Exploring Kathmandu in one week – sites, villages, and local people (part II)

07 Dec

Exploring Kathmandu in one week (part II)

This is the continuation of my first diary about Kathmandu. My first post can be found at the following link Exploring Kathmandu in one week (I).

Kathmandu, the fourth day

Short description: I walked from Thamel to Pashupatinath (approximately one hour and a half), one of the most important Hindu complexes of the city. Then, I continued to walk toward Bodhnath Stupa, the largest Buddhist stupa in Kathmandu, which was surrounded by Buddhist monasteries.

Long description

Pashupatinath is a Hindu architectural complex of great sanctity, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pashupatinath is the place where Hindus burn their dead on a pyre and pray for them on the terraces along the Bagmati River.

Kathmandu - Pashupatinath - the main Hindu Temple

Kathmandu – Pashupatinath – the main Hindu Temple

To the left of the bridge, across the great temple (where I was not allowed to enter), I saw Hindus with shaved heads and dressed in white. They held various ceremonies for the dead. To the right of the bridge, a corpse covered with a pile of wood was incinerated on a pyre. The local guides tried to sell me a tour, but I turned down all of them. Saddhus dressed in orange posed for money nearby the altars. After a while, I walked up the main stairs leading to Bodhnath and bought a slice of pineapple from a peddler in order to appease my thirst. Further on, I passed small temples and a monastery, then went down to a Hindu temple next to the Bagmati River. From there, I crossed the river on a metal bridge toward Bodhnath.

Kathmandu - Pashupatinath - Hindus doing their religious ritual

Kathmandu – Pashupatinath – Hindus doing their religious ritual

I reached Bodhnath after half an hour walking through the local neighborhoods. Bodhnath is a Buddhist complex, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In Bodhnath, I saw the largest stupa of Asia. Buddhist monks walked clockwise around the stupa and spun the prayer wheels with mantras on them. The great stupa was still in restoration after the 2015 earthquake and I could visit it only partially.

I had time to see a couple of Tibetan monasteries close to the stupa, but when it started to rain, I sat down to eat a Russian salad at a rooftop restaurant, facing the square around the stupa. When I wanted to turn back to Thamel, I decided to experience the public transportation in Kathmandu for the first time. Surprisingly, the bus didn’t seem as terrible as I expected. It was dirty and the traffic was chaotic but I had my own seat and arrived safely at my hotel after one hour and a half.

Bodhnath Stupa (around Kathmandu) - pilgrims walk clockwise around the stupa

Bodhnath Stupa (around Kathmandu) – pilgrims walk clockwise around the stupa

In the evening, I met Elen, the editor of the Inside Himalayas, and her Nepalese boyfriend, Ramesh, who was a river guide. We ate dhal bhat and met with some of their friends for a drink in a couple of bars.

Kathmandu - Thamel - eating dhal bhat with Elen and Ramesh

Kathmandu – Thamel – eating dhal bhat with Elen and Ramesh

Kathmandu, the fifth day

Short description: I decided to experience the next level of minibus difficulties. I wanted to get to Budhanilkantha and explore a temple which had a floating statue of Vishnu.

Long description

I walked down to Ratna Park, the bus station where one could find buses for any direction, and asked around how to get to Budhanilkantha. Locals sent me in all the directions for at least three times. When they advised me to go back to where I started, I eyed a schoolgirl and asked her for information in English. It was ok where I was staying in that crossroads and I had to wait for the minibus to Budhanilkantha. However, I couldn’t understand what was written in Nepali on the minibuses, so I had to ask the boy-helpers of each minibus if they went to Budhanilkantha. One boy confirmed that I could take the minibus he was in charge of and I jumped inside.

The minibus was unexpectedly empty, contrary to my predictions. The driver drove on the left side of the road. The boy-helper of the minibus was a teenager that had a thick wad of cash in his hands. He hung out the open door and shouted the direction the minibus was going. When he knocked on the door, the driver knew he had to stop and pick up or leave somebody. Eventually, the minibus filled up with people and we quickly reached Budhanilkantha.

Budhanilkantha (around Kathmandu) - women selling orange flowers for offerings at the temple

Budhanilkantha (around Kathmandu) – women selling orange flowers for offerings at the temple

Near the Temple of Budhanilkantha, women sold orange flowers for offerings at the temple. A saddhu asked me for money in exchange for a picture with him. Other women sold religious items at the entrance of the temple. In the courtyard of the temple, people entered and rang a big bell at a small altar to let the gods know they came. After that, they took some red paint from a small statue and put themselves a tikka on their foreheads.

A huge statue of a supine Vishnu (as a reincarnation of Narayan) was floating on water in a fenced pool, below the level of the courtyard. People went down to the statue with offerings of flower garlands and a basket with fruit. They threw the flowers and the fruit to the statue or a little boy helped them to put the offerings on the statue (adults couldn’t do that). The pilgrims gave money to the little boy for the deity and left reconciled.

Budhanilkantha Temple (around Kathmandu) - the statue of Vishu as Narayan floating on the water

Budhanilkantha Temple (around Kathmandu) – the statue of Vishu as Narayan floating on the water

As I was not Hindu, I was not allowed to go down to the pool and see the statue. Nevertheless, I sat and observed what the Nepali were doing. An elegantly dressed couple entered the courtyard of the temple, worshiped at all the altars, and went to a big building. A boy sitting on a bench told me they had just married. While walking around, I respectfully refused a local guide who failed to sell me a tour. Under a nearby shelter, a group of pilgrims counted a pile of money that had been offered at the statue beforehand.

In the courtyard of the temple, a little boy asked me to give him a lollipop, but I discouraged him and told him it was not good for his teeth. He left, returned later, and asked me directly for money. I said I had no change. Then he asked if I had a boss. When I confirmed I had one, he concluded my boss had the money. When I left the temple, I ate an egg tkoupa (noodle soup with boiled eggs and raw vegetables) at a local restaurant.

Budhanilkantha (around Kathmandu) - a local wedding

Budhanilkantha (around Kathmandu) – a local wedding

In the afternoon, I met Hari, an old acquaintance I had known from a friend for a couple of years. He had a travel company and wanted to meet me. We drank masala tea in Thamel and then we went to see the hotel he was building in the nearby area.

Kathmandu, the sixth day

I had fever, cramps, diarrhea, and nausea after eating at a local restaurant in Budhanilkantha the day before. In the morning, I managed to crawl to the tourist office next to Ratna Park, where I bought my trekking permits for the Tamang Heritage Trail. However, I hardly walked back to the hotel and I laid in bed all day. In the evening, I went out to a restaurant across the street to buy something to eat (if possible, not spicy).

Kathmandu, the seventh day 

Short description: I had already learned how to change a minibus in Joparti to reach Gokarna Mahadev Temple, situated outside of Kathmandu. At Gokarna, I explored another complex of Hindu temples. After that, I walked through the suburbs of Kathmandu from Gokarna to Bodhnath Stupa, where I visited some Buddhist monasteries again (this time, without rain).

Long description

Gokarna is an authentic suburb of Kathmandu and has terrible, unpaved, dusty streets, and poverty as well. The Gokarna Mahadev Temple is dedicated to Shiva as Mahadeva and it displays elaborately carved wooden deities on facades and roofs. When I went there, goats walked around the peaceful courtyard of the temple and ate the flowers offered to the dozens of deity statues. Hindu pilgrims prayed under a shelter and, a few meters away, a tree had grown inside a small temple.

Gokarna Mahadev Temple (around Kathmandu)

Gokarna Mahadev Temple (around Kathmandu)

When I left Gokarna, I activated the GPS in order to guide me through the suburbs of Kathmandu, to Bodhnath Stupa. At a small shop, I drank a Coke to clean my intoxicated stomach. There, I asked locals for directions to Bodhnath, but they seemed surprised when I told them I wanted to walk for four kilometers to my destination. At a crossroads, a boy standing in front of a house asked me the standard questions, directly in English. Where are you from? What are you doing here? Where are you going?

Walking from Gokarna to Bodhnath area (around Kathmandu)

Walking from Gokarna to Bodhnath area (around Kathmandu)

In Bodhnath, I went to Pal Dilyak Gompa, a Buddhist monastery, where I sat on a bench in the courtyard. An old woman sat next to me and tried to ask me something in Nepali. I answered her in English, but she didn’t understand me. Further on, when she said America, I finally understood what she wanted. I said Romania, but she shrugged. Then I added Europe, but she still seemed puzzled. Suddenly, she went to her room and brought me an apple. Initially, I refused to take it. However, I didn’t want to insult her, I said ‘Namaste,’ and took the apple. Furthermore, I donated the apple to a beggar on the street.

Bodhnath heritage area (around Kathmandu) - Pal Dilyak Gompa - colourful paintings

Bodhnath heritage area (around Kathmandu) – Pal Dilyak Gompa – colourful paintings

The bus that brought me back to Ratna Park was a jalopy. I wondered how long it was going to be functional. But after all, it had nice music and was very cheap. However, there was a traffic jam in Kathmandu but hopefully I wasn’t in a hurry. I had come to Nepal to have authentic experiences. Later, on my way from Ratna Park to Thamel, I stopped at Pizza Hut (very expensive) to eat something not spicy for my ill stomach. The following day, I was leaving for Kopan Buddhist Monastery, situated in one of the suburbs of Kathmandu, and I was going to stay there for ten days.

Kathmandu on one week (II) is the continuation of my first diary about Kathmandu (find the version in Romanian at ‘O saptamana in Kathmandu II). My first post can be found at the following link Exploring Kathmandu in one week (I). And here are all my Travel Diaries from Nepal (x12).

Have you been to Kathmandu or plan to go there? Leave a comment below this post and tell me what you liked about Nepal or what you’re interested to see there.

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18 Responses to “Exploring Kathmandu in one week – sites, villages, and local people (part II)”

  1. Thelittlelai: Beyond limits January 4, 2017 at 3:13 pm #

    You really have an awesome one week journey in Kathmandu as what your words and photos are trying to convey. I like how you put the history and your travel experiences together cause it appears to be more interesting.

    • Authentic Travels January 4, 2017 at 7:33 pm #

      Thank you. After one year of struggling to decide how and what to write on my blog, I finally came up to a conclusion. Your comment confirms me that I am authentic this way. 🙂

  2. Megan Indoe January 4, 2017 at 7:55 pm #

    I’m sorry to hear you got sick, but it sounds like Kathmandu is still such lovely place! We are supposed to go next month and I really can’t wait! I will make sure to take some strong medicine in case we get a stomach bug like you!

    • Authentic Travels January 4, 2017 at 8:36 pm #

      I would say that you should avoid local eateries if you know you are sensible with your stomach. They are very authentic and have good food, but if you’re not used to eat, might be a problem. I got sick 3 times in 2 months spent in Nepal and each time it was because I ate in some suspicious place.

  3. Jen Morrow January 4, 2017 at 10:17 pm #

    The orange flower blossoms are a lovely tribute at the temple, and a great way to support the locals. Lovely architecture throughout.

    • Authentic Travels January 5, 2017 at 8:56 am #

      Yes, the orange flowers are the hit of the photographers ! And the orange saddhus (I’ll have them in another post).

  4. Cori January 4, 2017 at 10:56 pm #

    Sounds like you had an amazing experience! It’s funny how people assume everyone is from America — not always the best association! It’s too bad you got sick, but it sounds like it didn’t stop you from enjoying your travels.

    • Authentic Travels January 5, 2017 at 8:58 am #

      Tourists = a walking bag full of money (most of the time). However, this old woman from the monastery was so different, I enjoyed trying to communicate with her a bit. Sick ?! That’s part of life in order to have a balance. 🙂

  5. Claire January 5, 2017 at 3:06 am #

    I’d love to visit here, it’s such a shame a lot of the temples were damaged during the earthquake. The markets look so colourful and beautiful, I would love to spend some time exploring!

    • Authentic Travels January 5, 2017 at 8:55 am #

      Well, even if the temples collapsed, people are the same and women always come in front of the temples to sell garlands of orange flowers for offerings. They are so, so picturesque. Highly recommend and I hope you’ll get there some day.

  6. Sarah Kim January 5, 2017 at 1:43 pm #

    I love UNESCO heritage sites so would love to go here. I love that story about the old woman and the apple– hehe. Lost in translation. I wonder what she intended.

    • Authentic Travels January 5, 2017 at 2:03 pm #

      I think she just had some free time and was curious. When she saw that we couldn’t talk too much, she went to her room and brought me that apple.

  7. Cynthia January 5, 2017 at 6:12 pm #

    I’ve heard so many amazing things about Kathmandu and your blog post just makes me want to go even more! You have taken some very beautiful photos as well.

    • Authentic Travels January 6, 2017 at 9:05 am #

      You should try to go there. However, choose a period when the monsoon is really over, not just starting to be over. Clear skies are amazing in Nepal when you are surrounded by mountains.

  8. Claire Summers January 5, 2017 at 11:30 pm #

    Really interesting post. Thank you for sharing so much detail. I especially love your images. I totally thought that that picture was a person on the floating thing, not a statue!

    • Authentic Travels January 6, 2017 at 9:06 am #

      Hindus have the advantage of being able to invent a representation for everything.

  9. Hallie January 6, 2017 at 4:17 am #

    Just stunning! I took some of the same walks that you did while I was there. I LOVED Nepal and especially Kathmandu. Too bad you got sick there though. I got sick when I made it down to India… I figured when you’re there, different water, it’s bound to happen at some point, isn’t it? I’ve been interested to see how things have been after the big earthquake and it doesn’t look too bad. So nice to see.

    • Authentic Travels January 6, 2017 at 9:03 am #

      I drank only bottled water, but I think that they didn’t boil properly the water for cooking in some local eateries …. so I got sick 3 times during my stay in Nepal. However, the last two one were not so bad as the first experience in Kathmandu.

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