Reflections of Kathmandu

We arrived at Kathmandu International airport late afternoon from Dhaka, Bangladesh by United Airways (not to be confused with United Airlines of the United States). Checking through Immigration and Customs was reasonably easy and quick as there were not that many arriving passengers at that time; I think our flight was the only one.

However, when we stepped out of the airport, I noticed that there were a good number of people, either waiting for passengers from our flight, or the next one coming in. I looked around for a taxi to take us into town. I didn't have long to wait. A man approached me and asked if I wanted a taxi. When I asked him how much to the city, he said, "500 Rupees," I made a quick calculation and it amounted to only about $8, so I didn't even bother to bargain. (In most Asian countries one always bargain for lower prices in small stores).

I had thought that the man was the cab driver, but when we got into his car, I noticed that there was another fellow who was the driver. On the way to the city, the first man who sat up front tried to persuade us to go to his "friend's" hotel saying that it was a lot better than the one where we had reserved, the hostel Elbrus Home. However, we declined his offer as we had already made the booking with Elbrus Home in advance.

The Elbrus Home was a five storey building without any elevator, and all the rooms were on the top floor! While I was debating with myself whether to change to another hotel, two of the hostel staff came down to carry our luggage so that saved me from having to decide! Anyway, both of us were happy when we saw our room. (A separate hotel review to be written later).

After we checked in we called our friend San an online friend from a travel website, and arranged to meet him at a coffee shop nearby. He turned out to be very nice gentleman, and made a kind offer to take us to the ancient town of Bhaktapur. And of course we graciously accepted his kind invitation!

The next morning we set out to explore the city on foot as our hostel was only about a 10 minute walk away from Thamel the main shopping district of Kathmandu. Not surprisingly, there were rows and rows of stalls on the narrow streets, selling everything under the sun. A good number of budget hotels and restaurants can also be found here. It was fun walking around this area and we took a lot of pictures.

We had lunch at a restaurant near our hostel. I was very curious to try momo, which is a type of dumpling filled with buffalo or goat meat, chicken or vegetarian. Momo is said to originate from Tibet, and popular in Nepal as a snack. Naturally, they had it on the menu. When it came with the chilli sauce we had no problems finishing the whole plate!

In the afternoon we took a taxicab to Durbar Square which is the main tourist attraction in Kathmandu. It is a vast complex of temples, old palaces and stunning architecture. I have neve seen such exquisite architecture in my previous travels around Asia and Europe. It was very crowded with both tourists and locals, and I can imagine it is like this everyday. And yes, the vendors were out there in full force too, selling their wares.

On our way back to the Elbrus Home we wanted to try a cycle rickshaw, so as to have a better view of the sights and surroundings. A few minutes after we got on, the rickshaw driver started to huff and puff complaining that I was too heavy. I suppose he was implying that I should pay him more than the fare we had agreed on earlier, which I did, for the 'extra' weight.

We had dinner again at the same restaurant where we had lunch as both of us wanted to have those delicious momos again. The fried rice that went along with it wasn't too bad either, but the highlight of our meal was definitely the momos.

The next day San came to pick us up for our trip to Bhaktapur (in a separate travel journal).

On our way back to Kathmandu, we stopped at the Boudhanath Buddhist temple where Buddhist pilgrims come to pray. It is a popular tourist site so it was packed with both tourists and devotees. It was interesting to see Tibetan worshippers all over the temple where many Tibetan monasteries are located

Next, we went to the Garden of Dreams a beautiful park built in neo-classical style. It is walled off from the street, but inside you can see a well kept garden with water fountains, pretty flowers and a small museum in the compound. There was a well stocked coffee shop and bar too, and San and I took the opportunity to quench our thirst with a few bottles of "Gorkha" beer! By coincidence, the waiter at the bar counter was also from the Gurkha tribe of the hills of Nepal. The Gurkhas are famed for their fierce fighting skills and many served (and still serving) as outstanding soldiers in the British Army who called them "the bravest of the brave."

As the Garden of Dreams was only a stone's throw away from our hostel we decided to walk back. Thank you San, for taking us around to see your spectacular country. We sincerely hope to reciprocate your kind hospitality one day.

As the following day was our last one in Kathmandu we went to the Swayambhunath temple, commonly known by foreigners at the Monkey Temple as there are many monkeys living around the temple complex. According to legend, these monkeys are considered to be holy. We certainly saw a lot of them! The ancient temple itself is located on a hill overlooking the Kathmandu Valley (and the view from above is really stunning). We were told that it was a long way up the hill and advised to take the back entrance, so as to avoid the arduous climb up the steps. Luckily, the cab driver knew what we were talking about and took us along the car road to the rear entrance. We did take the steps on the way down, and it was no problem at all, except one of the monkeys snatched the grilled corn on the cob from my hands and scampered away with it! However, this little incident didn't spoil a very enjoyable half day that we spent at this place looking at the big stupa, a variety of shrines, monastery, the prayer beads, and of course the people who were there for various reasons.

That evening we went to Thamel again for dinner. This time we chose a restaurant which had second floor tables, so we could watch the action on the busy street below. Needless to say, one of the side dishes we ordered again were the tasty momos. The next day we left for Bangkok, our hearts filled with wonderful memories of our time in the kingdom of Nepal.