Getting a good night of sleep night in Thamel ist not easy – if you cannot stand noise! I am already looking forward to the quietness of the mountains. But before a full day in Kathmandu awaits me.
The day starts in a hiking agency. Initially just for a bus ticket – I have decided to do the trek on my own, haven’t I? The hiking agency is just next door and recommended by my hotel. The manager seems very friendly and we start discussing about the trek. He explains that while perfectly doable alone in high season, I shouldn’t hike the Annapurna Circuit on my own in winter. Difficult conditions because of the snow and not many tourists make it quite dangerous. The Annapurna Base Camp shouldn’t be a problem though for me. Then a Canadian steps into the office. Clearly he already hiked a lot of times with a guide from this agency and now wants to plan his next hike. We drink one of the best Masala Teas of my entire trip together and I start to accept that the advice I get here is well meant and not just for making money. I could get a guide (who would also carry up to 5kg of luggage) for 1500 NRS per day (not even 15$) with a minimum of 14 days. I could hike the AC with the guide and then do the ABC on my own. I can even meet the guide and assess if I like him, otherwise there are others. The guide is called and a few minutes later he arrives in the small office. Although he seems very young, Prakash seems friendly and he already works as guide for a couple of years and has done the AC so many times he isn’t even counting anylonger. My decision is made, it will not even cost me 200$ to ensure my safety for the next 2 weeks and also this will mean that my family doesn’t have to worry that much! It also means I am free to do whatever I want today because the agency will take care of bus tickets and permits.
I take off to explore Kathmandu – and get overwhelmed by the noise and pollution! The city feels like a big mess to me and I decide to walk first to the Garden of Dreams – a heaven of silence as per my guide book… well, it’s a nice little garden but doesn’t feel any special to me, besides you can still hear the traffic noise!
After a while I continue my walk in the streets of Kathmandu, following a recommended walk to Durbar Square in my guide book. At a square I am approached by a young guy who wants to talk with me and practice English. My distrust is too pronounced to walk with him – what does he really want, money? My guidebook takes to beautiful temples and stupas, right in the middle of everything, the traffic, the people… it feels unreal, these are beautiful and very old holy buildings and it seems no one cares about keeping them well-preserved. But who am I to judge? Many Nepali actually pray at the temples in the morning as I will see on many occasions. These buildings are just part of their live.
I pass by a lot of “dental clinics” and just from outside, I can only think that never, ever I want to go inside! There are also loads of barber shops and people just selling their stuff – be it vegetables or clothes outside on the street.
Then I arrive at Durbar Square with a 1,000 NRS (10$) fee. It was damaged significantly during the earthquake but still beautiful. Immediately I am approached by many guides, playing with my pity as they don’t earn much this year as not many tourists are coming. But why should I pay a guide when I already have a guidebook? I try to figure out myself where to go but then it feels quite difficult. I start talking to someone who turns out to be a guide as well (what a coincidence ;-)) but it’s only 300NRS for one hour so I go for it. It’s a pretty nice tour and I learn a lot – especially impressed learning about the goddess Kumari. It’s a child, chosen in a young age as goddess she is not allowed to leave her temple at Durbar Square except a few times per year where she is carried in a special carrier. She shows up every now and then behind the blinded windows where she can see people but cannot be seen. She stays goddess until her first menstruation, than another girl is chosen. No one will marry her afterwards but it is a great honor for her and her family to have been a goddess. The Kama Sutra temple is also quite detailed 🙂 Is it true that mums come here with their young daughters to educate them about sex just before their marriage?
A pity the Hippie Temple has been completely destroyed. It’s fun to think about those days when this was a popular hang out in the seventies to smoke Marihuana. Interestingly, Marijuana is now banned except for one day per year for the Shivaratri Festival where it may be consumed as a religious ritual for ascetics.
I feel very tired of the noise and people and walk home to my hotel. Dinner is at the Yangling Tibetan Restaurants – Momos of course and Papaya Lassi.