Anthony's Interesting Times 2004 travel blog

Crowded street, Patan, Khatmandu

Diwaali flowers on Patan street

Durbar Square. Patan

Durbar Square, Patan

Durbar Square, Patan

Kids and Sadhu, Durbar Square, Patan

Durbar Square, Khatmandu

Durbar Square

Detail in Durbar Square

Durbar Square

Dancing Nepalis

There are lots of soldiers with guns here, though so far little immediate evidence of terrorism, though a building was blown up in the city yesterday. Everyone seems fairly chilled about the rebels, though there is some problem with 'pretend' rebels, for example, a guy near here who was using his Maoist 'credentials' to abduct women and rape them. Both the Police and the Maoists are after him, and personally I hope the Maoists get him first, as they will no doubt make sure in a very direct, immediate and cheap way that he never does that again.

My first decent night's sleep for at least a week (though I still have a bad cold), and then off to keep up with the electronic world. This took four hours plus (!) but was considerably offset by the pleasure of having nice coffee for the first time since I left home. This pleasure was slightly offset though by the news that my wastrel of a younger son has upset my neighbours no end by partying every weekend night, and that (unconnectedly, and mistakenly) the Police broke my door down - more hassle to sort out when I get home.

A late lunch after my computer session, and then an enjoyable afternoon buying new books to read and little Xmas presents for Erica. Fatally nice place to shop this. And a nice curry and a bit of a drink with Jochen, Yumi and a Californian called Brad who has travelled similar route to myself. I promise to do more exciting stuff tomorrow!

An interesting little fact about Nepal for those of you who don't follow world events. About two years ago, the Crown Prince killed both his parents (king and queen), several other members of the royal family and himself - known round here as the Royal Massacre. I have spoken to people whio were here at the time, and the country was quite traumatised, imagine if Jug-Ears ran amok in Windsor how we might feel.

Friday: Maybe not 'exciting', but I really enjoyed today. Yumi had arranged to meet a Nepalese friend from Chicago who was over here, and he showed Yumi, Brad, Jochen and I around for the day. This was very easygoing day, and less of sights and more of Nepalese culture, people, etc. And it is nice to be somewhere where so many people understand English. I must admit I like it here a lot. It seems to have all India's good points (colour, interest, bustle, noise, crowds) and few of its bad points (relentless hassle, dirt, flies). Today is Diwaali (of 2061 in the Nepalese calendar) and everywhere there are garlands of marigolds and other flowers and coloured lights - it is great.

First we walked around Thamel a bit, and then a taxi to nearby Patan to explore the main(Durbar) Square there. First though we had a Nerali lunch in a place overlooking the Square. This was mostly greast, though there were some strange things in it. You can't eat cows here, but as water buffalo are unfortunate enough not to get official 'cow' status, some buff (as they call it here) curry was involved - very nice. The square was also very beautiful and photogenic.

Then a taxi again to Bhaktapur, near Khatmandu also. But it was 750 rupees (about six quid) to see the sights, so we wandered around the other parts of town instead, which was cool and interesting anyway, and then back to Khatmandu.

The city is amazing tonight, and all the more so as it is clearly done for the Nepalese and not the tourists. Everywhere there are candles, garlands of flowers, Xmas lights, incense, etc. Each shop has a litle mandala made of flower and wax outside with a trail leading into the shop to encourage the God (of wealth) to come in and be welcome. It looks great.

Brad, Yumi, Jochen and I walked all the way to Freak Street off Durbar Square so we could experince as much of the celebrations as we could, and as I said it was noisy, crowded, colourful and fabulous. Sanjeev warned us of an 8.30 curfew in the city outside the Thamel area where we are, but though it was very quiet when we walked back to Thamel about 10, there were no problems (though nine people killed today in fighting). I did find a tattoo place at last though, so check that out tomorrow if I can find it again.

And off to the first of a series of pubs. The main thing in the first was a brief visit by armed soldiers, first time I have seen that in a pub since I was in Jerusalem. And then another, quieter pub. Then Brad and Yumi went off to do their thing (a nice couple) and Jochen and I went to a club, which was good fun, and I even had a little dance. Leaving at 4, I found the gates to my hotel locked. Several minutes of practising destruction side kicks on the gates probably woke up everyone in Thamel but the hotel staff, so in the end I had to climb over the gates, which are rather big. Good job I was pissed.

Saturday: Late rising, feeeling fine after a hearty breakfast, and hotel staff very apologetic, though did try to get me to committ to a definite return time chance.

Wandered around in the afternoon absorbing the atmosphere, mostly around Durbar Square. One of the most interesting bits was actually seeing the Living Goddess Kumari. The Nepalese who saw her were very thrilled to be blessed by a sighting of a real live goddess. For reference, she is a young girl - perhaps eight - and is identified by a process that would get her put in care if it was the UK. And another fun bit was where all these Nepalis were having a little open air party with music and dancing, etc, really good to watch. I also bought a ticket out to Pokhara (jumping off point for the Annapurna Mountain range) tomorrow morning, though as it was only just over two pounds, if tonight is as much fun as last night, I can just miss the bus.

As it was, a relatively quiet evening, Jochen had a terrible hangover and like me was leaving early the next day. So the four of us had our last meal togerther, some drinks, and then went our seperate ways. I shall miss them, they have been great to hang out with, so now on my own again!

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