Monday, 1 November 2010

2. Kathmandu - Learning the Ropes

We stepped off the plane and jumped straight onto a little bus that then did a big circle and dropped us off about 50 meters from the plane. Maybe this was a good way of getting familiar with Nepal ...

After we got out of the airport we hired a prepaid taxi and jumped in this very old car with a young driver who drove like all Nepalese. Fast, pushy and riding the horn.

The drive to the airport was eye opening. And I think I realised just how out of my depth I was. People walking, bikes, cars and rickshaws all share the dirt roads and everyone drives walks or rides like they own the road. Driving so close to one another that you keep thinking your about to watch an accident. But it doesnt come. Somehow within the madness they all seem to know what they are doing.

We arrived at the Kathmandu Guest House. We knew they had no rooms but had told us to go there first and they would help us. True to their word a young guy came and we wandered around the corner to the Hotel Excelsior. It was just what we wanted. Cheap, clean and close to everything. We dumped our bags and headed up to the rooftop. It is like our own little oasis. We sat for an hour sorting out the bits in our handbags and getting used to the thundering din from the streets around. Dogs barking, people working but mostly what we hear are car, bike and all other manner of horns.

We can look out over the mountains or what we can see throughout the dust and smog. And smell the incense that seems to come from every shop. Getting our heads into the place where we are ready to join the chaos.

We are staying in central Thamel. It's busy but is one of the richer areas of Kathmandu. It's pumping with traffic and people and a million stores selling Nepalese wares. There is less of the confronting sights of people sleeping on the streets and children playing in places we would never let our children touch. And so in a way Thamel has become our sanctuary as well. We walked for a few hours, getting our heads around the area and start our journey learning a few lessons as we go.
After a small regathering of our thoughts back at the hotel. And a glass of very expensive bottle of Australian wine we buy from a tiny bottle shop. We head out to grab some food. We had it in our heads that we would go back to the Kathmandu guest house and eat somewhere we felt was extremely safe and clean. At this point we haven't really slept much for almost 36 hours other than a few catnaps on planes and in airports. And don't feel we have our wits about us enough to judge the street food.

On the walk we hear some great Jazz music coming from a restaurant and Trish remembers the name from the lonely Planet. The New Orleans turns out to be this awesome restaurant with delicious food and massive bottles of Everest beer. We settle in on a big cushioned platform and chill out eating momos and drinking beer and bottled water. We also ordered a second dish each to share but by the time it arrived both of us were almost falling asleep in our food. I think the waiters were a bit offended at how little we ate of or mains and we tried to explain that we were just really tired and had ordered to much. I don't think they believed us :)
Then we headed back and hit the hay, glad that our hotel was down a little alley and away from any traffic noises and we both slept like the dead on the hardest mattress I have ever experienced. But it didn't matter. As Trish said "laying horizontally is completely underrated"


- We sat down in one of the dodgy parts of Thamel and a little girl (Ruby) sees our camera. Her mother comes over and starts talking to us about her life, how hard she works and how important it is for her that her daughter learns to read and write although she has no money. She tells us she makes these bags and although we know it isn't true we buy one as we have just spent 20 minutes talking to her and taking photos of her gregarious little girl.
- it's getting dark as we head back towards our room and we have two 'holy' men stop us and put red dots on our forehead. Of course they don't ask and then demand some money. I'm still not accustomed to the currency, made harder by the fact that I have both Nepalese and Indian rupees to sort through. But manage to find a smaller note to give him. Lesson for today, when someone comes at you with a pot of paint either be willing to pay through the nose for your dot or duck.
- the cars here really are nuts I can't emphasize that enough. But you have to learn to stand your ground a little or you would never get anywhere. They beep when they are right next to you and drive so close your surprised you didn't get hit. But they also are seeming aware of you.
- there are also no lanes on the roads, or many traffic lights or round abouts (and what there is no one pays attention to) So if there is a lot of traffic going in one direction they just start driving on the other side of the street. And then get beeped at until they find a spot back on the right side of the road.
- it's so colorful and noisy that it's almost impossible to take anything in. I feel like I have been on sensory overload since I arrived. But after a few hours of waking around this little rooftop courtyard is like a haven away from the hustle and bustle. It's great to know there is a spot to come back to and centre yourself again.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed reading about your experiences. Thank you for making the effort of sharing your adventures.

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