Monday, 2 April 2012

March 27- April 2 (Thamel and some Durbar Squares!)

So, it's been two days since I got back from the Vipassana retreat and at this point I am alone in Kathmandu and basically spending my days eating and napping (I mean this is the most excited way possible, it is such a blessing to be able to do nothing. When I was in Pokhara I remember a fellow traveler saying to me "always remember how lucky you are, most people will never get the chance in their life to do nothing."). Mom emailed me to let me know that my Visa company thinks my card might have been compromised and that I have to call them (the only thing worse than waiting on hold for your bank is having to pay for every minute you're on hold). In any case, we discover that yes, someone has made a purchase of a whopping $1.00, and that it wasn't me. Card canceled! Not to worry though, my bank assures me that they can mail me a new card to my home address (ever helpful, lol). So I sit down, observe the sensation of descending panic (lol), and decide that I really don't need my Visa anyway. My Mom has been so kind as to book my hostels for Jordan using her credit card, and I do have a backup visa (that I will now only use to book a direct flight home, if it comes to that). Over the course of these three days I also manage to get my flydubai crisis sorted out, and I am rebooked to fly out of Kathmandu on May 1rst, complete with 23 hour layover in Dubai! (which I keep saying will give me time to try all the Baskin Robbins flavours in the airport). I tried to book a visa for Dubai, so I could leave the airport, but they rejected me (apparently Dubai has started a recent hate-on against all Canadians that are not businessmen? Who knows, whatever, they're not invited to my Birthday party).

The next few days are a bit of a blur, suddenly everyone seems to be in Kathmandu and I'm spending most of my days in White House Kitchen, Thakali Kitchen or OR2K having breakfast/lunch/dinner with friends. I am convinced that OR2K is the hub of Thamel, I run in to so many people there (OR2K is this great Israeli vegetarian restaurant).

On March 29th I decide to do something with my life... so I go to see a movie! During one of my visits to the flydubai office, Takendra (my bff there) tells me I should go to the Civil Mall to see Hunger Games, the only English movie playing there at the moment. And so here I am, in a VERY Western-looking mall, and I've paid 190 NPR for my ticket, 55 NPR for a medium popcorn and 70 NPR for my Fanta (that's $3.91 CAD). Ballin! And what's that, there's an intermission for me to go pee and get more popcorn? Even better! So yes, excellent movie experience in Kathmandu, I'll be back (by the way, for those of you wondering, the Second Second Assistant Director was John Nasraway... of course I stayed!). On the way back I take a detour to a cheap bookstore near the Central Immigration Office and pick up Eat Pray Love, The Alchemist, One Hundred and One Days and Outliers. I mean really, this day couldn't go better... but then it does. I go to the White House Kitchen for dinner and meet a guy named Walter. And what is Walter doing in Nepal? Building water sanitation systems. Bacteria chat ahoy! I also book a cheaper room down the street, buy some nice white T-shirts and a hot pink Pashmina. March 29th, raving success.

The next day I have breakfast at my now favourite place, Thakali Kitchen, where I get the Nepali set (all-you-can-eat rice, lentils, veg curry, spinach, spicy sides and curd; it's 130 NPR, which is $1.60 CAD). I so very much love dal bhat, I definitely picked the right country. I move down the street to Friendship Hostel, where I'm now paying 400 NPR/night ($4.90 CAD). After unpacking and doing some reading I head to OR2K for a salad (fresh greens with shredded beets, carrots, cucumber, radish and topped with cashews, peanuts and sesame seeds). Then I finally make it to the Garden of Dreams! The garden was built in the 1920s by Kaiser Shamser, because his palace needed a garden. For less than $2 you can spend all day in this green oasis, smack in the centre of Kathmandu. I sat here for awhile, feeling very much un-coupled (this is one of the few places in this city where you can openly cuddle/kiss/lie on top of each other, it is therefore more aptly named "Garden of Canoodling Couples"). It started to rain though, so I fled to the internet cafe, where I ran into a volunteer I met once in Pokhara, Jack. At first he doesn't recognize me with no hair (I love this, lol), and then we get chatting about his 52 hour flight back to New York in a week. "Yeah, I have a 23-hour layover in Dubai" I tell him. He asks me where I am flying to. Jordan. "Hey, I lived in Jordan for 5 months!" Of course you did. And of COURSE we need to meet tomorrow at OR2K so you can impart me with all your knowledge. March 30th, raving success! The next day I spend 5 hours with Jack and Nora in OR2K, and then buy the Jordan Lonely Planet guide that Jack finds for me in the bookstore across the street (I've only been trying to find one for the last 3 months). And then for some reason I decide to have a hot chocolate, chocolate covered strawberries, ice cream and 2 Snickers bars. And then I spend the most uncomfortable 2 hours in my room trying to will my stomach to digest all this crap, telling myself "how are those cravings going for you Vicki? Very Buddhist." Shut up brain. Still, March 31rst, raving success!

My next journal entry for April 1rst starts: "I achieved Enlightenment!" Happy April Fools (everyone knows it's impossible to do that with a candy store churning around in your large intestine, durr). Today I go to Patan with Nora and her friend Peter (from Ottawa!). Patan is a small city outside of Kathmandu, with one of the three Durbar Squares in Nepal (Durbar means "palace," so there are three Durbar Squares in Nepal that were built across from their respective palaces. Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur used to be kingdoms, not cities). The Patan Durbar Square was really beautiful, though it's so difficult to figure out which temple you are actually looking at! The first one we went in was covered in blood from a recent sacrifice. This leads me to ponder how barbaric Hinduism often seems to me, how time consuming and expensive it must be to appease these gods (and there are a lot of them!). Of course, I am so fortunate to be experiencing this new culture, but it's hard to remember that when you are overcome with the hot, wet, iron smell of blood. Oh my gosh, this is the worst introduction to Patan ever. Really, it's magnificent! After exploring the square we headed to Cafe Du Temple, a small rooftop cafe that overlooks Patan. This was really lovely :) The Patan Durbar Square is quite small, so it doesn't take long to wander through it, soon we were back in Kathmandu and I was in my guesthouse waging war with my large intestine (I'm betting it was the 200g of dried figs I ate...)

On April 2nd I made myself go somewhere new for breakfast, the Thamel Brasserie. The Thamel Bra?! No, apparently "Brasserie" is a French word for a nice restaurant? Anywhoodle, I had the Spanish omlette and banana porridge and delighted in the cheapness of this meal. And then, because the Universe was smiling on me, I actually caught Khalid on facebook! You don't realize, it's been so long since we chatted in real time. So that was an excellent start to the day! After lunch I went to the Durbar Square here in Kathmandu. I had been warned that it was not as nice as Patan, but I loved it! The steps to the Shiva temple by the entrance of the square are filled with Nepali women selling marigold necklaces that you can adorn the shrine statues with. Across from that there is a large carving of Kala (Black) Bhairab, an incarnation of Shiva (who likes to adorn himself with skulls and trample dead bodies). There is also a Seto (White) Bhairab, but his face is hidden behind a lattice fence, and the fence is only opened once a year. The Hanuman Dhoka (Hanuman museum) was gorgeous, filled with lots of intricate chowks (courtyards). Here I climbed nine stories and got a great view of Kathmandu as well! On the way out of the Hanuman Dhoka I spotted a carving of Vishnu as a man-lion, "disemboweling a demon" (so says the Lonely Planet guide). Again, can't we all just wear marigold necklaces and be friends? My favourite place in Kathmandu Durbar Square was the Kumari Bahal, House of the Living Goddess. Every few years in Nepal, a young girl (Kumari Devi) is selected as the reincarnation of the goddess Durga and lives in the Kumari Bahal until she reaches puberty (at which point she is given lots of money and becomes bad luck to marry). The Kumari Chowk, the inner courtyard, is absolutely gorgeous, every window and crevice has been intricately carved. I also happened to be in the square at the exact time and day that the chariot for the Seto Machhendranath festival was about to be launched into the streets! It's hard to describe this thing, so check out my pictures. With a blast of a cannon (that scared the crap out of me, and about a thousand pigeons), men begin pushing this chariot through the streets of Kathmandu (for the next four days? That's what I heard). After watching the chariot be launched, I was getting up to leave when I noticed that a small crowd was gathering around the Kumari Bahal. I joined the fray, and 30 minutes later they brought the Kumari Devi outside to carry to the Seto Machhendranath temple! It was really exciting, I suppose you don't get to see her all that often. I would have followed the procession, but I got distracted by a small sweets shop where I found burfi (these diamond shaped milk sweets I have been raving about since the Vipassana retreat where I got to try one). I bought a bunch and then sat on the temple steps and ate them (I shared the rest with the owner of The White Kitchen, and the young boys who live at my Guesthouse). I spent the evening on the rooftop terrace of this restaurant called Krua Thai, where I had Kloy Bouchee. Kloy Bouchee is banana rice pudding with coconut milk that tastes like heaven (and will probably send you there, given the fat content).

I'm about to meet up with Nora to go and see Mirror Mirror now at the cinema! Talk soon :)

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