Friday, March 6, 2015

[KATHMANDU] Killing Time

On the day of my Air Asia X flight, a Turkish Airlines plane skidded off the runway due to heavy fog. The plane could not be taken off the site because the airline insisted that the insurance guys see it first. The airport said, though, that even if they wanted to remove it from the tarmac, they couldn’t. They did not have the equipment. As such, all flights have been canceled and the airport has been shut down. And so I flagged another taxi going back to Thamel and became the “Hey it’s that guy again!” person of the day.

I don’t really know why Kathmandu would not let me leave. Not that it is a problem, though. The visa I received at the immigration counter when I arrived here does not expire until next week. I could actually stay here if I wanted too. The thing is I already got what I came here for, which is the bungy jump. When that happens during my travels, I tend to lose the motivation to see stuff anymore. As I always say, Mission Accomplished! But fine, since we are stranded here, might as well see some more, eh?

The flight was rescheduled to 9:50 PM that day. Okay, that means I have around six hours to spare after I check out of my room. There’s still that giant stupa left to check, but I do not know if it would be that far away from Thamel. As a safe bet, I decided to just visit what was nearby, and one of those was the Garden of Dreams, a special renovation project brought about by the joint efforts of the Nepalese and Austrian governments. But before that, did I mention that it was Color Day?

I was surprised to see the establishments in our narrow street closed. I was supposed to have lunch at Dabali again. You see, their Oriental Chicken has been a real favorite of mine in the last few days. Too bad I would be missing it on my last day here in Kathmandu. I asked one of the security personnel what’s up and he told me that it was a holiday. Color Day is a festival where locals and tourists alike buy colored dye and throw it at each other, with matching water. It looked fun, but I wasn’t in the mood.

I sought refuge at one of the many rooftop restaurants that did not close down for the day. With my mind floating, a lot of thoughts were crossing my head. All of a sudden, I was in tears, over fake Chinese fried rice, in Nepal, while people are coloring each other senseless. There is always that time during your travels when this happens. You seem to be caught up in all the action, dodging potential hassles as they come along. And then you finally find time to breathe and ruminate about random stuff.

I knew I just wanted to relax, which is why I chose the Garden of Dreams. I knew the wait time was long enough to be spent there, but still, I killed around three hours in that garden. The admission fee is a meager NPR200, with additional NPR50 if you want to use one hour’s worth of their Wi-Fi. Inside are several cafes which serve overpriced food and drinks. But then again, you are paying for the ambiance and the serenity of the place, more than anything else.

In that garden I reflected about the current state of my affairs, what I really want to do in life, and how I should achieve the goals that I have set up for myself. Ideas just kept on pouring in including those for a supernatural novel I have been writing in my head but could not really commit to paper. Wow, Kathmandu, thanks. I have promised that one chapter of that novel would be set here in the Garden of Dreams, and I intend to write it right here, which means we are meeting again, Nepal.

I then searched for a cafe which was open back at the narrow streets of Thamel so I could chillax indoors and enjoy some warm drinks. Good thing there was a cafe nearby with only four tourists inside. There I did everything that had to be done: charging my gadgets, surfing the internet, and checking for updates. Air Asia X sent an email saying our flight has been delayed further. We would be flying out of Kathmandu tomorrow night. Maybe this is the universe’s way of suggesting that I slow down a bit?

Fast forward to today, again I check out of my room and ask for updates regarding the current situation at the airport. Tribhuvan International Airport was supposed to reopen today at 10 AM, but they still have not finished what they have to do. And so the 6 PM flight has been rescheduled to 9 PM, in the condition that the issue is resolved and the airport becomes operational again at 5 PM. I am no longer hoping that it would be done within the day. Sometimes, it is better to just not expect.

The choice for obligatory sightseeing today was between the palace turned museum or the biggest stupa in Nepal. The giant stupa won. When I received the news that we would be delayed for another three hours, I knew that I had to take the risk. No matter how far that place is from Thamel, might as well visit it once and for all. It turns out that it is less than half an hour away by taxi, and I did not even stay there for over an hour.

Referred to as the Boudhanath, the giant white stupa is the largest of its kind in the country. Not only that, it also plays a big role as far as religion is concerned. As such, it would not be uncommon to see droves of locals frequenting the place, alongside the tourists who have come for a selfie. The Boudhanath is weird that way. There you have one group who come to worship, and another one whose sole purpose is post a been-there-done-that photo on Facebook. I belong to the second group.

But no selfie was taken earlier today. If you go to that place in a very sunny day, the pictures of the stupa itself would be plain awesome. There are no bad angles, seriously! As for your selfie, it would be a bit of a challenge. With the sun shining that brightly, your face will be drowned in the shadows as your lens captures the grandeur of that giant white monument behind you. Sorry, dude, there is no upstaging the stupa. And so I just dropped the attempt.

The heat of the sun was a good shield for the cold weather, but proved to be too bright for my eyes. This is the reason why I decided to just go back to Thamel to have lunch. At least I was able to kill an hour roving the stupa clockwise. Ah yes, clockwise. You have to do it clockwise, because you know what happens if you do it the other way, right? This joke just won't leave me in peace since Bhutan. Gah, enough already! And so I left.

If you are interested, there are hostels within the compound. In fact, there is a map showing all of the temples and monasteries. It confuses me somehow because there is an entrance fee worth NPR250 for foreigners. What if you choose to stay in a hostel inside the compound? Does that mean you have to pay an extra NPR250 on top of the daily room tariff? That is so not my problem, but my suggestion for you is that you just find accommodation in Thamel. Your stupa trip can be done in one morning.

What else are there? Well, I already mentioned temples so get ready to inhale some strong incense. There is also a part where pigeons like to flock. And since it is a tourist hotspot, you will find one store too many selling various trinkets and whatnot. This lends a different kind of vibe to what is supposed to be a very holy place. Shall I say that it is a marriage of convenience of sorts? Well, you be the judge. Prepare NPR800 for a round trip taxi ride, and an extra NPR250 for the admission ticket.

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