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Published: July 14th 2013
Following the Annapurna Circuit, we spent another night in Pokhara, mostly driving around town on a motorbike. I then fulsomely ate, including a masterfully prepared yak steak in spicy garlic sauce at Everest Steakhouse, and drank my favorite Asian beer, Nepali Ice - quite possibly in the top ten beers of my life, a station of prominence I never fathomed an Asian beer would achieve. We visited a sleepy Tibetan Village, then relaxed at a café near the lake, taking in a traditional Nepali dance show in the evening. All in all, it was a nice day, though the dance show was decidedly halfhearted with a couple of the female dancers seemingly yearning to be elsewhere as they intermittently picked their nails and vacuously stared out into space. The male dancers, on the other hand, were invaluable to our decision to sit out the entire show: smiling with every dance step, they twirled the women and themselves with supreme vigor.
We arrived in Kathmandu the following day and spent it strolling around Thamel and selling some of our unwanted trekking gear - I even managed to negotiate 200 rupees for my gloves. That afternoon, we
visited the Narayanhiti Palace Museum, the site of the Nepalese Royal Massacre in 2001. It is alleged that Prince Dipendra killed nine members of his family, including the king and queen, during a dinner party, and then attempted suicide, which was not successful until three days later in the hospital, where he spent his final days in a coma as king of Nepal. Most Nepalese, however, do not believe official reports and instead posit that the deaths of the royal family were part of a conspiracy to dispose of the royalty, including Prince Dipendra. There are claims made by eyewitnesses that contradict the official reports, while the Moaist Party in Nepal publicly claimed that the massacre was planned by the CIA. Whatever the case may be, the palace museum is a somber experience as the path of visitation takes you through the humble, but ornate interior to the outdoor courtyard where visitors walk towards a wall full of unambiguous bullet holes.
Following our visit, we took a bus to Patan, a city not far from Kathmandu. The city is designed in the shape of the Dharma Wheel of Buddhism, with Buddhist temples and monuments scattered throughout. The
Patan Durbar Square contains temples and palaces with ornately and complicatedly carved doors and windows. The Golden Temple, in my opinion, is the highlight of the square – built in the early 15th
century, it possesses a vast collection of gold, silver, and bronze statues. Also, during our visit of the temple, we walked in on the filming of the last scene of a Bollywood movie, wherein a handsome young Nepali man with a magnificent haircut was receiving a blessing - and a lovely wooden box of whose contents I was unsure - from a Buddhist monk. I cannot begin to work out what the theme of the movie was, but the box probably played a central one, and I don’t recall the title (incidentally, neither did the cameraman at first when I asked him, receiving the answer only after he’d deliberated on my question for no less than an awkward three minutes), but it seemed dramatic… and bad…
When we’d arrived back to our hotel in the evening, we thought we were in the midst of a political upheaval when a thunderous explosion furiously shook the walls and bed of our room. After some dazed looks
back and forth to each other, we bolted down the stairs and, once outside, witnessed commotion in the streets and trepidation on the disorientated faces of the people. Uncertain of whether we’d have to relocate ourselves to safer areas, we followed the crowd down the narrow street to see if we could find the cause of the boom. Suddenly, everyone in our vicinity began to run; not knowing what else to do, we did as well. While running, I turned to another Nepali running alongside and asked him why we were running.
“I don’t know,” he answered laughing.
We ceased following the irrational mob and returned the way we came. We laboriously pushed our way through a crowd that had stayed put and discovered a building on fire directly across the street from Tom and Jerry’s bar, which is famous among the climbing community and where we’d had a few drinks with JG and his Spaniards a couple weeks earlier. I turned to a fellow bystander and questioned him about the cause of the fire.
“Propane tank explode,” he responded. I imagined the potentially calamitous consequences had we been innocently enjoying
drink and conversation in Tom and Jerry’s at the time. Luckily, though, we were not, but ever since I’d set foot in Asia, those propane tanks have provoked a feeling of dread in me.
The fire brigade appeared after some time and began extinguishing the fire; shortly after, the police arrived and began forcing the crowd away from the building. We returned to our hotel and went to bed.
The next morning, before our flight out of Nepal, while deciding where to have breakfast, we calmly ambled towards the site of the explosion. Half the building still stood, but the top half, including the rooftop bar, was burnt to a crisp. The bookstore below had spewed thousands of discreet, burnt pages out into the street, while several adjacent buildings had their windows violently blown out. I asked several people around the site, including some business owners, if anyone had died or was hurt. The response was thankfully “no”, but I also know that tourists in Asia sometimes receive a different story than what reality truly is, especially when an event directly impacts them. As we walked off to enjoy our day, I hoped that
there were indeed some lucky people.
That afternoon, we caught our flight out of Nepal as the ferocious rain of the oncoming monsoon flooded the streets. Our flight was delayed some, but the pilots were able to take advantage of a lull in the storm. We watched Kathmandu, and subsequently Nepal, slowly disappear from view as we climbed above the clouds. Exploding buildings and bad storms aside, Nepal is still the best country I’ve visited and am already dreaming of my return… Certainly Island Peak will be on the next itinerary, and, who knows, maybe something higher.
Tot: 3.559s; Tpl: 0.057s; cc: 10; qc: 50; dbt: 0.0452s; 3; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb