We left Bangladesh bright and early and walked the 1.8km to the airport. After being ripped off during our last 2 taxi trips thanks to the hartals, there was no way we were going to get in another hotel-arranged taxi! We were tired yet excited about getting to Nepal.
We had a slight mishap prior to leaving as we read that we had to do an electronic Visa on Arrival for Nepal. After trying several times and failing, we gave up and left anyway. Our stress was averted as we were given the paperwork on the plane and, after airport walking Will style (aka pretty much running) we got into an efficient queue once we had landed that had us processed in no time. Faster, we noted, than the electronic visa booths! We even had to wait for our packs once we passed through the visa line.
On exiting the airport we dealt with the pesky hawkers and found our hotel pickup. The drive through the city enthralled us as we sped through the streets in a car about the same age as us. Our driver pointed out sights along the way and we started getting very excited.
Our hotel was nestled in the busy tourist area of Thamel, and the riot of colour, sights, sounds and amazing smells was right outside our door. We had a few hours to explore Thamel before having a delicious dhal bhat each for dinner.
Katmandu is an amazing, chaotic city full of vibrant people and stunning architecture. As you may remember we love walking and that is just what we did. We walked the length of the city stopping to explore various monuments, temples and communal spaces. Although there were thousands of people moving around the city we found it a lot easier to navigate than Dhaka and instantly felt far more comfortable. We spent some time exploring the kings palace, which has now been turned into a museum, giving a stunning reminder of what a glamorous palace would be like in the 70’s and 80’s.
The next day we wandered through the narrow alleyways to the west of our hotel to Swayambhunath temple, also known as the monkey temple. The walk there was amazing as we passed through local homes with small gardens jam packed with amazing vegetables. Every time we got a little lost or turned around a helpful local would point us in the right direction.
The temple required walking up thousands of steps, Sam’s least favourite form of exercise. But once at the top we were met with a fantastic view and a surprisingly large number of shops and ornate buildings.
As the name suggests monkey temple has monkeys. Lots of monkeys. Naughty monkeys who jump on the tin rooves of the buildings, go through rubbish and climb all over the statues. We spent several hours exploring the amazing site and took hundreds of photos of monkeys before heading back. On our return leg we found an amazing little eatery with delicious food for a lovely quiet lunch. We then went to the much hyped Garden of Dreams. It was shit. Seriously. OK, it’s nice, but it’s smaller than a rugby pitch. A waste of time (unless you like perving at the young couples making out on every seat). If you’re in Kathmandu, don’t bother going!
Speaking of food the food in Katmandu is amazing and varied. With influences from both India and China there is so many opportunities to eat amazing food. To our surprise, chowmein seemed to be the fast food of choice, along with Thukpa – a spicy noodle soup. But the dhal bhat and curries were by far our favourites!
On our final day we walked to Pashupatinath temple. After half an hour of trying to figure out how to get around it – as foreigners are not allowed into the buildings – we stumbled across the river area. As we entered the area, a corpse was being taken out of a hearse. A poinient reminder of how spiritual and important this place was. After crossing a bridge and looking back over the river we saw about 8 raised blocks. These are where people are cremated, before their ashes are pushed into the river to flow downstream. We didn’t know quite how to take what we were seeing. We certainly felt privilidged to witness such a spiritual part of the culture and religion, but also slightly intrusive. We quickly agreed that while we would take photos of the scene as a whole from further up the hill, we would not take them from ground level. If that was one of our friends or relatives, anyone taking photos would have been met with a strong fist. The type of fist that I wanted to give to one tourist with a giant camera who got every close up possible, including at one point standing right over a body. The looks of those around him and even the occasional cry from a distraught person in the crowd at the loss of one of their loved ones didn’t stop him.
We lazed around the rest of the day, had the obligatory curry for lunch, and took our time to walk back before preparing for a new destination the next day.