Today we woke up in Bhaktapur rested and ready for more touring. First we ate a delicious breakfast of omelets and yogurt, then headed out to do some final shopping near the guest house. Around 9 a.m. the tour guide picked us up in the bus and we headed to Pashupatinah, the largest Shiva temple in Nepal. When we arrived, we were barraged by a multitude of vendors selling everything from golden plates to coconut violins to ceremonial dyes, all which were apparently hand made, though we tended to doubt this. As we walked towards the temple we saw a number of cremations along the banks of the sacred Bagmati river. Once the bodies were reduced to ashes, the familes would disperse the remains into the river amongst a large amount of floating garbage. We found it strange that a river with such spiritual significance could be so polluted. Further along the river we saw a collection of sadhus (wandering Hindu monks) sitting by small shrines to Shiva. They would allow you to take their picture, but expected a few rupees in return. We saw a large group of monkeys climbing on the shrines, and a man feeding them crackers. They would sheepishly grab the food from his hand, before scampering off to munch in privacy. As we returned to the bus we noticed a few of the monks sitting away from the public eye talking on their cell phones. Once we got close to the bus we were surrounded by more vendors who pursued with more ferocity than before. One particularly persistent man began trying to sell us a trinket for $50, but we managed to work him down to 500 rupees (about $6). As we all crowded onto the bus the vendors banged on the windows yelling final offers to us as we drove off. From there we made our way to the heavily guarded Royal Palace. We were separated into two lines and patted down before being granted entrance to the extensive grounds. We were immediately shocked by the immensity of the palace. Stuffed animals coated the fine floors and walls of the ostentatious palace where the royal family had been massacred by the crown prince in 2001. The building in which the family lay was leveled but the foundation remained with signage indicating where they had fallen. Many rooms inside the palace were used for seating and discussion, including books and portraits of the royal family. We were a bit surprised by some of the furniture choices, which seemed to come out of a U.S.S.R. catalog. As we left we walked through the gardens, which led us out of the grounds and back to our bus. From there we went to lunch at Killjoy's, where we ate momos and noodles. After lunch we headed to Tamely (the tourist district of Kathmandu), where we placed an order for our group t-shirts. While David and Craig talked to the shop keeper the rest of the group dispersed to do some more shopping. We bought cashmere scarves and wool shoes, as well as some tasty finger chips (French fries). After shopping we headed back to the Hotel Tibet from the first night and began preparing, both mentally and logistically, for our long trek. Once we were packed we marched through the rain to Fire and Ice, a delicious pizzeria. After eating we headed home and made the final preparations, and now were off to bed.
Walker and Thomas
We're here... I don't even know what time it is... but we're all on two legs. Coming from the Hyatt in Seoul, where efficiency, modern amenities, and breakfast buffets featuring eight courses for each breakfast item (eggs eight ways, toast eight ways, waffles eight ways, dim sum eight ways and so on....) are the norm... Kathmandu is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. We were processed through the Seoul airport in a grand total of about 10 minutes for the entire group... we arrived in Kathmandu after a seven-hour flight, took a 25-second bus ride around the corner of a building, exited, and then entered the line for immigration and our visas. We were in line for over 2 1/2 hours. Although hot, thirsty, and exhausted, our group maintained their perky spirit - we joked about doing a flash mob and maybe will consider doing this on our return venture.
We exited the airport to clean, if dusty, air and hundreds of people waiting outside in the parking lot. Many were day laborers looking to help us with our bags. All bags were loaded onto a bus and we piled in and went on a crazy ride through the streets, avoiding thousands of people on mopeds, bicycles, tricycles carrying construction equipment, with kids playing, chickens, goats, other tour buses, students in uniform, beggars, people coming home from work talking on cellphones, monkeys, and dogs.
Mellow night here... dinner, more cards... sleep