Most of our time in Kathmandu was spent blowing out our intestines in the hotel bathroom. Thankfully, it was a nice hotel and bathroom with warm coffee colors and all that.
We know food didn’t do us in; our stomachs are invincible to spices or weirdness of any kind regarding food. It was some sort of virus. I know the Italians and Lithuanian we shared liquor with in Varanasi were sick at some point, so maybe we picked it up there. Regardless, there wasn’t much we could do for the week except languish and watch Wipeout (both the American and Indian versions, the later substantially budgeted and somehow hosted by Shahrukh Khan).
Socially, Kathmandu felt very similar to our other experiences around South Asia with exceptions rooted in one notable difference; women seem more outspoken here. More than once, I noticed women barking an order to a gent who would obey without hesitation, on busses most of all. A woman wanted a seat, so she needed only to snap her finger at some gent, tilt her head aside, and he moved instantly for her. This would never happen in India; the lungi wearing gent, or even one in trousers, would only stare back at her and move on to his mobile, or whatever. Subsequently, I noticed the high fashion sense of women around Kathmandu, many opting to mix native and global fashions for fantastic results.
Kathmandu has incredible sites in terms of architecture and the like. The durbar squares host well preserved 16th and 17th century buildings from Nepal’s feudal past, including amazing woodworked pillars and buttresses. The true wonders though, in my opinion, were in the two major Buddhist stupas, Swayambhunath and Boudhanath.
Boudhanath was the most sublime of these stupas. A circular village of shops, monasteries and eateries had risen around the stupa, which itself possessed something uncanny; it was a massive, monolithic sphere, topped by a crown painted with the iconic Nepalese Buddha eyes and a gold spire, rising from a white wall encircling it and it’s square base, prayer wheels in the wall spinning all the while. The sky was overcast and emanating a faint, blue glow, perhaps from the white light illuminating the entire site.
Hundreds of people were there. Single people, couples, families, children, monks, workers, all of them experiencing the place both alone and communally. Some people walked quietly, while others laughed and chatted with friends. Regardless of how, everyone walked around the stupa clockwise, a great circle, the same beginning and ending in the same place for everyone.