Kathmandu - Round Two

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May 3rd 2013
Published: May 3rd 2013
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Returning to Kathmandu, I checked into the Khangsar Guest House in Thamel. I got my own room with en suite bathroom, because, well, a shared bathroom in the state I was in just wouldn't have done.

I stayed in the room all afternoon, feeling sorry for myself, and then decided to venture out and find an ATM. I was also in need of food, and craving Korean food from the restaurant opposite my guest house. So, I set out. The nearest ATM refused to give me money (blaming my bank, no less!) so I walked on to find another, winding up lost. I eventually found an ATM, but was still lost. I walked on. I bought some phone credit, but was still lost. "Hey, why not top up your phone and ring Ram for directions?" I hear you ask. Because this knob didn't bother taking her phone, that's why. Nope, didn't forget it. Just didn't take it. In any case, I wasn't particularly bothered, despite Ram having told me not to wander around on my own at night. Getting lost in new places is what I do; I knew I'd be fine.

And I was. In navigational terms, anyway. I eventually found my way back, and popped to the Korean restaurant for ddok boki and gimbap. I waited whilst it was being prepared, but suddenly a familiar feeling came over me. I broke out in a cold sweat, was shaking and started going dizzy. Yep, I was on the verge of passing out. No stranger to this, I sat on the floor with my head between my legs until the feeling passed. The poor guy serving didn't quite know what to do with himself, so I was also calming him down at the same time. He told me that I should have just given him my room number and had him deliver it. A bit after the fact, but I appreciated the gesture.

So, I slowly walked back up to my fourth-floor room and rested for a while before pecking at my food. It was good, I have to say. The gimbap was a little bland, but not bad. And it didn't upset my tummy, so it gets two thumbs up from me! Good ol' Korean food. I really do miss it.

This morning, I woke up quite late and had a wander around Thamel before meeting Ram and heading to the Narayanhiti Palace Museum (previously the royal palace) on Durbar Marga. This was the home of Nepal's royal family until the monarchy was abolished in 2008. What interested me the most about the palace (quite morbidly, in fact) was an event that took place on 1st June 2001: the 'Royal Family Massacre'. King Birendra, Queen Aishwarya, their children and some other family members were shot dead in the Tribhuvan Sadan building, behind the actual palace. It was alleged that the king's son and heir to the throne, Prince Dipendra, had killed his family and then turned the gun on himself, following a dispute regarding his choice of bride. The public opinion, however, is that the king's brother, Gyanendra (who was in Pokhara when the incident took place) had a hand in the murders. Apparently, despite being present, members of his immediate family were either unharmed or wounded; none of them were killed.

And thus, Gyanendra ascended to the throne.

The palace was interesting to visit, but far less extravagant than I expected it to be. Cameras are not permitted, and a thorough body check and walk-through scanner squashed any hope I had of sneaking
mine in. Therefore, there is no pictorial evidence of what I tell you; you'll just have to take me at my word.

The furniture was quite modest in design, and the king and queen's bedroom was far smaller than those used to accommodate visitors. In fact, if i hadn't known better, I'd never have guessed it was a royal bedroom. Aside from the basic decor, portraits of royal family members were displayed throughout the palace, along with photographs of visiting heads of states, including Queen Elizabeth II. I was, of course, less than impressed with the number of stuffed animals and animal rugs, which (aside from the obvious fact that dead animals have no place in the home) looked somewhat out of place against the modest set up.

Prior to stepping into the equally simple palace gardens, the path leads past the site where the Tribhuvam Sadan building once stood. It was respectfully demolished following the events of 1st June 2001.

After leaving the palace, we stopped off on for a drink and bite to eat on Durbar Marga, a busy road lined with beautiful lilac-blossomed trees. Finally, the question of "what are momos?" (as briefly discussed
DIY panipuriDIY panipuriDIY panipuri

Instead of being served ready-made on a banana leaf (as I experienced in Bangalore), I got to assemble them myself.
by Keith, Adolfo and myself in Goa) was answered. They are steamed dumplings, much like Korean mandu. Tasty, too.

Next, we went to Durbar Square. Now, this was the Nepal I had imagined. Stunningly rustic temple buildings, bustling streets lined with small low door-framed shops, market sellers displaying their wares on the floor and delicious-smelling street food. We stopped for an amazing lassi, which pushed my dairy intake a little over the limit following the milkshake and coffee I'd previously drank on Durbar Marga, but I enjoyed it all the same. I got excited when I saw a panipuri stall, so Ram took me to a small restaurant that served a DIY version. I wasn't hungry, but needless to say, I demolished it. Munch!

In the evening, I shopped for some pashminas in Thamel, and, pleased with my buys, came back to my guest house, mid-power cut. At least they have a back-up system, even if it does limit the power supply (no plug socket use, nor lights in the bathroom and stairwells).

I chatted to my neighbour for half an hour or so, then hid away in my room, listening as the hustle and bustle faded to shop shutters being pulled down, tooting horns becoming few and far between and a lone dog barking.

And now, it is past midnight and I really should be sleeping, given that I have to wake up at 5am to catch a seven hour bus ride. Still, I'm sure I'll get more than forty winks during the journey, so no biggie.

One more thing: I've run out of stuff to wear. I have put off doing laundry for so long that I am re-wearing dirty clothes. If there were initiation steps that one must follow in order to be considered a true backpacker, I feel this would be one of them.


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