I hope everyone likes reading long posts because that’s what you’re getting today too!
In Kathmandu many things depend on what they call load sharing. This isn’t people being good and helping other carry heavy bags, it’s a rotation they have of the city’s electricity. You will generally have about 6 hours of electricity in any given day so you need to make sure to have everything ready to charge as soon as the power is back. I almost got caught with no spare charged battery for my camera because of this and it is also the reason I was up and moving at 6:30 am. You see, the fan in my room depends on there being power in the hostel. So I woke up at 6 am covered in sweat and thought I might as well get up.
After a refreshing cold shower, I decided to walk to Swayambhunath or, as we westerners call it, the monkey temple. The Nepalese people are early risers, so there were already plenty of people around at 6:30. I was the only tourist I saw, which was kind of nice. The walk to Swayambhunath is not the prettiest but I got to see a bit of the real Kathmandu. Also, not being hassled by rickshaw drivers, flute sellers, hash dealers and tour guides was a great relief. There are a couple of nice temples along the way. That is the surprising thing about Kathmandu, where you least expect it you suddenly have these huge pagoda style temples and beautiful little shrines.
I arrived to the monkey temple around 7:30 and I realised I had made it to the pilgrim’s entrance. This is the traditional way of approaching and there are a lot of stairs to climb! Also, if you have any food on you, the monkeys will harass you until they steal it. I had half a bag of crisps which I thought were well hidden but I ended up losing them to an entrepreneurial monkey. The climb was tough but with calculated stops along the way it is manageable. The effort is well worth it as the views from the top are spectacular and the stupa and surrounding temples are excellent. I was lucky enough to be the first tourist there so I got to see a morning ritual (no pictures allowed, sorry) and enjoy the peace and quiet.
I went back down the tourist side and crossed the first groups of tourists arriving at the temple. Have I mentioned how lucky I was to be the first tourist there? I imagine the experience would have been very different with 2 busloads of Korean tourists milling about and taking pictures of the same things.
I decided to jump on a taxi to Patan. Patan is one of the oldest cities in Nepal and has its own Durbar Square which is also a World Heritage site. I paid my taxi fare (around 3 euro) and a short 35 minutes after I was there. It was now 9:30 in the morning and there were still no tourists to be seen! I decided I had earned a breakfast (still being annoyed about my lost crisps) so I popped into the only place near Durbar Square that I found open. The place was nice but the breakfast was most definitely forgettable. (Café de Patan in case you’re curious)
I then paid for a guide to show me around. The guides are reasonably expensive (around 10 euro for a one and a half hour tour) but I felt like I needed someone to show me the ropes. I ended up getting a great guide and I highly recommend him. I have all his information if anyone needs it, just send me a message or post a comment below. He showed me all the temples in and around Durbar Square and some others that were not on my map. He then dropped me off at the Patan museum. I would highly recommend the museum to anyone going. I takes a couple of hours but the information is really good. For example, did you know that Hindu gods don’t always have the same number of arms? Each arm and face of the figure represents a different aspect of that particular incarnation of the god.
By the time I was done it was lunch time so I went in search of food. I had wanted to take a bus back to Kathmandu and it turns out there was a nice Malaysian place on the way from Durbar to the bus station. I headed off into the middle of Patan and I loved it. I felt like the only westerner in town. Patan is an ancient city and much like Kathmandu has beautiful temples where you least expect them.
I had a lovely meal of mee goreng at the Sing Ma food court and then caught a bus into Kathmandu. Buses are quite an experience and I highly recommend them as they are one thirtieth of the price of a taxi and just as fast. The way they work is that the fare collector keep shouting out of the window to see if anyone wants to go where the bus is going. If someone does, the bus slows down a bit and they jump on. Luckily I got mine at one of the bus stops where the minibuses slow to crawl to let you get in(but don’t actually stop).
I got to Kathmandu safely and walked back to the hostel to take a shower. I had drank about 4 liters of water so far and had not gone to the bathroom once. I felt a bit sweaty and hot so a cool shower is just what the doctor ordered. As soon as stepped out of the shower it started to rain heavily and has not stopped since. I am now sitting under a small roof on the terrace writing this blog. I shall attempt to upload it as soon as I am finished. If you’re reading this, I have succeded.
Tune in tomorrow for more crazy adventures and my trip to the ancient city of Bhaktapur where I plan to spend the night.