Ah, Thamel

So, here we are in Thamel, Kathmandu, to spend the remainder of the trip far from the mountains where we started. It’s Shivaratri today, Shiva’s holiday, so schools are closed and everyone is heading to Pashupatinath — upwards of 100,000 people from Nepal and elsewhere. We are planning to go over there later with Raj to watch the festivities.

We settled in Hotel Nana yesterday afternoon after arriving by bus — Emily and I from Pokhara and Tim and Raj from Chitwan. Raj headed to his home, and we spent evening having snack and drinks at Tom and Jerry. Breakfast this morning at ye ol’ Pumpernickel Bakery, then we walked around part of Thamel to get our bearings.

We ended up at the largest stupa that I know of close to here and walked around it. A couple of local girls with some rope attempted to set up a toll booth around one portion of the circumference of the stupa, demanding rupees for Shivaratri. I’m not sure if that’s some traditional thing or not, but I generally avoid giving money (or choc-o-lat) to anyone asking for it here. I’ll buy things and give tips, but giving money away just encourages more of that, and that’s not for the best. Anyway, we snuck through the toll booth eventually and walked back around to the far corner of the square to the Buddhist painting school. We got  an explanation of meanings behind the two main types of Thangka paintings (the mandala and the wheel of life) and bought a couple of the smaller mandalas.

Sam says I only blog about food, but such is life in Nepal with little on the agenda now beyond relaxing, visiting the major holy sites and finishing shopping. No gifts will be procured for those complaining about the contents of this or any other writing, of course.

So now I’m at KC’s, sipping a banana lassi, catching up on the blog, enjoying the loud hip-hop here on the deck mixed with the car and motorbike horns from below and the smell of dust and incense. It’s certainly not a quiet place, and our hotel is no exception to that. Like Peace Eye, it is also under construction during this tourism off season. Across the street, Northfield’s front area is gone, replaced by a mess of iron work as they are apparently building a new building next to what remains. Slightly down the block but visible from our balcony is the mostly cleared lot formerly inhabited by Pilgrim’s Bookstore, which burned along with a few of its neighbors one night shortly after I left here last year.

The weather is trending back to clouds, and it slightly cooler here today than it was yesterday, but days are warm enough to enjoy and nights cool enough to sleep — without open windows, too, which is important in this noisy section of the city.

It’s good to be back here, this place with which I enjoy a love-hate relationship.

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