At this point (mid-July 2017), we had been in Nepal for two months. In that time, we had hiked to Everest Base camp, spent time in Pokhara, hiked our version of the Annapurna Circuit, been to Chitwan National Park, and travelled back to Kathmandu. Needless to say, we were feeling run down. Because of this, our last five days in Nepal were spent in Kathmandu doing the typical sightseeing activities, eating Dal Bhat and momos, and catching up on sleep.
There are countless things you're "supposed" to do whilst in Kathmandu, but after considering our budget, energy levels, and transport, we settled on the following:
- Durbar Square: Apologies! I've snuck this site into the list. We actually visited Durbar Square on the second day of being in Nepal – it’s where we met Prabin for the afternoon. Durbar Square is really cool; it’s where the Kumari Goddess lives. There are lots of tall, beautiful temples all over the square and it's well worth a visit. Unfortunately, Durbar Square was significantly damaged in the earthquake, so there are large piles of rubble everywhere, but it will be rebuilt over time.
- Swayambhunath: Also known as The Monkey Temple. I enjoyed this landmark – it was really busy, and had lots of different people, ceremonies, merchants and vendors everywhere. It cost Boy and I Rs. 200 each as tourists. It is atop a very large staircase and provides wonderful views of the city. The monkeys here won't hurt you, but they might steal the sunglasses from your head if you don't look out!
- Bhaktapur: An ancient city located approximately 15km from central Kathmandu. Upon reflection, Boy and I had mixed feelings about Bhakatpur. It’s funny because it was very clean, very peaceful and all very lovely. So lovely that it almost felt Western…perhaps over our two months we had become accustomed to noise, chaos and litter so, when we went to Bhaktapur, we just weren’t buying it as the “real” Nepal. Nevertheless, it is a neat place to check out; narrow cobbled streets, stone houses with small wooden doors, and countless vendors that were selling souvenirs that were different to the usual hemp backpacks and elephant pants. It cost Rs. 1500 to enter, and our taxi cost Rs. 3000 return, so this expedition was one of our most costly.
- Asan Markets: We heard about Asan by chatting with an American couple that were staying at the hostel. They described the markets as ‘cheap: really, really cheap’. Naturally, we were intrigued. We had to tackle these markets in two trips because our first visit didn't go according to plan. It turns out that Asan is the regular market where people buy all of their household goods like groceries, clothes, electronics etc. Because everybody was doing their shopping at Asan, it was proper hectic. So much so that I shut down, and after about 20 minutes of aimless wandering, we gave up and went back to the hostel. Our trip back the following day was much more successful; we looked at lots of various stalls. Boy wanted to find a pair of sneakers, which seemed a simple enough task but as it turns out, Boy is a giant in Nepal. Every shoe store stocked up to a size 7, or maybe an 8 if we were lucky. Boy is an 11, so he had no chance. We both remember one vendor laughing us out of the store!
Our time in Nepal was wonderful. On the face of it, our travels seem intrepid, but during our time there we barely scratched the surface. The exploring you can do it in the Himalayas knows no bounds. We intend to go back some day – there is so much of Nepal we are yet to discover; the Three Passes hike is the next one on our list.
It wasn’t all happy selfies, because nothing ever is: the poverty, in some cases, was extreme, and the nation has only recently recovered from Civil War. However, in the face of this, Nepali people are kind, peaceful, welcoming and happy. Our travel in Nepal taught us lots of things like how to pack at 5:00am in a dorm room while making as little sound as possible or how to haggle over a pashmina, but, without a doubt, it proved to Boy and I that you don't need money to be happy or kind. It is the wonderful disposition of Nepali people, as well as all of the unforgettable activities, that made our two months in Nepal fly by.
My next post is going to be about going to India: arriving in New Delhi, and making our way to Agra and Jaipur.
Bye for now,