Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Kathmandu, Nepal

Picture was taken by Andre... it's his favorite...  Kathmandu by night

Namastey to you fine People,

      Back from Nepal.  Been here in Singapore for the past 4 days and we brought ourselves a souvenir home... caught a nice cold either still in Nepal or in the plane.  So recovery was not from jetlag but from a pesky little snot-producing virus.  Don't drink the water, the CDC writes... don't eat the street food... stay away from dairy products... pah... anywhooooo... Feeling almost back to normal now. 

     We arrived in Kathmandu and right away, this place felt different.  Couldn't tell you why it was so, it just was. 

       Now that we got our luggage, off we go into the streets of Kathmandu... We need a Taxi... before you knew it, a group of guys flock around you offering you a taxi ride.  Non of them really look like a trustworthy driver and Andre tried as best as he could to shake them all by saying that we will be picked up.. didn't matter to anyone though.  They followed to the ATM machine, stayed back a respectful distance while banking business is being taken care of and once you are done, personal space has been replaced for solicitation.  Andre is good, but even he had to give in at some point.  A lovely police officer approached him asking what he was looking for (at least that's what I think he said to Andre).  Andre said he is looking for a Taxi and man, within a split second, we had another taxi driver by our side... what the heck.. let's just keep walking with him... We approach the car and they lift the suitcase atop the .. well.. "car".  They politely opened the door, gave us a helping hand with our back packs, and closed the door.  Conveniently, the windows were all rolled down and before that door was even closed, a thin arm with a little hand came through that back window accompanied by a voice asking for money: " Any change is good Sir.  Give me what you have, Sir. I take any change."  Andre looked through his pockets and pulled out a handful of coins of different currencies, but that little hand was waving eagerly to receive what could not have been more than a dollar or so.  Once Andre placed the coins in that wanting hand, it quickly disappeared and laughter erupted.  Then the door opens and the driver comes in with a receipt which Andre asked for at the very beginning.  750 Rs to the hotel.. not a bad deal.  The driver's friend joined us for the ride (yes, he got a free ride out of it)... he was a tour guide and he owns his own company, he tells us.  He spoke fairly well English and gave us already a little taste of Kathmandu.

     We finally arrived at the hotel after we have been thoroughly shaken about, tossed around, smashed into giant pot-holes and to our amazement, the suitcase was still there upon our arrival.  Oh.. what did the taxi look like?  well... this:
                       Let's play a little game, shall we: Can you guess the Car-Brand and year?

     The road conditions are, well... they just are.  Bibek, one of the aftersales managers at VW who also showed us around during our 5-day stay, explains that Nepal does not have any speed regulation; no regulation is needed as you can't drive fast anyway, not even on their highway.  The streets are filled with honking noises, which is used as an intact communication device.  Not as it is in Germany or say America where it is pretty much making the one being honked at aware of a mistake with the universal understanding that the warning honk usually carries ", you idiot!"  Not so in Kathmandu... it may mean "hey, good Morning", or "watch out, I am coming", or "Would you kindly move aside, I am almost scratching the back of your heel".  Here is what I mean:

Streets were sooooo narrow... the honking had to become a communication device.  We had to put the car in reverse as the yellow bus had the much bigger argument (as Andre would say)

    Well, speaking of road conditions.. it's rain season in Nepal... And people have to face certain challenges:


                                                                                                                                                                                      But what made this place such an incredible place regardless of it being so underdeveloped were the people.  They were very polite and friendly.  They always greeted you and always smiled.  Reminded me of a short conversation I had in regard to my Mongolia blog not too long ago where I was reminded that Asian people don't usually smile.. that this is a Western-World sort of thing, but not typical for Asians.  I must say, I agree when it comes to the Mongolians we have encountered who really were not friendly at all, nor did they seem to know how to smile. But I strongly disagree when it comes to the people we have encountered in Nepal (not to mention our previous trip to Korea, even the Singaporeans are friendly, in Thailand we dealt with smiling people, thus far I have encountered only smiling Malaysians and let's not forget our friends from Myanmar...  so all in all, I disagree with that statement).  While waiting for our ride to the workshop, we used to walk to the corner of the main street and one morning we were approached by a very friendly gentleman who was carrying a basket filled with flower petals and a little glass with a red paste in it.  And this is what he did with it:
                   He wished us a healthy, long and prosperous life... all this for a super deal of 500 Rs ;-)  Who said happiness can't be bought, eh?  It's all there in Nepal
     Working days were long and somewhat exhausting for Andre as he had to deal not only with this project, but also with his regular work responsibilities.  Thus, we had little time to go and see things.  Bibek was so kind and showed us a few things during lunch time or right after work without being out too long.  He took us to the local temple which was run over by monkeys, but provided for an awesome view over Kathmandu.  We saw the night life of Thamel, a well known touristy shopping area:


And the last day, Bibek took us 25 km outside of the city to a place called Bhaktapur.  This place is "...known as Khwopa in local Newari tongue.  The cultural capital of Nepal, Bhaktapur's history goes back to the early 8th century and it used to be the capital city of whole Nepal till the 12th to the 15th century.  Until the early 18th century, the ancestors protected the city as a sovereign country surrounding it with boundary walls and a number of city gates.  Shaped like a flying pigeon, the city spreads over an area of 6.88 sq.km and lies at 1401 meters above sea level. Bhaktapur gives shelter to almost 100 thousand people, most of whom are peasants."1    Enjoy:

Wherever you look, there are small entry doors in Nepal houses... Bibek explains that they are made that way so that you enter the home in a bowing position

The bath for the King and Queen

He always has to flirt with the locals

This picture cost us over 100 Rs

This temple was build from one single tree

We received a tour in a paper factory (all handmade)

The local hang-out

 This poor goat does not know her fate... I was told that this goat is used for a sacrificial ritual as it was treated with one more meal

Liane giving it a shot:

 the clay is harder than it looks!!!!!


Ahhhhh.. the rewarding hand-wash from your trusted water jar

        Kathmandu was a fantastic place.  I would love to go there again.  This has got to be my favorite destination of this summer's travel.  Andre and I met wonderful people, ate interesting food, learned quite a bit of this culture and (and I know I speak for Andre as well) we have left this place way too soon.  5 Days are just not enough, especially when you are not there for vacation.  We wanted to see the Himalayas as well, but there was no time.  One of these days I might take you fine people with me atop the Himalayas. 
       I have "tons" more pictures but I hope I succeeded in displaying Kathmandu... made you feel for a moment as if you have stood beside us and that we have created a smile on your face.  For now, we are back in Singapore and I am starting to build the final presentation for this project. 
Until the next post... tons of kisses, hugs and all that fun stuff.

 1 = Introduction, Bhaktapur booklet, Bhaktapur Minicipality