Trying to describe my planned expedition to climb Mera Peak to family and friends had met with mostly blank faces and noises of ‘good luck’ and ‘enjoy your holiday’. However, when I mentioned I would be flying into Lukla airport, then friends were actually concerned. Its fair to say most of them didn’t really understand the expedition!
Flying into the mountain airport at Lukla, dubbed the most dangerous airport in the world, was certainly a thrill, and it’s easy to see why the short runway is uphill as it comes to an abrupt end with a cliff. I felt like clapping when we landed!
I set off wandering through Thamel to attempt to reach Swoyambuthan temple up in the hill. Armed with a crap map and a good sense of direction I found the tiny signs and meandered out of the back of Thamel towards the temple up on the hillside. It can’t be that hard to get to, as its so visible on the hill top, or so I assumed.
It was nice to wander the back streets through housing areas and local neighbourhoods to see places tourists in Thamel rarely venture through. My sense of direction was a bit off, and while I got there in the end it was certainly not the most direct route.
Of the three Durbar squares in the Kathmandu valley, Bhaktapur seems to have suffered the most from the Earthquake in terms of impact on tourism – the day I visited I was one of only a handful of tourists there. The fuel crisis hasn’t helped – it cost me 4000 rupees or about $40 to get there, so I made the most of the taxi ride to also see Pashupatinath temple and the Boudhanath stupa too as they are on the same side of Kathmandu.
Bhaktapur is a small town with an amazing history and worth a 30 minute taxi ride at any price to be able to escape the pollution of Kathmandu. It’s peaceful and beautiful despite damage from the earthquake and I think that is why it is my favourite place of those I visited.
I intended to walk the 7km to Patan today, but when I negotiated a taxi down to 800 rupees I then realised quite how far it was and I would have got quite lost along the way.
Arriving in Patan I made the mistake of hiring a guide to take me around the Durbar Square, which in hindsight wasn’t necessary as he didn’t give me that much information and the town is easy to navigate. At least I didn’t pay to enter Patan’s Durbar squarem, the only one of the three Durbar Squares in the Kathmandu region which I managed to get in free.
The square has faired well in the earthquake and while a few buildings are propped up with wooden struts not many have significant damage. Of the various buildings only 2 were completely flattened and one statue destroyed.
My first impression of the city is that you’d never have guessed there’s a fuel crisis in Kathmandu!
The traffic is crazier than that I experienced in Phnom Penh which suggests there’s possibly more wealth here despite both cities being in third world countries, and despite a lack of fuel people are still whizzing around in their cars and bikes. I’m told the traffic is calmer than normal.
Here people seem to pip their horns to alert others to their presence, to scare the tourist as they pass to deafen them, or simply because no one else is pipping and someone always has to be.