Wednesday, January 23: At the end of our 4 hour hike, we finally reach the ancient pilgrimage site of Changu Narayan in Kathmandu Valley. All morning I have been wearing a new pair of hiking shoes that I haven’t quite broken in, and my feet are killing me! I am happy to see Changu Narayan because it means I will be able to sit in the car for the drive back to Kathmandu.
We take a main street along the top of the ridge to the temple. Souvenir shops are plentiful and colorful.
Changu Narayan is one of seven World Heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley; it’s been listed by UNESCO since 1979. This beautiful painted temple is where Lord Vishnu is worshiped by Hindus as Narayan and by Buddhists as Hari Hari Hari Vahan Lokeshwor.
The temple sits in a quiet square of rest houses and pilgrims’ shelters. According to Lonely Planet Nepal, it is the valley’s oldest Vaishnava site, with a documented history going back to the 5th century A.D. The temple is said to have been reconstructed in 1700. The temple has some fine repousse work and carved painted struts supporting the roof. Most of the statues in the courtyard are related to Lord Vishnu.
The four entrances to Changu Narayan Temple are guarded by life-size pairs of animals such as lions, sarabhas, griffins and elephants on each side of the entrances. The ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu and the other idols are carved in the struts supporting the roof.
We don’t stay very long at this temple, despite its beauty. I’m tired and hungry and ready to return to Kathmandu for one more day of exploration. My guide Prakesh, our driver Raju and I ride back through Bhaktapur and then through Kathmandu’s chaotic traffic mishmash of motorbikes, rickshaws, and honking trucks with flowers in their windshields.
Back at Kathmandu Guest House, I eat a late lunch of Egg Chow Mein, which I polish off in its entirety because I’m famished after that long hike from Nagarkot to Changu Narayan! When I check into my room, though it’s a nice room with a balcony, I find it doesn’t have a bathtub. I have been looking forward to a long hot soak, so I ask for a change of rooms. I enjoy the hot bath, put on my pajamas and continue reading my novel, What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt. I don’t get up again until I finish the book. After, I get dressed to go out, but the novel’s disturbing story about a sociopath boy, Mark, and his murderous friend, Teddy Giles weighs heavy on me.
I head for dinner at New Orleans Cafe, where I sit next to a warm fire and drink an Everest Beer. Because of eating that huge plate of Egg Chow Mein for a late lunch, I’m not very hungry, so I order a “small plate” of mashed potatoes. The plate is actually huge and heaped with mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy. It’s delicious and filling, especially as, again, I eat every bite.
While enjoying my beer after demolishing my “small plate,” some live traditional music begins on stage and a stocky Indian guy named Jay Krishna, who is sitting at an adjacent table, asks if he can join me. He’s wearing a red fleece jacket and a wool hat pulled down to his eyebrows. A software engineer doing some work in Nepal, he returns to Bangalore tomorrow.
Even though he’s Hindu, he believes in Jesus too, especially based on arguments in a book he highly recommends, Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahanoa Yogananda. We talk and talk, and he tells me I should buy this book tomorrow in the bookstore across the street. When he tells me he’s from Bangalore, I tell him about my trip to India and about the small-framed 25-old-Indian guy Tao, who I met on Facebook, and who took the train all the way from Bangalore to Delhi to meet me. I laugh and say I couldn’t understand why a guy that young and small could have been attracted to me. Jay says, “Why not? I find you attractive.” I thank him and change the subject.
He buys himself a beer but says he can’t buy me one; I tell him I can’t buy him one either. As I prepare to leave, he tells me he’d like to spend more time with me, but as he’s leaving Kathmandu tomorrow and I’m leaving on Friday morning, and as I’m incredibly tired, I say I don’t really have the energy. I say goodnight and head back to Kathmandu Guest House, where, exhausted, I fall asleep.