Sat 27th March 1999, Potala Guest House, Kathmandu. (Exchange Rate 67Rs = $1)
I arrived in Kathmandu with a hugely swollen neck, felt shivery and weak. Not the ideal start to a holiday. I’d contracted some disease while in Sri Lanka (I was living there at the time) two weeks or so previously. I had seen a doctor and he had prescribed antibiotics but they didn’t seem to be doing any good. However, I had already paid for my flights and I wasn’t going to miss out.
Anyway, Kathmandu airport was a bit chaotic and when I emerged from the airport a whole range of people descended on the new arrivals frantically waving placards. It wasn’t a demonstration because on these placards were the names of local hotels. It was just a matter of choosing one and someone would whisk you away in a taxi through the dusty streets. Despite the chaos I was immediately struck by the friendliness and apparent honesty of the locals. I loved the narrow streets of the city with many old wooden buildings with carved balconies half falling apart. No doubt in a few years after the devastating earthquake, they would be no longer standing. But that was all in the future.
My only note on the hotel was that it was fine and my room cost $8. When writing these retrospective posts I always try to find out if the hotels I stayed at are still going 20 years later. It seems the Potala has gone from strength to strength. According to its website: “With over 30 years of operations under our belt, we have grown from a humble 24 room “guest house” into a 67-room hotel, with a multi-cuisine restaurant, a garden and a travel desk!” I had a shower and headed out into town.
I got to the heart of town and the tourist magnet of Durbar Square. there were quite a few tourists but it was also fairly quiet. A hodge podge of buildings and temples and extremely atmospheric. Despite the tourists I noted that I wasn’t hassled at all. However I was soon knackered so by 5pm I was back in bed!
NB Below are 2 photos of a chariot procession. Obviously there was a festival going on at the time but my diary doesn’t note it at all.
Sun 28th, Day Two. Diary entry:
“Despite the orange in my neck I feel fine. I walked to Swayambunath. A nice place, a Buddhist temple on the hill, lots of tourists and trinket sellers, no view as too dusty. Then wandered streets of Patan. Interesting central square. Had banana porridge for brekkie, lunch was a strange soup at the top of Patan Square and then had an apple pie back in Thamel. The place is crawling with tourists but it’s a welcoming place and the people are not at all hassley” And that was my day – my diary entry is certainly brief!
“Went to the BC (I was a teacher at the British Council in Sri Lanka so I wanted to touch base and also ask them to recommend another doctor for me to see). Saw doctor quite quickly. He relieved me of 350Rs and did blood test for 180 Rs. I may have mumps. Paid another 50 Rs at immigration. (I think this must have been for a trekking permit – my guide book says they cost $5 but it cost me $1? Maybe because of my Sri Lankan residency). Got taxi to Pushpatinath for another 50Rs.
Walked across bridge to join a motley bunch of tourists and a few sadhus watching a cremation. Walked over the hill to the river and up the other side to Bodnath. It’s so dry and dusty and not very clean. This must be the land of the sleeping dog. It’s the largest stupa in Nepal and there are many old buildings clustered around its base. Many selling knick knacks. Had momo at “The Original Stupa View Restaurant”. Not to be confused with the Stupa View restaurant next door. Ravioli Tibetan style. Stupa itself quite interesting.” Most Nepalese are Hindhus but Bodnath is the centre for Tibetan Buddhist refugees.
“Walked back to Pushpatinath to get taxi back to immigration to pick up permit. Then another 50Rs for the Doc. The blood test showed I was ill!! White Blood Count 14000/mm3 (normal is 4 -10). He wanted me to see someone else but I was trekking the following day so he just prescribed me some more antibiotics (ampicilin). Went to Alice’s restaurant and had sizzling Thai chicken. Slept much better – I wasn’t shivering uncontrollably and my glands were OK.