Kathmandu/Lumbini!

After the scariest landing I’ve been through yet, we landed in Kathmandu, Nepal!  The process through the airport was pretty easy. It drives me crazy that with all of the airports we have been through they don’t have a more logical process for people getting visas.  When we walk into the airport we get in the line that says “Foreigners”, only to be told once we get to the front that we have to go to this kiosk section in the corner then to another counter to pay, then back to the “Foreigner” line.  They should seriously have more signs or someone directing a bit better. The smog here is probably the densest we have seen. Flying in it was impossible to see the city until we dropped below the smog level, and it is already a dusty city.  I would suggest having a mask if you have any respiratory issues.

When we stepped outside there were numerous taxi drivers boxing us in.  I would personally recommend just getting money from the ATM at the airport since the service fee is the same as any other ATM in the city, and the same for a sim card.  I would not recommend going to a street stall for a sim card because they take a copy of your passport, and I worry that it doesn’t end up in an organized place. Go to a storefront where they will file your important documents away.  The taxi drivers have a billboard set up outside of their prices, so negotiating is a bit tricky here. In Nepal, 100 rupees is equal to roughly 0.86 cents, and 1000 rupees equal to $8.60. There is a tourist district that somehow neither of us had heard of till we arrived and had already booked somewhere else.  This district is Thamel and has quite a lot of cheap shops for anyone planning on trekking or hiking, and has some pretty cheap good foods. We tried a homestay for the first time. The family was so sweet and had one son about 9 years old. The wife taught Walter how to make some dishes and some bomb-ass chili chutney.  It hurt so well. It was pretty cold here and it doesn’t seem like the houses have insulation so I would suggest having a good sweater and sweatpants for the nights. The days were 70 degrees Fahrenheit. We visited Monkey Temple on our first day. There were monkeys everywhere! The monkies don’t just stay at the temple, they actually integrate themselves within the city.  They also seem a bit aggressive, so if they want your food, you should probably just give it to them and save yourself the cost of a rabies shot. On the way up to the temple, a man approached us; we have learned that almost 100% of the time if someone starts with “Where are you from”, it is going to end with them trying to sell us something. After he asked us where we were from he then stated that he didn’t want to sell us anything, and asked if we knew anything about the temple.  We told him that we did not, and we usually research a place after we discover it. In a slightly condescending tone, he almost seemed offended that we were going without knowing about it. He then said if we paid him, he would tell us the history. So we just ascended the many steps without him. At the top, nearly all of the walking area was overtaken by locals selling little trinkets and there were monkeys everywhere! We checked out the Thamel area after and had momos for the first time!  I LOVE MOMOS! YOU MUST TRY MOMOS! There weren’t too many activities to do here. Obviously, there are a few temples, but the entrance fee to most of them is tripled for tourists. If you are wanting to see Mount Everest you can take a helicopter ride, but it will cost you. The ride costs up to $4000 for up to four passengers and gets more expensive with fewer people. We skipped that activity. There is a national park roughly five hours drive from Kathmandu, but the stays there are anywhere from $20-$50.

During dinner that night our host informed us that Shiva holiday was coming up and invited us to celebrate it with their family.  We graciously accepted. We have been wanting to experience this type of cultural setting. Most of Nepal, including our host family, is vegetarian.  She informed us, however, for the Shiva holiday they were allowed to eat horse and partake in drugs. We quickly declined that part. On the day of, all six of us crammed into their little car and set off for their family gathering.  It was a scary hour drive. The drivers/traffic here is worse than anything I’ve seen in Vietnam. It is just chaos here. Potholes everywhere so people are dramatically swerving to miss them. We will quickly go from 60mph to 20mph when they slam on the breaks instead of just driving slowly.  The roads through the mountains are tight fits like they were really only meant for one large vehicle. We saw quite a few accidents, with one happening right next to us. It isn’t like America though, people just put their cars or bikes back together best they can and seemingly go on their way.  We arrived at a partially built structure, but what they regarded as a temple. I was originally excited to experience this, but didn’t take into account we would be the only white people there. It wasn’t a problem, but I couldn’t sink into the background and observe when what seemed like over a hundred people were all stopping to stare at us.  Some Nepali approached us to offer food, but mostly the children were the brave ones. Running up to us and yelling, “NAMASTE!”. We eventually accepted food from them, but what our host said had popped into my head. I quickly asked him, “Is this vegetarian?”. He said yes. Linguistics is everything here people. I then asked, “Is there horse?”.  He said yes. We then just ate our veggies and secretly got rid of the rest. There was also a large vat of liquid at the end that people were drinking by the cup full, pitcher full, or handful. We asked our host what that was and she said that is the drugs. Also, stayed away from there. It was honestly a great experience, I just wish we hadn’t stuck out like a neon sign.  Another part of this holiday is children blocking off the roadways with rope and not allowing cars to pass through until they had been given money. Most complied, some ran their rope over.

Along with the momo’s, the naan bread was delicious!  A staple food in this culture is dal bhat. A mix of veggies with curry spices and a few other things.  We ate this every day at our homestay. After a few days, we said our goodbyes, caught a bus from Kalanki and made our way to Lumbini.  By the way, Kalanki doesn’t seem to be an actual bus station. It’s more like, hope you’re in the right place at the right time. It seems better to catch the bus from Thamel that way there is someone to drive you to the bus.  No matter where you go, it seems that the bus tickets are going to be about 800 rupees. Lumbini is the birthplace of Buddhism so Walter was stoked to finally be exploring this place. The town is quaint with monkeys and cows roaming about.  The curry and naan bread was delicious! Since tourism hasn’t really hit here yet all of the foods were pretty cheap, maybe $1-$2 per person. I would recommend getting money out of the atm in a bigger city. Not a single atm here would accept my card. After like the fifth one, I was getting pretty nervous, but luckily one finally worked for Walter.  Power outages are an everyday occurrence in Nepal. They always seem to happen at the same time. Most people in the towns have started using generators, but when it comes to hot water, I learned the sad way that they use solar power to heat the water.  I imagine everyone is the same on the shower concept. Once you do all the work to get ready for a shower and get naked, you are taking that shower. So even though it was 50 degrees out, I came this far and wasn’t turning back. Directly across from the city are the temples.  Architects from numerous countries came here to build a temple that resembled what they have back in their home. I think there are maybe 20-30 temples here, each from a different country. It takes a few hours to walk around this place, or you can hire a tuk tuk for the day. These guys were pretty relentless and one even went as far as to get out of his tuk tuk and follow us into a temple.  Another strange incident happened when we were talking by ourselves down a side road to get to the next temple, two men on a bike circled back to stop and ask us if they could shake our hands and take a picture. While this weirded me out, it wasn’t the first time it has happened. Near the front gate is the main structure. Rubble from what is left of the original temple when Buddhism was discovered, and they built another building around it to better preserve it.  There is no talking or photography allowed inside the building. We only spent one night here since we were just visiting for the temples, and honestly, one night was enough. If you’re an animal lover like myself, just remember they aren’t pets to this population. I walked away from Walter to go pet a goat until I got closer and saw that his buddy just had his head chopped off, and he was probably next. It was a sobering moment, but I do accept that this is their livelihood.  Once again, another 6 am bus then we are off to Pokhara for our last stop in Nepal!

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