18 September 2009


It's felt really good to be back in Asia again. Nowhere is quite so geared up for the needs of the grubby backpacker as it is here. Cheap accommodation, cheap food, cheap transport and cold beer. Good times!

Even though we've only been away from Asia for three and a half months it was still a bit of a shock to the system with all the chaos, noise and people when we stepped out of the airport. We'd also forgotten how much smaller your personal space is here compared to elsewhere, the scrum at the baggage carousel was worse than anything I'd ever seen on the rugby pitch.

The thing that you immediately notice coming here from the Middle East is women! Virtually the only women we've seen out and about in Egypt and Jordan have been tourists. The local ladies are usually hidden away out of sight and are more noticeable by their absence. It felt slightly strange to be in mixed company again.

We're staying right in the heart of central Kathmandu in an area known as Thamel. It's a little bit like the Koh San Road in Bangkok . . . only much nicer. It's a lot more civillised too as the gutters aren't overflowing with drunk kids and their vomit. Instead you have to contend with the odd hippy who's still stuck in the 60's or armies of Gore-tex clad trekkers who look like their kitted out for an attempt on the summit of Everest.

We've spent most of our time here just wandering around the streets soaking up the atmosphere and sights.

Just South of our hotel is the medieval old town. The whole area is like a set from a Dickensian film or Blackadder gone a bit wrong. Master Ploppy would certainly feel right at home here!

Looking at the buildings it's a wonder any of them are still standing as most of them appear to be at some obtuse angle with very little holding the bricks together.

Durbar square, where the Nepalese royal family lived until about 100 years ago, is the main focus of central Kathmandu. As well as the former royal palace the square is full of Hindu temples and shrines, none of which we really understand!

We also made a trip out to Swayambhunath, a Buddhist temple on a hill a few kilometers from the centre of town which has great views over the Kathmandu valley.

Today we've been out to see Bodhnath Stupa, which although it is only about 4km from the centre of town takes half an hour to get to by taxi. The traffic up just appaling and barely moves above the pace of a Yak.

Bodhnath stupa is one of the biggest in the world and the most important in Nepal for the many Tibetan Buddhists who live here in exile.

We've had to spend quite a lot of our time in Kathmandu trying to plan for our next few
destinations in Nepal and beyond, including the dreaded task of trying to obtain an Indian visa. No matter where you are in the world getting a visa for India is never a straight forward task. It will usually involve having to queue at some ungodly hour of the morning and a long wait. We only have to wait a week! It doesn't even take that long in the bizarre land that is Burma/Myanmar.

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