Whattcha gonna do
Whattcha gonna do in Kathmandu
Bad boys, Bad boys
Whattcha gonna do
I had planned to write my post on the Everest Base Camp trek as soon as we got back from the mountains but Kathmandu has this way of making me really lazy. (Update: although I wrote this post a while back, it’s taken me this long just to get it posted. My bad, yo. Sue me. I’m being lazy in Australia and it’s a great thing.) Kathmandu is not necessarily a lazy town as there’s a lot going on, merchants walking the streets trying to sell you Tiger Balm or a toy violin, and there’s definitely a night life and just lots of people walking around. But I stayed in Kathmandu for a week after the trek and really didn’t do that much. A big reason why was I just got done pushing myself really hard for the past week on the hike (and the two weeks before that on Annapurna) so I just felt like chilling out. Here is how I would spend a typical day in Kathmandu:
· Wake up around 7 or 8 because I can hear all the voices in the reception which shared a wall with my room.
· Go get breakfast with Jeff since Anthony and Cesar are prima donnas and sleep in till after noon and Jeff was sharing my not so quiet room.
· Then after breakfast it’s kind of a mystery what I did with my time. I did absolutely zero sightseeing in Kathmandu, not because there isn’t anything to see (there’s a ton) but because after being on the traveling road for a couple of months now I’m not in a real rush to see yet another must-see site. They all tend to blur into one another and you forget which Llama opened which temple and which deity is being honored by the human sacrifice in the middle of the town square. Ok so there’s really no human sacrifices happening and I’m not sure if that would be a must-see. I never went to the public stonings and other similar rituals in Riyadh. I’m not in a mad rush to see that kind of stuff.
· I did do a lot of xmas shopping and that took up a lot of my days. I have become a level 8 bargainer with the local merchants. It helps that it’s slow season now as the treks are winding down due to the weather and so any reasonable (for me) price that I put out there is usually finally accepted, even if it is one-third of what the merchant was originally asking for. Here’s a typical transaction:
o Me: “How much for this mp3 player?”
o Merchant: “For you, I give you special price. 4500 Rupees.”
o Me: “Wow, 4500? That’s a lot. I can do 2000.”
o Merchant: “Sorry sir, that is too low. I will lose money. Final price, 4000 Rupees.”
o Me: “No that’s still too much. Ok I’ll go see what else I can find in another shop.” KEY POINT: I put the merchandise down and begin leaving the shop. If the merchant is way overcharging he will drop the price significantly at this point. If not, then I know he was giving a good price and then it’s up to me if I want to pay that much.
o Merchant: “Ok 3000 Rupees.”
o Me: “I’ll give you 2500. Yes or no? That’s my final price.”
o Merchant (dejected): “Ok take it.”
It is a blast bargaining. I wish we did it in the states more often. I’d like to walk into Safeway and be like “You know what Mr. Cashier, this milk is just too expensive. Throw in a loaf of bread along with it and we’ve got a deal.”
· For lunch you could always find me getting a tasty falafel wrap from a corner shop with a bottle of Coke to wash it down. I always looked forward to them.
· After lunch was history and the midday shopping phase was over, we’d get dinner and then prep for another movie night. We watched two movies every night on Cesar’s MacBook Pro. Yes we’re that lame. Most people go out at night and drink beers when they’re traveling. Not us. On our walk back to the hotel after dinner we’d buy a couple of movies and a whole lot of snacks. A lot of the bakeries offer 50% off all their items after 7 p.m. so those were always a good call. DVDs are super cheap in Kathmandu, around $2 each for a really good quality film. The first film we watched was the new James Bond ‘Quantum of Solace’ which somehow they already had in good quality. I was quite disappointed with it after really liking ‘Casino Royale’. They basically reverted back to the uncreative story lines and ‘no way he gets out of this’ action sequences of the Pierce Brosnan Bond movies and it was missing the strong story and characters from ‘CR’.
So there you have it, I went to Kathmandu and became a movie critic. Other movies that I will tell you are not worth seeing include ‘The Transporter’ and ‘Tropic Thunder’. And somehow I was the one who chose those movies so now I’ve got a rep as being a bad movie-selector, not a title I’m proud of.
Once you get away from the crazy-busy-car-honking center of Thamel, there’s a lot of old Buddhist buildings and other shrines to check out. I don’t know this first hand but that’s what the maps and people tell me. There is an important Buddhist temple that is famous for being overrun by monkeys and there’s also one of the world’s largest stupas (a holy shrine dedicated to an important Buddhist figure).
I pretty much spent my entire time in Thamel which is the most touristy area of K’du (I just coined that word. +5 points for me). I usually can’t stay longer than a day or two in the ultra-touristy areas of cities but due to the low season and the fact that our hotel was very off the beaten path it made hanging out in Thamel doable. Thamel in Nepalese translates into ‘lots of people selling everything from Tiger Balm to trekking gear’. There are countless trekking shops, all selling the same knockoff trekking gear (North ‘Fake’ as the stuff is called here). Jeff rented a pair of Wrangler hiking books for the Base Camp trek and after a few days the entire front of the left shoe came unglued and his sock was fully visible. The rest of the hike each step he took would make a clapping sound as the sole bounced up to meet shoe.
There were a few times I ventured out of Thamel. Once to get a visa extension when I decided I needed to stay longer to do the Base Camp trek. Another time to go look at some computers. Yes the geek in me came out and I opened my wallet a bit and bought a little, dare-I-say ‘cute’, white laptop. My justifications for purchasing it:
· I need more weight in my backpack
· I can’t really get in the blog-writing mood when I’m sitting down in a noisy internet café and I can’t write by hand any more for reasons unknown
· I have a place to backup my pictures when the memory cards get full
So there you have it. What to do in Kathmandu. It’s not a place most people come to for the city itself. It’s more of a transit town for people about to start a trek or who have just finished and are looking to lay low for a while before moving on. And if you’re just beginning your travels in Kathmandu then you’ve probably got the motivation to go see some of the sites that I missed out on. Send me the pictures. I’ll Photoshop myself into there and say I was there.