Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Kathmandu It

Last weekend I took a trip up north to explore Nepal, and most specifically, the infamous capitol city of Kathmandu. What do you say about a destination that has been touted as a "hippy hangout" since the 1960's where many came in search of tranquility and nirvana? Or a central hub for trekkers and backpackers as they seek to set down their footprints on Mount Everest? One word: interesting.

I thought that India (specifically Bangalore) contains an abundance of dichotomies: old and new; immaculate and filthy; colorful and gray; ancient and modern--but Kathmandu was all of that and more. Don't get me wrong, I had a wonderful time, but Kathmandu felt more crowded than Bangalore and there was more pollution, more traffic, more condensed tourists areas, and more chaotic energies all around. It felt "primitive" to me and I could constantly feel energies of the past still lingering... like they were still holding onto something unrequited. I'm not sure how to describe it, but the energy just felt "darker". I'm convinced it was the city and its memories. Funny how I felt that way while if you head a few hours up the Himalayan mountains the realities of the modern world melt away as you breathe in the clean mountain air and escape the chaos. Therein lies another of the many dichotomies. Interesting.

I had a chance to travel around the city (not on foot this time, however... had to rent a car
for the day--this is not a walking city, per se) and visited several of the famous Buddhist and Hindu temples. Of note, Swayambhunath Stupa (also known as the monkey temple, and you will realize that from my photo gallery), Boudhanath (which is home to one of the largest "Stupas"--the dome-- in the world), and Pashupati Temple (an ancient Hindu temple). I was able to walk around those areas and snap photos to my heart's content, so that was very nice. I also took a short trip down to the city of Patan, another home to ancient temples in the Lalitpur district. On the way back to my hotel in central Kathmandu, I took some time to visit the busy shopping district of Thamel where I picked up all sorts of souvenirs from Nepal and Tibet. Another extremely busy area, Thamel, like the whole city, is a cacophony of sounds, sights, and smells. Interesting.

Probably my favorite part of the trip was my hotel, the Kantipur Templehouse. The building was a stunning display of Nepalise and Asian architecture, the grounds were immaculately groomed and full of flowers, and the service was excellent the entire time. I took the opportunity each night to eat freshly-prepared foods in the hotel restaurant choosing from Nepalise, Chinese, and Thai cuisine--all delicious! My room was comfortable and spacious, though it took me a couple of days to understand why there would be power outages for hours at a time (we have many outages in India, but generator back-ups so the downtime is minimal), until I was told that the government deliberately cuts power for blocks of time every day to save energy. I eventually adjusted to it and actually enjoyed living my candlelight in the evenings. Interesting.

The weather was not very cooperative for taking a mountain flight up to see Everest and the upper Himalayas (it's off-season), but I got an eyeful of the snow-capped mountains on the flight out, so when you've seen mountains, you've pretty much seen mountains. They were as stunning and beautiful as ever. And I will, to this day, swear I saw what appeared to be Mount Everest (please don't take this dream away from me! :o) It was a wonderful sight to see. Wonderful, and interesting.

So overall, I had an "interesting" weekend! There were many things about Nepal that I loved; and many things that I found fascinating. I do know one thing, however--if I return there again I am bringing three things: a buddy, a backpack, and trekking gear. Everest Base Camp One is only a 12-day round trip journey and my instincts just say one thing about that: "bring it on!"

Now off on my last "big" trip next weekend--Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia--the homestretch of an amazing year. Stay tuned for stories and snaps!


1 comment:

Thecinnamonjourney said...

truly heaven...nice picture work :)