the beautiful medieval buildings. But this place is a jewel.
Exhausted from the day, we drove back to the hotel, and indulged in an excursion through fine Nepalese cuisine at the Dwarika’s signature restaurant. The nine courses offered us an insight into the richness of the local specialities. We found the use of spices more moderate then in India, and in some cases we liked the Nepalese taste better, sometimes the Indian. This made us debate the dishes and closed this day full of impressions in a very tasteful way.
Trip data for the day
– Km driven: 51
– Hrs on the road: 8h
– Diesel l/100km: 16,0