The India and Nepal Diaries Part 11
Contains some strong language
The names of other people appearing in this diary have been altered
To a degree this is a story about not very much. Mainly about being young and slightly stupid in places and cultures we didn’t know or understand. Everything told here did take place and it is more or less an exact transcript of my actual diary. And so, on that note, I do not advise anyone to do anything we did. However, we learnt a lot from it and, I think, came back from our exploration as wiser people. I hope you may also.
We were up early to pack our stuff. The plan was that this morning there would be an assembly at which we would present the scholarship money to the 15 awarded students. After this we would eat and then, due to bus times, immediately get a bus to Kathmandu.
We went to the canteen, got tea and biscuits and then sat and waited. All 900 students started arriving for their 10am school start and slowly assembled in the yard into lines with the rest of their class.
The assembly was started with everyone singing the Nepalese National Anthem and the school song. We were sat up on a raised area with the staff and the parents of the student who had been given the scholarship. One by one the students were invited up on stage and Leon put on a Sindoor (a red powder paint dot applied to the forhead) and I would present them with the scholarship envelope. Photos were taken, we were given some presents (a traditional Nepalese hat and ceremonial scarf plus an Earthly Paradise T-shirt) and then asked to say some words in front of everyone. The assembly then disbanded and we ate in a rush, said our goodbyes and ran for the bus which left at 11.
I’m not sure if it was just me still recovering from the illness of the previous days or whether this bus was particularly uncomfortable but I really didn’t enjoy this journey. The roads were flatter than previous trips but still bumpy. The suspension seemed to be shot, the seats were slanted, the leg room was cramped and the traffic outside the open windows was awful! There was grit, dust and fumes swirling behind every vehicle. The bus stopped for a 20-minute late lunch at a road side canteen (of which there are many) and then we spent the rest of the afternoon stuck in a traffic jam getting into the city. It got no better in the city as we waited in the non-existent lanes of honking, smoking, bumper to bumper machines to move shear yards along the roads.
By the time we got off the bus, onto the road side at a sprawling junction, it was about 8 pm In the haste to exit we had both managed to forget one of the filter water bottles that we had been using for all our drinking water since arriving.
We bartered our way into a taxi and headed for Thamel: a region of Kathmandu famous for its restaurants, touristyness and abundance of hostels and hotels. Leon had tried to book us a hostel online but it had refused to accept his card. So, this left us wondering around trying to work out where to stay. Luckily there really were hotels everywhere and after finding a relatively cheap one we crashed. I felt wiped out and Leon was having to put up with a very grumpy Silas. We grabbed a veggie burger each and then headed for our room. The beds were blissful and the TV even had some familiar European channels on it. I slept so well.
They actually had hot water! After two weeks with only one hot shower this was heavenly.
We went down stairs to breakfast. Feeling a need for the familiar we both ordered toast, only to be sorely disappointed. Finding a place that can provide you with butter that is not rancid or at best not sweaty or strangely flaky is a rarity and this place wasn’t it. We ate the two pieces of plain toasted bread. Best to go for something more traditional perhaps.
We left to go and find the youth hostel that we wanted to be at, a place called ‘Zostel’. We found it down an alley with two or three other hostels next door. It looked pretty chic with its own café and giant colourful mural paintings stretching up the walls. It turned out the internet price for the hostel was in Indian rupees (we had naturally though it was in Nepalese rupees), making it a fair amount more expensive than we had expected. But then everywhere else was the same and so we stayed. It is in the capital city after all.
We handed over a load of washing and then went to find the ‘Garden of Dreams’. We walked via Thamel and its innumerable book shops from which we bought far more than we probably should have.
The ‘Garden of Dreams’ was an amazing serine place that seemed to be the haunt of lots of young couples. The café there had wonderful food but was extortionately expensive and we managed to blow more money that we should have done having a lunch there.
From here we wondered around aimlessly, found an ATM and then went back into Thamel to find a cake shop. On the walk back to Zostel we got distracted by a shirt shop. There were rows of them each with brightly coloured T-shirts displayed around their fronts. Every shirt had a fantastic pattern embroidered on it, usually in a kaleidoscope of the most brightly coloured threads, all done manually by a person with a sowing machine sat in a corner of the shop. We bought a load.
After arriving back at our hostel, we went up to the common room where we got chatting to a pair from the Netherlands. They had just arrived to go trekking and we told them about our mad walk of the past few days before all going to the OR2K restaurant and spending the evening there, cross-legged on their cushioned mats eating some of the best food we had had thus far.
Upon recommendation we went to see the ‘Monkey Temple’; a Buddhist place of prayer on top of a hill with an amazing view of the surrounding city. There are of course lots of monkeys everywhere.
Then to Durbar Square which had many amazing ancient buildings and temples, all covered in intricate carvings. Unfortunately, many were damaged or destroyed in the 2015 earthquake that shock the Kathmandu valley and indeed the whole of Nepal.
We hired a guide who talked a lot and seemed to say the same thing over and over again, mainly about Buddhist and Hindu religious culture, but couldn’t give us that much information about the buildings themselves. He did however show us around a lot of interesting places. This included a sex temple that was built with lots of rather visual carvings used as a way to educate people and encourage them to have more intercourse. It even suggested a whole load of positions to try. According to our guide it was built partly in response to lots of people becoming celibate monks and a worry about a low birth rate.
Our guide took us to a Buddhist Lama’s shop. The proprietor explained the layout and make up on a Mandela and the path to Nirvana as well as the three levels of Buddhist religious dedication: an ordinary person that follows the Buddhist ideology, a lama who has studied the texts and is considered an authority on aspects of Buddhism and a monk who lives a celibate life away from the rest of the community.
Now fairly knackered we walked back to Zostel and had supper in their café, followed by a communal showing of a ‘Game of Thrones’ episode. The only other person watching this turned out to be an Indian-British economist working for the World Bank. Naturally the rest of the evening was spent talking politics and economics and him giving us some inside knowledge on the banking situation in London post Brexit. It sounded like a lot was moving and that the sector was going to get hit pretty hard. Leon and our new friend got deep into a political-economic discussion that, in a tired state, I felt un able to contribute to. With a brain that seemed to have ceased being able to run any cognitive processes I left them to it and went to bed.
Please click to see The India and Nepal Diaries Part 12