Suprises in Kathmandu too…the good kind
April 4, 2017
Surprises in Kathmandu kept sneaking up on us. They were mostly the good kind. We enjoyed shopping for outdoor gear and eating Nepalese food. We saw a Hindu wedding event and toured some interesting locations. Nepal turned out to have more going it than we thought based on our first impressions.
One of the things to do in Kathmandu is shop for Nepal made “North Face” items. I don’t know how they do it, but they are locally made knock-offs that cost little and look pretty authentic. We saw North Face logos and sizing labels for sale in the shops in our street. I bought a rain coat that had 2 pieces of loop velcro on the hood that were sewn onto the same instead of opposite sides of the closure but my tailor lady in Chiang Mai fixed that for me for less than a dollar.
We had no idea what Nepalese food consisted of. I expected lentils and beans which someone had told me they ate in Kathmandu several years ago. What we found was an international food selection. There was wood fired pizza, fine dining, French bakeries, Irish pubs, a New Orleans cafe, and the Cafe with No Name that donated its profits to Nepalese education.
We also ate at the Momo Hut one day. They served traditional food which consisted of momos and Dahl Baht in a Tarkari set. The Momos were like little pork dumplings you would find at home. These were stuffed with a spicy chicken and served with a creamy tomato based chutney and some hot pepper. You can get them steamed, fried, or kothey-which is steamed and fried. They can be filled with other meat like rabbit or buffalo, vegetables or even chocolate in some places.
Dal Baht is rice and a lentil soup Tarkari Set is when they serve these 2 ingredients on a tray along with curried vegetables, some pickle and meat if you want. You eat everything together. The local custom is to eat it with your hands. It is usually served with chapati. Everest, Gorkha, and San Miguel are the local beers.
While preparing to finish our shopping, we heard noise out in our street. We thought it was more horn honking. The big trucks have a horn that plays a sort of tune with a series of notes. I went down to check it out and discovered a band playing outside. There were about 15 men playing drums, trumpets, baritones and 2 clarinets leading the group. They played for about 15 minutes, amidst the traffic of pedestrians, bicycles, scooters, cars and trucks, who were still honking at anything they could see in front of them. The hotel staff said that it was to call out the bride for a wedding ceremony. He said they would be back again later in the day.
I was returning a backpack to our room later in the day, and the band was playing again. They played, then began to move down the street, followed by several women in beautiful red saris, which is the preferred colour as it symbolizes fertility and life. There was also a wedding car decorated with real flowers. I believe the bride was inside. This group didn’t let a narrow street full of loud traffic interfere with their celebration. Cacophony is the only way I can describe it.
The final performance had the band marching back up the street. There were more people behind them and many were dancing as the moved down the street towards us. The groom was walking but I couldn’t tell if the bride was with him, or she got out of the car at a tiny alleyway. About 20 people crowded into this opening between buildings where the ceremony took place. The band played outside in the street. When the ceremony was over, most people entered into the building from the side and most of the band went home. We heard lots of music throughout the evening from our room. What fun to be able to observe this event!
Other Things to Do in Kathmandu
There are several things to see within walking distance of the Thamel district, which is the main tourist area. The Durbar Square-(an opinion link) area has many HIndu temples as well as the Royal Palace. Many buildings in this area suffered damage in the earthquake, but we saw a couple having wedding photos taken in the palace courtyard.
People also stopped to light a candle, leave flower petals or wipe red onto the statue of Bhairav. It represents the destructive side of Vishnu, a Hindu god who is the truth god and was used by city officials as a place where people had to swear to tell the truth. We saw dozens of people stop by to offer a prayer to this statue in Durbar Square.
We spent a quiet morning in the Garden of Dreams. It was developed in the 1920’s by a man who won a game of chance against his father, the prime minister at the time. He used his winnings to buy the land and turn it into a private garden. It was later restored by an Austrian group from 2000-2007 and is now a public park. A beautiful and peaceful surprise in the midst of this dusty and noisy city.
Our last day was spent packing up all our new outdoor gear, then sitting on the stoop watching the world pass by. We saw fruit sellers pushing their bicycles full of oranges, grapes and bananas. The butcher across the street was slicing off chunks of meat from the chunks sitting outside on a table. He tossed them into a balance scale and would adjust the weights on one side or the meat on the other. The yak cheese seller was in her shop. The counter is at street level and the shopkeeper stands below ground. The buyer has to bend down to make purchases. The cheese is covered with a mesh cloth and it is supposed to keep on the counter for 1-2 weeks.
School children were walking arm in arm off to school and includes boys and girls in Nepal. It is a world away from Rocky Mountain House.
Our drive to the airport required masks for the smog and the horrible amount of dust in the air. Although our plane was late leaving, we were above the clouds in time to see Everest and its tallest neighbors pushing up above the fluffy white cumulus clouds. Our last surprise. Except for the fact that Nepal kind of grew on us once we got over the disappointment of not being able to see the sky or the mountains. The people and their energy captured our hearts.