Day #36: Welcome Nepal
We flew in from Leh with a layover of 5 hours in Delhi. The airport in Kathmandu seemed rather chaotic to us. It was 10 in the evening and the airport was packed! It took us nearly 2 hours to get our visa, sim card and a taxi to our hotel. Nevertheless, we were happy to see so many backpackers. Even after 1 month in India we hadn’t seen as many backpackers as in that evening. We could sense it was beginning of high season in Nepal and that for some reason this country was more appealing to Western tourists than India.
We stayed at a cosy hotel called Newa Home that an Indian couple had just launched 8 months ago. We were warmly welcomed with tea and yoghurt and went to our room to rest. We were very excited to have our friends Mariana and Tiago arriving from London on the next day. They would join us for 10 days and we would finally have the chance to socialize and share our adventures with our friends. Plus, they came bearing some much needed dark chocolate :)
Mariana and Tiago arrived around 3pm the next day so we decided to visit the Monkey Temple, go for a walk around Thamel and treat ourselves to a good dinner. It felt great having friends over and getting out of "the bubble” me and Antonio had been in these last weeks.
On the next day, we took a car to go visit the Kopan monastery, the Boudhanath Stupa and spent the afternoon in Bhaktapur which was once the capital of Nepal. The city of Bhaktapur is full of temples, all types of craft work and medieval architecture with beautiful houses decorated with wood-carved reliefs of gods and symbols. In fact, its name translate to “city of Devotees” in Nepali and despite the impact of the earthquake in 2015, the city is still very well preserved. Each shop was more appealing than the other but we found that Nepalese paintings were the most beautiful cultural handicrafts. Mariana & Tiago bought a stunning chakra painting while we hesitated for a long time whether to buy one about the subtle system in Sahaja Yoga. We ended our day at a recommended restaurant in Kathmandu called Utse. It is so popular that we had to make a reservation the day before. It serves typical Tibetan food and we shared a “gyakok”, a hotpot that comes with a mix of meats, veggies, rice noodles, tofu and egg served with chowmein and rice. It was delicious, really tasty and satisfying!
We used the morning of our last day to go and visit the city center of Kathmandu, in particular the Kumari Ghar. The Kumari Ghar is a richly carved building that is mostly known for being the house of the living goddess of Kathmandu. I had never heard of this cult of the Kumari and was fascinated to learn more about this shared religious tradition between Hindus and Nepalese Buddhists. The Kumari is a young girl who is believed to be the incarnation of the demon-slaying Hindu goddess Durga. There is more than 1 Kumari across Nepal but Kathmandu’s is the most important. The selection process to finding the Kumari is similar to that of the Tibetan lamas, who are believed to be reincarnations of their predecessors. In fact, a Kumari is chosen from girls aged three to five if she owns the necessary characteristics of divinity and passes a few tests such as not being afraid to be in a darkened room with freshly severed buffalo heads and dancing men wearing demon masks. Once discovered, the Kumari gets to live in this house where she will stay until she menstruates or bleeds for any other reason as this will simbolizes the end of her divine status and hence, the search for her replacement begins. I found this cult very peculiar but especially very tough on whatever girl is chosen as her feet never get to touch the ground while she is a Kumari.
After this odd cultural learning we were ready to leave Kathmandu to go to Chitwan National Park. We packed our bags but were sad to leave behind the little puppy we befriended near the hotel. Me and Antonio seriously considered adopting him for the rest of our trip but felt it would be complicated especially crossing borders.