08.01.2011 - 10.01.2011
8th - 9th Kathmandu
After arriving back from my hike, I met up with the O'Malleys at around dinnertime, having hauled various bags of my junk through Thamelian backstreets to get there. Nah, I don't want a taxi, autorickshaw OR bike autorickshaw, or porter, ta. The O'Malleys had somehow just spent a whole day travelling, despite their flight being less than 2 hours long. None of them knew how 2 hours took up 12 hours, but that's India for you.
It was Susan's birthday, so she got to pick the restaurant (blind finger-stab at book was her method of choice), so off we went, across Thamel, to some hilarious little dingy place. Dingy, maybe, but also YUMMY. We ordered a big 6-person (yes, there were only 5 of us, but we were hungry... we THOUGHT) assortment of dishes type deal, and the blokes lit a heater behind Sue and myself. The food was great. Top few meals for all of us. Too bad we couln't eat half of it because it was SO MUCH FOOD. Hopefully all those waiterish blokes got a good feeding from the leftovers that night.
... 9th ...
Philip and Susan had visited Kathmandu some twenty-odd years ago, but it had changed quite a lot since then. So I somehow assumed the role of City Guide. We did the North-of-Old-Town walking route marked in Lonely Planet, which took us past a whole series of temples hidden down little alleys, opening up in big courtyards, surrounded by old women watching us from high above, basking in the morning sunlight.
After about 2 hours of exciting little secret passageways and backstreets, 6th century Buddha statues and unexpected untouristy hidden plazas, we arrived at the much-awaited Durbar Square. Durbar Square is, essentially, Temple Central of Kathmandu. It is a series of 3 temple-dotted plazas diagonally linked at the corners, opening up a length of temply goodness, in amongst the sprawls modern/old/leaky/grotty 7-storey city life. It was 300 Nepali rupees each for entry, which Philip wasn't too happy about (it was free last time!), and that only let you into half of the complex. We wandered around, being a bit freaked out by some of the beggars chasing us, and then retreated to the rooftop of a nearby cafe for some seriously less-than-exciting cheese-toasty type luncheon. The plus was that we could watch from safety as a procession of protestors/demonstrators? marched into the square with all manner of banners and chants, followed by a herd and a half of motorcyclists, and then army men with big sticks. Apparently it was a holy day. No blood shed, as far as we could tell.
Partly because I didn't know what else to do, and partly because I quite enjoyed it the first time, I went with the O'Malleys back to the Monkey Temple. It was nice to catch up with old mates monkey, monk and salesperson again. And yes, the two adjacent shops were STILL playing the same song on repeat, but in different keys. NOT OKAY.
Dodging the salespeople and beggars, we walked back into Kathmadu, passing over the Nepali holy river that is more junk than water. There were some seriously obese pigs staring into the rubbish-filled waters, having a bit of a zen moment as crows danced on their backs.
Back at Durbar Square (nope, no more peaceful yet), we decided to take the South-of-Durbar-Square LP walking route, which was far less temply than the other one, but far more everyday-life-for-locals in feel. I accidentally led us into the wrong little secret-passageway-to-a-courtyard, resulting in the 5 of us scurrying out, chased by a particularly shouty resident hound.
After being jammed in a mash of humans, autorickshaws, cars, dogs and vegetable stalls, scurrying along with the locals through a bazaar of pots, pans, brooms, tiny shoes and incense holders, we finally found refuge in the quiet, but loudly colourful, streets of Thamel.
That night we had a pretty fun meal at a place where half locals, half tourists hung out, that we found down a very narrow hall off the street. A rock band was playing classic hits next door; an interesting juxtaposition to the low lighting and pretty authentic food in front of us. Susan and I had a dellicious sort of momo soup, as recommended by the Oracle (i.e. Lonely Planet). Philip was staring at the Nepali blokes in there drinking something in a huge aluminium glass, with a huge aluminium straw. He asked a waiter, who explained that it was fermented millet, which you poured hot water into to suck out the alcohol. It got stronger as you went. I thought it tasted like mould + vodka, but Philip seemed to enjoy it.
10th Kathmandu – Pokhara
Early morning. Frosty bus. For 8.5 hours through windy mountains. Berk. At least the mountains were pretty. We stopped at TWO places along the way for food, obviously because the bus driver was being commissioned to drop hoards of wealthy tourists off, not because we were actually hungry.
In Pokhara, we enjoyed the usual hoo-ha of being picked up from the bus station: nice little mans carried our bags all the way to the van, but then we had to wait for a THOUSAND HOURS because we couldn't pay by card because the MAN IN THE BANK HAD GONE TO LUNCH. I don't understand how there can be so many men doing a one-man job, but then you end up waiting for AWOL blokes half the time anyway.
That afternoon, we just wandered up the lakeside road, enjoying the peace and quiet after the smoggy noisy mayhem that is Kathmandu. We had cake for lunch, because it was cake o'clock by that stage, and then, I don't know, wandered home again. We didn't do much. It was nice.