Our first exciting night in Kathmandu left me not knowing what to expect for the remainder of our stay. On one hand, I was curious about the area, somewhat enchanted by the Buddhist temples, and thrilled to finally see the Himalayan foothills. On the other hand, I was feeling extremely wary of being taken advantage of as a tourist.
Ultimately, I was happy that I got to visit Nepal, but I was really surprised that I did not love it as much as I anticipated that I would. Perhaps if I had been willing to let more things slide, relax a bit about knowingly being taken advantage of, and just generally chill out I would have left Nepal with a much more positive impression, but that just isn’t how I operate. Things like that bother me. A lot.
Putting all of that aside, let’s take a look at our next few days in the Kathmandu Valley. The first item on our agenda was to go to Nagarkot to try for a glimpse of Mt. Everest. During the sometimes harrowing ride into the hills, there were many interesting sights. I enjoyed seeing the terraced fields and distinctly Nepali haystacks. One of my favorite things was probably the giant swings dotting the hillsides. The swings looked like a lot of fun!
As we approached our vantage point for Mt. Everest, we were told that some people go back for many days before it is clear enough to see, but we lucked out with a hazy, but still spectacular Himalayan panorama.
On the way back to Kathmandu, we traveled through the town of Bhaktapur where many tourists are encouraged to pay $15 to visit the market. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to do it. Had there not been a charge, we surely would have gone in and probably spent many times that buying Nepali sweaters, pashminas, mittens, and who knows what else. The entry fee was a bit off-putting though.
The vast majority of sights that we visited in Kathmandu were temples. The first stop was Durbar Square where I encountered my first living God, a young girl. I felt kind of badly for her, but that could probably be attributed to my lack of understanding about the situation.
Unfortunately, Durbar Square is also where our camera battery died. Figures. We always carry two, I dropped the ball on charging (or bringing a charger for) the backup battery. Real smooth. At least I had one camera win when I was able to produce a spare memory card earlier that day.
My favorite place in Kathmandu was Swayambhu Temple, also know as monkey temple. It is a Buddhist temple with a great view of the city and, of course, tons of monkeys. I think that Chris might still be a bit scared of monkeys since his monkey attack in Tanzania, but he powered through like a champ.
I have decided that I have a strong preference for Buddhist temples over Hindu ones. Not that there is anything wrong with Hindu temples, it is just that they tend to be a bit more chaotic and I appreciate the peacefulness that I have encountered at even the most touristy of Buddhist temples.
We made a brief stop at Basantempur, but it was entirely too crowded for me to enjoy. Surprisingly, it was predominantly packed by locals, not tourists. In retrospect, I probably should have been more patient, but there were so many people that it was difficult to even progress down the street. I would almost equate it to trying to push your way to the front at a concert, but with two-wheelers, bicycles, and carts crisscrossing through the pedestrian traffic. Way too much going on for me.
Our last stop in Kathmandu was Thamel, which seemed to be a backpacker enclave with tons of shopping. In theory, we wanted to buy some cool treasures from Nepal, but in practice, most of the stuff was identical to what we can buy in India but marked up sometimes ten times or more. We ended up buying a Nepali baby hoodie, a cashmere sweater, and a pashmina to make sure that we had something to bring home and use up our last few Nepali Rupees.
In hindsight, although the trip was fraught with frustration, I am really glad that we did it. Did I love Nepal? No, not really. Will I go back? I hope so, but I hope next time around I am there to make an attempt at climbing to the top of the world.