I’m at at roof top restaurant in Kathmandu Durbar Square
after being shown around by Mr. D.
This persuasive 25 year old guide found me buying a ticket, remorseful that I’d gotten there late at 4 PM, and assured me that for $15 he could easily explain all I needed to know in one hour. Since I was exhausted from at least 4 hours of walking there, I took him up on it. Let’s stop wandering and get to those darn temples!
I had initially wandered through the crowded, dusty and colorful streets of Thamel,
the tourist section of Kathmadu.
Somehow I’d managed to keep heading in the right direction, towards Durbar Square. Forget looking at the map! Absolutely irrelevant since there were no street signs. Or traffic lights, Or stop signs. Or toilet paper or soap … but there I digress into complaining. It was my first day in this lovely but developing country… Lots of things to buy cheap but fortunately I can’t buy anything with “too much luggage!” (Except experiences, I told Mr D.) Except… a compression sack, meant for sleeping bag but I use for packing clothes. $20 in states, $2.50 here. And an outlet adapter for Asia for $1. $1 for mixed fresh fruit juice.
The streets of Thamel were interesting, to say the least! Full of color and sound.
Various bands with drums, trumpet and sax following the winding narrow streets, but when the sounds collided with another band—cacophony! Compressed humanity, motorcycles, dogs, dust, goods for sale… Jumble of power cables, offerings and gods...
Trying to get organized in the midst of chaos.
I even found the Nepalese Band ATM that the hotel clerk advised me to use.
But yikes! I waited behind another couple while the security guard looked on and to our horror the machine sucked in the card and wouldn’t spit it back out! Nightmare! And being Sunday the bank was closed. The security guard couldn’t help at all and motioned for me to use another one in another building. No card eater there, just the standard card reader. Got my money but found that no machine will give more than $100 at one time. A bit cumbersome but at least I got my card back! One more thing to be on guard about.
I then found the entrance to Durbar Square and Mr. D.
He remembered it all before the earthquake, murmuring “sad.” Here is a pic of before next to the after of just one temple.
It must have all been beautiful. But in the midst of reconstruction there were still bricks and broken materials galore.
The most untouched was the Kumari Temple.
I read about that interesting tradtion in the National Geographic! It all came back. They take a 3 year old girl and raise her in the temple, she shows her face daily to devotees, she is released back into “normal” life when she first bleeds. Did I get to see her? No. Because the Dasain festival is still going on so ordinary rules don’t apply. The Nepalese can line up to climb the stairs but not us foreigners. Why not? “Because you eat beef. A cow is a reincarnation of Goddess Laxmi. It would be bad for the Kumari to see you.” OK…
I did just miss the blood and gore of Dasain festival. Two streets over scores of goats had there heads lopped off. Why then would they care so much if I eat beef? It is all so complicated. Such as why the Kumari girl came into being. Apparently the goddess Kumari came in human form to the King and they played dice together while she protected his kingdom.He made the very big mistake of lusting after her, after which she fled and bad things started happening to his kingdom He was deeply repentant and begged for her return. “No. But I will become myself into the body of a special girl. That way my protection can continue.”
Interesting that this one building was not destroyed by the earthquake. She can’t let herself get hurt—no scratches or blood- so she is carried out on her infrequent sorries into town in a golden chariot. See it behind closed doors with a motorcycle ingloriously parked in front of it.
And how is this Kumari picked? She needs 32 aspects—perfect beauty including the right shade to her skin and fearlessness... Just how do they test the fearlessness of a 3 year old? Easy. Lock her up in the dark all night, surrounded with buffalo heads. (Not skulls, heads.) If she is a normal 3 year old, out of luck.) Above is the window she usually appears in and there I am, normal imperfect and appropriately fearful me.
And statue of the Garuda who is protecting Vishnu.
And a fearsome statue with devotees.
And a fearsome mask that the Nepalese Airlines uses as a logo, behind iron bars, who works his magic once a year when holy beer is pumped out his mouth and the crowd lunges forward for a gulp, to be cleansed.
(I do apologize for the poor details, folks, but I couldn’t keep track and there were no signs. A visual cacophony.)
The royal palace had two distinct wings of two styles, and the Chinese and US government have each taken on a wing for reconstruction after the earthquake. Impressive was a guard—evidently there is a famous section of the Nepalese army, the Gurkhas, and I was impressive by my ignorance.
A great if overwhelming tour.
But finally I ended up above it all, at this roof-top restuarant, watching a sunset,
kite floating above a pink cloud, vultures soaring.
One hill has monkeys on it. It would be good to get that far away, maybe find some peace… I’m drinking mango milkshake because they don’t have yoghurt for mango lassi. And eating buffalo “mo mo” dumpling because they were out of vegetarian. But they have pleanty of cacophony – bands below with sounds colliding, a palanquin carring some representative of God.
After this rooftop peace, I had to get home somehow!
“Easy,” said the waiter, “Head that way, go to the entrance of the Square and get a taxi.” But the view from the roof and from the front door were entirely different. It actually got terrifying! Darker and darker, crowds going both ways on the street, no street lights, motorcycles lunging out of the dark with headlights directly towards pedestrians and each other. Yikes!
A shopkeeper told me to turn around, go to the temple (Right! Which one?) and find a taxi. I talked him down from $4 to $3 because Mr. D said that was a fair rate and he looked at the address on the card and off we went. Down a bigger street arriving at a square I had never seen in the middle of Thamel. He actually expected me to get out! Nope! He obviously didn’t know how to get there! So he asked a shop owner and looked at my map and off we went again, down narrower lanes, him asking me the way. I did recongnize the final turn and voila! No tip buddy.
So now I’ve tried to decompress from overwhelming sights, sounds and dust.
Tomorrow a driver for $40 will take me for a full day to places I couldn’t walk to.
As long as there’s a seat-belt, I’m game! One day in Thamel is enough for me!