Monday, August 18, 2008

Kathmandu Part 1

Arriving in Kathmandu was a whirlwind. We arrived with no visa, no guidebook, no reservations, and no clue what we were doing. So getting a visa at the airport was not too bad, and then we proceeded outdoors, only to be hounded by taxi drivers and immediately turned back around and went in to decide where we were going. Some guards helped us out and some how we made it to Thamel- where all the tourists stay, to the Kathmandu Guest House- the only place I could remember from the guidebook that I had looked through in the Hong Kong airport bookstore. It was about 10 pm and the streets were dark, armed police were walking about and we were exhausted, all contributing to a quick retreat to our room...
Kathmandu Guest House is the oldest hotel and so it is used as a reference point for every other place in Thamel; everything is just two minutes from KGH...However, the room was less than great, so the next morning we headed out in search of a more suitable guesthouse. Many touts later we found a great little place, "Namaste Guest House", where we would comfortably spend the next week. We continued our errand day with laundry, bank, internet etc. and walked around the dense Thamel area. The bustle was so different than that of China- the streets were narrow, lined with shops and restaurants and there was constant movement. The bigger vehicle always wins and the walker will always end up walking on the edge of the street, almost in the sewer channels. It was still polluted, noisy and foreign, but nevertheless it was refreshing. Most of the people speak English and the change in diet was especially refreshing. We were no longer limited to fried vegetables and rice- now we had Nepali food, Tibetan food, Indian food, and in Thamel- all the Western food that you can think of. For dinner we had our first Daal Bhat- the typical Nepali food. It consists of a plate with lentil soup (daal) which you pour on white rice (bhat) accompanied with a side of curry (mostly potatoes), veggies/pickles that vary, and a papad (thin fried cracker that you've probably had at an Indian Restaurant).
The following day we explored Kathmandu further, walking to Durbar (palace) Square. We saw a new part of the city, and having gotten used to having kai shui (boiling water) at all times, invested in a kettle of our own. We explored the old buildings of  the square, had our first delicious street samosas, walked through the Asan Tole food (mostly vegetable) market and really got a feel for the city. The poverty is quite overwhelming; it is quite apparent in the people, the shops, the roads, the buildings. The city is low (no high rises) and yet somehow incredibly warm with people that are genuinely friendly greeting us with "Namaste".

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