Arriving in Nepal I had a rush of nostalgia. It was one of my favourite countries when travelling through Asia with my friend Vic over ten years ago. The nostalgia wasn’t just returning to the country, almost all of the cars near the border were four-door sliver 1976 Toyota Corollas. They are almost identical to my first car, except the steering column is on the opposite side. Regretfully, I thought I’d be able to get a photo with one in Kathmandu, but we stopped seeing them when we got into the valley.
The drive from Tibet to Kathmandu was scenically stunning. Rice terraces covered the hills as we followed a glacially fed river from Tibet to the Kathmandu Valley. We passed buses packed inside and outside beyond their capacity, and watched locals carrying goods equal to their size while hiking up the hills to their villages.
We were slightly delayed arriving by a bus that had gone off the road earlier in the day. I shudder to think what injuries might have been sustained by the passengers. The driving in Nepal is chaotic at best. Almost all the vehicles have dents in them and it is a non-stop horn honking festival as drivers remind others they are there. Kathmandu was a dusty, busy mess, and it didn’t feel like it had any charm. We spent our first night in a noisy budget hotel around the busy Thamel area. The few streets around here have the highest concentration of tour operators in all of Asia. It is packed with tourists, shops and it is always a challenge to avoid the motorcycles that keep going down the narrow roads.
We had a farewell dinner with our group and ended the night at a bar before we wandered home through the seedy streets with all the prostitutes and drunks spilling onto the streets as everything closed down.
The following day we moved into pure luxury accommodation. It is a quiet and calm oasis in Kathmandu, a short walk from the incredible Bodnath Stupa. We had an incredible dinner there that would rival the best of what we could get at home. We spent the next few days exploring some of the gems of the region. The old town and square around Bhaktapur was as I remembered, but the monkey temple was run down and was even missing the iconic eyes that should have been painted on the stupa.
Photos of our time there are posted on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=130514&id=673382190&l=f71900c82b