I hardly know a city whose name I find more beautiful and which is so difficult for me to access. Or rather, I now think: it’s zero fun to drive through by car, I don’t find anything to tempt me to get out and wander around. But there is still a lot of beauty and remarkable things to discover, none of which is obvious. And the blog title? There’s a song by the Pogues called “Sayonara”, and in it is the line “Put me on a breeze to Kathmandu” – and it kept running through my head on the flight there and here.
I arrived in Kathmandu in the afternoon, scurried through the airport and drove to my accommodation. Then I thought to myself: not so nice.
I live in the tourist district of Thamel, which is just quite convenient because everything is there. I don’t know if I didn’t notice it in 2010, but this time I found all the Chinese characters and words remarkable.
Right next to my accommodation, a huge Sheraton Hotel is being built, owned by MIT Group Holding Nepal, a subsidiary of a company in Australia. Because of earthquakes, it is a bit tricky to manage such a huge construction and they did not rely on the usual human power but on cranes from China.
It seemed to me that there were more fancy shops – but despite tourists and other people on the street, I had the impression that hardly anything was sold – in most shops only the shop assistants were squatting. During Corona, nothing was going on and they say that rent had to be paid, so you wonder how they survive.
Fortunately, there are still simple places to eat, for example.
I met my local agency colleague. He is new to me, but has already arranged something for my clients and they were thrilled. He also made a good impression on me and so I am in good spirits to hopefully arrange many trips to Nepal. We looked at 2 accommodations, both of which I find good.
And then he took me to Pashupatinath, which was different from what I imagined. Fortunately, much better. It is a huge temple complex that you are not allowed to enter as a Westerner, but you can stay and look from temples on the other side of the river. Besides the usual temple activities, bodies are cremated here and the ashes go into the Bagmati River, which flows into the Ganges. I knew cremations from Varanasi – but here it was much nicer. A very quiet peaceful atmosphere.
The corpses are tied/wrapped on these bamboo stretchers (it has to be this green bamboo) and then there are many ceremonies for the soul, which now separates from the body and is no longer allowed to cling, and the relatives also have to say goodbye. At least in the past it was said that women should not be there because they are too emotional – with a corpse it was different. The feet are dipped/sprinkled in the water again and then it’s off to the cremation.
I don’t know who all those people were and why they were sitting there watching. However, I could have spent a very long time there and pondered about life and death. At the end of the series and even before, there were unfortunately addicts to be seen. I know this more from Kathmandu than from Delhi.
There were also picturesque saddhus who wanted to be photographed for money (but I didn’t want that) and some other sightseers.
Pashupathinath is a Shiva temple and there are stories about it, which also belong to the stories from Uttarakhand. However, there are several stories or variants and I am a little confused at the moment as to how everything is really connected or which version I adhere to. Two more pictures of the temple, then I continued. It was Sunday and the colleague had promised the children to do something with them in the afternoon. And so we hurried on.
The next destination was the great stupa of Bodnath. Many refugee Tibetans have settled here and revived the centuries-old abandoned stupa. Here, too, it is very peaceful, people walk around the stupa, look into the shops, eat something, look into the monastery – and then there was also a big world peace puja. Here are the pictures:
I think that’s enough of a Kathmandu impression for now. In any case, there are many good things to see here behind the obvious. I’ll come back again, then I’ll continue with discoveries and reports. Now I’m off to Pokhara, to then hike around the Annapurna area.
On my arrival day there were big headlines for the tourism sector: from 1.4.23 on no tourist is allowed to walk on trekking trails without a guide. This already applies to many areas, but not to all. It is supposed to serve safety – or perhaps provide more income. But of course there are also problems: control, the lack of guides who are not really well trained, and voices that think this is too short-sighted in terms of tourism, as it deters solo trekkers who would otherwise have spent money in lodges, on food etc. An article on this is here.
For me as a tour operator it makes no difference, as my travellers always get a guide anyway. For me as a traveller it makes a difference – I would like to decide for myself which routes I can do well on my own and for which I would like to have a companion. And so I use March to walk around alone in the large Annapurna area with its many hiking possibilities – and for April I have to see anyway.