Kathmandu, the city of hidden temples!Srinivasa Shenoy
If you want to experience the soul of a city, always ensure you stay in central part of the old town. You may not get fancy and luxurious stays – but then being a part of the boisterous city and assimilating the flow throughout the day is the agenda and NOT the luxury of your evening!
We were staying in a non-descript cheap but clean guest-house – Om Tara Guest house in Thamel, Kathmandu. With half the city being dug up (ostensibly for water pipe work), walks in the city were nothing short of dusty, zig zag treks with the added danger of running into stubborn cows, daring two-wheelers and shouting cars (how do they manage to get into the narrow lanes?).
Lonely planet has these wonderful suggestions about city walks and I decided to try one of them. This was a walk from Thamel to the Durbar square. The Lonely planet contributors do a good job of identifying the various ‘stops’ e.g. “Look for the sign that advertises ‘Opera Eye wear’” and “under the sign that says ‘Jenisha Beauty Parlour’”. Without these subtle directions, finding the hidden treasures of this dusty city was well-nigh impossible.
Kathmandu has a temple, literally, in every corner and some of them could as well be centuries old!
Temples and monasteries of Kathmandu grandly awaken from narrow lanes and doors – easily missed. The walk was an amazing pleasure – I suppose the detailed instructions added some bit of a charm; the brief descriptions helped me appreciate each temple/monastery/sight/shop; the thrill of finding out the elusive entrance; and the satisfaction of find out every element (and more to add) from the walk checklist – all made up a heady combination for an adventure!
A directed walk like this made me appreciate various locations including the history and interesting facts – which I would have happily missed on a normal walk – from the toothache god temple to the intricate ‘wooden’ window – Deshay madu (meaning – there is none another like it).
And yes, the ‘sides stories’ to the walk add to the experience; Talking to people – Suraj, the sweetshop owner educated in Pune, India; Salim – the chess set seller; Ravi – the garment shop owner, the meat seller talking about the sources of his gory supplies (salted fish, dried buffalo meat) and the various other bystanders – who would amazed at the foreign ‘monkey’ speaking Hindi! (With a bleached pale/pink face and a heavy build, I am mistaken for a westerner– to my acute displeasure – all the time in my own city as well).
And yes, trying out the roadside delicacies and the opportunity to test your reflexes in making your way through the sea of humanity amidst the chaotic dug up streets is part of the fun!
Wish I had the time to do more walks! There is always something left – an incentive to come back!