There had been a religious festival recently and so many of the decorations were still up- multicoloured flags and garlands of marigolds threaded onto string, decorating doorways.
It's always strange to see familiar brands in foreign places, especially when the characters in the adverts look so different to the western ones- I loved the ladies in the Coca Cola ads!
When we arrived at the British Embassy, there was instantly evidence of some of the cultural differences we could expect:
Our rescuers could only drive us a certain way as they had to get back to town with their strawberries, so from where they dropped us we had to trek the last bit of mountain, loaded with luggage, in pitch darkness! Luckily the moon was out and their were even glow-worms along the road.
The lodge was nestled next to a tiny village which was probably my favourite part of the whole trip- the colourful houses were so beautiful and it was great to see the way the locals lived, with their cows and chickens in their yards and little shops in their living rooms to sell tea and other basics to travellers. They were very friendly and welcoming and fascinated by the twins who are blonde and gorgeous- I seem to only have got a good picture of Girl Twin, Emily; here she is with my other half!
Back in Kathmandu there was some sort of strike on associated with the forthcoming elections, so many tourists had been advised to stay in their hotels in case of violence. We were told that it should be fine as long as we stayed away from any crowds, so we set off into town, roughly following the walk in The Lonely Planet guide book. This actually turned out to be really good timing, as it meant that due to the strike, most of the shops and vendors were closed and there were virtually no tourists around so we got to explore in peace.
Generally I don't like trying to follow set walks, but the city is so full of incredible stuff that's hidden around every corner, I didn't want to miss anything given that we were on a flying visit and so didn't have time to explore slowly. Here's a great example- the little door in the wall above led through to a square being used as a motorcycle parking lot- but if you look up there were ancient balconies with the most intricate wooden carvings.
I'd also have liked to buy some of the pots, but again, not great for travelling with!
We did, however, buy one of the national 'Tiger Moving Game' boards with little, carved brass tigers and goats.
Kumari Devi- we weren't there at the right time of day to do so, but we saw some of the beautiful paintings of her, like the one above.
One evening we went to the really beautiful Baber Mahal Revisited, a group of shops and restaurants in the converted courtyards and cow sheds of the old palace. I bought some handmade playing cards for my brother from Paper Moon.
We ate in Baithak restaurant which was full of gorgeous black and white photos and portraits of old Rana maharajas.
The view from the top was fantastic, and the monkeys were charming, but we had mixed feelings about this place, as well as Kathmandu as a whole. It's a steep climb up to the top via a long staircase, and there you're cornered by a lot of beggars, including small children and mothers, as well as sellers who can be quite pushy. It's hard to avoid feeling a lot of 'white guilt' especially when you see all the western tourists around and realise how rich we must seem to the locals. But the way they're trying to make money from tourists doesn't feel very sustainable- taxi drivers tried to rip us off a few times (we'd been told by our hosts what it was reasonable to charge) and even though the amount they're asking for only equates to a few pounds, it gets depressing constantly being asked for more than something should cost and having to haggle it down. Similarly, we weren't really into all the touristy tat that they were trying to sell at the top of Swayambhunath- stalls and stalls all selling virtually identical stuff.
The one refuge we found from the pollution in town was The Garden of Dreams, a stunning neoclassical garden which has a great restaurant and little luxuries like wifi, which make it the perfect place to go and relax or do some work.
here, but sadly I can't find any of the exhibition photos online.
And that was really all we had time for- we only stayed for a week so I think we managed to fit quite a lot in. If I went back for longer I'd definitely want to spend more time exploring places outside Kathmandu like the hillside village we went to. The city is fascinating, but not somewhere I really felt comfortable as a tourist- which is perhaps just because it was my first time visiting that part of the world. I'm so glad we did though, as it was unlike anything I've experienced in the western world.
I'd love to hear about any of your travelling experiences in the region- as always, do please leave comments or links to your blog posts below.