last day in kathmandu

Thursday, January 24:  On this, my last day in Kathmandu, I decide I will just wander around the streets of Thamel and do some shopping, have a nice lunch, check out the bookstore, take pictures, and top the day off with a traditional dinner and entertainment.

First I start with a meditative moment in the courtyard of Kathmandu Guest House.

the meditative Buddha in the courtyard of Kathmandu Guest House

the meditative Buddha in the courtyard of Kathmandu Guest House

As I walk out to the street from Kathmandu Guest House, I meet this kind young man who wants me to hire his rickshaw for a little tour.  I tell him I will meet him here in about two hours.

My rickshaw driver

My rickshaw driver

I can do a lot of damage shopping for 2 hours.  I buy a couple of beautiful necklaces, two yak wool blankets, a paper lantern, a colorful embroidered bag, and a bunch of books including Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda (which the Indian guy I met last night highly recommended to me), The Guru of Love, Royal Ghosts and Arresting God in Kathmandu, all by Samrat Upadhyay, and a Buddhist Chanting CD.  Luckily I bought that backpack in Pokhara so I can carry all this loot home. 🙂

I do some more wandering around before the designated meeting time for the rickshaw tour.  This is what I see.

Ohm.

Ohm.

Streets of Thamel

Streets of Thamel

Colorful shops in Thamel

Colorful shops in Thamel

Balloons anyone?

Balloons anyone?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

colorful yarns

colorful yarns

old wood carvings

old wood carvings

busy streets

busy streets

paper lanterns

paper lanterns

Finally I meet my rickshaw driver and he takes me outside of Thamel to where the real Nepalis live and work.  Thamel is quite “done up” compared to the rest of Kathmandu because it’s a tourist area.  The rest of Kathmandu is more chaotic and quite a bit more ratty.

colorful rickshaw

colorful rickshaw

a little temple hidden away

a little temple hidden away

a lady and her bedding

a lady and her bedding

colorful bedding and doors

colorful bedding and doors

hangin' out waiting for a fare

hangin’ out waiting for a fare

Ohm.

Ohm.

the red monkey god

the red monkey god

another hidden temple with bright yellow doors

another hidden temple with bright yellow doors

temple

temple

me in the rickshaw

me in the rickshaw

fruits for sale

fruits for sale

a temple with guard dogs

a temple with guard dogs

After our little tour, I grab a lunch of momos and fresh banana juice at The Roadhouse Cafe.

Ohm.

Ohm.

Momos for lunch

Momos for lunch

my lunch spot

my lunch spot

Finally I go back to my room and take a rest for a bit.  I have now started reading Arresting God in Kathmandu, a book of short stories by Nepali writer Samrat Upadhyay.  This is more appropriate for Nepal than the other book I’ve been occupied with this entire trip, What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt.   I finished this book yesterday evening.

another colorful rickshaw

another colorful rickshaw

I decide to go out to Thamel House, an old townhouse with a covered patio garden that serves traditional Nepali and Newari food.  I order the full course vegetarian set.  The fixed price meal includes the following:

ENTRY:
Alu Tareko (Potato fried and prepared in traditional way)
Momo (steamed dumpling with minced vegetables)
Suruwa (soup ~ typical Nepali soup)

MAIN COURSE:
Sada Bhuja (plain boiled Basmati rice)
Kalo Dal (lentil prepared in iron pot with heated purified butter, garnished with herbs)
Mis Mas Tarkari (seasonal mixed vegetables cooked in local style)
Alu Tama Bodi (fermented bamboo shoot, beans & potato unique flavored and sourly in taste)
Paneer ko Tarkari (cottage cheese cooked in a special way)
Chyau ko Tarkari (mushroom curry cooked in a traditional way)
Saag (Seasonal fresh green leaves boiled and sautéed with spices)

DESSERT
Shikarni (Thick yogurt whipped and mixed with dry nuts and cinnamon powder)

Traditional Nepali food

Traditional Nepali food

While I savor each and every morsel of this delectable meal, I watch some Nepali ladies do a song and dance routine.

Entertainment at Thamel House Restaurant

Entertainment at Thamel House Restaurant

Finally, I return to Kathmandu Guest House where I pack up my things for an early flight tomorrow back to Muscat.  Goodbye, Nepal.  I don’t know when, or if, I’ll see you again. 🙂

good night and farewell to Thamel

good night and farewell to Kathmandu

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namaste! ~ opening night in kathmandu

Thursday, January 17:   Oman Air flight 331 flies in over the green Churia Hills of Nepal as the sun goes down.  Below are soft peaks with winding dirt paths etched into their surfaces.  I get a little choked up seeing these mountains with shreds of low-lying clouds tucked neatly into their folds.  I’ve heard stories of people who have trekked through these mountains and the Himalayas further north.  This isn’t even the Himalayan range, but the scene still moves me.  As we land, the sun goes down in a spectacular array of corals and lavender.

flying into Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu

flying into Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu

sunset as we fly into Kathmandu

sunset as we fly into Kathmandu

We are on the ground in Kathmandu.

Kathmandu Guest House offers a free airport pick up.  I spot the sign, greeting the Nepali man with “Namaste,” head bowed and hands in a prayer pose.  In Sanskrit the word is namah + te = namaste which means “I bow to you” – my greetings, salutations or prostration to you. The word ‘namaha’ can also be literally interpreted as “na ma” (not mine). It has a spiritual significance of negating or reducing one’s ego in the presence of another.

the tourist area of Thamel outside of Kathmandu Guest House

the tourist area of Thamel outside of Kathmandu Guest House

According to Living Words of Wisdom: Definition of Namaste:  Seeing others through Namaste’s meaning will help you see the true divine spirit in everyone and meet them at the soul level. You look beyond the surface into the true nature of every being.

There a many other interpretations of the meaning of Namaste.  Here are a few:

The God/Goddess within me acknowledges the God/Goddess within you.

The Divine in me recognizes and honors, the Divine in you.

The spirit within me bows to the spirit within you.

I greet that place where you and I are one.

I honor the place in you which is of love, of truth, of light and of peace.

I love this greeting and gesture of honoring another person and find myself wishing we all would great each other in this way.

the entrance to Kathmandu Guest House

the entrance to Kathmandu Guest House

I hop into a dilapidated van.  We are apparently waiting for another passenger named Layla.  While waiting, the driver gets a call from Uttam Phuyal, the operations manager of Kathmandu Guest House.  He is a good friend of my colleague Mona Lisa at the university;  Mona Lisa has connected us to each other.  On the phone, Uttam welcomes me to Kathmandu but tells me it is time for him to go home.  He promises to talk to me in the morning with some ideas for my stay in Nepal.   I have made no plans because I only found out five days ago that we were granted a holiday this week.

the outdoor dining room at Kathmandu Guest House

the outdoor dining room at Kathmandu Guest House

When Layla arrives, we drive through the city to the tourist neighborhood of Thamel, where KGH, and practically every other guesthouse in Kathmandu, is located.  Many of the roads in the city are unpaved and we bounce along over potholes in the dirt roads. On the way through the smog and haze of the city, we hear a cacophony of honking horns.  Colorful figures wrapped in yak’s wool blankets move through the darkening sky under neon lights; some sit tending ramshackle shops or hunched over baskets of cabbages and tomatos.  Cars, brightly painted trucks and hordes of motorbikes clog the roads.   The city reminds me of many poor cities, but especially Delhi, Hanoi and Addis Ababa.

I ask Layla about her plans.  She’s young and from Britain, and she’ll be in Nepal through June teaching at a school in a hill village.  In the airport earlier, I had spoken to a young French girl who was heading to Nepal for a month.  My first thought when talking to these people was, What would one do in Nepal for a month?  And how do these young people afford to do this?  Layla tells me she is teaching as a volunteer but all her expenses will be paid and she’ll be provided with a home and food.  While staying in Kathmandu, she’s renting a room at Kathmandu Guest House for $8 a night.  My room is $50 a night.  It turns out I get a lot more amenities than she does for her $8, and I’m glad for those.

sitting in the restaurant getting ready to eat after enjoying a glass of wine

sitting in the restaurant getting ready to eat after enjoying a glass of wine

Though I’ve booked a garden facing room for $5o a night, it turns out that there is no such room available.  They have one non-garden facing room that still needs to be cleaned and one that faces the garden, with 3 beds, for $60 a night.  Since they confirmed the room I booked, I say that I shouldn’t have to pay more for what is basically their mistake.  Finally, they agree to give me the three-bed garden-facing room for the same price at which they confirmed.

I head directly to the garden restaurant for a glass of wine and some dinner.  It’s quite cold, but I sit strategically under a heat lamp to keep somewhat warm.  I order fish tikka and some garlic naan, all delicious.

fish tikka and garlic naan :-)

fish tikka and garlic naan 🙂

During dinner, I chat with a friendly couple from Holland.  They recommend several places to me, especially Bhaktapur and Pokhara.  They tell me that tomorrow morning, they’ll be heading up to Swayambhu, otherwise known as the Monkey Temple.  Then they will be returning to Holland.  Prior to coming to Nepal, they spent 3 weeks in India; they said, as many people before me have said, that India was a hardship and they like Nepal a lot better.

anyone like a ride through the streets of Thamel?

anyone like a ride through the streets of Thamel?

After dinner, I wander out into the streets of Thamel, where there are lots of Chinese and Korean tourists mingling with the Nepalis.  And there are the expected Western tourists wearing their colorful woolen hats with ear flaps & tassels.  Sometimes their hair is dyed platinum or hot pink or matted in dreadlocks.  Sometimes their hair is just clipped up to their heads in a razzmatazz way.  Either way, I don’t think I have to worry about what my hair looks like here, as everyone looks a mess!

colorful shops in Thamel

colorful shops in Thamel

carpets and textiles for sale

carpets and textiles for sale

colorful ornaments

colorful ornaments

embroidered bags

embroidered bags

I wander past shops selling singing bowls, thanka paintings, brass Buddhas and Hindu deities, pashminas, jewelry, Nepali crafts, embroidered handbags, books, maps, guidebooks, meditation and chanting CDs, carpets, scarves, and knock-off trekking gear.  I hear the Tibetan Incantations that Mona Lisa sent me the link to before I came; I buy the CD from a shopkeeper for 250 rupees ($2.91).  Other shops offer every kind of thing a tourist could ever want: money exchange, internet, SIM cards, photo printing, trekking, bicycling or rafting trips. This is the place of dreams; whatever dream you have, these vendors can supply.  I wonder: can they give me the answers to my problems, the dilemmas of my life?

can someone find the answers to my dreams?

can someone find the answers to my dreams?