Written 11th Jan, Kathmandu Airport, Nepal
It’s cold and it’s long…waiting to check in luggage for our flight to Delhi in a couple of hours.
People here are really, really friendly – ask any person and they do their best to help you, be it finding a hotel, or asking how much they should pay for something eg a taxi ride.
People here are stunning. And I mean stunning, you can see a mesh of different Asian features resulting in some seriously beautiful people. I’m sure your average Nepalese person is about twice as attractive as your average Brit!
Friendly beeping, everywhere you go you will hear vehicle horns. Unlike New York or London, this is a useful tactic amongst traffic, rather than just sounding off frustrations. As a pedestrian, a friendly ‘beepbeep’ behind you lets you know there is a car or bike wanting to come through the crowd you are in.
So – what have I been up to?
Day 1 – Kathmandu:
Kathmandu – spending time around the city meant a wander through Thamel (the main tourist area) to Durbar Square, an area of many temples – some of which as old as the 12th Century, and the old place for Nepal’s royalty to reside. An interesting place to learn about and wander, though I would recommend a guide as they can tell you more than you can work out for yourself! We haggled a guide (a Nepali guy called Kobin) for $5 but gave him $7 in the end as we felt he had really gone above and beyond for us, giving advice and information all the time.
We then went to see the daily appearance of the Living Goddess – The Royal Kumari at 4pm, where she appears for a short while at her window, yet only those with a Hindu can enter, and no photography can be taken.
We were however, pretty lucky on our choice of day…
The Living Goddess Kumari
The Kumari leaves her temple only 13 times a year, for different religious festivals. A young girl aged 4 or 5, from a Buddhist family, she must have several physical qualities and no blemished or marks in any way (Goddesses aren’t blemished of course). Girls fitting these requirements are then tested, academically and spiritually. One girl will pass all the tests and she is clear to be the next incarnation of the Hindu Goddess Kumari.
Once found, she will then leave her family home to live in the temple in Durbar Square with monks for the next few years until either she obtains a blemish or mark in any way or starts menstruation – at which point she is deemed human again and the Goddess has left that particular form. The girl will then return to her home and will go on to lead a (mostly normal) life.
If you want to read more about the Kumari, check out this Wikipedia link
So on the day we were there, the only day we spent in Kathmandu on our trip to Nepal of only 4 days, the Royal Goddess Kumari left her temple! We didn’t realise that day was a religious festival day until we tried to see her as normal, and saw her method of transportation outside the temple, along with a crowd of sightseers and media camped out waiting.
After an hour or so wait she came out in a small box raised by bamboo sticks which men carried either side of her, and she left the temple to go around the city – visiting other temples we assumed.
I felt incredibly lucky to have witnessed something like this, even though I’m not religious at all, I can appreciate the importance different elements of different religions have on some people’s lives, and this was a moment which, for many people in that square and in the surrounding streets, was special, and something to celebrate, and it was great to be able to be a part of that.
Day 2 – Swoyambhu Temple:
A chilled out morning before heading to Swoyambhu – the monkey temple. Set on a hill outside the main city, this temple is a dedication to both Hindu and Buddhism, and is a really interesting place to visit and view Kathmandu from up high. Either a fairly steep walk up a large number of steps or a short taxi ride can get you to the top where this ornate temple lies. Many monkeys hang around up here, running away from stray dogs and clambering all over the stupas and the likenesses of various gods and goddesses.
Worth a visit, but I spent no more than a couple of hours there. Truth be told, I wish I’d learned more about both Hindu and Buddhism before I left, so that I would’ve had more an idea of what I was looking at, why people ring bells or spin engraved cylinders as the walk by, what the ceremony on the floor was with the flowers and tiny bells etc. nonetheless it was beautiful and interesting, and I will go have a Wiki-session to try and find out some of what I saw!
When I got back, we hopped on a bus from Kathmandu’s Bag Bazaar, the main bus station, to Bhaktapur, a local nearby town, where we grabbed a taxi to Nagarkot a few km away (about $12) for a very cold stay in the Hotel Himalayan Heart (another $12) before getting up about 5am to go and watch the sunrise.
Day 3 – Nagarkot:
The highest viewpoint in Nagarkot (a small hill-station village) is the best place to watch this beautiful moment.
Seeing the sky change colours, watching the outline of the Himalayas to one side go from a silhouette to bright white shining peaks as the sun glimpsed off them was – no other word than astounding.
The photos I took of course, do not do it justice but provide a reminder mostly for me and an insight for others of what it was like.
A lazy morning followed sat on a balcony looking down at the countryside of Nagarkot hidden under some clouds and nestled between mountains in valleys before a leisurely downhill stroll for 5 or 6 km towards Bhaktapur. After an hour and a half we grabbed a bus to the town and explored there before heading back to Kathmandu.
Arriving back at the Hotel Encounter was lovely, the staff welcomed us back as if we were coming home, and it was nice to sit around the fire outside and have a cup or 3 of chai 🙂
Off to India next and, for me Nepal was beautiful, friendly and an incredibly interesting place, I can’t wait to come back and experience more!