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Asia » Nepal » Kathmandu » Thamel
September 26th 2012
Published: October 3rd 2012
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26th-27th Sept, London to Nepal via Delhi

Ok so we’re at Heathrow now and got checked in straight away, our rucksacks weighed 4.2kg and 7.5 kg so I reckon we did really well at cutting the weight down! It was another horrific overnight flight and it was packed!

Once again neither of us got any sleep, this time partly due to having 2 babies and 1 small child sat in the row in front of us. However I did get to see two films – The Hunger Games (good but not as good as the book) and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (a lovely film, you can’t go wrong with a bit of Ewan after all!).

We arrived in Delhi – I have no idea what time or day it was and were surprisingly ok considering the sleep deprivation, the queue to get through security for the transit passengers wasn’t too long but the staff were abrupt and obnoxious. I also had my lighter – which wasn’t a problem in London, confiscated.

There was a 3 hour wait for our flight onto Nepal and sitting down was when the tiredness hit us, we managed to stay awake long enough to board the next flight and I don’t even remember the plane taking off! However the flight was only 1 hour 20 minutes and I soon woke up and chatted with the lovely girl sat next to me who was from Sweeden and going out to Nepal to meet a friend and then going trekking up near Everest, I was most impressed, she did say she had never done anything like this before so was rather nervous about it.

Once we arrived at Kathmandu airport it was a bit of a scramble to get the visa forms filled in and join the large queue, but it moved surprisingly quickly which was good. We just got waved through customs – they had their hands full with all the locals returning with huge boxes and giant suitcases on their trolleys. The hotel we had booked online had a lad there waiting to meet us and soon we were in the back of his car and plunging into the mad traffic.

After a few back street shortcuts and waiting in queues for no apparent reason we turned up narrow alley, zig zagged over some broken rubble and pulled up in front of the Hotel Silver Home where we stayed for the next two nights. Let’s just say the hotel is ok, not good, just about ok but the room does have a fan – but for £10 a night including breakfast and a free airport pick up, I guess you get what you pay for!



It was only 3.30pm Nepali time (again I have no idea what time that is in England or how long it means we had been travelling) but it is now the 27th and we were both shattered. We didn’t dare let ourselves go to sleep so we went out for a bit of a walk to track down an ATM.

It was a bit of a shock to go from the states and London to being plunged back into Asia – well I reckon we were so tired that was part of it anyway, but immediately we were dodging cars and bikes all of whom were hooting and beeping. There were crowds of people everywhere and people trying to sell you tiger balm or musical instruments, the shops were crammed full of interesting objects and alluring clothes and it was full on.

We did find an ATM though and then carried on walking until we spotted some people up in a restaurant on a balcony overlooking the street, so we just dived into the entrance and made our way up. We knew it was pricey (by Nepalese standards) but at that moment in time couldn’t have cared less, we got a table at the front, ordered some drinks and food and just sat, slightly reeling from sensory overload!

Back at the hotel we just got to bed and collapsed.

28th Sept ’12 Kathmandu

I slept pretty well, I kept waking up but going straight back off again, we managed to sleep through breakfast also. Howard refused to get out of bed all day – he was still feeling rough, I was still tired but I got up and went to sit outside in the shared garden and had a pot of tea and a pancake. Infact I spent most of the day sitting in the garden, reading and drinking black tea.

I checked the internet and found a frantic message from Gary and so found out about the plane crash – awful! I was pretty worried too as they hadn’t released details about the people who died and I kept thinking about the lass I sat next to on the plane and the fact she was flying up to Lukla.

As we had only booked for two nights at this hotel we decided that as Howard felt so rough and despite the fact we desperately wanted to find somewhere better with air conditioning we would ask if we could stay longer if we could stay on. However when we spoke to him about it he just said it was high season and he wasn’t sure if the room would be free and we should wait until the 12 o’clock checkout the next day when he would tell us if it was ok. This all seemed really weird and we went happy about the prospect of trawling the streets to find somewhere else so we checked the internet and discovered one of the other nearby hotels had vacancies and air con. We walked along to it and went in to ask only to be told they were full the next day, eh? We could have booked it online!! Hmmmmm Howard reckons they don’t want people who are already here as they make more money off the newbies by flogging trips and treks, he could well be right.

So it was back to the room and it turned out the hotel right next door had free rooms tomorrow, it allegedly has air con but we have seen absolutely no sign of this, however it doesn’t involve walking so rather than risk going round to ask we just booked it online! We then went out for tea and were handed a 10% off voucher for Rana’s Kitchen which turned out to be on our alley so we went there and the meal was really nice.

29th Sept ’12 Kathmandu

Woke up and was still shattered! Out to the garden for breakfast and then checked out of the Silver Home and walked the two steps to next door and checked into the Discovery Inn. We had to sit in the garden for about an hour until the room was ready and then dumped our stuff in it. Yes it’s similar to next door, maybe slightly cleaner but the room is brighter and lighter which made me feel slightly better. However the bed is ROCK HARD!! And when you turn the taps on the water comes out brown!!

Howard was feeling slightly better so we set off to explore a bit and to check out a hotel we had read about – thinking about when we come back again before flying home. So we walked around the streets, which were absolutely packed with people, found the hotel which didn’t look any better than where we are staying and carried on down towards the Durbar Square. We spotted a small alleyway which led into a large courtyard surrounded by tall houses and in the middle was a large white stupa with washing lines and clothes hanging off it to one side! At the back was an old wooden building covered in intricate carving and according to the guide book dated from the 12th century, it was a real contrast to the more ‘modern’ buildings surrounding it. Two young lads were sat on the step and started chatting with us, both of them were desperate to go to England.

Then we set off again going past tiny shops, ramshackle buildings interspersed with shrines where people were anointing gods and making offerings. Old was mixed in with new and some of the ancient carved wooden buildings looked like they were on the point of collapse – one was actually propped up with metal poles and the crowds just got thicker and thicker. Then we began spotting more and more groups of policeman in riot gear and armed with guns. We were wondering what on earth was going on, no one at either hotel had mentioned anything special about today.

When we reached the entranceway to the Durbar Square the crowds and police were in even bigger numbers and we got stopped at a ticket booth and told to pay. I asked the lady inside what was happening and it turned out it was a festival day which was why there were so many police around. By now we were boiling hot and frankly just couldn’t be doing with all the crowds so we just turned around and headed back the way we came. This left me wondering what the hell has happened to me?? Before we started this trip if I had come across a festival I would have been the first one in there regardless of heat or crowds, somehow over this last 14 months things have changed and I’m not sure if that is for the best!

We took a different route back working our way down yet more winding alleyways, past more intriguing courtyards and squares and passing yet more shrines and temples. We walked along a street full of people shopping, the little shops crammed with everyday items such as brushes and buckets, lots of western style clothes on hangers dangling from the from the roofs and then gold jewellery shops and hundreds of saris. Eventually we found ourselves in a small, relatively quiet square where most of the shops were shut and just sat on a doorstep for a rest.

It wasn’t long before another two local guys came over to talk to us, one told us he was 23 and from Poon Hill in the Annapurna Region, it turned out he was in Kathmandu studying history. He said that although he was born ‘in God’s own country’ he had to come to Kathmandu to get an education. He asked us lots of questions while his mate looked on, he wanted to know where we were from, how many times we had been to Nepal, what did we think
KathmanduKathmanduKathmandu

Garden of Dreams
of it, he asked about our lives, what jobs we did and how many kids we had – he seemed very surprised when we said 4!

He then asked Howard if he was going trekking and when Howard hesitated he said ‘ I understand you are too old to trek now’, well I just howled and said ‘yes you’ve got that right!’ He looked shocked at my laughing and I think he thought he had offended Howard and was obviously trying to make up for but made it worse by saying ‘at my age trekking is good’ bending his knees ‘but not so good as you get older’. We all ended up laughing and he then went on to say his dream is to go to Scotland and that is the dream of all his friends too. Each to their own.

Before we left he asked if we wanted to see their art work (it is how they support themselves) but we thanked him but declined and he accepted it and wished us all the best for our time in Nepal, we wished him luck too, what a sweetie.

So we staggered on and got back to the Thamel area where we are staying, we looked at a few shops selling lots of interesting clothes, then found a café with a shady courtyard to sit in and have some lunch. After a bit more walking around we headed back to our hotel to get out of the sun and the traffic.

We ate again at Rana’s Kitchen as it was close and the food was good and got welcomed back as old friends and were given free popcorn all of which was nice.

Back at the hotel and the power was off, so there was only a back up light in the room and NO FAN! Aaaaaarrrrrggggghhhh!!!

30th Sept ’12 Kathmandu

Woke up feeling like I had gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson, I even had the bruises to prove it! Breakfast was out in the garden again – which really is the only redeeming feature about these hotels and the Nepali family who run the food shack are so lovely and friendly.

We booked our bus tickets to Pokhara through the hotel – you pay a bit extra for this but it cuts out all the hassle and they take you to the bus in the morning. The manager guy got back to us to say he was ‘so sorry as we booked late our seats are backside’ which after a bit of interpretation and trying not to smile meant they are near the back of the bus, but they are no.s 15 and 16 so it can’t be that bad….can it?!!

In the light of yesterday’s attempt at Durbar Square we have decided to save exploring it until we get back at the end of our trip. So today we set off to find the Kaiser Library (which I had read about in the LP guide book and was described as quirky) it was supposed to be in the same complex area as the Garden of Dreams which we also wanted to see.

It wasn’t far from where we are staying so we walked along and encountered a lot more beggars than we had previously seen, it appeared that these people were actually living on the streets, which makes it so difficult to just walk on by.

We found the Garden of Dreams easily and went in to ask about the library, the guy on the desk clearly wasn’t impressed that we wanted to go and kind of waved his arm and said different gate. So we went out and looked at the map on the wall and walked down the side alley to discover we were completely the wrong side of a large wall, walked back, walked down the other side, same story, walked back and I asked an armed guard. He was really friendly and after he got over his surprise at us wanting to go there, pointed down the car park he was guarding and said then go right.

We followed his directions, went past another guard who asked where we were from and then waved us on, round the corner and then spotted a small handmade sign saying library over the doorway of a large, rambling, ramshackle old mansion with a small fountain set amongst the weeds and rubble.

At the entrance we had to hand over our bags and sign in and then were waved on inside. We walked past several men who were studying and looked up at us with real curiosity and then we entered through another doorway into a large room entitled the ‘Old Books Collection’, well my eyes lit up, it was like being in a sweetshop – goodies everywhere! Dusty old volumes were crammed onto every available shelf space along the walls and by the sides of windows.

They all appeared to be in English and covered a huge range of topics from volumes of History of the World to a children’s’ book Peeping Pansy by the Queen of Roumania and illustrated by Mabel Lucie Atwell and the colour plates were still pristine and exquisite with their paper covers. For me the most fascinating books were in the geographical sections and contained accounts of peoples’ travels and expeditions and ancient books on Siam, Burma and other exotic places. I leafed briefly through The Grand Tour of an Edwardian Gentleman and marvelled at how he reached all these places and the fact that ‘with the advent of the steamship, within 6 weeks nowhere is beyond reach’.

It was fabulous all those lost gems, probably last surviving copies in some cases, I could have spent weeks in there! They had been catalogued at some time as the spines had little yellowing numbered bits of paper stuck on the spines and I would have loved to have put them on a computer database for them. I reckon they must have been private collections which had been donated.

In amongst the shelves were a couple of ancient globes with half the countries rubbed off, a few statues and several stuffed animals. Going up the grand staircase with life sized full portraits of I guess Nepalese Royalty led to another room with a couple of suits of armour and the start of a more traditional library layout. There were various rooms upstairs with different collections and the corridor in between was lined with old metal cabinets full of books on subjects like English Language and collections of Shakespeare.

The walls above and in between were hung with old framed photos of everyone from Ghandi to Winston Churchill, with more photos of what looked almost like holiday snaps of hunting scenes and groups of royalty, dotted about were yet more stuffed animal heads with ferocious teeth.

Students were dotted about studying but I did spot a copy of Twilight in English on one guy’s book pile! There were signs everywhere saying No Talking and Don’t Sleep which made me smile.

I just loved the place! But the very best bit was the Old Books Collection, oh how I wish it were mine!!

The Garden of Dreams was a lovely, green haven of tranquillity, with a pond with a fountain, white pavilions, terraces, walkways and shrubs. There were lots of shady nooks and crannies which the local youngsters were taking advantage of! With plenty of places to sit or grass to lounge on and while away the afternoon, it was a real retreat from the noise, dust and chaos just outside its walls.

Somewhere different for tea this time, we tried the Yak restaurant where the food was tasty and cheap and Howard managed to knock a whole pot of bright red chili sauce over the wooden table – so we certainly left our mark on the place!

Walking around we notice police dotted about the streets which we hadn’t seen before, we walked back past the strange building which seems to host some kind of a ‘party’ night every night with flashing neon strobes and music blaring out, luckily it always finishes at 10pm as its very close to where we are staying. However tonight the music stopped and then not long after we could hear what sounded like a huge group of people close by talking at the tops of their voices. By midnight it sounded like a mob so I looked out and couldn’t see anyone but people from a hotel further round where out on their balconies watching something, then shot inside and closed all the windows, which was a bit troubling. The noise just carried on for ages, I still couldn’t see anything but our hotel and next door were all shuttered and locked up and someone had to bang on the door to be let in. Suddenly dogs started barking and howling and then the voices just stopped, very odd but a relief, not for long though as the dogs carried on barking for the rest of the night! We couldn’t shut the window as it was so hot!

Soon the alarm went off, it was 6 am and time to get up for the bus to Pokhara.

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