Tuesday, October 12, 2010

kathmandu, nepal

Nepal has been a roller coaster of fun, culture shock, and food. The minute I stepped foot in Nepal, I was greeted with hot and humid blasts of air inconsistent with my perception of the mountains and Himalayas, persistent taxi drivers, and just plain confusion. It all ended well, of course, and I was happily settled in at Hotel Florid with a courtyard in the middle of Thamel. 
We didn’t do much but walk around the city, enjoying all it has to offer on foot. However, Kathmandu has the most insane traffic I’ve ever seen. When I say traffic, I do not mean boulevard traffic. I’m talking about alleyway traffic. Small narrow street traffic! I mean, our hotel is on Z street in Thamel. It takes me a full 5 steps to cross the street, if THAT! But somehow, a car, a rickshaw, and a motorbike can squeeze through, all at the same time!!!  In addition, there are a million pedestrians walking about in this same traffic! I’m one of those pedestrians, and I find it insanely hard to walk in this city. I have never feared for my feet the way I have here. Every which way, there are wheels coming at me, pedaled and mechanical wheels, all either honking, tinkling, waving at me. I started wearing my Merrells to walk the city because the minute I look up, I either step into a pothole, or come dangerously close to losing some toes. After a day or two, I got better at watching for traffic coming at me as well as the traffic coming from behind me. We made it to Durbar Square where all tourists must go. It’s a large square with a few larger streets intersecting through it, each street having its own personality. One is called Freak Street. We found some good jewelry and a cute café with a gorgeous rooftop terrace to have lunch on.
local beer...had to try them all

Darbur Square shopping

this bowl makes the coolest sound
this is out protector buddha!
streets of Kathmandu at night
My friend recommended a place to eat some amazing pizza in Thamel [Fire and Ice is featured in Lonely Planet as well] and since we have refrained from any American food except for spicy tom yum chicken wings at a Thai McDonald's, we went for it. The splurge was quite substantial for our travel budget but it was worth it. We got an amazingly thin crusted Italian pizza with ham, artichokes, mozzarella and olives. The salad was not green as expected, but was a combination of tuna, tomatoes, capers, olives, and the sweetest onions I've ever tasted.  We also got a bottle of Australian Shiraz to share and I was quite buzzed by the end of the meal. Dessert was ice cream with raspberry syrup and I ate it all by myself. We walked home from the restaurant and played cards till late, knowing we could sleep in the next day although the sun rises at 5 am.
Fire and Ice...the best pizza in Kathmandu

On another day, we decided to head out of Thamel and see Swayumbhunath, also known as Monkey Temple.  The temple is outside the city, so we taxied out. It dropped us off at the bottom of the hill and we looked up at a thousand steps. Of COURSE there would be steps. Why would we think it would be flat??! Silly us. So up we go, step by step. Right now, I think my thigh and calf muscles are the strongest in my body, followed by my upper arms and shoulders from carrying my backpack.
chilling with the monkeys!

monkeys everywhere!
The walk up Swayambhunath was quite fun actually. It’s called Monkey Temple for a reason! Monkeys are everywhere! They are not afraid of humans at all, and the locals actually have to scare some of them off, they flock around so much. On the way down the steps, a dad was carrying his little girl, and a mama monkey lost her baby, so she jumped on the dad’s back and started shrieking. Although I’m a giant fan of monkeys and all that fun, I do NOT want one shrieking on my back! The little one ended up running and used me as a hopping tool, bouncing off my back into the bushes, and the mother followed. 
At the top of the temple, we walked around taking pictures of the monks and the landscape. A lot of pilgrims come to pray here, and butter lamps are lit around the temple. We got there late in the day, and got to see the sunset from the top, which was one of the most beautiful and relaxing days in Kathmandu. The colors are just perfect, and I was happy that I brought my book Eat, Pray, Love to read. The book, the city, the temple, and the sunset were the perfect combination, and I sat there for almost an hour soaking it all in.
this monkey was ahem...funny
don't ask why, we are kind of obsessed with butter lamps

dirty calloused feet!

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