All good things...
24 Nov 2004
|Monday: On the plus side, at last my youngest has written (six lines this time) reassuring me that all is well. On the down side it is too late for me to change my plans again, and anyway I am thinking homewards now. So the white-water rafting on Level IV rapids, Buddha's birthplace and running away from enraged and short-sighted rhinos will have to wait.
Also, I am not very well again this morning, so spent the mornng sufferng in my room except for a brief excursion to pay for my flight, which has been confirmed. So I fly from here late Weds evening, arrive Heathrow early Thursday morning, probably in a state of exhaustion and culture shock.
Couldn't stay in all day, despite the pain, not with Khatmandu all around me. So I got a taxi to Pashupatinath, the main Hindu Temple in Nepal. Non-Hindus are not allowed inside, though I did go in by accident before being thrown out, hence the pic of the golden bull. There was some kind of festival on, and there were a lot of people there, mostly women dressed in shades of red. Very noisy, chaotic and colourful.
The other reason to go there is for the funeral ghats, i.e. places by the riverbanks where dead bodies are burnt before the remains are dumped in the river. This was very interesting to see, though not very conducive to pictures, or at least not tastefully. The Bagmati River was small, shallow and extremely filthy though, and I couldn't help notice the bloke whose job it was to stand in the river and poke all the bits along downstream. Fascinating stuff though, the cremation often happens within hours of death, and royalty get to burn right in front of the temple. Interestingly, there were hundreds of Nepalis watching, only a handful of tourists, and it was the former who tended to have scarves wrapped round their noses.
And then I walked amongst a number of other Hindu temples, keeping a wary out for the ubiquitous monkies (hundreds of them, and I do not trust them, just prehensile rats as far as I'm concerned) and then I walked across country to Bodhnath, a very big Buddhist Stupa, which was fun. Bodhnath was OK, but bigged up in Lonely Planet as one of the few places left where you could see Tibetan culture still alive. This was not in fact the case, it was a hundred times quieter and less atmospheric and less Tibetan than anywhere in Tibet.
And then a tiny local minibus back here for about fourpence, and another walk around the fabulously medieval and atmospheric maze of streets and alleys in the old city. Western food I think tonight though, unfortunately.
Tuesday: Still not feeling too good, the Western diet is helping, but not a cure, and a real shame with all this lovely Indian food around (Indian stuff nicer than the Nepali stuff). Distressingly - and surprisingly - it has also been raining all day, I almost feel at home already. As a result, I shelved my original Bhaktapur plans and wandered around Durbar Square; shopping for me, and falling in bottomless puddles, of which there are many as the roads are so crap. I also finally got my plane ticket - complete with about six different types of tax added - so I should be at Heathrow 7 am Thursday, unless Texan Fundementalists hijack us and crash the plane into Mecca, in which case see you in paradise.
Wednesday: Feeling a bit less fragile today, so Bhaktapur plans back on for my last day. I was suprised to wake up this morning really excited about going home. Very gratifying really, looking forward to seeing loved ones and friends.
As I walked through the old town to the Bus Station I realised how much I love Nepal and Khatmandu. Normally I am happy to think about the next country to go, but I really want to spend more time here again. Tibet was the most amazing place I've been, China had stunning countryside, and the minorities were nice people, but the Han majority were hard work. But Nepal is just such a nice place to be.
So off to explore Bhaktapur, even more atmospheric and medieval than old Khatmandu, though considerably less crowded. And who should I bump intio in Durbar Square there but Jochen. He was in Pokhara just after me but got stranded there by a general strike which I was not even aware of. The Maoist rebels took over all the roads between Pokhara and Khatmandu so there was no travel.
Bhaktapur was great, though very expensive (equivalent to paying over a hundred quid to look at Bath). However, it was very beautiful, great wood-carving, and had a real timeless feel to it, and was a nice way to spend most of my last day. I also reralised that a lot of what I thought were demons are just a particularly demonic manifestation of Shiva, called Bairab, and this is the one usually having sex with Parvati, Shiva's consort. And there were some particularly explicit pictures of this in the museum as well as racy carvings of group-sex on the temples. And I felt well enough for a buff (water-buffalo) curry. And I just checked on the web and Alien versus Predator should be on on the plane with any luck. Cool.