14.04.2010 - 15.04.2010 24 °C
We had been warned that Kathmandu is very crowded and not the best place to see in Nepal. So by the time we arrived I was expecting the teeming streets to be wide but crazy-busy like HK at New Year. Instead the streets are more like alleys – the width of a car, unevenly paved with stones or bricks and full of people crammed onto motorbikes, weaving through all ‘obstacles’ at speed and sounding their horns continuously. The buildings are higgledy-piggledy, with beautifully carved doors and fretwork windows, tiny frontage and rambling up and back at crazy angles. There are tiny shrines everywhere, the occasional bored-looking bullock and not much litter (Nepali’s are on a mission to eradicate the plastic bottle and bag) but very, very grubby. Whatever the photo’s convey, it will not be the tremendous din, the choking smells and the frankly (weird but true) exhilarating chaos of it all. Our Hotel – Kantipur (old name for Kathmandu) Temple House is a serene, utterly enchanting oasis of calm in the midst of all this with a huge variety of (mainly vegetarian Yay!!) meals and great room. It even covers the daily power-cuts with the quietest generator I’ve ever (almost) heard.
Yesterday we took a taxi to a Hindu New Year festival in nearby Bohktapur – this guy makes movie speed-chases look tame! I’m pretty sure the car was a ‘cut-and-shunt’ and as we raced between buses, trucks and thousands of laden motorbikes (how come the Dad/driver gets to wear a helmet, and the Mum has to ride side-saddle, in a sari, holding a couple of small children – all bare-headed?) crashing over ruts with dust-clouds reducing visibility to a few feet, I had visions of our next family reunion being at our graveside!!!
Undeterred, we set out again this morning for Patan and the fantastic Museum and Durbar Square, rightly designated as World Heritage sites. It had its share of persistent stall-holders and beggars all of which we are managing pretty well, but we went to a Nepalese Crafts Fair Trade shop (one of the first in the world apparently) to see the wonderful handicrafts from as far afield as Tibet. Off to our personal Shangri-La tomorrow – to a secluded place overlooking a lake, with the still reflection of the Himalayas and Anna Purna in the water and great massages – bliss!!