Namaste! In Kathmandu at last...

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March 6th 2013
Published: April 1st 2013
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Planning and preparations…

And here I am… In Kathmandu… Honestly it seemed like this day would never happen… Probably because I started thinking about this trip a year and a half ago! So I guess I had quite some time to prepare myself for this journey… Still the more time you have, the further you postpone the preparations… At least that’s how it was in my case… And since I couldn’t really decide where it was exactly that I wanted to go, the itinerary was changing throughout quite rapidly… The more I was reading about different countries and the more I followed the adventures of fellow bloggers, the more confused I was getting and the more chaotic everything seemed… I have to say at no time at all I felt prepared for this trip, neither physically, nor mentally… so at the moment the plan goes until the end of April and later on... who knows… I actually had things organised until half way June, but on the day I arrived in Kathmandu I found out that my Kathmandu-Beijing trip I booked with Dragoman, starting at the end of April, had to change the itinerary due to situation in Tibet (and constant changes with the permits) so there would be no Tibet for me anymore… The new itinerary did seem quite attractive also, but then I would not be able to go ahead with it as would have no time to arrange the visas for the new route… All and all it was quite disappointing to hear about my trip being cancelled shortly after I landed in Nepal as was really looking forward to it for a long time now and besides I haven’t even started my adventure for good yet and already had to change plans… Ah well… No big deal really, I was in Nepal after all! There were plenty of options anyway, just had to decide what to do next… but the decision didn’t really have to be made straight away as with the 90-day Nepalese visa in my pocket, I wasn’t going anywhere any time soon…

So I’ve been in Nepal for 3 weeks now… time flies by that’s for sure! When I’m looking back at the last few months, I do realise I could’ve done much more to prepare for this trip but as usual I was postponing everything until the last moment. Therefore February
somewhere in Thamel...somewhere in Thamel...somewhere in Thamel...

...or more like everywhere in Thamel, very common sight!
was quite hectic to say the least – I seemed to have left the most important things for last! Taking my dog to Poland to my parents, renting out my apartment – which wasn’t such a big deal really as I found new tenants in no time at all, but organising my stuff and dumping it in the storage, that was no small task at all! It’s amazing how much stuff (or more like sh*t) you can accumulate throughout the years!!! But then once you’re moving at least you have a chance to get rid of a big part of it that’s for sure! Still left way too many things, but I guess I’ll have a chance to look through all of them once again when I get back, and will most probably get rid of some more stuff then! 😊 I even managed to sell my car only two days before I left – and didn’t even lose that much on this deal, really lucky that was! Then there were a couple of small things that I managed to do before February – like getting the shots for example! Thankfully I started with them back in December! And then there were a few things I needed to cancel before I left, book the flights and pay for the trips… and suddenly all the things on my never-ending list (at least that’s how it seemed like at the beginning) seemed to be ticked off and I was ready to leave… But then there were two more things to do – pack and have a drink (or two 😉) with my friends! The latter was very pleasant indeed but packing turned out to be a bit of a nightmare! It took me 3 days… The first attempt was quite ridiculous to say the least as I couldn’t even fit all my things in the backpack! So it took a couple more attempts and putting many things aside until the backpack was ready to go!

On the way…

Finally it was time to say goodbyes, get the last good lucks for the road and some badly needed hugs (to bring up the courage that is!) and ready or not, with my backpack way too heavy I was boarding the plane to Dubai! Soon after was in the UAE walking through all the exclusive shops, thinking that I would probably never be a costumer in any of them (and honestly didn’t really feel the need to be one either), so just found a seat on the side and waited patiently for my flight to Delhi. I have read quite a few stories about the Delhi airport – that it’s very chaotic and that you need minimum 3 hours to get through the immigration, not to mention the inconsistent info about the transit visas… I did check with the Emirates airlines before I left and they confirmed that I didn’t need one, but on the Indian embassy’s website it said very clearly that whoever was going through India to Nepal or Sri Lanka needed one anyway – had to do something with moving the luggage… So eventually after reading opinions on different forums decided to trust the Emirates airlines and didn’t apply for the visa in the end… So once we were landing in Delhi and the stewards announced that whoever was going to Kathmandu had to contact the ground staff I started getting that weird sensation that I might be in trouble after all… Unnecessarily as everything went very smoothly… Got off the plane and saw a big group of men standing just outside the exit door. I asked one of them if they were the ones I needed to contact about my Kathmandu flight, after which he just told me to wait and disappeared… In the meantime I was getting some strange looks from the other guys, which obviously didn’t make me feel uncomfortable at all 😉 Finally he came back, started looking through some sheets of paper and eventually asked me if I was Anna… I sneaked a peek at this long list of his then and was quite surprised to see only my name there – so it looked like all these men were waiting there for me only! I had to say I felt quite important there for a moment! Haha! So once all the formality was done and I confirmed that indeed I was the Anna they were waiting for, my escort and I set off to the Air India desk to get a new boarding pass for me… All the big deal just to get a new boarding pass? Well, they did ask about my backpack there also, so I imagine that somebody from the staff actually did have to move it for me onto my flight to Kathmandu. Still all went very smoothly and soon after I was going through immigration – again quite a special treatment as I was the only person there! So a moment after I was ready to go to my gate and wait for my plane to my final destination. And there were still 3,5 hours left until my flight! Obviously you can’t trust everything you read – it might be that sometimes it’s very chaotic at this airport and it really does take 3 hours to move from one point to the other, but it sure wasn’t a case for me! Finally the time has come and I was on my way to Kathmandu!!! 😊 Was so tired at this point that snoozed away even before we took off! Later on heard a conversation between two guys sitting next to me – a local Nepalese boy and a French backpacker – about trekking Annapurna and Everest! Just couldn’t help but smile… This really was happening – I would be in Kathmandu any moment now!

In Kathmandu at last…

Was quite surprised to see a few raindrops on the windows when we were landing and when it started lashing a few moments later but even more so when I heard that it was the first rain in 3 months! I guess the rain just keeps following me wherever I go! Few moments later I was waiting to pick up my backpack and getting ready to face Kathmandu! Changed some money and went searching for my hotel pick-up. And then a woman approached me asking me if I was Anna… hmmm… Was somebody playing tricks on me in the plane and wrote my name on my forehead? She started laughing as obviously noticed that I was slightly puzzled by the whole situation. It seemed that they were being picked up to Kathmandu Guesthouse as well, but the car wouldn’t leave as there were still a few people missing from the list… Pheeew… So we started looking for the missing bunch together and shortly after we were driving through the streets of Kathmandu to our hotel.

At the hotel at last… Was dying to take a shower and maybe even have a small nap – it was a while since I left home after all and besides had a strange feeling I was getting sick as well – all congested with a sore throat??? Definitely not good signs… So when they told me at the reception that they had no cheap rooms free at the moment (despite me booking one two months before and having a written confirmation with me, really?), but somehow they had a standard room for me for a special price of $25 instead of $40 (which obviously wasn’t that bad, but comparing to my $8 room that I had in mind still was quite a difference) my heart seemed to jump to my throat for a moment. But then what can you do? I was tired and totally not in the mood to be looking for something else, so just took what they had to offer. I also left the exploring part for the next day. In the evening treated myself to some typical Nepali meal (dal bhaat that is – rice served with lentil soup, some veggies, curry and sometimes pickles, yum!) and a local beer and exhausted called it a night very early.

In the morning I moved to a cheaper room, all I really needed was a bed and that seemed to be exactly what you were getting when choosing this budget option as beside a closet there wasn’t much more in the room actually (was surprised to find no plugs in the room at all though!). Dumped my stuff and was ready to start exploring… Well, after breakfast of course! Didn’t really have to search for a place to eat for too long as just around the corner from KGH found a little bakery and simply couldn’t resist the temptation to try some of the lovely pastries they had on display there. They also had a few tables on the rooftop, so while eating my breakie (a chicken patty and some sweet pastry) I had a chance to watch what was going on around me and look at people, cars, rickshaws and bikes passing each other by on the streets below. It really seemed like a totally different world… Hundreds of cables and posters hanging everywhere, constant honking, dust all around, some Nepali (Tibetan maybe?) music floating in the air, sellers encouraging tourists to buy their products, Namaste every two steps, hippy backpackers, a few lost tourists with Lonely Planet bible in their hands here and there… What a mess that was! I loved this place already! 😊

I haven’t read much about Kathmandu before coming here to be honest and definitely there was no time to do that then (especially that the next day I was meeting my group for the Himalaya trekking), so just decided to walk around and see where my feet would take me. After literally two minutes of my stroll some random guy started walking right next to me and trying to make a conversation. The polite person that I am (most of the time at least haha), I was just smiling and giving him very short answers hoping he would finally lose his interest and simply let me walk on my own. Couldn’t be more wrong! At some point I thought that he actually gave up and left, but turned around and found him walking right behind me! That was slightly creepy! In the last year I have read about so many scams and dangers all around Asia, that it felt as if I might be a bit paranoid about it at this point and that maybe I was looking at this situation from a totally wrong angle, but then whatever this guy’s intentions were, he was still making me very uncomfortable so it was time to say get lost… well, that’s not exactly my style, so just turned around and told him that I would appreciate if he stopped following me as I wanted to walk on my own from now on. Surprisingly he did as was asked, what a relief! Of course the next half an hour of walking I was turning around here and there making sure he was gone for real… But I needn’t have to worry as there was no sign of him anywhere… or maybe he became a chameleon and was just hiding very well in the crowd??? 😉 Anyway… There was no point in thinking about it anymore, so just decided to focus on the surroundings instead…

So just walked around the streets of Thamel, passing by numerous shops with hippy clothes and bags, trekking equipment, Tibetan and Nepali arts and crafts, bookshops, souvenir shops, trekking/rafting/safari tour operators, bakeries, cafes, restaurants, guesthouses, hotels and banks… honestly it’s quite a never-ending list… was wondering why I did any shopping before I came here as I could’ve easily gotten all the things I needed right here and much cheaper for that matter for sure! Besides looking at all the cool hippy clothes made me think again about the rolled clothes in my backpack… really should’ve taken only two tops and one pair of trousers and buy some ‘trendy’ backpacker stuff over here… ah well… was no point to buy anything like that just before setting off trekking, so just put this thought aside for some other time… 😉

As I was walking and admiring all the artwork and colourful clothes, another guy decided to tag along with me… This time I didn’t even have to try to get involved in conversation as he basically was talking all the time and there was no way to interrupt him even for a moment so out of curiosity just decided to listen to what he had to say and see how this monologue would end… So I found out everything about his family, studies and life in Kathmandu in between… and there it was soon after… as a poor student he was offering guide services to all the tourists at the moment – he said that in Lonely Planet they have described a 1,5h walk through Thamel all the way to Durbur Square, but since there were no street names anywhere many tourists were getting lost and couldn’t follow LP’s guidelines or it took them even more time than 1,5h to walk the whole thing… That’s were his services were so badly needed! He could do the whole guided walk for 40 minutes only! He also said that the tourists had to pay 750 rupees (almost $9) to enter the Durbur Square but he would only charge me $10 for the whole walk and since I’d be walking with him I wouldn’t have to pay an entrance, so win-win for everyone! As tempting as it sounded (not sure why the 40 minutes instead of 1,5h should convince me though? I had all the time in the world after all! 😉), I said sorry but not today pal! He seemed to be a little shocked I rejected his fantastic offer, maybe a bit offended also, but hey! I didn’t stop you to ask for a tour, you approached me after all, so chances were 50-50 that I might say no… At the end he asked where I was from and when I said I was Polish, he replied something like: ‘well I should’ve known as no Polish ever wanted to do this tour!’, haha! Well, shame on us I guess! 😉

Later on circled around Thamel and surrounding streets for a bit longer and eventually made my way to Durbur Square. I didn’t see anyone charging for the entrance, so managed to get there without paying after all, ha! And didn’t even have to sneak around for that matter! 😉 The temples sure are impressive and to be honest I didn’t think the square would be so big… and so full of people! Again had no clue what I was really looking at as didn’t really read anything about the place before, but made a note in my head that before I came back here another time some research needed to be done after all! Then I heard someone saying that Kumari was supposed to show her face to the crowd in a few minutes (I remember reading something about that!)… So it looked like I was there just in time to see the living goddess Kumari (she comes out in one of the windows at the temple only twice a day for a short moment only, so it really was a perfect timing!). So I waited with a bunch of other tourists for a while until she appeared in the window, to be honest she did seem a bit confused to me as looked like she wasn’t sure where to look at or what to do (looked at somebody inside every now and then for guidance) and soon after she was gone… Anyway… Apparently seeing her should bring me good luck so was very happy to leave it like that!

Later on I sat in one of the rooftop restaurants gazing upon the square and enjoying my first portion of momos (lovely dumplings which you can order steamed or fried) and some nice lassi. And then it was time to call it a day… After all another exciting day was just around the corner as I was about to start a new adventure soon, or at least making the first step in that direction, meeting my group for the Everest Base Camp trek the very next day… 😊

Additional photos below
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Janabaha templeJanabaha temple
Janabaha temple the sign at the entrance suggested: 'All religions welcome!' Well, thank you! :)

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