After all the things people had told us about Kathmandu we were preparing ourselves for a mini India experience. We were quite surprised by what we were greeted with when we got to Thamel- central Kathmandu. There is a maze of streets lined with tourist shops selling clothing, tea and general nik naks amongst restaurants, bars and guest houses. We didn’t get hassled as we walked down the streets, it wasn’t dirty or overly busy. We actually enjoyed being in Thamel a lot. We stayed in a dingey guesthouse for our first night as places to stay were few and far between as its festival time, then we found a nice place to stay the following morning. Settled in we went in search of Kathmandu’s Durbar Square!
The square isn’t really a square. Its a collection of randomly placed temples, museums and shrines. All of which are really old (I couldn’t tell you dates, just old) and covered in ultra fine detailed carvings. Being two architecture geeks we spent a fair amount of time observing every building and picking out architectural styles and signs of restoration. We sat on one of the temples and observed the sights of the square over some fruit. Next on our agenda was ‘the monkey temple’ which is a stupa on a hill where monkeys congregate. We got a cycle rickshaw to the steps up the hill but our rickshaw driver at times had difficulty cycling with the two of us sat in the back so Chris occasionally got out to push. Maybe we’ve been enjoying the eating out a bit too much. The steps up to the temple brought back bad trekking memories for me but without my bag on my back we got up there quick time! We spent a while up there walking round the temple and looking at the views over Kathmandu. On our way back to Thamel for some food we bumped into Gaz (who we met whilst trekking) and his friend Lois. We met them later that evening for drinks and decided the following day we would get motorbikes and drive to Bhaktapur.
We found Bhaktapur to be similar in ways to Thamel- a town of long narrow streets leading onto squares filled with temples. However Bhaktapur had more character with its cobbled streets and tall thin brick buildings. Sometimes reminding us of the ropewalks in Liverpool. With clouds setting in and Gaz having a flight home to get back for we headed to Thamel and after saying our farewells to Gaz we did a spot of shopping with Lois, taking full advantage of her bartering skills. Later on the three of us met Sophie and Denis for tea. Our friends Elena and Felix had chosen to stay in Boddnath so we decided to visit them the following day and see Asia’s largest stupa. We said goodbye to Lois who was leaving to go trekking in the morning. We arrived at the stupa in the early morning as we were told this is the best time to visit. I really enjoyed it there, its such an unusual style of building and it looks so attractive draped in the Buddhist prayer flags. Chris’ words were “its not that big is it really?” But he enjoyed it none-the-less, especially the spinning wheel room. We had our photos taken for the first time in a while, this time by Chinese tourists.
For the afternoon we got a very uncomfortable taxi (6 people in one tiny car) to Patan which is like another Bhaktapur. Nothing new to report here. The rest of the day was spent arranging a bus from Kathmandu to Ilam. That evening we had our last meal with Elena, Felix, Sophie and Denis then said our goodbyes as Elena and Felix go home and Sophie and Denis go to Thailand. This was sad as those guys have been constants for quite a few weeks and we would see them everyday but I’m sure our paths will cross again one day and we’ll keep in touch.
Boringly our last day in Kathmandu was spent trying to arrange trains for our return to India. We failed miserably and are now relying on helpful people when we arrive in Darjeeling. It’s worth mentioning that this blog is being composed on the 12hour bus journey from hell! Before I had even made it onto the bus I slipped in a puddle of mud falling flat on my back getting a good coating in sludge, as did Chris in his haste to help me up. We seem to be spending most of the journey on two wheels and deafened by the bus horn. Then a woman was sick on my seat. We had planned on spending a couple of nights in Ilam to finish off our month in Nepal but as the never ending bus journey took 13hours instead of 12 we missed our connecting bus which would have taken us to Ilam. We therefore decided to stay on the bus even longer and carry on to the border town and head back to India a day early as there wasn’t enough time to head to Ilam. Not the best ending to our amazing journey in Nepal but we are looking forward to spending an extra day in Darjeeling (and we’ve been told its very similar to Ilam anyway) and are excited for our Indian adventure part two.
See photos here: