Okay, so landing in Kathmandu after days of being stranded in KL felt like, whew totally unfamiliar zone. Some things were common to other countries I’ve visited like the old local city buses reminded me of Indo and Burma. The faces of the strangers in the street, smiling with red dots in their forehead felt like a warm welcome to this wanderer with a coward smile lol. Then all of a sudden headache came in, fever followed. Another disadvantage of a traveler with bad lungs and heart that came from a low altitude world (the beach life), who flew to a place at least 1000m above sea level. Altitude sickness.
Anyway, stayed in a local family, the Sharmas made it easier. Instant love, compassion and kindness to these people I only met for the first time. I was thinking, they liked me so much because of my cuteness, lol.But as the days and weeks went by, it was not really about me, it was just them. Every Nepali was just so nice and kind. My brother Saurav, walked us around his village which has a local market that sells cheap fresh vegetables, fruits, meat and even clothes and jewelry. Just the perfect place to be for a poor packer.
On the second day, despite being sick, Daddy Sharma brought me to a big and one of the most important temple in Kathmandu, Pashupati Temple. This is sacred place to Hindus but also very touristic which reminds me of, entry fee for foreigners, priced at 1000 Nepali Rupee or $10. Well well well, not at that moment. Daddy brought us to a secret (but not so secret) passage that saved us that money. We went backdoor, avoiding the guards but walking to not so clean path. After a few minutes, we were already enjoying the good view of the temple, watching the Hindu cremation from afar. Something new in my freaking brain, dead bodies being burned in the open just beside the river. Few days later, Saurav brought me back to this sanctuary where another holy tradition took place that involved singing and dancing from the priests and at that moment, we were seated in the main temple. It was in this adventure that I had to pretend to be Nepali (easy for me) by wearing a mask, my UP jacket but showing the other side, and not talking to Saurav and his friends. When we were seating, his friend pointed to me an area, maybe three meters away from us, where sick people were waiting for their last breath, something like a death bed. Only for Hindus, and they can stay there as long as they want or died. Slowly, my consciousness fading away, no way. Anyhow, it came back after a few seconds when our group decided to leave. As we were exiting the area, I experienced something new. Getting a face to face encounter with a dead Hindu being brought to the cremation area. She was an old woman, and her sort of deathbed was decorated with beautiful flowers and her hands were folded facing down to her chest. She looked so alive. Saurav explained that she might have died few hours ago. Yes, they do cremate the body after death, no wake what so ever. And there were tons of police cars, so we assumed that she might either be a dignitary or her family plays an important role in their society. But as we walked farther, her face did not fade from my brain. Never had a nightmare though.
The advantage of staying and acting like a local, is saving so much unnecessary expenses but still enjoying the touristy stuff. For example, going to a big Buddhist temple, Boudanath using again, the backdoor. I went here the first time with Saurav and Chitis to meet another local friend, Peter for dinner. The place has various restaurants, shops and then a holy temple for Buddhist to meditate and worship. The second time I went by myself to get some free wifi. Used the backdoor passage again to save entry fee and looked for the restaurant where we ate dinner. Unfortunately, I can’t find it, so decided to walk around with some tourists and monks. After half an hour, my legs were so tired and it was time to sit in a comfy place. Chose a decent one with a roof deck for some good view and wifi. All the money I saved for entry fees though, went to the food I ate, a glass of Lassi (local sweet milk/yogurt drink) and french fries all at $5. Later that night, Saurav gave me the name of that restaurant we visited to meet Peter, Tibetan Kitchen which had Lassi for $0.90 and plate of onion rings for $1.5 that comes with a fast wifi too. So much for unnecessary expenses.
Chabhil, the area where I was staying has everything. From the local market, to the bus that goes around the city, banks, supermarkets, cheap restaurants and even cinema. One late afternoon, I was walking back home, passed by a new building and saw this Cinderella movie poster. Wow, coincidently, I had a facebook conversation with one of my friends about this movie. I inquired and the next show time was in 15 minutes, no time to go back home and asked Saurav to go with me. So, well, just watched it by myself. Just like watching any other movie back in Manila, in a cheaper way, $3. Hahahaha cheaper than what my friend paid!
One of best thing about living in Kathmandu is the foooooooood! It was easy to find vegan menu in almost all restaurants and cheap. Start with rice and dal (beans) or for breakfast toast, omelette and coffee for $1.5. Or for detox, grab some fresh fruits and vegetables from the market. Carrots for $0.40per kg, bananas $0.08 per piece, grapes and apples for $1.20-$1.50 per kg, and oranges for $0.80 per kg, not to mention that these are in good quality. Meat meals are a bit expensive, minimum $2. Cold drinking water is at $0.25 per liter, canned juice starts at $0.50, milk tea on the street in a small glass $0.15 while in restaurants $0.50.
Most of all, Kathmandu has given me a sense of home. The love I have received in this place is much more powerful than the dust, crazy traffic and dirt that the city is known for. Crossing the streets is always an adventure, or just even walking. But nevertheless, just like Leo, Raphael,Donatello and Michaelangelo this is also home for ME.