May 25, 2013: Durbar Square

The next morning I met the girls downstairs for breakfast. I was a little tired, but still felt good. "I might still be a little drunk," I admitted to a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Amanda. Amanda told me about a book of Everest stories where people experienced the supernatural in the extreme conditions. Now THERE'S an Everest book that would be fun to read. I asked her if she was familiar with Graham Hancock. She wasn't so I suggested his books on the supernatural and the pyramids.
Thamel Eco gets festive. Photo credit: Eleanor Tresidder

Thamel Eco gets festive.
Photo credit: Eleanor Tresidder

We watched the dozens of resident sparrows hop in and out of all the planters. It seemed that every plant in the yard was in a pot. Good thing for the monsoons because otherwise they would be a lot of work to water. Three men worked at hanging bright new prayer flags from the balconies to the stupa in the center of the garden in honor of Buddha.
Typical Kathmandu Street. Photo credit: Eleanor Tresidder

Typical Kathmandu street.
Photo credit: Eleanor Tresidder

In the lobby we met our guide for Durbar Square, who was smartly dressed and possibly the most considerate person I'd ever met. After three weeks of trekking through the Himalayas and wandering the streets of Kathmandu we were quite impressed that a person would tell us to "watch your step" whenever we encountered a mere turd in the street. We followed him through the city on what was already a very warm morning. Hangover symptoms began to kick in as the temperature rose. Ele looked like she was feeling it too. What time did we get in last night? 3 am? Amanda, who got sleep, was chipper as ever. "Cheater!" I teased her.
Farmers' Market

Farmers' Market.
Photo credit: Amanda Tutton

We walked through a farmers' market. Our guide said this was the primary place where everybody in the entire city would come to get food. "We have markets that are closer to home," he explained, "but they don't always carry the variety that this one does."
Cows in the street

Cows in the street.
Photo credit: Amanda Tutton

Before long we were out of the Thamel District "tourist tunnel" and into the real Kathmandu. Cows wandered the street, masses of tangled wire dangled from ancient buildings, people tried to sell whatever they could from blankets spread on the street for maybe a few rupees a day. Cars and motorcycles squeezed by, horns blaring. Once at Durbar Square we waited outside a chain barrier while our guide took care of the entry fee.
Photo credit: Eleanor Tresidder

Photo credit: Eleanor Tresidder

The first monument we saw remained my favorite, for the childlike imaginative quality it possessed. It was a small, ancient shrine partially consumed by the roots of an ancient tree. I tried to imagine how the valley might have looked when the structure was first built. Even today it was still being used, as devotees kneeled in front, busily preparing colorful food offerings. There were so many temples and monuments, both Hindu and Buddhist, that it was almost overwhelming. I alternated between utter fascination and despair at the way they were, or more accurately were not, being preserved. Our guide knew all of them and talked about them in detail. In front of one he told us how the Kama Sutra evolved to coax the otherwise shy populace into having more kids. Government and religion were one and those in control believed that a greater population meant a stronger country. Erotic images found their way into the temple as a sacred act of creation.
Durbar Square was full of pigeons and cows, sentient being fed as a form of worship. Photo credit: Zebulun Pawledge

Durbar Square was full of pigeons and cows, sentient being fed as a form of worship.
Photo credit: Zebulun Pawledge

We walked into another temple with a wall of photos showing the most recent monarchs. We'd heard the story of the end of the monarchy in bits and pieces since our first tour of the Monkey Temple. In here we were able to put faces to the tragedy. Our guide told the story again, and emphasized that we cannot really know for certain what actually happened, because nearly everyone was killed and conspiracy theories abound. In short, one of the princes was in love with a woman, and became very angry when his parents the king and queen forbade him to pursue her for political reasons. One night he had been drinking heavily and got in an argument with his father. He stormed away from where the entire royal family was having dinner and returned with a gun (or guns), massacred his entire family, and eventually shot himself. Ten people were killed, four injured. A surviving uncle ascended the throne, until the monarchy was dissolved in favor of a republic in 2008. Nepal had been without a stable government since then.
Photo credit: Zebulun Pawledge

Photo credit: Zebulun Pawledge

Another highlight of our tour was a stop to see the princess Kumari, considered to be a living goddess. She appeared briefly in a window just after we arrived, only to be whisked away by her attendants. Our guide told us this was probably because someone tried to take a picture, which was not permitted. We walked up and down Freak Street, once a hippie hot spot, now the same as any other street. Amanda with all her extra energy went to explore more temples. Ele and I took a potty break and waited for her in the shade of a building, trying not to melt. Some men walked up and wanted to talk. All we wanted to do was sleep. They tried to tell us there was a party going on at the Monkey Temple. (Been there, done that.) Fortunately Amanda returned shortly and we were on our way without having to fend off any more unwanted chit-chat. Once back at the hotel, we ordered lunch. Soup and salad was about all I'd be able to handle in the heat, so I asked for a Greek salad and some hot and sour soup. Normally two of my favorite things. The salad was divine, the hot and sour soup was so spicy I coughed and my eyes watered when I tried to eat it. I'm a person who will put a slice of jalapeno on every nacho chip I eat and think nothing of it. That soup was HOT (piro). DK sat down with us for a minute looking like I felt. He suggested we might have time to do a cooking class later. At the moment all I wanted to do was sleep, but said a cooking class would be worth staying awake for. He left to go back to bed. "Ugh, I'm so jealous," I said as he walked off. Finishing the soup was starting to feel like work. We finished our food, made plans to meet up later, and I went upstairs and collapsed on top of my bed (it was still effing hot in that room) for a blissful 3 hour nap. Later I met the girls for dinner. (The cooking class was not to be, but later I found this blog post from another trekker who had managed to fit one in.) We walked through the streets of Kathmandu and tried to remember how to make decisions on our own. We chose a restaurant with a New Orleans theme for dinner, mostly because it was the first place we found. I looked at the menu and ordered a small salad, a vegetable dish and a Bloody Mary. "This is a small?" I said incredulously when the food arrived. What, am I back in the States already? Both dishes were enormous. I knew immediately I wouldn't be able to finish it but vowed to do my best. I nearly choked when I tried the drink. It was just Tabasco and ice. What was with all the extra spice today? A sparkling clean baby-faced kid showed up and sat down. "Who are you?" I asked. "I'm still trying to figure that out," DK said. Touché. "Hmm, yeah I vaguely remember you as the guy we started the tour with." "Hey, Tiff, do you know anything about cameras?" he said, changing the subject. DK pulled out an actual SLR. "Not really." Why, do I sound like I do? (Clueless, 1995) Ele did, and immediately they began playing around with it, resulting in some really cool photos. "Hey, share those, will you?" I said. Before heading back to Phat Kath for dessert, DK took a sip of my mostly untouched Bloody Mary and made a face that plainly said "Oh hell no." Yep, exactly what I thought when I tried to drink it. Downstairs below the Phat Kath was a menu for crepes. I ordered an ice cream crepe, picturing a crepe with a nice cold scoop of ice cream on top. We went upstairs and sat in the cozy little nest under the live grapefruit tree. The crepes arrived and the ice cream turned out to be wrapped inside, completely warm and melted. Oh well, it still tasted good. DK challenged me to a game of backgammon. I'd never played and my brain was moving way to slow to count the little triangles on the board fast enough to make it interesting. I enlisted the help of the girls to help me count, and also to include them in our activity. Poor DK had lost all patience by the time I lost spectacularly. Apparently I wasn't the great and worthy opponent (Hook, 1991) he'd been hoping for. "You should try it again when you're not so tired," he said. Yeah, I'll get right on that. I was still on vacation and anything involving counting wasn't exactly high on my list of priorities. The moon rose and Amanda made a comment about it. "Super moon tonight," I said. There would be multiple this year, and having a nearly full super moon on Buddha's birthday made it seem that much more special. The conversation turned to dating. Ele and Amanda seemed to think that it was hard to meet men in New Zealand. I couldn't argue, since the only Kiwi male I met in my two weeks there was our guide Ben. At the time Ben told me all the Kiwis were in Canada. I didn't meet any in Canada either, it took a trip to Nepal to meet one more. They're about as elusive as their namesake birds. The girls said that in New Zealand people don't really "date" or have dating sites like we do in the states. "Maybe you should start one," I said. "The list of couples I know who met online grows by the day." "Yeah, I see a lot of them too," said DK, meaning guests on his trips. We joked that in Nepal the site would be called "Many Shoes" instead of "Plenty of Fish." "I don't know that you really need it," I said. "All my past relationships started organically. The last one I met in a dog park and I didn't even have a dog. You just never know." "True," said Amanda. "You could end up talking to your future husband on a bus." "I met a girl on a bus once," said DK, and he told his story of a "chance" meeting with a Polish babe that ended up hot and heavy. "It was awesome!" he finished with a laugh that was dangerously close to a giggle. "You're the guy on the bus!!" quipped Amanda. Awesome, couldn't have said it better myself. Not long after she turned in for the night early. DK told a story of a fun party that got started in a bathroom when the weather got bad wherever they were. "What's the weirdest place you've ever partied?" he asked. I didn't answer but thought back... boats, busses, houses, apartments, bars, pubs, clubs, offices, streets, lakes, rivers, beaches, deserts, mountains, football fields, Disneyland, a set in Hollywood... Lukla... frankly, it would be hard to top Kathmandu and the Monkey Temple on Buddha's birthday. "What time do you leave tomorrow?" asked Ele. "10:30," I said. "I scheduled you a cab," said DK. I looked at him with so much affection in that moment. What a considerate thing to do. The man had done so many kind little things for us that he didn't have to do on this trip. I had "find a way to the airport" on my mental "to do" list for the next morning and was so relieved to be able to check it off the night before. "Thank you," I said, putting as much appreciation into the words and I could. Ele looked pouty. "Let's not think about that right now. It's still fun time," I insisted. So we just enjoyed each others' company until the Phat Kath closed. On the way home we passed a place called the Organic Cafe and DK suggested we try it. "Good luck getting Amanda to go with you there," I told Ele. Amanda was a meat and potatoes kind of gal. "I'll go with you for breakfast tomorrow morning if you'd like." We decided to see how we felt the next day. The gate to the hotel was closed and locked this time, but an employee hurried over to let us in. We said goodnight and I walked back upstairs on my last night in Nepal.