A Travellerspoint blog

Last impressions of Nepal

Kathmandu

sunny 25 °C
View Around the world 2016/17 on dreiumdiewelt's travel map.

We were positively surprised when we realized that Kathmandu’s domestic terminal is much better organized vs. the international terminal. Within no time, we were in the good hands of Prakash and our driver Dhil to take us to our hotel in Kathmandu’s tourist enclave Thamel. The next positive surprise awaited us when we realized that the luxurious Moonlight Hotel had allocated their suite to us and we had a huge room for ourselves.
Too lazy and hungry to find an appealing restaurant on our own, we used TripAdvisor and were indeed very positive about the ‘Western Kitchen‘. Despite the name of the place, they also offered Nepali food and it tasted really well.
We spent the rest of New Year’s Day in our hotel. It had been a shock to see how much baggage we had acquired lately. The addition of the three new sleeping bags and sleeping pads made our pile of stuff look even more intimidating than ever before. And I was seriously worried that we’d not be able to stuff everything into our bags.
So it was time to sort out. And we had the perfect opportunity coming up: tomorrow we’d be visiting an orphanage and they might be able to use our stuff. By the end of the evening we had a big bag together containing not only a soccer ball, lots of toys and clothes. And we’d also be giving them Max’ car seat that he had been using since the start of our journey in the US. From now on, we will not need a seat anymore even though it had been very valuable up to now.
Before heading to the orphanage, we visited the Pashupatinath temple. It is a large temple complex dedicated to the Hindu deity Shiva and the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu.

IMG_0130_stitch.jpg IMG_0128.jpg

Already the approach of the temple was fascinating: we passed a wedding, saw the colorful powders on sale in a shop and then arrived directly at the river where still today cremations take place. The dead bodies are put onto big stacks of wood and once the stack has burned down, the ashes are spread in the river.

IMG_0063.jpg IMG_0110.jpg IMG_0069.jpg IMG_0068.jpg IMG_0143.jpg

We were not the only tourists standing there fascinated by the scenes across the river. That might be the reason why exactly there so many sadhus were seated in photogenic poses. And indeed, many tourists were tempted for a small donation to take their picture or to pose together with them.

AC981E9BC6CDC776B7C70C7EC1AAA5CA.jpg IMG_0122.jpg ACA06D0AD4C0A3515D7AA4EA3252F296.jpg IMG_0135.jpg ACA3EFFFE89137779099C42E872CD009.jpg

The Nepali and Indian pilgrims to the temple head to the inner sanctum of the temple which is reserved for Hindus. We found enough other things to do. On the hill opposite of the main temple precinct, we had a nice view. We just had to make sure to keep our distance to the many monkeys around. Up there was a temple for Shiva’s first wife and a much quieter atmosphere than down in the main temple area.

AC98F67D9BCE898139CD2FCB10C76BBF.jpg IMG_0094.jpg IMG_0100.jpg IMG_0103.jpg IMG_0109.jpg IMG_0113.jpg IMG_0106.jpg

While we did catch a couple of pictures of sadhus and the salesmen along the road, there were other scenes we rather did not capture. The beggars along the street featuring prominently their leprosy were some of them. It was heart-breaking to see that people continue to suffer from illnesses that are curable and treatment is even provided by the WHO free of charge. So is it the social stigma that prevents people from seeking help, do they not know about available treatment options or is it too lucrative to earn money begging vs. otherwise not knowing how to earn any money? We did not find out the answers, but were shocked anyhow.

IMG_0145.jpg IMG_0146.jpg

It was great that after these sights, we headed directly to an orphanage where orphans and very poor children who cannot be supported by their parents are being taken care of. Weltweitwandern is one of the key sponsors of the project and offers anyone interested to go and have a look.
We were warmly welcomed by the leader of the orphanage Mary and by Sudama who is the head of Weltweitwandern’s local partner agency and president of the NGO supporting the orphanage. He personally checks how things are going every Saturday.

IMG_0147.jpg ACA8E369089CB1EAE3C37E0AACA43321.jpg

When we were there, only very few kids were around. During the New Year’s vacation, most of them were home with either their families or visiting other families in villages. The orphanage makes a big effort to enable these visits such that the kids learn about ‘normal’ life outside the orphanage such that they get a chance to get socialized. Still, Max had lots of fun with the kids there playing soccer.

20170415_145407.jpg

We were excited to learn about the project and really liked the approach. As part of the tour of the facilities, we even learned that the Herrmann-Lietz-Stiftung is one of the key sponsors of the project, sending students of the Schloß Bieberstein boarding school there every year to help. Even though Bieberstein is not far from where we live and we even know some people working there, we had not known about that engagement. Once more we were pleasantly surprised to see how small the world is. And let’s see: maybe we’ll manage to host Sudama at our place on one of his next visits to the Fulda area. Or maybe we’ll start supporting one of the children of the facility once we’ll be back home.

IMG_0184.jpg

We stayed the whole afternoon and when we had to leave, it was a very warm good bye from Mary, Keshav and the kids. We waved back for a long time while walking through the fields back to our car.

IMG_0158.jpg ACAE5377BD5576D202488C15B096CE12.jpg IMG_0203.jpg

On the way back to the hotel, we once again got to ‘admire’ Nepali traffic and the awful condition of the roads. So many roads have been dug up as a result of a big drinking water project and have not been re-sealed for a couple of months. That results not only in offroad conditions on main roads, but also leads to dust all over the place. No wonder that many people are wearing a dust mask in Nepal. I clearly know that I’d never ever want to work for the Nepali traffic police. Only in retrospect, we realized how well organized and clean Phnom Penh had been in comparison.

IMG_0210.jpg IMG_0286.jpg IMG_0292.jpg IMG_0291.jpg 16D098250204CFDE7BD289C0C6C80C7A.jpg IMG_0215.jpg 16E09852B0A46DA958DFBC3C13AE4A4F.jpg

After so much exploration, we enjoyed a quiet evening at home and were happy that the next day, we’d only be starting our sightseeing in the afternoon. Today, Asook was our guide through Kathmandu’s old town. He was an amazing source of information about everything we saw, but also about general information such as people, customs and culture.
There’s one thing we might have noticed also without him mentioning it: as of today, it was forbidden to use the horn in Kathmandu. And indeed, it was much calmer in town and traffic noise was significantly down. Who would have thought that Nepali traffic would even work without people being able to use their horns?
Unfortunately, the Kathmandu Durbar Square has been significantly damaged in the 2015 earthquake and much of the damage is still visible to this day.

large_20170416_150839.jpg IMG_0237.jpg

Our first stop was at the temple of Kumari. Contrary to most other temples, this one is dedicated to a living goddess – a girl that is currently 7 years old. Once a ‘Kumari’ reaches puberty, a new Kumari will be selected. The 4-6-year old girl that twitches least when watching the ceremonial slaughtering of various animals will be selected to serve as Kumari. She will live in the temple under the supervision of a caretaker who will also serve as her teacher and her parents will only be allowed to visit during the day on weekends. Once more we concluded that Hinduism is a very strange concept to grasp for Westerners like us.
The temple of Hanuman, Asook provided lots of background in regards to the architecture, history and protagonists of the temple. Once again, we got to admire lots of wood carvings. And similarly to those we had seen earlier in Bhaktapur, some of these were once again very explicit. Even the statue of the monkey god Hanuman is covered with a red cloth to avoid him being offended by the carvings around him.

IMG_0241.jpg IMG_0257.jpg IMG_0248.jpg IMG_0250.jpg IMG_0227.jpg IMG_0232.jpg IMG_0252.jpg IMG_0251.jpg 16C49305BF1E93F97C583A6827D81EDF.jpg IMG_0253.jpg 16C95A7DA2286E1514DAE1FF235F3709.jpg

As we passed some stalls with souvenirs, we got to a square full of pigeons. We also learned that the air moved by flying pigeons is able to cure arthritis which provides the sellers of corn on the respective square a very profitable selling argument. Not being bothered by that illness ourselves, we refrained from feeding the birds. Anyhow, we were a bit surprised to see how the birds are allowed to live in the old temples and consequently destroying some of it by their droppings.

IMG_0233_stitch.jpg IMG_0240.jpg IMG_0283.jpg IMG_0245.jpg IMG_0278.jpg

And as so often, the small scenes along the way were at least as impressive as the big sights.

IMG_0267.jpg IMG_0266.jpg IMG_0272.jpg IMG_0271.jpg

After our tour of the old town of Kathmandu, it was time to explore another one of the World Heritage Sites in the Kathmandu Valley: the Boudhanath Buddhist pagoda – the largest of its kind in Nepal. It is located in the Tibetan quarter of town – a result of many Tibetans fleeing their home country in the 50ties when China took over.
There were lots of people at the stupa and like them we walked around the stupa clockwise. Contrary to the many Hindu temples we had visited, once again we were struck by the quiet atmosphere which seemed much more pleasant and less hectic.

16D26B4BC8910B54AFBA6BC3CE306A14.jpg IMG_0311.jpg 16D1C60BBAA7C9C3E5784655ABA51B0C.jpg IMG_0302.jpg

We headed to the higher level and surrounded the stupa also there, before visiting an adjacent Buddhist monastery. We were impressed by the gigantic prayer wheels and the huge butter lamps. Alternatively to paying for butter lamps to be lit, some people preferred burning juniper incense.

IMG_0322.jpg IMG_0326.jpg IMG_0327.jpg IMG_0332.jpg IMG_0318.jpg IMG_0337.jpg IMG_0339.jpg IMG_0346.jpg IMG_0349.jpg

As a perfect ending for a great day of sightseeing, we had a Tibetan dinner at the Buddah Guest House. The food was great and we especially enjoyed the soup that was served in a heated soup tureen.

IMG_0360.jpg

The view of the stupa at sunset / night time from the restaurant was excellent. But also from down at the bottom, the atmosphere was great. With the stupa illuminated and literally thousands of butter lamps being lit underneath it, we were amazed. What a nice place to be and what a great end of our journey to Nepal.

IMG_0351.jpg 16DE0C46F56CFDDE336F7E25D9A7FA7D.jpgIMG_0372.jpgIMG_0376.jpgIMG_0377.jpg

By the time we got home, it was quite late. And even though we had truly enjoyed the last two days of sightseeing, we were looking forward to two more days without any program.
After a very lazy day without doing too much of anything, I headed to breakfast with a very bad stomach feeling. After breakfast, I’d have to manage to pack all of our remaining stuff. And even though we had left significant amounts of stuff at the orphanage, it still felt like way too much.
I would not have needed to worry so much if I would have known that Davina (another Austrian guest of Weltweitwandern) would offer us the perfect solution. She’d be going to the airport with us that afternoon – destination Vienna. And as she was flying via Qatar, she was allowed to take 30kg of baggage. Thanks to her gracious offer, I was absolutely relieved. Davina took most of our unnecessary stuff, a total of 7kg. And I’m sure that in the next weeks we’ll not need any souvenirs, swimming gear, a fifth light sleeping bag and surplus clothes.
As a small sign of thanks, we invited Davina for lunch at ‘Fire and Ice’, a Kathmandu institution famous for its great pizza.
At the airport, we were quickly convinced that our initial assessment was wrong: the check in was organized very well and also the security controls and immigration were absolutely comparable to other airports we had been at. And in respect to gender equality we were surprised that Nepal seems to be much further developed than most countries: all form sheets offered three options for gender: male, female, other.
Our flight was on time and as Davina still had to wait for one more hour, it was time to say good bye to her – with a clear outlook of meeting again in a couple of weeks back in Austria.
But before that, we’ll be exploring another three countries and were looking forward to which adventures would be awaiting us in the last couple of weeks of our journey.

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 12:07 Archived in Nepal Tagged monkeys football temple orphanage stupa baggage

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.

Login