Carmageddon in Kathmandu!
Trip Start Oct 19, 2011
8Trip End Dec 12, 2011
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Tuesday 15th november - we spent the day exploring Kathmandu, visiting Durbar Square, buying odds and ends. We sampled lots of Nepali street food (no meat, for fear of food poisoning!) which was so unbelievably cheap 25 rupees (20p) in total for samosas, chick pea pakora's, fried dough snacks and much more. We also went to an area of Kathmandu that's renowned for it's gold and silver jewellery before getting some pastries from a local shop. There we witnessed what seemed to be a street boy fighting with a school boy, I have never seen two people fighting so viciously, however, they seemed to move on eventually. Sadly, later that day, we saw the street boy on the ground and seemed to be suffering from a severe fit, and rather than getting him help the locals just stood around staring at him, it was very upsetting - human life has far less value over here than back in the UK. Nevertheless, we cheered ourselves up that evening with... guess what... FOOD!! we went to a really cool restaurant/bar and had cocktails and a few different dishes, it was delicious, but pretty expensive by Nepalese standards. For desert we decided to head to 'the best pie shop in kathmandu' - rough guides. I cannot begin to express how absolutely incredible the cakes are there!! Our favourite so far is the chocolate banana cake. It's approximately 60 rupees for a BIG slice which is about 50p.
Wednesday 16th November - we decided to do a day trip to patan (southern district of Kathmandu). On the way we walked through the slums of Kathmandu - it was a serious eye opener. People live in tents amongst the rubbish and live off other people's waste, it was pretty shocking. We walked for a couple of hours before reaching patan Durbar square - which is quite similar (but less touristy) than Kathmandu Durbar square. Full of temples, museums etc. We took a taxi back along the absolutely hellish ring road! We ate out that night at a Tibetan restaurant and visited our favourite cake shop afterwards!
Thursday 17th November - we planned another long day trip firstly visiting Swayambhu - monkey temple (due to its infestation of monkey's). It is a temple complex magnificently set atop a conical hill, the hill commands a sweeping view (if you can call a view through the dense smog 'sweeping!') of kathmandu. The ancient stupa (temple) is the most profound expression of Buddhist symbolism in Nepal and the source of the valley's creation myth. There are some 300+ steps up to the top and are probably the most vertical flight of steps that I have ever seen! We then took a taxi to Boudha - one of the worlds biggest Buddhist temples, along the Kathmandu - Tibet trade route. Since 1959 it has become the Mecca of Tibetan exiles in Nepal. We were lucky enough to witness the monks chanting, but didn't agree with how touristy the area had become - tourists walking through the chanting monks, seemed wrong to us. We left and walked south for about half an hour to Pashupatinath - nepal's holiest Hindu pilgrimage site. It is an amazing enclave of temples, statues, pilgrims and half naked holy men! We spent a while wandering around amongst the temples, surrounded by hundreds of monkeys in what felt like a scene from planet of the apes! Having not eaten for the whole day we decided to head back to get some food...our appetite was severely spoilt when directly to the left of the exit we witnessed four human (open air) cremations in a line, and to our left a body being lowered into the water (something that they do soon after death but before cremation) to receive blessings etc. Nepali culture has definitely opened our eyes up to many things we have never experienced before, however this absolutely shocked me, beyond anything else I have seen here. I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing, and my shock was exacerbated by the hoards of tourists who thought it was appropriate to take photos of these people. We quickly moved on, but later found myself feeling quite upset and a little shell shocked by the whole thing, as the Rough Guide puts it quite aptly 'for all the vibrant sacred activity, it is the sombre sight of public cremation that, for many, proves the most lasting image'. We lightened the mood with lots of card games, that Ross still cheats at and yet still gets beaten by me :p.
Friday 18th November - STRUCK DOWN WITH DEATH....AGAIN. Not me this time but Ross. We have decided that getting out of Kathmandu is probably best for both of us, as the pollution is starting to take its toll. The guide booked advised only staying here for two days due to health risks, so we feel that our departure is well and truly due! We have booked a bus back to pokhara the day after tomorrow (as long as Ross is ok to travel) and the plan is to escape to the hills! We are both extremely keen to do some more walking/trekking so are considering extending our week long trek at the end to possibly 2 weeks as well as incorporating some rafting. This is all stuff that we need to arrange from pokhara so will update you shortly!!