Goodbye Nepal, I surely will miss you...

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May 8th 2013
Published: May 24th 2013
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So there it was… It was time to say goodbye to Nepal… Not that I wanted to as I really got to love this country and its people. But then new countries waited to be explored and I was actually ready for new adventures as well! Especially the last week was a little bit emotional as I was on my own once again – all my buddies from Annapurna eventually had to go back to their lives, their Nepali adventure finished earlier than mine… The only thing that was keeping me in Kathmandu this last week was my Chinese visa really (it takes 4 days to issue it there usually but due to bank holidays it took a bit longer than expected)... Actually thinking about going on my own to China was a bit of a scary idea… Not to mention that a couple of friends of mine who have been there already said that it definitely was one of the countries that you shouldn’t do on your own as it can be quite challenging… Ah well… And then the wonderful memories from the last few weeks flying through my head this last week… It sure was sad to say goodbye for now to my new very close friend... There were plans to meet somewhere along the way… but I guess just like with everything else time would tell… So there certainly were quite a few things that were occupying my mind this last week in Kathmandu...

First I thought I might go to Pokhara and maybe sign up for some kind of yoga course while waiting for my visa, but then the idea of spending almost two whole days in the bus didn’t really seem that appealing, so gave up on it in the end. I did remember that one girl I met along the way told me about this yoga hotel in Kathmandu where they had free yoga classes in the morning, but apparently it was difficult to book the nights there. Well, maybe it was before, but now with the trekking season slowly coming to an end, there was no problem with booking a room there. Happy days! So that was my last week in Kathmandu – waking up for a yoga class in the morning and then chilling the whole day, I know tough life… 😉 I did walk around the streets of Kathmandu a couple of times that week, but not focusing on seeing anything really, just wandering around buying a few things to send home and simply watching the life go by. I had quite a lot of time to think as well, but this time it was more about reliving all the fresh amazing memories than anything else. Leaving all the worries behind, well almost all of them at least as thinking about going to China did scare me a bit, but then I always wanted to see this country, so would just have to deal with any obstacles that would come my way once there!

I really was sad to be leaving Kathmandu also. I think it’s one of these cities that you either love or hate as many people are really bothered by the constant honking, dust everywhere and trash as well actually, but there is so much more to it than that. I just love the atmosphere, even though people are trying to sell you things all the time (I think I’ve been offered tiger balm and flutes?? hundreds of times actually), and yes the cars, rickshaws and bikes are honking constantly and the dogs are barking at night (not that I hear that as once I’m asleep no noises can bother me anymore) and it’s pretty smelly especially when you get close to the river… honestly you could find millions of little things that could potentially bother you here, but then what’s the point? Isn’t it better to concentrate on the positive sides? I remember my first morning in Kathmandu, sitting at the rooftop café having breakfast and thinking: ‘Wow! What a different world!’ Because it sure is different! But that’s why I was here after all – to explore this side of the world, see other cultures and learn something about them… and about myself hopefully as well. All the boxes ticked so far! 😉

Once you do get annoyed with the noise of Kathmandu, you really don’t have to go far to escape from it – there are plenty of little oases all around, let it be cafés, restaurants, chillout places here and there or a small park (Garden of Dreams for that matter). I sure did have a few places like that where I could sit, sip my coffee (and indulge myself in eating an apple pie of course 😉) and just enjoy the peace and quiet around me or the lovely music floating in the air. I felt really comfortable in Kathmandu, knew my way around here pretty well by now, which was another of the factors that was making me feel sad about leaving. I would need to get used to the new country again… Ah well... That's the beauty of it, isn't it? 😊

Obviously there are a lot of things to see in Kathmandu as well – basically on every street you can find little shrines and temples decorated with marigolds, but then there are the ones which you just need to see. Since I did spend quite a bit of time in Kathmandu I had a chance to do a bit of sightseeing and even saw a few of the landmarks more than once…

First there is the famous Unesco World Heritage site – Durbar Square. That’s one of the places I was coming back to a couple of times as it surely was a great place for people watching. Always full of locals –as there was always something going on in here, some kind of speeches, somebody singing or dancing and then all around people selling all sorts of things from marigolds to spices. There are a couple of temples here that are worth seeing as well – one of the first days here I was persuaded by one guy to walk me around the square and tell me a bit all about it (for a price of course, ah well… at least I found out a thing or two!). So one of them is Kasthamandap (Pavilion of Wood), apparently constructed from the wood of a single sal tree – you can find four images of Ganesh inside. Right next to it is Maru Ganesh Shrine, one of the most important Ganesh shrines in the valley actually. You can definitely see it’s popular as there are a lot of people around it all the time, marking their foreheads with tika and then ringing the bells at the back - apparently it brings good luck and safety on your journeys. Then there is a huge Shiva temple where many people meet – Maju Deval. One place that it’s definitely worth a visit is Kumari Bahal (House of the Living Goddess). Of course it’s best to come there once Kumari appears in the window (which is noon or 4pm), I was lucky enough to be there around 4pm one of the first days and had a chance to see the goddess herself. Then on the smaller square you have Jagannath Temple with its very provocative erotic carvings. You can find a statue of Kala (Black) Bhairab (Shiva in his most fearsome aspect) at the smaller square as well - there are always lots of people gathered around it, leaving offerings, praying and touching the statue for good luck. Apparently if you say a lie in front of Kala Bhairab you will die on the spot – well I didn’t try that just in case. 😉

Another site worth seeing is Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple), half an hour walk from Thamel. There is a big stupa set in the middle of the square, surrounded by smaller temples and shops selling all sorts of arts and crafts. Monkey Temple is set on the hill so you can have a good view of Kathmandu’s rooftops from there. Be prepared to climb some pretty steep steps up here though! It sure was a good workout! 😉 I’ve been there twice actually during my time in Nepal.
in the Garden of Dreamsin the Garden of Dreamsin the Garden of Dreams

yep! in Kathmandu! :)
The first time I got there was in the morning and it sure seemed like a good time to visit this place as it wasn’t that crowded at that time and I had a chance to see the morning ritual of the Buddhist devotees walking around the stupa, singing (or chanting) and spinning the prayer wheels along the way. This was accompanied with the sounds of ‘Om mani padme hum’ song coming from one of the shops which only made the experience even more spiritual. The other best time to visit this place is just before sunset – which I did when I was here the second time… Just lovely!

The next on the list is Pashupatinath (the cremation ghats), set on the banks of the holy Bagmati river. It’s the kind of a place that you will definitely visit only once. When I got there people were just getting ready to for a cremation ceremony. It was heart-breaking seeing the father mourning over his son (found this out from my guide, since I didn’t know much about these kind of traditions here, it seemed like a good idea to have someone walk me around the site and explain a thing or two). I was told that this particular family was from Newari ethnic group as only Newari women were allowed to come close to the body – women from other ethnic groups had to stay a bit further away (apparently to keep them from jumping into the fire after the loved ones being cremated at the time…). The cremation seems to be a pretty expensive business in here actually – there are three different spots along the river: one for kings, one for upper cast and on the other side of the bridge a spot for all the others. Apparently it costs 20,000 rupees to cremate the body (that would be for lower class, as for upper class it’s 50,000 rupees), pretty expensive considering that some people in Nepal leave on less than 200 rupees per day… You can find quite a few sadhus on the site as well – posing for pictures with the tourists, ah well… thought I might do it as well… Was absolutely shocked when they asked me for 1000 rupees for the photo though… Sorry but no way! Well, they seem to be pricing themselves pretty high considering they supposedly chose this path to get rid of all the material goods… Hmmm… Sure that many tourists give them whatever money they ask for though hence the high 'prices'…

From Pashupatinath it’s half an hour walk to Bodhanath stupa. This would be my favourite site in Kathmandu for sure. The moment you get there you hear the sounds of ‘Om mani padme hum’ floating in the air. Hundreds of people are walking clockwise around the stupa, praying, spinning the prayer wheels and chanting the Buddhist mantras. You can see more monks here than at any other sites, as well as many Tibetan women dressed in a traditional way. The stupa is surrounded with smaller temples, all kinds of shops selling Buddhist souvenirs (statues, masks, materials, singing bowls, Thanka paintings, you name it!) and little workshops here and there. Again it’s best to come here around sunset – absolutely beautiful! The second time I came here with Grant we even got a private blessing at the gompa. It was almost closing time and there was no one else at the monastery at the time except one monk and the two of us wandering around and admiring the beautiful artwork inside. The monk seeing us walking around offered to give us blessing. I had to laugh when he asked me if Grant was my wife… Well, what can you say to that? 😉 Still it was a really enlightening experience and very intimate as well! And once again it felt even more special sharing it with someone you care about… So thanks Grant for a lovely day at the stupa! 😊

Just like in every other country there are a couple of dodgy areas around and a few freaks walking down the streets – especially after dark, so just like everywhere else you do need to be careful and keep your guard on just in case. I had a few incidents while being here unfortunately… I wasn’t sure whether to write about them or not as looking at all the good things that happened to me in here, they just seem irrelevant now and are almost forgotten. But then I thought I would rather know about bad things as well, just to be prepared just in case, so I decided to mention them after all as a word of advice to be careful at all times! Once you walk around Thamel in the evening, you can hear different guys offering you hash all around, I've heard they also offer you girls' and boys' services as well but haven't been offered any of that until one evening that is... When I was coming back to my hotel, the door was closed already so rang the bell and was waiting for the guard to come down and open the door for me, then this teenager guy comes along being all chatty and stuff, also ringing the bell and shouting for the guard to hurry up as if trying to help out, until at the last moment he says he wants to come up to my room with me??? Whaaat? Go away kiddo! Didn’t come here looking for that kind of excitement! The second incident shook me up a bit more as I was just coming back from some drinks and while my buddy went to get some water, I was just standing outside when suddenly a guy that was passing by grabbed me and touched my private part! I shouted at him straight away and even started walking after him, but he ran away the moment he saw me getting all angry! Really horrible experience – honestly what makes perverts do these kinds of things? Do they really feel all excited after making someone so shaken and all uncomfortable afterwards? Anyway… The last one was the most unexpected of all – I was sitting in one of my favourite places New Orleans, having dinner, while this guy (a foreigner actually) all stoned or drunk (maybe both) came over to my table trying to join me. I said politely that I would appreciate it if he went back to his table as I wasn’t looking for company. Then he just lost it! Started shouting, swearing, calling me all sorts of names and it didn’t look as if he was planning to leave at all! No reaction from the staff of the restaurant whatsoever (found out later that he's been coming there for years and in some moments of madness he just throws money all around! So obviously the owners of the restaurants don't mind him coming there at all!). Thankfully other costumers noticed the scene (well it was hard not to as he was really obnoxious!) and helped me out. He was making another two attempts later on coming to my table, but straight away was put down by other guests of the restaurant. He actually almost got into a fight with some older Aussie guys there as well… One family that was sitting next to me came over to me when they were leaving asking me if I was ok and if I cared to join them – really sweet! Still even though there were a couple of bad experiences here, there were hundreds more that made up for the bad ones… I say these kinds of things can happen anywhere to anyone actually, just the wrong place, wrong time I guess…

Just loved Nepal though, so I'm sure one day I'll be coming back...

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