Wednesday, 3 November 2010
4. Kathmandu - Swayambhunath
Shocked at how quickly a day can pass we jumped a taxi to the closest Stupa Swayambhunath (The Monkey Temple).
Once again we were enticed by the outer regions of Thamel and into greater Kathmandu. And also saddened by some of the sights.
At one point not long after we arrived at the Stupa a little girl, dirty with one pigtail approached me and asked for money for food. It's hard to say, but this is something that is happening often and I am starting to get hardened about it. Don't mistake me, not angry or annoyed or any less sad, but more able to walk past without feeling my heart break. I took her photo and showed her and she lit up so I took a few more. I then gave her some money to give to her mother, who by the looks of it also had a child which was still on the breast.
Shortly afterwards we saw a man doing henna tattooing and we both sat down to get our feet hennaed. We drew quiet a crowd. Including a group of young boys approximately 10, 7 and 4. They joked and tussled around us watching as the stall holder worked on our feet. After he had finished, the young boys started to follow us up the steep stairs towards the Stupa asking for money. It surprised me how easily they change from kids who are fooling around with you, then suddenly their faces looked sad and their voices weak. Such a change from the rumbling boys of only a few minutes ago I gave them a little money and they stopped following us the stupa steps.
Once we got to the top we were struck by how beautiful it was. And the view over Kathmandu valley really showed how vast this city it. Crowded within the tiny alleys that could take a week to explore on it's own, you forget how far this tightly knit city goes. The cacophony of buildings all looking like they they need the one next to it to continue standing.
- talking to a monk inside the Stupa. He asked my name and then I asked his. I can't remember what he said it was but when I said it, he and his friend laughed. Not at my pronunciation ... I had a funny feeling he had gotten me to call him something funny. Good to know even monks have a sense of humor and love the classic pranks.
- Noticing that all of the postcard stalls seem to have cards of different animals bonking. Is this what they think tourists want? Who actually buys these cards?
- We are getting more able to judge risk as far as food and drink goes. And so we finally decided to try the mulled wine with dinner last night. We needn't have worried, it was so hot that even if they had added water the heat would have made it ok. It was beautiful. Hot red wine with lemon, sugar, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves. We partook in a few just to make sure :)
- then on the way home we decided to finally take a trip into the Buddha Bar. This is a small doorway with neon painted walls that is on the alley to our hotel. We have walked past it everyday exclaiming that one night we would have to find out what was upstairs. It turned out to be like an original 1970s cushioned chill out den. It had lots of blue lighting making the neon paint glow and stone walls for that 'authentic' cave feel. They served cocktails and shisha's and old style food like buffalo wings and Chinese chopsy. (if anyone knows what Chinese chopsy is please enlighten me, if it helps they also had American chopsy). We partook in a Cowboy 69 each. Like everything else it had a cheesy 1970 feel complete with glacé cherry on the rim and a straw in a champagne flute. It was the first thing we had both drunk or eaten where we really wondered if we would be sick the next day. But the amount of alcohol in it was probably our saving grace.
I'm loving it here. I wish we had weeks to explore but tomorrow afternoon starts the next part of our journey. I am saddened at the thought. But also excited because I feel so at home here that I feel the next part is going to be the really challenging section. Varanasi during Diwaldi is meant to be complete madness. Joyous and challenging at every turn (bites fingernails in anticipation). Wish me luck and safe travels and hopefully I'll find somewhere to blog from. But if not I will still be writing daily, and may have to dump them all on you in one hit :)