I was not entirely sure what to expect of Kathmandu, but admit to having visions of beautiful peaceful temples rising up amongst misty mountains and colourful streets with handicrafts on every corner. The romantic perspective of a tourist perhaps.
Knowing the earthquake damage would be prevalent I was still not prepared for the dust coating everything along with the pollution and massively overcrowded streets. The noise and craziness hit me like a hurricane- traffic with no obvious sense of direction or organisation, people rushing, the frenetic energy of a city on supercharge.
As I spent more time in Patan (the old part of Kathmandu) I got used to the hustle and bustle and discovered there was a strange sense of order amongst the chaos. It was also really peaceful in the beautiful Inn Patan where I stayed, thankfully its heritage preserved from the Gorkha earthquake in 2015. But nothing prepared me for navigating the big holes that seemingly just opened up in the roads in front of you with no prior warning and of course no road signs. Luckily the drivers of Kathmandu take it in their stride and I just closed my eyes and hoped for the best!
Eating out in Kathmandu is a treat I will never forget. I was lucky enough to be taken to some hidden gems by my supplier- there is no better way to see a city than through the eyes and taste buds of a local! The food reflects the mix of culture and therefore has a multitude of influences. The results are so delicious. The food also has the added bonus of being super-healthy, lean and clean, as it relies mostly on freshly picked vegetables and salad. I hope to find a local super-chef on my next trip there and to be able to share some inspirational recipes! I can also highly recommend the Nepalese whiskey which they made for me hot, with lemon for my sore throat. I was almost grateful for this excuse to enjoy the soothing equivalent of our hot toddy!
Since the gorgeous temples of Kathmandu are an integral part of the city and its culture, I visited many during my stay. My favourite was Swayambhunath for its absolutely stunning views over the city. I love its nickname too- 'The Monkey Temple', due to the large population of monkeys that have taken over and call it home.
As I walked the streets of Patan I witnessed a myriad of rituals, encountering sights such as the crazy masked Lakhay dancer marking the end of the rice harvest season. It is as if there are 'Puja' (ceremonies in which prayers are offered to the Buddhas to request blessings or ask for help), going on all around you from sunrise and sunset, often marked with music and dancing. There is sound, smell, colour and fun, from dawn to dusk and beyond and never a dull moment.
In the end however, my inspiration on this trip came from the warm, earthy, crumbling, time-warn temples, exquisitely crafted wooden doors with their once vibrant colour now coated with a layer of dust, creating a beautiful pastel palette all around the city.
I will miss the colourful atmosphere of Patan. I found some gorgeous peaceful spaces amongst the wonderful craziness. But at least for now, my eyes and ears need some rest and I am grateful to breathe the cool open spaces that I call home.