Read my first lovestruck on Nepal here.
Today marked ONE YEAR from my trip to Nepal. And yes, I’m admitting guilty that I’ve postponed this post for too long! I recently found that more and more people are interested to go to this country. As I have written before, Nepal was so good to my friends and I, despite the huge contrasts with Indonesia. And if I had an unexpected huge crush on Nepal, I don’t see why you won’t!
I left the story riding down from the nature-filled hilly Nagarkot to the utmost crowded part of the city, Thamel.
Still in Kathmandu, Thamel is claimed to be the tourists spot in all of Nepal. Not kidding, all surrounding the city I would see variety of American and European foreigners at every shop. Thamel is quite a lit area, as it was filled with lots of souvenir shops, mini markets, restaurants and bars. My friends and I stayed at Holy Lodge Hotel, right in the middle of colorful Nepal-uniques souvenir shops. As girls, we cannot deny that looking at how strategically located our hotel was, we were super excited to SHOP!
We were welcomed by the friendly hotel staff named Madhukar (who have previously emailed us back and forth). The hotel provided us with welcome drinks, the infamous Chai Milk Tea! It was delicious! After completing our check in and payment (we paid in USD cash), we decided to explore the hotel a little bit. The hotel, as in many Nepal and Indian hotels, was equipped with a outdoor rooftop garden where you can spend time sitting, enjoying your morning coffee while looking out down the street. Lucky for us, we also had a chance to enjoy the lovely outdoor garden at the top of our hotel. It was really nice!
We had to postponed shopping that day when we arrived, because we wanted to explore the city first. After checking into the hotel, lucky for us, Madhukar told us that that day (4 Sept) was Teej Festival. A Nepali monsoon festival for the Hindu ladies. They feast well the night before and fast from morning until night that day. They go to the temple to pray, give blessings and dance the day away. A very special day to respect all Hindu women here in Nepal. We were wondering why the whole way down from Nagarkot we saw a lot of women wearing red sarees. It turns out, for this festival, married women have to wear the color red, and single ladies were to wear other colors. There were lots of dancing and food stalls around the city while this was happening.
To see this up close, Madhukar adviced us to go to Pasupathinath Temple, that is the biggest Hindu Temple in Kathmandu. He was right. The road was flooded by women! The taxi that bought us there had to stop further from the crowd and we had to walk all the way to the temple. Except we couldn’t see the temple at all. The road leading to the temple was filled with women lined up to the gates of the temple. And unlucky for us, tourists were not allowed in because of the ceremony. We even didn’t know where the line started or ended, but walked along the loong line and found a crowd dancing, praying and street food-quenching. It was a magical view.
After we gave up finding the end of the line, we decided to move on to another place to visit. The infamous Boudanath Stupa! We took another cab there. Taxis in Nepal were inexpensive. If you travel with friends, you wouldn’t mind paying the shared cost to save your energy (and healthier option because of the less pollution). Riding taxis in Kathmandu often need to haggle, but most drivers are not stubborn and forceful, so often you can get a fair rate to your destination.
Boudanath Stupa was something else. It was the must-visit destination in Nepal. We came to visit while it was under construction after the earthquake, but we can still see how majestic it would have been. Surrounding the area, there was a lot of (again) souvenirs shops. But the most interesting thing I saw surrounding the area was monks, men and women praying and prayer activities that was foreign to me. It felt surreal. One woman was praying and chanting around the outside of the stupa with prayer routine that was so different, I thought. She literally was throwing herself right on the ground, dragged her body and lift them up again while chanting. It was a rare sight.
There were some pigeons feeder outside the stupa, and we had so much fun taking photos in the flocks of pigeons.
It was an interesting entrance when we went to Boudanath. Initially, we saw a ticket booth and we had to pay an entrance fee. However that afternoon, we decided to have lunch first, at the restaurant right next to the entrance. The restaurant was 3 storeys high and had an outdoor area. We sat at the outdoor area, where we’d view the magnificent Stupa. We stayed a while to use the wifi, and finally paid.
Coming out of the restaurant, we decided come out the back, where it’s got a book store. And to our surprise, the alley way from the bookstore led us to the Boudanath Stupa area! There was no entrance gate or ticket booth. So we went in completely free!😂
After we were satisfied exploring Boudanath Stupa and bought some souvenirs there, we moved on to another spot, Durbar Square. We took another taxi again and stopped at the entrance. Durbar Square was very huge. It was a large space of temples of different kinds. With a surrounding colors of brown and black. When we got off the taxi and walking towards the entrance, some men approached us and told us to buy the tickets (probably cuz of my appearance and the fact that I had a camera dangling around my neck, we were definitely tourist-looking). It was 10 US dollars for each person they said, and even have a ticket as proof. But we didn’t believe it. After our surprise “FREE” encounter at Boudanath, we were convinced there were other ways to enter the square for free. As told by my friends who have previously went to Nepal, she sworn told me that any public space especially a Square in Nepal was free. So we ignored them and walked away to the sides of the square.
In between the side walls of the square, there were many small alleys (lorong/gang) that we thought would end up inside the Square. The first alley that we went in, came as a surprise for us too. In front of the alley there was a sign “Tailors” so we thought it would be actual tailors who make dresses and suits, but we were wrong. The alley was filled with people! Turns out there was a small restaurant and street food stalls! The street food in Nepal was something really different than what most of us would eat in Indonesia. Out of the four of us girls, only Viviea and I who were daring enough to try them. Viviea bought some random sweets in the restaurant, and I bought the street food that looked like some fried potato curry with sauce. I had no idea what it was called. The most interesting part was the bowl! It was made out of dried leaves kind of glued together? It was really funny looking!
Our mission still wasn’t complete: we wanted to go into the square for free. We walked to another alley which was filled with small shops selling clothes and souvenirs, the alley was long, so we were sure it will lead us to the Square. We guessed right. Only after 50meters in, we heard music and people dancing, and to our surprise, the famous large roof of Durbar Square was right above us! We laughed and laughed in the crowd feeling successful that once more, we didn’t have to waste our money that day.
Durbar Square that day was packed! Women, men, cows, walked and danced and prayed all over the place. Before we know it, we were in the middle of a large crowd of women dancing! We didn’t want to miss out on the experience, so we joined in, of course! We took photos, and bought some local-made souvenirs, helping the local women. After a few hours in, we started walking without a certain destination. All we know is that we need to get out of the square because it was going to get dark soon. Lots of people were also walking, we mostly just followed them. Hand in hand, four of us walked bumping into men and women all over us because it was so packed, felt like we just got out of a concert arena.
We finally found a taxi that want to take us back to our hotel, because according to our offline google map (we didn’t buy any internet mobile credit), we were quite far away from where we started and far away from our hotel.
That night, we stopped by KC’s Restaurant & Bakery in Thamel. I read some blogs and found that this place is totally recommended for affordable and yummy pastries. Due to our restless day, we decided to splurge away our dinner here. We ordered burger, steak, apple pie and fried rice. However the Coconut Donut was also well known here and just as good! We also looked at some souvenirs and outdoor travel shops all around Thamel area (there were so many!) and went back to the hotel to rest.
Garden of Dreams and Rickshaw
The next day, after having awesome breakfast at the hotel (more chai milk tea!), we continued our city exploration. This time we wanted to try a new transportation. We decided to use a rickshaw to the Garden of Dreams. It was so cool to try this cycle-based transportation. Unlike the becaks in Indonesia, rickshaw in Nepal was quite high and passengers sits at the back of the bicycle. We were able to bargain the price to take this rickshaw. Bumpy ride it was, but we finally arrived at the Garden of Dreams. Garden of Dreams was one of the prettiest place we found in Kathmandu. It was clean and managed nicely. As tourists, we had to pay Rps 200 for a good daily pass until however long you want to stay.
Walking back from the Garden of Dreams, we went to grab lunch at KFC (Nepali KFC has sure different menus!). Walking in Nepal kind of required you to wear a face mask, due to the pollution, but we had so much fun nonetheless. We stopped by a street vendor for a cheap ice cream and continued our way.
The last night we were there, we continued to explore Thamel and shops nearby our hotel. It was really triggering to get so many things! Talk about cashmere scarfs, colorful Nepali hoodies, pants, skirts and tops, accessories, all of them were so tempting!
We made sure to have one last bite of Coconut cream donut from KC’s and spend our last Nepali rupees pennies on water and snacks before we head out to India the next day. It was so hard to say good bye to Nepal, as we had so much great memories there. I am sure to come back and explore further parts of Nepal one day, to claim back my heart that I’ve left there ❤
Read Part 1 again here.
Nepal, 3 – 6 September 2016