Kathmandu Valley

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November 19th 2018
Published: November 25th 2018
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First Days in Kathmandu

After two hectic weeks of travelling to meet friends and family and the incessant political/religious turmoil going on in Kerala I was relieved to get back on the plane and leave it all to the locals to suffer. As a person who has escaped from the clutches of faith It is unbelievable what is going on in "Gods on Country" or indeed in the wider India. It appears that we are turning the clock around and instead of marching into the 21st century we are going back to the early 19th or even the 16th century. The Islamic ferver is now followed by militant Hinduism and devotional Christianity. The loser in all this is the Individual who has no status in the society except as a member of a religious or political group.

The last day in Kerala was unforgettable, the incessant rain and strong winds only stopped after well into the night. Typical of the energy situation the power failed and took a long time to be restored. So, I had to pack things in the candle light. But I consider myself lucky as the next day would have been a disaster (Bandh) which would have made it impossible to reach the airport.

I had chosen a Melindo Air flight Kochi – Kualalampur - Kathmandu based on cost, A shorter flight through Delhi would have cost me close to € 200 extra. The flight was comfortable and there was no problem with the rather heavy luggage I was carrying (returning to Ireland). There was a bit more leg room, in-flight food and even entertainment, rather unusual for a budget airline and very pleasant crew to top it all.

Nearing Kathmandu I could see the towering snow-capped mountains from the window. The mountain ridges below looked perilously close. As we descended the whole scene vanished into what looked like fog. It was just smoke and dust from city below. The driver from hotel was there to pick me up and soon I settled into what looked like a nice low budget hotel with a homely atmosphere.

I spent the afternoon walking the nearby streets to familiarise myself with the surrounding. I should have bought a dust mask. The reconstruction of Kathmandu is ongoing most roads are digged-up to lay water and sewage pipes and the traffic was churning up the dust. In Thamel which is the tourist hub the streets were narrow with small shops all along the sides.

The second day was used see the major attractions around Kathmandu. I had a taxi arranged to take me round. A young pleasant Nepali named Deependra (lord of the lights) took me to all 4 destinations, waited around for my return and brought me back to the hotel by 16:30.

First on route was the Swayambhunath (self created) Stupa. It is connected to the foundation of Kathmandu. The valley was a huge lake and the hill where the temple stand was the only land (island) in it. It is also called the Monkey temple with all the small brown monkeys around. There would have been good views to the city if you could see it without dust. The car could take me up the hill to the gates but there were still some steps to climb if you want to get to the top. In-spite of the steep hill location and the large size the stupa was almost untouched by the earthquake. There were altars all around, the offering immediately snatched up by the monkeys. As with other stupas the large wise eyes of the Buddha look over the surrounding valley.

Then we drove to Patan, the old capital of a neighbouring kingdom now part of Kathmandu, just across the river. As a historic city the interest was in Durbar square which was on the right of the street. This was the residence of the local king with courtyards after courtyards. The buildings serve as a museum with interesting artefacts and is also serve as an administrative centre.

On the left of the road were a few beautiful temples most of them under reconstruction after the earthquake. They were devoted mainly to avatars of Vishnu even though in general Siva is the prime deity for Nepalese. There are Shivalingas everywhere.

By lunch we were the gates of Pashupathi Nath (Lord of the animals) temple. Had a snack with the driver. It is a long walk from the gates to the temple complex. It is largest temple complex I have seen and occupies more than 250 hectares and has nearly 500 smaller temples inside. Most were dedicated to Lord Siva. Stretching on both sides of the small Bagmati river the minor temples were severely damaged by the earthquake, though the main temple was spared. On one shore of the river there are fire platforms which are used every day to burn the dead bodies. I nearly got lost in the complex and had to take along route walking along the river to get back to the main gate where our car was.

The last stop was at Boudhanath Stupa which was partially damaged by the earthquake. The reconstruction is now complete. The all-seeing eyes of the Buddha looks in all 4 directions (he probably can’t see far with the surrounding buildings in places) This is one of the largest stupas in the world. When one gets near it one feel sorry that there was no planning around the monument as taller buildings (mostly hotels and other commercial buildings) have sprung up less than 10m from the walls with auspicious rotating drums. On the dome itself there was a lot of doves. We got back to the hotel before 5PM in-spite of heavy traffic and holdups.

On the second day I was supposed to start the small trek for 3 days. I asked the agent to postpone it to see if I could get one or two people to go with me as the cost was too high for a single hiker. The day was spent on looking at alternatives and walking around the busy and narrow streets of Thamel.

I would have had preferred a group trek as it would not only be cheaper, it would be good company and encouraging others. Looking at other agencies it was still costing over €250 and could not decide whether do the trek or look for alternative one day trips.

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