Monthly Archives: April 2013

Kathmandu

Kathmandu is the capital city of Nepal as well as the country’s largest city. Along with being the hub of the country it’s also a hub for tourists, to fan out to the different sights all over Nepal. And that’s why we visited Kathmandu a total of three separate times during our travels in Nepal. The first time was to prepare for the nearby Langtang Trek; the second was after our return from that trek and before we headed to our favorite city in Nepal, Pokhara; and the last time was to see all of the sights near Kathmandu, celebrate the Hindu holiday called Holi and to meet the family of a new friend from back home.

During the first two visits we didn’t do much, but our last visit consisted of a few days packed full of sightseeing and fun activities, and the rest waiting around for our flight out of Kathmandu. In total, this last time we spent about 10 days in Kathmandu. Anyone who’s ever visited the city will probably agree with us that ten days is far too much. We didn’t intend to spend so much time there. A combination of events led us to stay so long. First, as mentioned in the previous post, our unsuccessful attempt to visit the city of Daman resulted in us coming to Kathmandu prematurely. Second, we wanted to take part in the Holi holiday celebrations that takes place on a specific day. Lastly, we booked our flight far in advance using frequent flier miles and had limits on which days we could fly using those miles. All of this resulted a very long stay in Kathmandu.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty to do in and around Kathmandu, just not ten days worth—in my humble opinion of course. The highlights from our time here include visits to several Buddhist temples, tours of three major Hindu palaces/squares, and probably our favorite experience of all, celebrating Holi. The rest of our time was spent walking around the city, reading and sampling the different restaurants.

Panoramic of Kathmandu

Panoramic of Kathmandu

I’ll start with our favorite experience, celebrating the Hindu holiday called Holi. Holi is commonly known as the “festival of colors”. Why this holiday hasn’t become popular in the U.S. is a mystery to me. The obvious reason it hasn’t is because it’s a Hindu holiday and there isn’t a huge Hindu presence in the U.S. Regardless of that minor fact, it’s a fun holiday and people of all ages would surely enjoy it. To learn more about the origins of Holi I’d recommend checking it out online. What I do know is that a major part of the celebration involves attacking friends and complete strangers with colored powder and balloons filled with dyed water. Most of these attacks come as a surprise, and from our experience, foreigners are especially targeted—much to our delight of course.

In preparation for the celebration I bought a pair of inexpensive white pants. The logic being, if you’re going to celebrate a holiday of color you want to be able to see the color. In retrospect, I should have also bought a white shirt, because at the last minute I opted not to wear the white shirt I already owned in fear of it being destroyed. It turned out that the colors were sufficiently bright enough to show up on my black shirt. So it worked out anyway. Sarah already had old clothes she didn’t mind getting a little messy. Good thing, because Sarah was especially targeted in these colorful attacks. Most of the assailants are boys, and what boy doesn’t like throwing water balloons at a girl. I completely understand where they’re coming from. Not to mention, it was fun for me to watch.

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Not the correct spelling but good enough.

Not the correct spelling but good enough.

These women were throwing water on unsuspecting victims below. Look how happy they are.

These women were throwing water on unsuspecting victims below. Look how happy they are.

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Holi dance party.

Holi dance party.

Taking a break from Holi to grab some colorful juice.

Taking a break from Holi to grab some colorful juice.

Holi gets everywhere.

Holi gets everywhere.

Even the statues were celebrating.

Even the statues were celebrating.

The end result: two happy, colorful people.

The end result: two happy, colorful people.

What a looker.

What a looker.

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On this day we were invited to spend part of it celebrating with the family of a friend from back home, Lila. Lila’s brother, Bhuwan, who we’d met the day before, picked us up and brought us to his family’s home. We spent part of the day with his sisters, mother, father and some extended family. A couple of Bhuwan and Lila’s sisters prepared us the best Nepali meal we’ve ever had. It goes by many names, but I’ll refer to it as a Nepali Thali. It consists of rice and a variety of “side” dishes that you can mix with the rice or eat on their own. The most popular mixture is the dhal (lentils) and rice. Sometimes the meal includes meat. In this case we had some amazing baked chicken.

They're saying Happy Holi to Lila.

They’re saying Happy Holi to Lila.

The matriarch.

The matriarch.

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Best Nepali Thali ever.

Best Nepali Thali ever.

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The two sisters that prepared the delicious meal. Thanks ladies!

The two sisters that prepared the delicious meal. Thanks ladies!

After the meal we went to the roof top to check out the views of the surrounding area. To our surprise, out of nowhere, balloons started flying our way. We quickly spotted their neighbors with big grins on their faces throwing more balloons. This led to about an hour long battle of back and forth balloon throwing. In between our war with them we were tossing balloons down at the other neighbors on street level. I can’t remember the last time I had a water balloon fight. They’re a lot of fun.

They took a break from their water fight to have a dance party.

They took a break from their water fight to have a dance party.

Sarah happened to catch a photo of me dodging a balloon to the face.

Sarah happened to catch a photo of me dodging a balloon to the face.

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Our visit with them ended with good conversation and a great cup of masala chiya (spiced milk tea), the best we had in Nepal. The family was amazing and we are extremely grateful to them for inviting us to celebrate the happy and colorful holiday of Holi with them. A special thanks to Bhuwan for taking time out of his day on several occasions to meet up with us.

Drinking chiya and chatting.

Drinking chiya and chatting.

Final farewell to the family.

Final farewell to the family.

Kathmandu and the surrounding areas have a long and rich history, mixed with Hindu and Buddhist culture. There are many old buildings and temples that are proof of that rich history. We visited a few Durbar Squares in and around the city. The term “durbar” means palace. We also visited a few Buddhist Stupas near the city. Bhuwan and a friend of his spent most of a day taking us around to these different sights. Thanks again Bhuwan.

Kathmandu Durbar Square

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The living goddess Kumari lives here.

The living goddess Kumari lives here.

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Swayambunath Buddhist Stupa

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Patan Durbar Square

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Baktipur

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The were filming a Kallywood (Kathmandu equivalent of Hollywood or Bollywood) movie when we visited.

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Bodhnath Buddhist Stupa

Bodhnath Stupa

Bodhnath Stupa

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When we weren’t sightseeing we spent most of our time in the area of Kathmandu known as Thamel. It’s the main tourist area full of restaurants, shops and budget accommodations. The streets are narrow and almost always clogged with people, cars, rickshaws, motorcycles and too many people selling tiger balm.

IMG_3905 IMG_3907 IMG_3915 IMG_3924 IMG_3929 IMG_3934 IMG_3944 IMG_3949 IMG_2723 IMG_2735After Nepal we head home to see family and prepare for Sarah’s sister’s wedding. While we’re sad to leave Nepal we’re very excited to see family and friends before we restart our travels in May. Nepal is an amazing country and arguably our favorite so far.

Our last dinner in Nepal. A nice Indian restaurant we frequented.

Our last dinner in Nepal. A nice Indian restaurant we frequented.

Sarah and I saying "cheers" to the great time we had in Nepal and enjoying our favorite mango drink.

Sarah and I saying “cheers” to the great time we had in Nepal and enjoying our favorite mango drink.

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Bandipur, Nepal

Though tempted to spend another long while relaxing in Pokhara after returning from the Annapurna Circuit trek, we decided it was best to check out other areas in Nepal. Additionally, we only had a couple of weeks left in Nepal before our planned departure. We would be flying out of Kathmandu on April 2nd. So, on our way to Kathmandu we decided to check out the town of Bandipur, which is located just off the main road between Pokhara and Kathmandu. No major detours were necessary.

Bandipur is a quaint town with quiet, vehicle-free streets and friendly people to boot. Our guidebook describes it as “a living museum of Newari culture”. Since I’m not an expert on Newari culture I can’t really say whether that statement is true or not, but in terms of a living museum I’d have to agree. Nearly all of the buildings in the main bazaar area are beautiful, multistory brick buildings, many of which have beautifully carved window frames and doors. Their construction supposedly dates back to the 18th-century. The “street” in front of the buildings is more like a patio, since there are no vehicles and much of it is lined in large flat stones.

View of the main bazaar of Bandipur from above.

View of the main bazaar of Bandipur from above.

One of the kids greeting us as we arrived in Bandipur. They usually offer a “Namaste” followed by “Chocolate?”

Lovely old lady doing her own people watching in front of her store.

Lovely old lady doing her own people watching in front of her store.

Main bazaar in Bandipur.

Main bazaar in Bandipur.

Outside of our hotel. A very nice place, though, the beds were a little hard.

Outside of our hotel. A very nice place, though, the beds were a little hard.

We opted for this room because of the views.

We opted for this room because of the views.

One of the kids greeting us as we arrived in Bandipur. They usually offer a "Namaste" followed by "Chocolate?".

Window in our room.

View from our room.

View from our room.

The vibe of the town was very relaxing, allowing Sarah and I to enjoy most of our meals on the front porch area of the local restaurants. This usually isn’t an option since most of the towns we visit have lots of vehicle traffic, usually kicking up dust and making a lot of noise. One of days we took a walk to some of the nearby villages to get a closer look at the terraced fields and farm houses. Though Bandipur sees a lot of tourists, many of the people in the area still work as farmers.

House of one of the local farmers.

House of one of the local farmers.

Common occurrence here. Many people wear face masks to avoid dust and car exhaust.

Common occurrence here. Many people wear face masks to avoid dust and car exhaust.

Another bodhi tree.

Another bodhi tree.

Taking a rest under a bodhi tree.

Taking a rest under a bodhi tree.

Sarah trying to figure out the safest way down to the main trail.

Sarah trying to figure out the safest way down to the main trail.

Sarah making her way through the brush. I think we got a little off course.

Sarah making her way through the brush. I think we got a little off course.

Another panoramic from the hike.

Panoramic from the hike.

Farm terraces below and the snow capped peaks in the background.

Farm terraces below and the snow capped peaks in the background.

Our last day there we had an unexpected treat provided to us by the sister of the hotel owner. She has an interesting hobby of dressing tourists up in local attire. On her day off she invited Sarah to be a part of her dress-up session. Since she didn’t have any mens clothing for me, I documented the process Sarah went through to become an Nepali bride.

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The woman drew blood while forcing these bangles on Sarah’s hand. This didn’t stop her from putting a few more on.

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Our next stop after Bandipur was Daman. It was described as having possibly the best views of the Himalayas. There was no direct bus from Bandipur to Daman, so we took a bus from Bandipur to Dumre (20 minutes) and then hopped on a bus enroute to Kathmandu, but jumped off at the town of Naubise. From there we planned to catch another bus to Daman. After the usual exercise of asking a handful of different people to narrow in on the right answer, in this case where to wait for the bus to Daman, we sat and waited for about an hour.

The first bus came and they said they were full. The second bus came and as I waived them down they waived back and kept driving. The third bus came and told us they didn’t go to Daman, but then told us they did. Just as we were about to board they told us they didn’t go to Daman, but we could take their bus to its final destination and then take a separate bus to Daman tomorrow. At that point we decided against a trip to Daman and instead flagged down a bus to Kathmandu. We’d had our fair share of mountain views by this time, so we were content with skipping this one and moving on.

Categories: Architecture, Nepal, Traveling | Tags: | 2 Comments

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