Nepal: Kathmandu (from October 2014)
I have visited Nepal in October 2014 on a trip which was my birthday present. After the earthquake in April 2015, most of the sights I have visited are likely destroyed and it might take long until the country recovers. This post sums up my impressions and experiences from Kathmandu during the October 2014 trip. Before and after pictures and more info on Nepal can be found in this older post.
In October 2014, we have arrived to Kathmandu airport, which was crowded with tourists waiting in a two-hour queue for visa and immigration control. The traffic in the city was quite high and to European standards quite chaotic. I had a feeling that Kathmandu was overflowing with people, animals and smog, but I guess it is similar also in other larger cities in developing countries.
The Lonely Planet guide shared a joke that there are three religions in Nepal – Hinduism, Buddhism and Tourism. All three “-isms” are visible all around the country.
Pashupatinath, a hindu temple near Kathmandu airport, is where Shiva is worshipped as Pashupati, the Lord of the Beasts. I was fascinated by the many colours of the tikka powder on display near the entry to the site. The temple is closed for non-hindu people and nearby on the banks of Bagmati river there is a cremation site.
Bodhnath (or Boudhanath) is a buddhist stupa, Asia’s largest. The place was really crowded. The prayer flags hanged from the top and the all-seeing eyes of Buddha were giving the feeling he is looking directly at you.
Thamel is the tourist area with a lot of shops, restaurants and, of course, tourists. There is also the Garden of Dreams. I would have passed this beautiful place, which looked so unassuming from the outside, hadn’t I been alerted to it by my friends. Beautiful was also hotel Dwarika, where we stopped for a lunch.
Kathmandu’s Durbar square is near Thamel, but there was no time to visit this place. At this place the city’s kings were once crowned. In the 15th century, the Kathmandu valley was split into three kingdoms. The three royal cities were Kantipur (Kathmandu), Lalitpur (Patan) and Bagdaon (Bhaktapur). The kings were competing not only in wars and prosperity, but also in architecture and arts and results can be seen in the magnificient Durbar squares in each of these cities.
Nowadays, Kathmandu and the valley look different. People are trying to find shelter and regain their life and possessions back. The hospitals are already full, the infrastructure and houses are damaged, people sleep outside in tents in a rainy and cold weather, there is a lack of food, potable water, shelter and other supplies. Moreover, some tourists are still trapped in remote areas, too, trying to get to the airport and travel out of the country. Nepalese government, UN Disaster and Coordination Assessment Team and international rescue and medical teams have no easy task ahead of them.