3rd-5th January 2018.
The flight into Kathmandu from Pokhara was great. Not only was the plane the smallest we’ve been on but it was a pleasant flight with great views of some mountains.
The video shows the landing into Kathmandu.
Back to Royal Singh Hotel, which we started our trip with on the first night. Very plush.
Terry and I decided to venture out and look at the popular ‘Monkey Temple’ in Kathmandu (more commonly known as Swayambhunath meaning ‘Sublime Trees’ because of all the different trees in its location).
Each morning before dawn hundreds of Buddhist (Vajrayana) and Hindu pilgrims ascend the 365 steps from the eastern side that lead up the hill, passing the gilded Vajra (Tibetan: Dorje) and two lions guarding the entrance, and begin a series of clockwise circumambulations of the stupa.
The monkeys were a delight to watch. They moved quickly around the place and were constantly eating whatever they could find. We didn’t see many due to the heat of the day and speaking to local shop owners they mentioned that there is up to a 1000 within the trees around the Stupa where they dwell.
Swayambhunath is also known as the Monkey Temple as there are holy monkeys living in the north-west parts of the temple. They are holy because Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom and learning was raising the hill which the stupa stands on. He was supposed to leave his hair short but he made it grow long and head lice grew. It is said that the head lice transformed into these monkeys.
The stupa has Buddha’s eyes and eyebrows painted on. Between them, the number one (in Devanagari script) is painted in the fashion of a nose. It is one of the most photographed stupa in all of Nepal apparently.
Walking up the long stairway with 365 steps you are lead directly to the main platform of the temple, which is from the top of the hill to the East, from here you get a good view over Kathmandu and notice just how big it is.
All around the area there are various shops and stalls to purchase items from. The sellers here negotiate very well and are reluctant to reduce their process by a lot.
After leaving the stupa we decided we had to spend some time in Thamel, a commercial neighbourhood that has lots of hostels, shops, markets, restaurants, coffee houses and souvenirs shops selling an assortment of goods – yak scarfs (mufflers), t-shirts, fake outdoor equipment, singing bowls, hippie clothing, food, jewellery… there’s lots to find.
Can you spot the real North Face product from the fake North Face?
I purchased this Nepalese board game called Bagh Chal (meaning: Tiger Moving Game or Tiger Move). The game is asymmetric in that one player controls four tigers and the other player controls up to twenty goats. The tigers ‘hunt’ the goats while the goats attempt to block the tigers’ movements. It’s fun to play.
Whilst shopping, we came across several stores dedicated to selling products made by women as part of a development scheme that aims to empower economically disadvantaged, disabled, abused, widowed, divorced, single and outcast women of rural Nepal by getting them involved in creative projects that teaches them skills they can utilise to help them become independent.
One such organisation is: Women’s Skills Development Organisation
You’ll notice very quickly that Nepal likes their tea (we had one every morning as a wake up call, for tea break, for lunch, when we got to the guest houses and with dinner…) and they like their flavours – black, milky, lemon, ginger, masala, rhododendron, green tea, chia, mint… just to name a few.
Of course, it would have been rude to go to this lovely country, sample many of their different teas and not come home without any….
Getting to and from Thamel required a few road crossings – the roads here are ‘organised chaos’! Lots of motorbikes, taxis and tourist MPVs dominate the road.
If you want to cross then the logical sense would be to find a ‘zebra’ crossing and walk over it – in theory the traffic stops for your crossing, not so in Kathmandu. You just need to wait for a lull in traffic then walk out hoping the vehicles will slow down and let you pass – we learnt to let a Nepalese person doing the crossing for us (they just step out with their right hand up) and walk beside/behind them.
A video to show what crossing is like:
After surviving several crossings we decided our final dinner was at a well-known restaurant called Rum Doodle. The restaurant is named after the world’s highest mountain, the 40,000½ft Mt Rum Doodle (as depicted by WE Bowman, author of The Ascent of Rum Doodle, a spoof of serious mountaineering books). We had the ‘Pong’s Revenge’, a bacon cheeseburger with egg, with chips which was delicious (still not as good as our yak burger in YacDonalds in Kagbeni – don’t think anything will be able to beat that burger)
From the ceiling features numerous ‘feet’, all signed by members of treks – most notably treks to Everest and Everest Base Camp. There were literally hundreds hanging from the ceiling with the more famous signatures in frames on the wall.
Apa Sherpa’s signature. 16 summits in 2007, 21 summits in 2017 (last summit in 201, he retired after a promise to his wife to stop climbing after 21 ascents). What an achievement.
Sir Chris Bonington’s signature from his successful 1985 Mount Everest climbing year. There were other signatures from Edmund Hillary, Reinhold Messner, Ang Rita Sherpa and Rob Hall.
The staff were kind enough to give us our own ‘foot’ to decorate.
So we added names of our group and location information. It would be great to visit again in a few years time to try and find our foot amongst the rest.
After this meal we retired back to our hotel. Our flight was early in the morning so we went straight to bed. It’s been less than a week now since we’ve been back and it still hasn’t completely sunk in.