So! In between my adventures to India, the West of Nepal, and trekking in the Himalayas, I hung around Kathmandu and checked out all the marvels that can be done within a day or two of home. It’s pretty nice having a home base for once, where I can actually leave stuff and come in and out of. Plus, there is actually a lot to see in the Kathmandu Valley itself! You can read part one of my Kathmandu explorations here, Best Places to Visit in Kathmandu, Nepal
So in no real order, these are some of my lovely adventures in and around the ‘Du!
Pashupatinath, Kathmandu Valley Nepal
One day I took a short cab out to the East of the city to Pashupatinath. Pashupatinath is along a river, and basically it is a sacred cremation site. Yes, for burning bodies. And yes, there were burning bodies when I was there, a few of the riverside ghats (cremation platforms) were active and smokey. But it also happens to be Nepal’s holiest Hindu site, as it is a sacred crossroads. For the traveller, Pashupatinath is the place to witness an open cremation in Kathmandu!
It is also a pretty busy hangout for Sadhus, dreadlocked Hindu men who are very devout in their following of the Hindu god Shiva. Shiva was a troublemaking kind of cat, and his followers are pretty extreme, and not to be too sensationalistic, but the Shiva that Sadhus worship and his importance put on sensual passion go pretty hand in hand. Lots of phallic worship, and they also smoke a lot of pot. Like the dudes who lived in my residence building in first year uni. There is much more to it, but I’m no theologian, and in this blog, we stick to the most interesting parts of everything.
So Pashupatinath is a place where families come to be with their departed and say goodbye. And have lunch. Because it’s actually a pretty festive place, since being cremated at Pashupatinath is a great honour, the ‘pinnacle of religious achievement’ as the LP says. Which means you did one heck of a good job in life, so it basically guarantees you a good deal later on. That’s a cause of celebration in the Hindu world. So it was funerally, but not mourny. The thing that I mourned was that it was crawling with monkeys. Half dressed Sadhus and monkeys.
Boudha, A Centre for Tibetan Buddhism outside of Tibet
After my visit with cremation, I walked to Boudha, which is about 2km past Pashupatinath, and is a huge white stupa that is very important in Tibetan Buddism, the most important such site outside of Tibet actually. People come from all over to walk, crawl, or do a duck waddle like one guy was doing, around the stupa, spinning the prayer wheels, and muttering prayers and mantras. It’s set in a large circle, with a few different levels, and the buildings surrounding the stupa are either shops selling things for tourism or worship, some sell for both, or are Buddhist monasteries. It’s a very cool place to be.
Despite the crowds, it’s a remarkably peaceful place, and when I got tired of walking around it, I went up to a patio restaurant and watched other people walk around it, from above. There were also adherents doing half and full body prostrations, which I had only really seen in movies and I must say, full body prostrations look like a ton of work! Burpees on spiritual steroids. Those people either have excellent core strength or they are buoyed by their devotion, one of the two.
While they were achieving Nirvana, I ate momos and watched the sun go down.
Overnight Trip to Nagarkot for Galentine’s Day
Another trip I did was another overnight, technically out of the Valley, but really, right on the edge. That’s where Nagarkot is, perched on the edge of the Northeastern hilltop that ridges the Kathmandu Valley, and happens to be known for awesome Himalayan views. When it’s sunny.
So with this infamy in mind, I collected three gals: Lauren, Maddy, and Sam, all of whom are brilliant, adventurous, hilarious, and wonderful women. And we set off to Nagarkot for Galentine’s Day, which for all single ladies with any sense of decorum and dignity, is the best possible holiday to practice on February 14. Far better than “Drink wine and eat crappy chocolate in your underwear alone Day”. We did those things too, but when you are surrounded by fantastically awesome Gals, it’s fun and empowering.
So we travelled from Kathmandu to Nagarkot, and it was, well, not sunny.
It was pretty grey. Bring on the wine! This is why I brought two bottles, because I was a Girl Guide and I was professionally trained to Be Prepared. And as a Brownie I was taught to Lend a Hand. Which I did by pouring said wine for my Gal friends. Because I’m very helpful.
So we spent Galentine’s Day not seeing any mountains, but drinking wine, eating, starting to gorge on a box of chocolate but then abruptly stopping when the chocolates actually tasted like ethanol, (Thanks Big Mart! You almost ruined Galentine’s Day with your freezer burnt shitty chocolate!), and playing cards. And laughing.
The next morning we did wake up and there were some views, so we quickly took some pictures, none of which ever turn out as great as the view is in real life, but oh well! Looking north from Nagarkot the mountains seem endless, like you can see all the way to Tibet. Which just made me want to travel in Tibet! Great, bucket list just got longer!
We then ate more; and headed back to Kathmandu, just in time for lunch, so then we ate more. Food is big in Nepal.
Galentine’s Day had a few little setbacks, namely the weather and the hotel charging more money because it was this mainstream event called “Valentine’s Day” (Which is bullshit! It’s not like that’s some real holiday, like Halloween!!), but overall it was a great little excursion, and really it was all about the Gal’s!
Day Trip to Bhaktapur in the Kathmandu Valley
One of the last things I really wanted to hit in the Kathmandu Valley was Bhaktapur.
Bhaktapur is #3 on the 17 Things Not to Miss in Nepal list in my Rough Guide (I know, 17, what a weird number), and the whole old city part is a UNESCO Heritage site, for absolute good reason. Bhaktapur was one of the original three kingdoms in the valley, existing alongside Patan and Kathmandu just fine, until Prithvi Narayan Shah, from Gorkha, (yes the ambitious dude I already discussed in a [intlink id=”849″ type=”post”]previous blog about Gorkha[/intlink]) came along and took over the whole valley over the course of a year in 1766.
That aside, Bhaktapur has been around since the 9th century, so long before Prithvi got all up in it’s grill, and remains the best kept Newari city, as many of the buildings are either completely original, or with original features. The city is also a bit further away from Kathmandu, so there is a disconnect between Bhaktapur and the ‘modernized’ (term used loosely) capital.
In Bhaktapur, many of the streets are pretty vehicle free, and the local government is strong and independent, keeping preservation and traditional architecture and culture as important values.
My day in Bhaktapur started with a very brief stop at the Bhaktapur Bus Stop in Kathmandu, brief because a bus was leaving right then, and I hopped onto it whilst moving, so technically I guess I didn’t get to the bus stop. The ride up was crowded but uneventful, and upon arrival in Bhaktapur I jumped out, again, without the bus really stopping.
The Durbar Square (aka the Royal Palace and the temples surrounding it) is very well kept, and in fantastic condition. And nowhere near as busy as the Kathmandu or Patan Durbars. That probably had something to do with the hour-long local bus ride to get there.
I wandered around Bhaktapur Durbar Square, awed at the amazing Newari craftsmanship of the brick and woodcarving. I also had a mosquito fly into my eye. Gross.
Then I walked down to another main square in town, called Taumadhi Tol. This square has a few more major temples, though interestingly enough, the biggest one, the Nyatapola, is a gorgeous example of a classic 5-tiered pagoda, but is in reverence to an insanely obscure goddess, who apparently has zero devotees (poor Siddhi Lakshmi!!) so the temple has been closed since 1702! …
Why did they create such a grand temple if nobody gave a crap?
Or…what happened in 1702???
A quick wiki search tells me that the whole temple, which was designed and built hearty enough to withstand an 8.3 earthquake in 1934, impressive, was built in 5 months in 1702 to counteract an angry god Bhairab, who was being an angsty asshole at the time. Siddhi’s temple was built in the same square as Bhairab’s temple, and was built larger and grander, presumably to knock the dude down a few pegs. From what I can tell, Siddhi Lakshmi is both the Goddess of Prosperity as well as the wrathful manifestation as the Goddess Durga. Yikes. Sounds like the right lady to put in the ring. Thanks Wikipedia!
After a lunch of traditional Newari food, I kept walking to Potter’s Square, which is where people sell pottery, and then the eastern most square in Bhaktapur, Tachapol Tol. To be honest, by this time everything was starting to look the same, so I more focused on buying an awesome teak side table in Tachapol Tol. It’s gorgeous! And I haggled like an India-travelled pro.
***Side note, the power right now is super dodgy in Kathmandu, and because it’s never actually on, the inverter in my apartment doesn’t have enough time to charge, meaning the inverter just went off completely, so I am now typing this with two candles lit behind my head. Lighting my way. Fingers crossed my hair doesn’t light on fire! Or my house. I think the fire and emergency services in Kathmandu leave something to be desired. Good thing the wine is close.
Changu Narayan, Kathmandu Valley
Back to Bhaktapur. After buying n a table, I hopped a bus out to Changu Narayan, a small village about 30 minutes from Bhaks that hosts a gorgeous Newari temple devoted to Vishnu as well as some of the oldest and most unique artifacts in the Kathmandu Valley. One of the inscriptions there dates back the 454 AD.
I wanted to compare that to the Rosetta stone but the internet is off because the inverter is off. Ugh, Kathmandu problems. And now I just showed my ignorance of Egyptology. Whatever, screw Rosetta, 454 AD is old!
The temple itself was reconstructed around 1700, and is finely intricate, with the many incarnations of Vishnu, as well as animal guardians for him and his 4 symbolic emblems (the lotus, the wheel, the conch, and the mace). The courtyard surrounding the temple is littered with carvings and statues placed throughout the years, and provides even more historical importance that I can’t Wiki without the internet. But trust me, they’re super cool.
The views of the Kathmandu Valley weren’t bad either!
On the way back to Kathmandu through Bhaktapur, I grabbed my table, bought another carving, cough, and picked up some Bhaktapur curd to go. Bhaktapur curd is amazing, basically really rich wonderful yogurt. And you can tell the real Bhaktapur King Curd by flipping the bowl upside down and the real deal stays in the bowl, despite gravity. And yes, I made the shopkeeper flip my bowl upside down, just checking!
Kathmandu Valley Travel Blog Comedies
I responded to an emergency in our apartment one morning when I woke up to find inches of water on the bathroom floor. Apparently duct tape doesn’t work all the time for everything, even on ducts. The landlord called the plumber, “Yes, the plumber was here two weeks back for this same kind of problem, I’ll give him a call”. Umm, the same problem? You sure you want to call the same guy…
In Bhaktapur, I was only asked by three would be guides if I wanted a tour. And when I said “No Thanks”, they actually left me alone. Not like the dude in Pashupatinath who wouldn’t leave me alone, therefore irritating me, and after many, and increasingly stern renditions of “No, I do not want a guide”s, he then asked me why I was such an angry person and comforted me by saying “We all have anger in our hearts”…Breathe…I’m NOT angry, but I will cremate you myself if you do not leave me the hell alone.
While I was still considering buying my table in Bhaktapur, I was gazing at how gorgeous the carved tabletop was and suddenly a bird pooped on it. I took this as an omen of good luck and decided I must have it. I then asked for a discount due to bird feces. And got one. Lucky!!
While in Kathmandu, I have become a lady who lunches, meaning I meet up with friends who do have employment, to eat lunch with them. And when people ask me what I’m doing in Nepal, which inevitably is a question asked over a meal of some kind, I look around and say “This”.
I have also gotten very used to Kathmandu, and Nepali in general, transport, hopping on and off minibuses plying the main roads of town, and running onto busses without them actually stopping. I can cross the street with ease and not get hit by any moving vehicles. I do sometimes trip in potholes though. They are everywhere!
My last such gracelessness was the second to last day in Kathmandu, I was on New Road, I know, name is terribly ironic, and I was crossing the street, not looking where I was stepping but more at the vehicles charging towards me, and tripped in a hole of some kind. After falling sideways and into a building and letting out a 4-lettered English word that even the least English speaking Nepali person would have understood, I thought I shook it off. But then the pain in my ankle grew, as did the ankle itself. Classic Lindsay Manko, as my mother put it xoxox.
The girls who work at Mitini Café know me, and are surprised if I don’t order a brownie upon arrival. To which I always say, “Oh no, I’ll have one, but I just had lunch so I’ll wait a few minutes.” Recently I was there and I smelled brownies being made, and went out looking for one. She tried to tell me they were for ‘tomorrow’ and I gave her puppy dog eyes and asked if I might have one while it was warm. Pleeeeeeeeease???? She didn’t give me one. Heartless brownie dictator.
I can affirm, with no prejudice, that Friends Café serves an AMAZING hamburger. As in so amazing that I am from Canada and have really high standards when it comes to beef, especially hamburgers, because Kevin Kydd makes mean ones, but this burger is probably the best burger I have ever had outside of Canada. Boom. I had two in one day once. And then I had dysentery. #gluttony.
A large group of us attended a going away party on my last Friday in Kathmandu. We then went to, and kind of crashed, a very fancy, black tie event at the swankiest restaurant in town. We were not attired in black tie formals. But two words: Open. Bar. Third word: SHOTS. And then we danced. Oh how we danced.
To get home I flew through the great country of China. Note to self, don’t fly through China, on China Eastern, ever again. For some reason the dude at Kathmandu airport wouldn’t check me or my bags in all the way home to Van, one final dig of Nepali “Huh? but…WHY??”, so in Kunming I had to go through customs and get my luggage, and then couldn’t check myself or the bags back in as it was 11pm and everything was closed for the night. So I spent the night with my ‘checked’ luggage, on the not so carpeted floor of the Kunming Check-In area. I did find a pretty quiet place, and had my sleeping bag, so made the most of it, but I will admit I was pretty cranky. My suitcase and large ‘North Face’ (read very fake red waterproof that I bought in Thamel for $20) duffel did make a pretty good sleeping fort though…
When I was able to check in, they took my bags, Thank Confucius! But then the duffel got a red light. Shit, opening bags in an airport is never good. And then my mind flashed to the 5 inch knife I had bought for my brother, ornamental to be sure, and figured that was the culprit. Nope, they were concerned about my shave gel. Maybe because they could see how full it was, and therefore knew I had only shaved my legs once during my whole time in Nepal. Actual weapon was rendered untouched and non-confiscated.
But that’s the rest of my news from the Kathmandu Valley, I know the location on this blog was not all too accurate, but it just couldn’t be helped! Now, it is back in Canada I am, where I will be for 6 weeks in March and April. Mom and I have a great trip planned to Oregon and Eastern Washington, where we get to go to our favorite hotel and even see wonderful people. I take off to Kyrgyzstan after Easter and I will be writing from there, but Shhh, don’t tell the Peace Corps… I’ll delete that line later.
Thanks for joining me on my ‘sabbatical’ to Nepal, and a huuuuuge Thank You to the brilliant and beautiful Vanessa Humphries for inviting me to come and live with her in the first place. This trip would never have happened without her, and she was a fantastic roommate to have, power or chi-na power, water or chi-na water, warm or cold, Vanessa is a true legend. Awww, gushy. I also met more absolutely incredible, inspiring, independent, intelligent, insatiable, interesting…(quick, I need more adjectives that start with I)…. people than I could have ever dreamed of meeting, especially women. Just an FYI, if anybody wants to meet any awesomely powerful and brilliant women, go to the Kathmandu Valley, that’s where they all are, just waiting to shoot Kamikazes and rip up a dance floor amongst bow-tied, tuxedo clad Nepali men.