Kathmandu – Day 1

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April 15th 2019
Published: April 17th 2019
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For the first time since arriving I had a lousy nights sleep. I woke to dogs barking their heads off at 3AM. Followed by a drunk or potentially crazy guy wandering down my street raving about god knows what. (turns out the Nepali have crazy folks too) and then around 5AM the rooster started. Its not so cute now. Apparently, there were more celebrations last night, but I was so tired and sore I retired at a respectable hour which I now regret. I could have been drinking with drunk/crazy guy

I didn’t have to check out the hotel to midday so I decided to go for a walk. I hadn’t made it to the wood carving museum so I thought this morning would be a good time to try and find it. Instead I ran into Roshan again, at the good coffee shop, so I stopped and had a coffee with him, it would have been rude not to. And it is good coffee. Plus, he gave me the directions I needed to get to the Wood Carving museum. He strongly recommended the Brass and Bronze museum and he was right

When I found the right square and the museums I was looking for, both were closed. But the doors to the bronze and brass museums doors were open, and the guards were there (all the museums have police guards) and they invited me in for a chat until the museum opened. Only one had some basic English, so it was pretty broken conversation. First question, as always, is where are you from? That’s standard. The next question was are you single? Apparently, it was impossible for them to believe that I am single. They also thought I looked young for my age. I found that impossible to believe. The museums themselves are not very big. The brass and bronze museum was definitely the most interesting. Lots of displays of old bowls and lamps with intricate carving work. Roshan had mentioned there was old shiska here. But I couldn’t find that. The wood carving museum wasn’t much. Three floors and an inner courtyard. But no displays. The wood carvings were the columns and the windows. Which were amazing, but still, not a whole lot to see and nothing about the industry itself. I give it 1 star

After the museums it was time to check out of my hotel and make my way to Thamel, in Kathmandu. Cabs are easy to find; it is a lot like Cuba where you walk 5 meters and someone offers you a cab. However, they are not as pushy and they don’t rip you off. My booking sheet did not have the full address of the hotel. It just said Thamel. We had to call the hotel, only to find it cannot be reached by vehicle. So, after calling the hotel, my cabbie had to drop me off in the centre of Thamel and give me directions. At which point I was a little panicky. I had images of me getting lost and wandering for hours trying to find this place with all my luggage in tow. This is not a comforting thought for the solo female traveller. He drew me a rough map on the back of slip of paper and helped me exit the vehicle. As it turned out I was panicking for no reason. I found the hotel without a hitch, Yay for the DAT!

After I got settled at the hotel I went out for lunch. It was still early in the day so I decided to try and find Dubar Square, they have one of those too. To explain, Kathmandu Valley used to consist of three kingdoms, what we now know as Kathmandu, Bhaktupur and Patan. They all have a main square which was a centre of trading back in the silk road days. After a series of wars and rivalries they were united under the Malla dynasty in the 13th century. I’m not sure if that is the Gregorian century or the Nepali calendar. I should mention the festival I saw in Bhaktupur was to celebrate the Nepali New Year, so happy 2076 everyone!

My success at finding my hotel was not mirrored in finding Dubar square. It looked really simple on the map, down the road, one right, one left and viola! I had to walk past my hotel on the way where I was stopped by a lady selling purses, which I didn’t want, but we had a chat anyway. She asked me where I was headed and I said Dubar square. It is far too far to walk, she said. I should get a rickshaw, she said. It is going to rain, she said. I said no, that’s OK, the weather is fine and I need to walk off my lunch. I should have listened to the local. Five minutes down the road it stated to rain. And when I say rain, I mean a mini monsoon ran through town. I found myself sheltered in a shop door for 20 minutes waiting for it to clear. When I thought it had slowed down a little I got bored of my shop front and braved it in the rain (wet weather jacket safely back at my hotel room of course) I walked until I found a café, where I decided to stop and order a coffee and wait for the rain to subside, which it did, the second the waiter put the coffee down at my table.

So after my coffee which I no longer needed, I made my way out onto the street. Only now I couldn’t remember if I’d made all my left and right turns. I kept heading in a southward direction. I had google maps but it only has limited capacity when the phone is not connected to the internet. (I always turn off data roaming when I’m overseas) So of course I walked too far and missed Dubar square. By the time I checked my bearings I realised I had to walk a couple of blocks to the right and then back uphill. Missed it again! I circled it before I found it…..possibly twice. I’m not entirely sure where I walked. I did see some interesting sights on my way though. Everything seems to be in districts. I found the jewellery district, the medical district and the mobile phone district. Samsung appears to be doing very good business here.

Eventually found the square. I had just started moving though and taking pictures when I noticed a group of young kids playing in a band, drums and cymbals. I stopped to listen for a while when I noticed another drumming band playing behind them. I went to take a look and found another band, and another, and another. It was battle of the bands. Standing next to the fourth band were two rows of men in black uniforms. They had rifles but they looked like replicas more than the real thing. I later learned they were Ghurkha’s in their traditional dress uniforms. I tried to get a photo but I had to edge around the crowd. There were people everywhere. By the time I got into a good position they turned and marched away. After they left, I turned around to walk into the square when I see a giant Christmas tree, on a chariot, being dragged in my direction. It would appear I had walked into another festival. Which explained the battle of the bands and the Ghurkha’s. Like in Bhaktapur there were lots of young men shouting and chanting and laughing as they pulled this chariot through the square. Unlike Bhaktapur I was close enough to get some good photos. I think this Jatra (festival) is for the new year.

As I started walking through Dubar Square I was meandering around taking some happy snaps when, I was approached by yet another guide. Gee I wonder how they keep finding me? But I couldn’t say no. Instead of looking at some dusty old buildings, I had a source of knowledge of what they all mean. For example, I had wandered into one building because it looked interesting (and it was open) I took a look around, it was interesting. One of those compound kind of places where there is a courtyard in the middle. I couldn’t take any photo’s because there was a sign. But I took a good look and wondered out again. My guide Rami, later informed me, this is the home of the Kumari, a living goddess. They choose a young girl, three or four years of age, from the appropriate caste and horoscope, and they put her through 34 individual tests. If she passes them all, then she becomes the living goddess, the embodiment of the Goddess Taleju. She lives in palace with a bunch of monks until she hits puberty. Then the search for a new Kumari starts and the old Kumari (now just a regular girl with a regular period) is released back to her family. She receives a handsome pension to live out her days. Rami told me that she becomes a nun but I have read elsewhere that that it is bad luck to marry a former Kumari. So I guess some girls feel they have done their time in service of the faith.

Rami walked me up to temple, I cant remember its name, but it was dedicated to the creator of life and it was up reasonably high. While only monks can enter the temple, we could walk around the platforms on the outside, the platforms without a railing or anything to stop me from falling off and cracking my skull. So that was fun. I could peer into the temple and see the Yoni and Lingum. Across the yard from this temple was a huge fresco of Kalbhairav, the taker of life. Its all about the balance. In between was a truth stone. In years gone by anyone on trial had to stand on the stone and tell the truth in front of Kalbhairav, if they lied they would be struck down with illness. Their lies would be judged by Kalbhairav and he determines what happens to them in their next reincarnation. Other temples of note where the Goddess of Beer (sorry forgot her name) and the temple of the Karma sutra (another one with those instructional wood carvings)

Eventually we ended up back at the Kumari Bahal. The palace of the little goddess. Only now there was a bit of a crowd gathering outside. It turns out the little goddess was making one of her 13 annual public appearances. Can you imagine that? A kid that only gets to go outside 13 times a year. Luckily for me, today was one of those days. So we stood patiently outside waiting for her to appear. Rami thought that she would be out in about 10 minutes. Nepali’s are not good with time. We were waiting for ages. Rami explained that inside the palace the monks would be going through a series of rituals to prepare her to leave the palace. I figured that explained the delay. She’s being dressed by men. Women would have had that situation sorted well before time. We know how to frock up.

Finally, the doors opened, everyone raised their cameras and this little girl was carried to her litter. Then she was hoisted up onto the shoulders of the litter bearers and away they ran. There were so many people and the litter turned away from us so I couldn’t really to see her. Rami said he knew where they were going, follow me. So, I followed. The next thing I know we are running across the square in front of the old palace to catch up with the monks…..and they can set quite a pace. They ran around the square, we took a short cut across it. We pulled up just in front of them at the far corner and I managed to snap one decent photo before she was borne away. It was a fun experience but to be honest, a large part of me felt a bit weird chasing this little girl across the square for a photo. If it were a member of our own royal family, I probably wouldn’t have put my coffee down to catch a glimpse, and here I was running across a square for the living goddess of a religion I don’t believe in. Bear in mind she is only four years old, the whole thing must be very overwhelming for her. On the upside, the Kumari is supposed to be the bringer of rain, and its true. As we started walking back to Dubar square the skys opened and it strted to pour. I wonder if we can get her to do a tour of Queensland and NSW.

To get out of the rain Rami took me a “house” to get shelter. The house was a set of storefronts, and what do you know, they wanted to sell me some more paintings of the Buddha. I politely but firmly said no, many times. They were really working hard but I already got sucked in once in Bhaktapur. I don’t need more Buddhist paintings. It was got a little tiresome, especially as I was trapped by the rain. Eventually the rain gave way, I said my final no and Rami walked me to street I needed to get back to my hotel. I made it all the way home without a wrong turn (for a change)


18th April 2019

voila not viola
Hate to correct the wordsmith, but viola is a flower; voila is there it is ;)
19th April 2019

Hahaha Lou. Can I blame auto-correct? More to the point it just got missed in the proof read. The wordsmith makes about 100 mistakes per entry and my editor is not much chop

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