As the sun rose on Kathmandu, it got real. I’m not in Derby, I’m not in an airport, I’m in Nepal like I’ve been dreaming of for months and today (which was Tuesday) is all mine to explore.
Despite the impression I might have given after my brush in with ‘give-me-dollar’ man, Nepal is a pretty safe place to travel alone — that’s how I feel, and that’s what lots of people have been telling me!
I spent my first morning wandering around Kathmandu, getting myself acclimatised… Or rather, hopelessly lost! There are next to no street signs in Kathmandu, and even fewer bilingual ones so my map reading skills were null and void! The odd person asks if you want a taxi/tries to sell you tiger balm/ outright begs but if you just say no, nobody hassles you. I’m guessing other people feel safe here, too, since I saw lots of other (female) tourists alone.
My mission for the afternoon was to see the Monkey Temple, or Swayambhunath. I know there are other temples in Kathmandu, apparently bigger and better ones, but I’d got the idea of the monkey temple into my head, so I was flipping well going to the monkey temple!
I knew it was walking distance, so I planned my route and set off. At first, I kept coming across signs saying ‘monkey temple this way!’ so I was feeling pretty smug about my navigational skills…until the signs stopped. I was very definitely not in tourist Kathmandu anymore; washing was out to dry, chickens pecked, dogs scampered and goats wandered outside houses, which were a far cry from the big, concrete buildings of central Kathmandu with their flat roof terraces. But still, I felt safe. No one offered me a taxi or begged anymore but the odd child did stare or excitedly said ‘hello!’ or ‘namaste!’ A couple of monks did have the cheek to put red power on my forehead and then ask me for money but saying ‘no’, walking away and a wet wipe sorted that out.
At one point I was certain I’d gone wrong but when I asked a woman she pointed up some stairs….at the top of which were more stairs. Higgledy piggledy through loads of lanes and alleys and I started seeing more tourists and, eventually, the monkey temple itself.
The stairs to the monkey temple are steep, and it was warm by this point! The steps are home to monkeys, dogs and worryingly, some people, and also a workplace for people selling crafts and souvenirs.
At the top of the stairs, you have to pay: 200 rupees (about £1.30?) for foreigners, less for SAARC country nationals) Nope, I dunno what SAARC stands for either. South Asian summat or other?
So for 1 pound 30 (there’s no pound sign on this keyboard!) and a pair of rather sore feet, what’s your reward? This:
And some barely-perceptible mountains in the background which you can’t really see in this picture. Sorry. Picture the alps, but shrouded in mist, not snow!
Stay tuned to hear about Chitwan National Park 😀