Above: some views from our seats on our way to Kathmandu
We arrived in Kathmandu somewhat relieved to leave the hot weather behind and excited to experience a new culture. The host from our guest house, Dharma, was at the airport to greet us with 2 marigold flower leis and whisked us on our way to his bed and breakfast in a tiny taxi car. We found out later, Dharma had lost all his fingers when he summited Mt Everest in 2008. He went to Spain where the doctors there were able to remove one of his toes and attached it to his hand so that he is able to write and grip things.
The traffic was a bit crazy and Kathmandu seemed at first an organized chaos. We arrived in the Thamel touristic district where the bed and breakfast was located after a half hour drive and climbed the spiraled never ending stairs to our room – named Everest- because you had to climb to it and because we would find out later was so cold at night (even worse, we had to go on the terrace outside to get to our bathroom/shower). We tried to rest a bit and adjust to the new environment: thick air, generator noises, never-ending car honking, and dogs barking at all times.
Above: view from our terrace bathroom
We strolled the Thamel streets that evening and took in the new smells: incense, nepalese food and wood burning among others…we made it to a recommended nearby Nepalese restaurant and had a nice dinner (we tried almost everything on the menu by ordering their multiple course dinner option).
We got really cold that first night despite the hot water bottles the host gave us for our beds. Although the temperature in Kathmandu was comfortable during the day, it dropped significantly at night and many of the guest houses and hotels do not have heaters.The electricity is also controlled by the government, thus a mandatory “load-shedding” happens in large parts of the city where you will be without electricity up to 12 hours. So you simply have to bundle up and keep a flashlight handy.
The next day, despite being sleep deprived (dogs barking all night etc), we went to do some sightseeing and visited the huge Bodhnath Stupa, a few kilometres from downtown Kathmandu. Bodhnath Stupa is one of the world’s largest Buddhist stupas, and the center of Tibetan Buddhism outside of its home country. It is also a UNESCO world heritage site and sits in a carless square surrounded by shops selling a variety of Nepalese and Tibetan trinkets. You must walk clockwise around the stupa and can choose to spin the many prayer wheels that line the wall. We also went inside the main wall where there are prayer bells and even a large room with two gigantic prayer wheels. We got inside the room and started spinning the wheels and a midget appeared out of nowhere and kept saying “three times, three times”. He had a table of trinkets that he started marketing to us on our last (3rd) time around and so we quickly ducked back outside and climbed to the upper level of the stupa. It was comical and something from a Hollywood movie.
Above: hopefully two separate owners 🙂
But it soon started to rain too much and the weather was turning colder, so we headed back to our B&B.
We were only going to stay in Kathmandu for a few days and since we had not booked anything ahead of time (except for that guest house in Kathmandu), the next day was dedicated to research and interview companies who could help us organize a trekking journey in the Himalayas (Annapurna area) followed by a couple of days safari in Chitwan National Park where you can see black rhinos up close. We interviewed three companies and decided to go with a company named Mosaic (who also rated well on Tripadvisor). We were able to meet and interview our guide, Krishna, and then we headed back to our B&B with a large duffle bag, sleeping bags, warm parkas, and hiking poles.