It’s hard to talk about something that you’ve never really experienced before… there are words you could use but without any prior point of reference, I find myself uncertain that they correctly capture the sentiment and essence of what I have seen and what I am feeling.
I arrived late on the second last day of Diwali. All the city lit up like Christmas on acid. My taxi driver was friendly and explained that there are no street lights normally, as we beeped our way around people, bikes and cars. My hotel is based in Thamel, a warren like touristic area filled with places offering excursions, map and hiking gear shops, and places offering more knick knacky souvenirs. All was open but by the time I arrived in, all I wanted for was sleep…. so that is exactly what I did.
I woke early the next morning and despite a genuine longing to explore, I struggled with sleep for another hour. When I arose I had an hours practice before venturing into the maze of Thamel for some breakfast. It was a simple meal, omelette and some potatoes fried with spices, along side some of the squarest bread I had ever seen. Whilst munching away I did some research on what to do for the day.
My morning was spent exploring the length of Thamel, finding a small stupa amongst the streets with a temple beside it. Further on I came to what I am dubbing either tooth town or the dental district, as ghastly gummed signage poked out here and there. Just beyond was the shrine to tooth pain, where it is said that if you have a tooth ache you can alleviate the pain by hammering a nail through a coin on to the shrine.
A little further still and I came to Kathmandu Durbar Square, not yet recovered from the earthquake. Buildings are propped here and there and certain areas are off limits to people. I met a tourist guide who spoke as Gaeilge who asked me how I was feeling.
I made my way back up through the now thronging crowds to my room. Still jet lagged, or maybe at this point fluish, I needed a rest. I stopped at the Himalayan French Cheese Shop (what) that only seemed to sell pastries (mmm), grabbed a snack and went on my merry way to walk to Bhoudha stupa. It walked and walked and as I did the tourists got more and more sparse. I started up a steep hill, where I thought as I hadn’t seen another tourist in about 30 mins and the looks I was receiving were becoming more and more perplexed that maybe it was time to concede defeat and spring for a cab. Turns out I had only needed to turn a corner to find my way back to a main road.
The stupa itself was magnificent… but my experience was somewhat detracted by a lurker. As soon as I arrived I noted my shadow. I expected him to approach me and offer a tour, like so many others had at this point. But he didn’t. He walked when I walked. He stopped when I stopped. He followed when I detoured, and well, just generally lurked. Annoyed but unsure of how to handle the situation I decided it was time to head back home for another rest and food before exploring the Garden of Dreams and going to yoga.
My god though, the dinner. I don’t doubt that it wasn’t a prime example of Nepali food but the Thali I ate can only be described as stratospherically better than any I have had in the UK, which I guess is hardly surprising. It’s like the spices were just spicier, there was more of a moreness to them. Satiated and happy I rolled my way on out to the a Garden of Dreams…but a bookshop leaped out at me and lured me in with lusty musty smells of pages. I spent too long and not nearly long enough inside.
When I finally surfaced, daylight had all but vanished and I arrived at the Garden of Dreams just as the final rays retreated. The Garden was beautifully lit for Diwali and a mandala of sorts lay in the centre, candles lit throughout. I wandered about and sat for a time on a bench in meditation, where a curious and possibly not good thing occurred. I was visualising blue waves radiating from my body. I decided to change the colour from blue to orange and was aware of a small child nearby. Just as my waves changed, I heared a splash, a gasp and a yelp as the toddler fell in to the pool that I wasn’t aware was behind me. Strange coincidence?! Aside from being a little wet, all was well.
I stayed in the Garden for maybe an hour, and made my way to a yoga class beside it. It was a Hatha flow class, which after not much practice of late was definitely needed. Unlike the vinyasa classes I have been accustomed to, this focussed on the repetition of a few poses before holding the pose for some time. Full of post yoga happies, I wandered back into Thamel, stopping in the shop to pick up some last bits and pieces before going to my room to relax. I got the shower working properly, nearly burned the place down making tea, and slept like a fricking log.