Friday 31 March 2017
After my usual scrambled eggs, toast and sautéed potatoes and bush tea for breakfast, today I was on a mission to buy some walking poles and possibly some woollen mitts which I’ll apparently need on base camp day. The place to go was Thamel, where I had gone for drinks with the guys on Wednesday evening. I was going to walk but the city air is really polluted with all the vehicles, many of which belch out thick black smoke, and the roads are rarely have a tarmac surface so the dust gets everywhere. There is a particular main road I’ve been down a few times now that has a series of drainage pipes along the side. A JCB half heartedly pushes some mud along the middle of the road every so often but there is no evidence that anything is actually being done. I think they dampen down the road with water every day because it’s usually muddy, but on the way back from Patan yesterday the water had obviously dried out and the visibility was literally a few meters. As we entered the billowing dust cloud, even with the windows closed you could feel it catching the back of your throat. By the time I had got back yesterday my throat was really dry and sore – I wasn’t ill, it was just the dust. Therefore I decided a taxi was in order for today and off we set.
Thamel is a big maze of tiny, busy crowded streets that all look the same and if you don’t have your wits about you it’s possible to get lost and walk round and round for hours. The driver dropped me at the entrance to one of the main thoroughfares and taking note of my surroundings I started down the road popping in and out of the various shops selling trekking kit looking for my poles. I found a pair I liked and then said I would come back, ploy to see if they will give a discount and also because I felt I needed to get a feel for what was on offer and make the right decision. He did offer me a discount so I took note of the shop and continued on my way. I found a more ‘official-looking’ shop and after speaking to the very helpful guy found out that the ones in the other shop were probably fine, and the right price for the quality, so my mind was made up.I decided to go down to Durban square (the main square in that area) and on the way found my mitts. The shop keeper had to look for the size I wanted especially (I think he went to another shop to get them!) so I felt I had to buy them and didn’t barter much on the price – I got them for about US$2, not bad at all. As I got close to the square a man selling wooden chess travel sets decided he would follow me, I kept walking and kept saying no and in the end he went down to Rs25 after starting at about Rs500! He also had some flutes with him so I asked how much. He had two types, a hardwood one and some bamboo ones and it was the hardwood one I wanted. He said it was made of sandalwood, and it certainly smelled like it (although maybe he just rubbed sandalwood oil on it) and he reckoned they would cost Rs5,000-6,000 in the shops. I don’t know if that was the case but in the end I parted with Rs1,000 (about US$10). He had two of them and was promising me the better one of the two, but there was some slight of hand and when I got back to my room I realised he’d given me the more inferior one. I was a bit annoyed – more at myself than him, as he was obviously saving it for someone who will pay more – because I should have double checked it before handing over the money. Saying that, I now have a flute from Kathmandu, it’s in tune and plays well so that’s the main thing! After my negotiations with the street seller we’d gone a bit off piste so the landmarks I had remembered were nowhere to be found. I knew the general direction I needed and after some zig-zagging I recognised where I was and found the shop with the poles (10% discount, didn’t even have to haggle).
A bit bored with the hustle and bustle of Thamel, I decided to walk to the Narayanhiti Palace Museum which was close by. As I was walking along the road a sign caught my eye, it said: “The Garden of Dreams”. Someone had told me about this place, it’s a garden in the middle of Kathmandu with a nice cafe. It was lunchtime so I thought, why not? The place was built in 1920 in the Edwardian style and has three pavilions, a small amphitheatre and a couple of ponds. It was really lovely and peaceful and just what I needed after a couple of hours in Thamel. As it was about 2pm I decided to have some lunch and thought I’d try a local dish called Mo:Mo. They are smallish filled dumplings and I had a choice of veg or chicken. I decided to go for chicken and when I asked if it was spicy “No Ma’am” was the answer. Hmmm, I think the waiter and I have differing opinions on the meaning of spicy! I tried my best and ate about 6 of them (I think there were 10) but quite a lot of the filling ended up staying on my plate, lol. But it was an experience, and I’ve since found out you can get non-spicy versions … apparently.
I didn’t make it to the museum as had to get back for a pedicure at a place called Harmony Spa in Boudha at 5pm. One of the ladies I had spoken to on my first morning at Rokpa had mentioned it, and I had stumbled upon it yesterday and thought I’d treat myself because of what I would be putting my feet through very soon. It was nice to sit there relaxing, and I now have pretty painted toenails 🙂
I spent my last evening in Boudha eating dinner in Flavours restaurant, it had become my favourite, and enjoyed a nice chicken stroganoff!