Yep, that's Nepal in a nutshell.
04.01.2011 - 05.01.2011 20 °C
4 Jan: Delhi - Kathmandu
How long does it take to get to the airport? Will my taxi break down? Which airport am I going to? What if my ticket doesn't work? What if I miss my plane!!? India's inconsistency combined with my need for control does not merge well when combined with a flight.
But everything ran very smoothly. I didn't think I was going to cry. Honest. But then I did. Oh, lame. I did the classic wave as the taxi rushed off, sobbing, Michael standing behind a window, watching solemnly. Or maybe he then did a little dance. Who knows.
We didn't crash, no cows started eating the car, we got the right airport and they even gave me a boarding pass! After getting a truly awful berry milkshake, I went to lounge 4A, caught a bus to plane, and... sat on the landing strip for about 40 minutes. It was probably the most terrifying takeoff of my life, purely because the smog was so thick that we were zooming into filth for the first 3 minutes in the air.
Up above the clouds, things looked pretty normal, until I realised that those pointy clouds on the horizon weren't clouds at all. They were MOUNTAINS. Mountains that didn't seem that much shorter than us, mountains like I have never seen before.
As we approached them, I started seeing little terraced patches of farmland below, more and more, until all the hillsides were covered in these gorgeous layers of garden, rice, or something else, with little houses dotted between them. Just gorgeous.
Kathmandu wasn't much further along, in a fairly grey and smoggy valley. All the grass was dead for winter along the riverbanks, and all the rest was 4-storey houses, growing closer and closer together as we descended...
I told some blokes that I had a booking for Tibet Guest House (I didn't really) and they ushered me into a car. A Californian bloke soon joined me (if this ended badly, at least i wasn't going to die alone) and we were taken to our hotel, through the suburbs of Kathmandu, and into the crazy, colourful suburb of Thamel, where tourists hang out.
See: Tibet Guest House. Power cuts for several hours at a time because there isn't enough hydroelectricty in winter for the whole city.
All settled in, I didn't have much time to go for a wander, but did explore Thamel, bewildered by the concept that SO MUCH colour could possibly exist. I had dinner at a place Mike and Sammy had recommended, which was hilarious but lovely- garlic bread is bread with garlic on it, and lasagne is sheets swimming in white sauce, but they did a fine job of momos and masala tea.
When I got back to my room, the power went out, so.... lights out, then.
5 Jan – On the streets of Kathmandu
After a delicious 12 hour sleep, I woke wondering where on earth I was, and where had Michael gone. Oh, yeah... First up, walked down streets, across a river and up a rather steep hill to Swayambhunath stupa and co, a gorgeous collection of religious monuments that tower above the rest of the city on a very pointy hill. I spent a couple of hours up there, laughing at the ridiculous monkeys, marvelling at the crazy trinkets in the little shops dotted around, and smiled at the monks watching everyone else do their thing. I wonder if the stray dogs up there benefit from the good vibes?
As I sat on the temple step, a bloke was setting up the prayer flags on the stupa- he tossed them down in a big bundle, but they were so light, they looked like they were going to stop mid-air. Some Bollywood-looking dance scene was being filmed at the front of the stupa with lots of over-the-top smiling men and women shaking their booties in amazing costumes.
Down the hill again, I wandered past some military base to the National Museum, which LP had highly recommended. I think it would have been more impressive if there wasn't a blackout- I couldn't see half of the exhibits.
Nepal is funny. The men are still a little bit annoying sometimes, but unlike India, the women really watch and smile at you. They say hello, but in a nice way. I guess I just didn't see many women in India, and when they were out, their eyes weren't wandering far. Nepalese people in general, are so kind. When they smile at you, it's like they are smiling right into your eyes; they see the best in you and are clearly happy to be in your company.
Walking up Freak Street, which seems pretty tame these days, I hit Durbar Square, trying to keep my eyes shut, because I want to save it up for when the O'Malleys arrive. It's pretty. And old. More on it later.
I wandered around Thamel a bit more after lunch, but it got really cold really quickly once the sun had gone down. Wowee.
I've just booked a 3-day trek (just me and one guide) in the area northeast of Kathmandu. Apparently it has a good view over Annapurna and some lovely sunrises and sunsets. Should be good! I'll let you know how it went in a few days!
Take care. Love to you all.
(6th - 8th – Trek in the Himalayas)