We slept in and laid around the hotel until around 10:00, when we decided to go out and explore Kathmandu. We had a few errands to run: go to American Express for traveler’s cheques, book a rafting trip, see about city tours, and sell some used books. So off we went.
First we walked through the Thamel area of the city, which is where we were last night. We’ve decided that this city actually reminds us of Key West, sans beach, and a few thousand meters above sea level. It has a dead-head atmosphere, but without being utterly crunchy. We stopped at a bakery and grabbed some lunch – for about $4.00. Then we hit the pavement to find the American Express office because we’re out of traveler’s cheques.
On the way to AmEx – which is in the “upscale” part of town in Dubar Marg – we passed the Royal Palace. I have no idea if anyone is actually living there or not, but I have to assume that someone is. I know that a cousin of the royal family was next in line after the family’s untimely death in June, but that there was great opposition to his taking the throne. I really should get up-to-date on the local happenings here. But at least the curfew was revoked last month – otherwise this place would be quite a drag to visit.
American Express – thank goodness – could issue us travelers cheques using a personal cheque. This is important because we have had NO LUCK with this transaction in any other country we’ve been in – despite being told by AmEx in the US that this was possible. So we were ready to charge it on the credit card at ridiculous rates, but now we don’t have to. And we’re psyched because we’ll be in Hong Kong in a few weeks, where our bank (Navy Federal Credit Union) has an office. So we’ll be completely set in the cash department in just a little while.
We also stopped by the travel office (Yeti Travel) to see about booking a white water rafting trip, and to arrange for a hotel after our Tibet Tour at the end of the month. Prices in this office were WAY too steep for our tastes, so we’re going to see what we can negotiate at some of the local guest houses.
We walked around Thamel to do some shopping, look for hotels, and find a rafting place. We stopped by the legendary Kathmandu Guest House and checked out the rooms there. The Kathmandu Guest House is one of the oldest in the city and has quite an eclectic ambience to it. They have a whole range of rooms from backpacker rooms with shared baths to an up-scale wing with A/C. We negotiated an OK rate for our end-of-August stay ($36/night), but we decided to wait and see what our current hotel offers us.
So we strolled up and down the streets looking at t-shirts, Tevas, skirts, and sweaters. We found a little bit of everything and also some nice gifts. The shop-keepers are very nice and will do anything to please a potential buyer. So we had a nice time.
The funny thing about this city is that – although it’s illegal – EVERYONE is selling marijuana! All you have to do is walk down the street and someone will murmur in a low voice “smoke… hashish… pot… marijuana…”. I suppose it doesn’t surprise me since this is such a “backpacker/Dead-Head” sort of place. But we haven’t heard these kinds of marketing tactics since our last Grateful Dead show! Ahhh… the good ol’ days! I’ll never forget Jon’s friend Gabe, who loved to mess with peoples’ minds at Dead Shows. He would walk around the parking lot (always a huge scene before the show) murmuring in a low-pot-selling-voice “Q-tips…. rubber bands… pencils…”. Such a riot!
Well before I implicate myself any further, back to Kathmandu.
We found a cool rafting company and booked a day-trip on August 27, the day after we return from Tibet. The water is very high this time of year, and we can really only get on Class 3 rapids which is disappointing. But hopefully we’ll do some cool rafting in New Zealand in December so we’ll content ourselves with this for now.
Jon also bought a t-shirt with a cool Nepal-like embroidered design on the front of it. But they didn’t have it in the colors he would like so they have to sew it for him and he can pick it up later. I love this! The t-shirt is going to set us back a cool $4 so it’s well worth the wait! I also found some replacement Tevas for myself (as mine are about to be declared hazardous material), and a cool skirt for $3. This place is great!
Then we went back to the hotel to rest. We let Rammani – the desk clerk – talk us into a morning tour tomorrow outside the city. We don’t want to do too much in the city because city tours are part of our Tibet tour. But getting out into the valley sounds like fun.
We went to dinner at a cute Italian restaurant in Thamel called La Dolce Vita. The pasta was yummy, and the view of Thamel was very cool. There were a couple of bands playing in local bars, and everyone was out on the street walking around. We are SO HAPPY!