'Namaste' Nepal!

Trip Start Aug 04, 2009
Trip End Oct 03, 2009

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Friday, September 18, 2009

I am not quite too sure what to expect in Nepal...except what i have heard, lovely people and beautiful scenery.  I stepped off the plane after a short 1 1/2 hr flight into a small airport, paid for my visa on arrival, grabbed a taxi and headed to the tourist bit of Kathmandu called Thamel where all the hotels are.  I got a good vibe right away in that short taxi ride which was reassuring.

I got myself somewhat acquainted with the area in the afternoon i arrived.  Thamel itself is tourist mecca with hundreds of shops, restaurants, tourist/travel agents, adventure companies, hotels...all amongst narrow streets that all look the same.  I didn't get lost though so that's a bonus.  Everyone said 'Namaste' meaning hello as i walked the streets which made me smile and i felt the positive energy....

My first full day i walked down the busy narrow streets that quite often get jammed (there are no wide, 2 lane roads really) to Durbar (meaning palace) Square which is the traditional heart of the old town and has Kathmandu's most spectacular and traditional architecture.  It is where the king once ruled (he was dethroned by the Maoists a few years ago, who are now the government) and was once crowned.  There are countless temples that date from the 16th to 18th centuries, the biggest ones having terraced platforms which is fantastic to sit on and watch the world (or Kathmandu) go by and to get a feel for the city and the life it offers.  It would be very easy to sit there for hours, taking pictures and just watching everyone and everything - locals selling fruit and veg, locals carrying everything on their heads/backs (in a basket contraption that rests on the back while the strap goes over the forehead) from beds to kilos of rice and what not (things we would even imagining carrying let alone through chaotic busy streets), motobikes, cycles trying to get through the crowd of people on the narrow streets, etc.  It was great.  I could have wandered and sat for hours, just taking it all in.  I finished my day with an Everest (this is where Mount Everest is afterall) beer and a pizza (no Nepali food of Dhal and rice for the time being, thank you very much) on a rooftop restaurant at dusk with an outstanding view of the surrounding mountains on every side.  There are literally mountains, the Himalayas, everywhere you look in Nepal as you probably imagined.

Day two involved hiring a mountain bike and embarking on one of Tracy's original tours.  My goal was to get oot of Kathmandu, the city and head to the valley for some trails and villages and  scenery.  I did not succeed.  A guy told me to just keep going straight to get oot of the city and i did amongst the traffic, the bumpy, non-maintained roads (roads aren't good here for the most part), the dust but i wasn't seeing an end to the city.  I ventured a wee bit through the outskirts with large, nice homes and then decided to change my course of action.  I took the ring road that goes in a circle around Kathmandu (and looks a lot shorter on the map) to head to Bodhnath.  Better known as Boudha, it's the religious centre for the vast population of Tibetan exiles, and is home to one of the world's largest Stupas.  It was a long, chaotic ride there and i could enjoy it for what it was and for the experience but it did get to my patience did wear thing....but hey locals have to deal with it alll the time so who am i.  Boudha itself around the stupa was very peaceful and quaint.  There were plenty of monks, tibetans and nepalis.  A lovely place to chill for a wee bit...completely opposite from the streets that laid only a few metres away. 

I then had to find my way back to Thamel which proved to be the biggest challenge and i had to back by a certain time to return the bike.  I must have asked 10 different peeps for directions at different points saying 'thamel' but they didn't understand my accent so it took a while and more patience...and it was rushhour.  A cop proved to be most helpful.  And just as i was ready to get really frustrated and upset, after an 1 1/2 hr of being lost, i finally found a famaliar bit and knew where i was.  I arrived back as the bike shop guy was literally walking away from the door, i had aboot 2 seconds to spare and could indeed get my credit card back that day....which was very important as i wanted to leave the city early the next morning.  That put a huge smile on my face as i could feel the universe's humour and i just laughed.  I was again happy...and exhausted.  It was time for a much deserved beer.

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