Sometimes when you're travelling, the closest thing you have to home comforts is just being in the same place twice.
I was tempted to explore Patan. A local had recommended it to me, which made it more appealing than an online top-ten list, but by this point in my trip I was feeling pretty beat up. I'd been to Bhaktapur the day before and found it far more relaxing than Kathmandu. At least by Nepal standards! Right now I just wanted to feel safe and the familiarity of a repeat trip would do me just fine. There were still plenty of opportunities to get out of my comfort zone. Lots of new cafes to try. Streets to explore. Things I hadn't painted. It'd be fine.
As it was the last full day of my trip I was feeling reflective. Part of me felt sad to be falling out with Kathmandu. It felt like it had chewed me up and spat me out. I'd somehow "lost". But most people only visit for a few days before moving on. I'd been there for a fortnight and been through some pretty s**t experiences. I came out here to get some travelling experience and there was no arguing that I had it. I just didn't have any more fight in me and it was time to move on.
From nowhere a thought struck me. I'd spent the last five or so years of my life pushing to get braver and braver with solo travelling. Holding an imaginary standard in my head, assuming that once I get there, I'll be happy in myself. I never for a second, humoured the idea that I may just not enjoy it! Solo travel, especially with diagnosed anxiety, is HARD WORK! It could be perfectly fine NOT to want to step out on my own in situations that scare me silly all the time, and travel with the security and friendships of organised tours. In fact it was probably worth considering that perhaps the vast majority of the population wouldn't be brave enough and/or WANT to travel Kathmandu on their own! I should probably give myself a break! Or at the very least a pat on the back!
As soon as we arrived in Bhaktapur I was content with my choice. I walked quickly to leave potential guides in the dust. They didn't bother me anywhere near as much today. Perhaps I didn't give off an aura of being lost and confused the second time around. I had an extended wander around the rest of town and not a single soul bugged me. No shop owners. No men trying to show me their mandalas. Oh Bhaktapur, you're too good to me.
I quickly settled into a painting of Nyatapola Temple as it's the obvious big boy in town. There was a perfect spot from a nearby café (it looked like it used to be a temple which felt a bit weird) and I shared a few nice conversations with locals. A couple of hours later and I had a painting I was pretty happy with. The pink wearing bead selling lady-gang hung around outside and the people watching was top notch. Yesterday I had the impression that they were all a bit disgruntled but their spirits sounded pretty high. Making jokes and playing music. It's funny how a lighter mood can change your perceptions of people and your surroundings.
Nyatapola Temple. Prints available.
The café owner recommended another temple down the road so I went for an explore down the main street. Yet again I was taken about by how much more relaxed and peaceful it was compared to Kathmandu. Next door to the recommended temple there was a strange combo of an ancient building absolutely jam packed with Westerners eating their lunch. While I wondered why on earth this specific spot was so crazy popular, a bead seller came at me like a cruise missile. Both grinning because we knew what was about to go down. I think I had to say no about ten times but I was all light hearted and we had a laugh about it.
I bimbled about taking photos and ended up deliberately choosing back streets because it felt so safe. I found a SHOP. With actual prices! And no haggling! Although it didn't really sell readily grabbable food like the supermarkets back home. I was limited to chocolate, cheese balls and a can of Coke but better than nothing!
On the way back an art gallery caught my eye because holy crap the paintings were incredible. Giant acrylics and oils that really managed to capture the energy of the Naepalese streets. I spent a nice long time with the owner as he showed me a huge collection of tiny paintings and I came away with two. One of Pokhara which I didn't manage to get to on this trip. And one of a street that had brilliant atmosphere. Probably overpaid by local standards but at the same time they were original paintings for all of about £15!
With an hour to kill before my taxi picked me up I intended to do some detail focused sketches in Durbar Square but it didn't feel right so I ended up in the shade, doing a speed sketch of Siddhi Lakshmi Temple. I was befriended by two kids who had seen me earlier. One was accused by the other of having the nickname Mouse and he wasn't very impressed about it! Mouse was particularly cheeky and just straight-up demanded my drawing.
I shuffled over to another twenty minute sketch of Fasidega Temple. It was relaxing to lay against my bag and watching the locals drift in and out, take compulsory temple selfies. And with the sun getting low it was time to leave. Earlier in the day I really wanted to sneak in a third visit before my flight but with these extra sketches and soaking up the local vibe hassle free, I felt satisfied. It was time to say goodbye to Nepal.
Thanks for reading!