Nepal – Exploring Kathmandu with MoMos, Stupas and Mandalas

Nepal

Completely ignorant about Nepal I landed in Kathmandu airport and instantly got a good feeling. Standing at the top of the steps to get off the plane, the wave of heat swept over me and the Himalayas provided the stunning backdrop.

A relatively small country that borders India, Tibet and Bhutan, and I can best describe as an even friendlier India. Everyone you make eye contact with breaks out into a huge smile. It’s hectic and dusty but not quite as full on as Delhi or Kolkata. It’s cheap to get by in Nepal, even in the capital and I was so excited about eating curry again. Only after I’d tucked into a hearty curry meal with chicken did I discover that bird flu is currently an issue. Sadly, many farmers have taken their lives due to this epidemic as they’re unable to sell produce. I’m happy I supported them by eating chicken, so long as I don’t get struck down! MoMos are the traditional dish – I tried a few, including minced Buffalo Momo and Vegetable Devil MoMo that come in a spicy sauce. They’re mini dumplings filled with the filling of your choice – nice.Hindu is the most practised religion with over 80% but there’s a big Buddhist influence too. There was a monarchy until 2008 but they were overthrown after a civil war and are now living in the hills somewhere. There are seven world heritage sites in Kathmandu, so plenty to see. I checked out a couple of Stupas – Boudhanath and Swayambhunath.  These huge monuments are Buddhist structures, with beautiful prayer flags hung from them. They each have one of the Buddhas eyes painted on. Swayambhunath is also mown as the Monkey Temple and is home to loads of the cheeky animals. Unlike other monkeys I’ve met on my travels they’re really friendly and entertaining. In the square by Boudhanath there are loads of craft shops and an art college where we stopped to watch the students delicately painting the Mendalas onto silk. Hugely tempted to head back to Nepal and while away a few weeks painting.

During the day the streets in Kathmandu are filled with locals, shopping, chatting and going about their daily lives. The shops are filled with handmade crafts and plenty of hiking gear. All the big outdoors brands have a big presence, or at least versions of! Stock up on North Fake clothing for hiking or you could just carry the originals from back home around the world like I’ve done, gah!

As lively as it is by day, Kathmandu is like a ghost town at night. Everything closes around 10pm, so there’s no late night drinking culture and everyone is tucked up in bed. There are regular power outages throughout the day and night so the locals have to work round this. The working day is short as standard jobs and schools don’t begin till 10am and they knock off at 4pm.

Gutted to be leaving Nepal the day the 9 day festival starts. Kathmandu is clearing out ready for marijuana smoking and goat slaughtering.

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