Welp, here we go! Finally, I have the time to sit down and finish my tales from Nepal.
Tuesday and Wednesday I was completely on my own. I’m not going to lie and say I wasn’t nervous about wandering around on my own in a foreign country, but I was determined not to let my fears get the best of me. I decided to go with the flow my last two days, and just do whatever my heart desired.
Tuesday, after a delicious breakfast with Dil, I walked with him about 40 minutes into the heart of Kathmandu. Props to him, he makes the walk every day to and from work. Once we split, I headed to the main road that leads to Kathmandu Durbar Square. From the Thamel bus stop on Thamel Marg, it’s another 20 minute walk or so to get to the square, and the entire road is filled with shops. Colorful thangka paintings, jewelry, and handicrafts line the street and entice you to stop every 10 feet. If you’re looking for a souvenir in Nepal, this is the place to look!
It was still pretty early in the morning, so I was on a mission for coffee once I hit Durbar Square. I had seen on my map that there was a recommended coffee shop, Himalayan Java Coffee, so I stopped in! The coffee shop sits on the 2nd floor of an old building, right across from the old palace, so the view is pretty great. I stayed for about half an hour and watched everyone below getting their blankets and merchandise ready for the day.
Kathmandu Durbar Square is stunning, but sadly experienced a lot of damage from the earthquake in 2015. Everywhere I went in Nepal, you could see evidence of what happened and how they still haven’t recovered fully from it.
One of my favorite sights was Kala Bhairava Shrine. The shrine is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali:
“Kali is the Goddess of Destruction and Dissolution in Hinduism, and she is one of the most popular goddesses in India. Kali is known for destroying ignorance, and she helps those who strive for knowledge of God. Her name means “The Black One” and the city of Calcutta is named in her honor.”
You can learn more about Kali here.
There were people praying, so I stood and admired their rituals. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching people practice their religions here, it’s quite beautiful! I saw the cutest little girl go through the motions of her prayer, and then ring the bells before walking off. S’cute.
Also, side note to anyone wanting to visit Kathmandu Durbar Square: You have to pay to enter (if I remember correctly it was less than $3 USD). Unless you’re me and walk past the ticket box and then ignore people saying hello to you. I didn’t realize I had to pay, so I just waltzed right in. Walking through to backtrack and leave, I was stopped at the other ticket box and felt really bad for not paying. Oops. Don’t be like me, kids.
After Durbar Square, I headed back up the winding streets to find something for lunch. I found a Korean restaurant tucked away and internally jumped for joy at the thought of kimchi. I ended up staying at the restaurant for close to 2 hours using their wifi. The food was delicious and cheap, but holy moly the kimchi was SO spicy! It was good though, and I ate most of it anyway. Living in India has definitely helped me to handle spices better!
After lunch I walked a few streets over to the Garden of Dreams, a huge garden tucked away in the middle of Kathmandu. You can’t see it from the outside, because walls, but it’s a beautiful space to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. I think it was 200 NPR ($2) to enter, and then you could also buy wifi if your little heart so desired.
I love gardens, and I really love taking photos of plants. So I did that. Like, for a long time. I have way too many pictures of flowers on my hard drive now.
I definitely considered finding myself a comfy place for a nap, but I was getting bit by mosquitos, so I said namaste to the garden and started on my trek back home, where I chilled for the remainder of the afternoon.
Wednesday was my last full day in Nepal, and I decided to make it a relaxing day. I walked back to Thamel Marg for a mid day traditional Nepali massage appointment at Mandala Studio Yoga and Spa. According to the internet, typical Nepali massage is the golden way to attain longevity using special techniques that aim at lessening bone & lower back pain. Ooooh, aaaah, so relaxing!
Afterward, I had a light lunch at a super chill restaurant and hung out for a couple hours using the wifi (always take advantage of the wifi, people). I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for the rest of the day. I was almost out of money, so my options were limited. Ultimately, I decided to find myself a souvenir, because all I had bought so far was a Nepal sticker. I wanted a thangka painting in Dharamsala, but never could commit, so I decided to try and find one here that I liked. The great thing about handicrafts/art is that there is no shortage of them in places like Nepal and India. If you see something you like, but the owner isn’t willing to barter, you can find virtually the same thing right down the street. Also, pro tip: get off of the main streets. When I visit the shops in the side alleys, I have way better luck getting a good deal.
I saw a thangka shop down a small alleyway so I headed in. I was the only person in the shop, so the artist walked with me, showing me all the pieces. When I said I liked something, or wanted something similar, he dug through his endless collection and showed me each piece individually until we found the one. It was so beautiful, and I almost cried because I finally found this one thing that I loved that perfectly summed up my time in Asia every time I looked at it, but it was quite a bit over my budget. It’s no secret that many shops will try to overprice to tourists, but I do like to keep it fair trade. The money I had left, I felt was not enough for the painting, but I went out on a limb and told him that that was all I had. He sat for a moment, and finally after a few awkward seconds, he accepted my offer. Not only that, but he walked into a back room, and came back with a second painting that we was going to throw in for free. He said he could tell I really liked it and wanted me to have it. So, I’m now the owner of two amazing paintings, thanks man.
It looked like quite a lot of rain was rolling in, so I decided to end my day there since I had close to an hour of walking to do to get home. It never poured, but in true monsoon season, my walk back consisted of random rain showers and walking through flooding, muddy roads. I also made a friend, a little girl who was walking home from school. We walked about 20 minutes together, chatting about music and movies, until we had to go our separate ways.
Nepal was an incredible experience. Being my first solo trip, I had a lot of hesitations. I know people worry about safety, but I cannot stress how completely safe I felt there. My biggest fear every day was simply getting lost, but thanks to Google Maps, getting around was easier than ever. When I was confused, people were more than happy to help. Much like India, I couldn’t believe the hospitality of the people there. Like, crashing the party on our first day there…that would never happen in America. Not only did we crash the party, but we were taken on stage, and given food and beverage. Whaaat. Nepal, you are a cool place.
Sadly, while I was in Nepal, the country (along with India and Bangladesh) was being ravaged by some of the worst flooding they had seen in years. Thankfully it never hit my area too hard while I was there, so I was fine, but millions of people have lost their homes. It is estimated that 31 million people in India alone have been affected by the flooding, losing their homes, cattle and livelihood. During my time in India we did witness some small landslides in our area. The day after I left I read of a huge landslide that killed 46 people in Himachal as a result of the monsoons. All of this being said, please consider donating to causes that will help the people of South Asia. They have suffered huge losses, and the damage will affect them for many years. This is going to have a huge impact on food production and access to clean water (which was already limited).