Best Kind of Lost

Best Kind of Lost

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A Week in Nepal’s Capital

by Noelle
October 12 – 17

 

While our arrival into Nepal’s capital of Kathmandu was actually reminiscent of our first moments in Ethiopia, there were some early indicators that this would be an obvious upgrade (to start with, there were no flowery leis upon arrival in Africa…it’s in the DETAILS PEOPLE!).

A fragrant (and stylish) welcome to Nepal!

A fragrant (and stylish) welcome to Nepal!

The dirt roads are pocked with potholes every few feet and the oppressive dust kicked up by the never-ending line of motorbikes and cars keeps visitors and locals alike covering their noses and mouths with face covers sold at every corner. Every available building surface is covered with advertisements for any number of  guesthouses and products, the most popular including beer, cell phones, Pepsi and Coke and the skies are absolutely choked with power lines (good news for development, bad news for scenery).

The dichotomy of these abandon houses and modern ads continued to surprise me.

The dichotomy of these dilapidated buildings and colorful ad eyesores continued to surprise me.

A glimpse of a street near our first hotel in the Thamel district (the most "tourist friendly" neighborhood of Kathmandu.

A glimpse of a street near our first hotel in the Thamel district, a neighborhood filled with North Face-clad trekkers and bohemian travelers.

The number of power lines throughout the city was ridiculous. And yet, somehow, there are numerous multi-hour city-wide power outages.

Another shot of Thamel

The number of power lines throughout the city was ridiculous. And yet, somehow, there are numerous multi-hour city-wide power outages.

The number of power lines throughout the city was ridiculous (check out the pole on the right). And yet, somehow, there are numerous multi-hour city-wide power outages each day.

A view of Durbar Square from lunch.

A view of Durbar Square from lunch.

Dave sampling the aptly named local beer.

Dave sampling the aptly named local beer.

Like Ethiopia, Nepal is an incredibly poor country (I think it’s the second or third poorest country in South Asia at the moment), and that’s evident everywhere you look, from the rock bottom menu prices to the state of public places and roads and the disrepair of buildings to the hungry families begging in the streets. However, after you get past the depressing weight of that realization, you see that the people here are full of hope, happy to help strangers and eager to ensure you’re enjoying your time in the country they’re proud to call home. The smiling faces show how diverse the country is, with features ranging from Asian, Indian and Tibetan.

A group of friendly women preparing wool at a Tibetan Refugee Camp in Pokhara

A group of friendly women preparing wool at a Tibetan Refugee Camp in Pokhara, where we spent an afternoon exploring.

Working the wool into thin strands for weaving.

Working the wool into thin strands for weaving.

Our first up-close-and-personal experience of the friendly and generous nature of the Nepalese people was with our sherpa (you remember NIMA don’t you??) and his family. The day before we departed on our trek, he invited us into their home to have dinner with his family.

Case in point: In the days spent in Kathmandu before leaving for our trek, Nima invited us to spend an evening with his family, preparing a delicious homemade meal (our first exposure to dal bhat).

The wife and mother-in-law prepared dal bhat, the local cuisine featuring rice, lentil soup and vegetables while the son shared stories of his love of basketball and his studies at school, and their dog, Gasper, pretty much just sat around being adorable. We gathered in the family’s living/dining room (where Nima and his wife also slept) and were helped to seconds…and thirds…before insisting we were stuffed (EDITOR’S NOTE: Note to self: must learn “While this is absolutely delicious, thank you, I am stuffed to the rafters and can no longer breathe,” in Nepali before visiting a local home again. Then again, if this is the only type of “problem” we have to deal with, we’re in pretty good shape.). The room was filled floor to ceiling with Buddhist religious symbols, giving indication of just how important faith is to the family. The kindness of Nima’s family gave insight into what we would encounter during our 3 weeks on the road trail.

Dal Bhat

Dal Bhat

GASPER!

GASPER!

A traditional dessert - rice pudding. BECAUSE THERE IS NEVER ENOUGH RICE!

A traditional dessert – rice pudding. BECAUSE THERE IS NEVER ENOUGH RICE!

After the trek (read more about it here and here), we returned to Kathmandu to spend a week awaiting our Indian visas (we had to wait out one of the country’s many Hindu festivals when all schools and business were shut down) and explore more of the city.

Locals at our favorite restaurant observing the Hindu festival traditions with the forehead mark or "tikka," this one made up of colored powder and rice.

Locals at our favorite restaurant observing the Hindu festival traditions with the forehead mark or “tikka,” this one made up of colored powder and rice.

We visited the Swayambhunath Temple, nicknamed the Monkey Temple because who in the world can pronounce Swayambhunath for, well, these guys…

Oh heeeeyyyyyyyy

Oh heeeeyyyyyyyy

Thousands of prayer flags stretch across the temple grounds.

Thousands of prayer flags stretch across the religious complex grounds.

Nothing to see here.

Nothing to see here.

In front of the stupa that sits atop the religious complex.

In front of the stupa that sits atop the hill

Dave lighting religious candles to ask for blessings (note they should only be lit in odd number increments....so your desired blessings better be odd numbered)

Dave lighting religious candles to ask for blessings (note they should only be lit in odd number increments….so my habit of keeping only odd-numbered blessings came in handy.)

We spent time roaming the Boudha neighborhood (a less touristy neighborhood where we stayed for most of our time), walking the dirt roads that ringed the city and, of course, continuing our rampage of dal bhat and tea consumption (EDITOR’S NOTE: Still going through dal bhat withdrawal more than a month later…).

The enormous stupa that dominates the center of the Boudha neighborhood.

The enormous stupa that dominates the center of the Boudha neighborhood.

Lassi break! This local yogurt-based drink is everywhere, and super tasty (as long as you can trust the water source).

Lassi break! This local yogurt-based drink is everywhere, and super tasty (as long as you can trust the water source).

Stopping to smell the...dried juniper.

Stopping to smell the…dried juniper.

Adorable streets of Boudha

Adorable streets of Boudha

But the highlight of our week-long recoup week in Kathmandu had to be the Momo cooking class from – you guessed it – Nima and his family. We headed over one rainy afternoon to learn how to recreate the tasty steamed dumplings and while we won’t share ALL our secrets (because how else can we impress you unless we get home and cook you MOMOS??), here’s a small glimpse into the day’s adventure.

Nima's mom preparing the dough.

Nima’s wife preparing the dough.

Nima getting into the spirit.

Nima getting into the spirit.

The mix of oil, veggies and spices are hand tossed and prepared to be wrapped expertly into the doughy pouches.

The mix of oil, veggies and spices are hand tossed and prepared to be wrapped expertly into the doughy pouches.

...or not to expertly.

…or not so expertly.

So proud!

So proud!

One of these things is not like the others (see if you can spot Dave's)

One of these things is not like the others (see if you can spot Dave’s momo). I’ll give you a hint, it’s not the two on the right or the two on the left…

Gasper was NOT pleased at being left out of the festivities.

Gasper was NOT pleased at being left out of the festivities.

Our final product. Consumed in about a tenth of the time it took to actually make the momos.

Our final product. Consumed in about a tenth of the time it took to actually make the momos.

After the much needed laundry, rest and recouping, we were off to India. Namaste, Nepal, and thanks for the memories!

#truth

#truth

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