Many people tend to pass through such dense cities. Indeed, Kathmandu is the gateway to the outdoor adventures that are so prominent in this country. Though overwhelming, I love seeing the organized chaos of cities like Kathmandu.
Kathmandu valley consists of the city as well as 4 other towns. My friend Amanda suggested we head to Patan in Lalitpur. After a hectic airport experience, that’s where I managed to find our hotel approximately 1 hour of sitting in traffic later. Just like it’s neighbor Kathmandu, Patan is dense, dusty, smog filled, and chaotic. And I was immediately charmed by it. It was a conformable chaos, one in which I didn’t feel like I stuck out like soar thumb (unlike my travels through India). And that comfort was what kick started my love for Nepal. I’d never felt so at ease in such a foreign land.
I found the streets to be clean, even though the 2015 earthquake destruction and rebuilding is still very prevalent. I am not a religious person, but I loved witnessing how steeped in religion the people are here. Their practice was daily and ongoing. Catching moments of this quiet devotion was really beautiful. Whether it’s people stopping by the many temples, stupas, or shrines on their way to work (found on every block), or just the touching of a small carving of Buddha in passing, the ringing of a bell, or spinning the prayer wheels as they walked past them, or hanging a delicate flower garden on a doorway or shrine.. Little moments that were meant for no one but themselves.
Amanda and I met that evening, nearly for the first time! The universe presented me an ideal travel buddy! Though we had never spent more than 10 minutes together, we fell into the ease of traveling together quickly. We spent 2 days exploring Patan and the temples. As well as visiting the Boudha Stupa, one of the largest spherical stupas in Nepal and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and really a breathtaking site.
Unlike Kathmandu, the nights in Patan are so quiet, I was certain I would hear it if a pin dropped a block away. Amazing how such a hectic city could fall completely silent at night. While jet lag is a miserable thing to get over, I very much enjoyed hearing the transition from night to morning while laying sleepless in bed. First, the dogs begin barking, usually some time after 4am. At 5:30 sharp the birds begin to wake and sing. 15 minutes later, maybe the clatter from a kitchen, or the sounds of sweeping in the courtyard. And then slowly the sounds of traffic, honking, and kids going to school began to build. It got to the point where I didn’t even need to look at the time in the morning, I knew by the sounds.
Always walk to the left
of prayer wheels and stupas, a sign of respect in the Buddhist tradition. By walking clockwise around a stupa, it reminds us to keep Buddha's teaching in the center of our lives.
After 2 days in Patan (too short!), we headed up to the Shivapuri Heights Cottage in the foothills of the Shivapuri national park. After a very silly misstep taking a photo, and falling into a very deep ditch (my 10 kg duffle on my back, and my 5 kg daypack on my front cushioned some very jagged rocks from potentially horrible injury), we arrived at the gate with only one swollen knee and a soar bump on the head. It could have been much worse, and I’m sure was very traumatizing for Amanda and the goats that were on the hillside to witness. I was just grateful that when I landed, I didn’t keep rolling off a cliff.
The next 3 days were spent doing morning yoga, relaxing, reading, and a day hike through the National Forest. We came across a group of women dancing in a field, who we stopped to watch, and who upon seeing us, invited us to join them!
By this time, I was head over heels with Nepal and the sweet people in it. On the 6th day, we headed to Thamel, the backpacker neighborhood in Kathmandu to meet up with the ladies of WHOA and to get ready for our trek to Everest Base Camp! More on that next!