Kathmandu Valley

Got my tent back. And resolved the feeling that I’d been isolated from Nepali people.

Went to the Indian Embassy today, a week after my first visit. I’ve got to go again in a few hours to pick up my visa, then all is set! It’s good until December 3rd. So maybe that’s when I come home? I’m leaving Kathmandu first thing in the morning. Not sure if I’ll head directly to India (Varanasi) or stop in a Nepali town on the way (Bandipur). Whatever I do, I’m excited. Most travelers I’m meeting have spent time in India and virtually all are going there. Most people are going to Ladakh too. It’s definitely the trail.

I had a week to wait and staying in the tourist area would have made me grumpy. So off it was around the Kathmandu Valley. Spent most of my time in Bahktapur, a world heritage designated Newari town. Most people go for a few hours, I spent three days. It was the start of being the only one in the hotel. Bahktapur is a maze of narrow brick alleys and templed squares. It’s famous for it’s intricately carved doors, windows, temples and roofs. And yet (at least at this time of year), it’s not over-run by tourists and still feels vibrantly local. I happened upon festival time. Celebrating some deities and Chapatis. Hundreds of women were praying and giving offerings at the endless number of shrine sites. There were hundreds if not thousands of places to revere. A bump on the sidewalk? Throw some rice! A statue in the sewer? Rub some powder on it! A shrine? Do the whole shebang! Really and orgy of hinduism for the Newari culture. Another thing that I like very much is that amongst the people, it’s the men who wear traditional dress. And another, I ate local food for days in a row. Lots of mo-mos. Dirty cheap. Dirty and tasty. Visited another temple, the oldest in the region, and was bored. Why am I still filling my time with seeing so many temples?!

Then, back through the insanity of Kathmandu’s highways to Patan. Another place known for the same things as Bahktapur. Another hotel out of the way. More contact with locals. The famous square had many hundreds of locals in it every night, and at most a few other tourists. I watched a demonstration get started, complete with torches (nicely medieval). Learned that the next day was to be a strike. Some Newaris want the capital to be declared an autonomous zone. How do you separate the seat of the government from the government?

It was said by an expat that it was the most intense strike in his nine years in Nepal. And after walking around most of the city for the day, I can say that the immediate area that I was staying in was the most dangerous. All traffic besides human rights observers, media and ambulances was stopped. Mobs of angry men forcefully stopped anyone else riding a moto or bicycle. I saw a burned moto. I saw bicyclists attacked with sticks and their tires deflated. I saw a vegetable seller who was open for business have her wares destroyed. I struggled to find food and ended up walking over two hours to the tourists area for lunch. Lots of tires burned in the streets. And as a nightcap, some vehicles were destroyed in front of my hotel. First a group were hucking bricks at a parked truck. Then a guy pulled them in to a heated argument (I thought to tell them to stop). But after a few minutes, everyone smiled, shook hands and went to a different van and collectively started to trash it. Eventually it was flipped on it’s side. Then dragged away from buildings, and flipped again to be upside-down. Then, set on fire. My first mob vehicle fire. ahhhh 

In the morning there was an orgy of business, cleaning and religion. Seemed like everyone was making up for lost time. By 6am, the streets were packed like a market day. There was even a parade at 6:30am.

I moved up to Thamel. Visited another temple for the views of the city. Ate my first steak in years (blah). Had a good time hanging out with Gehaz. And mostly just killed time in the tourist hole. There aren’t many of us here, I love the low season.

I’m in a great mood. I’m going to head to the last major temple this evening for sunset. And I’m looking forward to some touring in the heat of india before some more trekking.

Some tidbits:

– Tshirts of Goa are very popular for Nepali men. But not as popular as the wrestler John Cena or Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears.

– Nepal is my 25th country. I think.

– I’ve read 20 books in the past five months.

– Temples often have sex acts carved on them. All sorts, anal, oral, with horses, etc, etc

– While watching the van burn, a guy turned to me and with a smile said “This is Nepali culture.”

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