Back from Chitwan it was time to start exploring Kathmandu. Which, for the record, as someone who is nervous of solo travel, is completely, utterly bonkers. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end. At first glance, the streets are complete chaos, with hundreds of motorbikes and little taxis whizzing around crammed dusty streets. All beeping their horns in the hope nobody gets run over. There are no street markings. No traffic lights. Everyone just kind of gets stuck in and hopes for the best. It's the kind of place where if you're not looking where you're going, you could genuinely fall down a hole!
This is half the normal traffic because of Diwali!
Thankfully I'd had a little bit of time to experience all this before going completely solo, arriving for my EBC tour a day early and exploring Thamel with some new friends. I'd already clocked the nearest bakery and restaurant and had the hotel to retreat to if it all got a bit much. I also had a new adventure buddy in the form of Molly, fresh back from EBC and calling off her Island Peak extension because she was knackered!
First up was the Garden of Dreams. I figured if it was just a garden it would be a nice place to relax, unwind, and sit with the various emotions that were still coming up from losing out on my Everest Base Camp trek. It was also only a ten minute walk in a straight line. Perfect for dipping my toes in Kathmandu. On the way there I got hungry. Oh lord, now I have to work out where to eat. The anxiety building fast. I spotted a sign for all day breakfast and picture of a fry up. Refuge! So I found myself in a weeeeirdly Western hipster coffee shop combined with a North Face store. I could have been in London and it was all strangely clean, tidy, and devoid of dust. I felt my esteem grow as I was able to walk into a new place and order myself some really tasty food with zero anxiety. Time for eggs benedict and oh boy was it a good one!
Molly joined me and I noted a second flavour of lack of nerves. We didn't know each other super well but conversation flowed and it all felt rather natural. I'm getting good at this social anxiety nonsense!
Basanta Pavillion, Garden of Dreams. Unavailable for purchase at the request of the Executive Director!
We had a mooch about the garden and it was nice enough. Not exactly a place to rave about but a welcome oasis amongst all the bonkers traffic. How they kept it dust free was beyond me. It was also really busy with it being the weekend but that was kind of fun because we got to share the energy of the locals enjoying the place. I settled into my first proper painting of the trip and the choice of location immediately became a challenge. The only good view was found by sitting right in the middle of the garden, directly in front of the entrance and in no time I had curious people swarming around me. One kid in particular, in a little green jumper was SUPER curious. Having no concept of personal space, he stood practically on me and a couple of times got in the way of my paints. I struggled because I didn't want to upset the guy or his parents but it was certainly a good test of patience! If Molly wasn't there I think I would have really struggled. At least I had someone to chat to and distract myself.
Garden enjoyed and intense painting finished, the afternoon was getting on so we walked back to check out the Museum of Nepali Art. It was a pleasant surprise because I assumed it would be a bunch of old traditional Nepali Art (which I'm sure would have been great!) but it was actually pretty awesome modern stuff. I particularly liked the old style illustrations reduced to line art and printed in gold on black. We laughed at the discovery that they were actually created by "Robert Beer" from Wales of all places! It was also really nice to be in a cool, dark, totally silent space for a bit. A welcome relax after the energy of Kathmandu. It really drains you!
Then we popped over to the Kathmandu Art House on the other side of the courtyard. Heck knows how it's funded in the middle of the city but it seemed to be a four story building full of artist studios and spaces. We happened to be there on a Saturday so it was all open to the public. Artists busied themselves with their projects and the place smelt of fresh paint. I immediately felt at home. I'd found my people! There also turned out to be a tattoo studio upstairs. Molly declared that we were getting tattoos... Screw it. Everything about this trip has been ridiculous. Who was I to argue. Now we just need to work out what they'd be. (we never did get those tattoos)
The evening was spent with another hiking group fresh off the mountain. They were all rather restrained and a completely different vibe from my lively crew! One moment of conversation gold was learning that in the eighties and nineties, mountaineers used to HIRE ARTISTS to join them and paint the peaks they were climbing!? What!? Talk about a dream job! Except it's died out as nobody can afford to do it any more... Balls. I've been born in the wrong decade!
All in all a successful day. I hadn't done a lot of it solo but just sticking my neck out of Thamel was a great warm up. Tomorrow we would hit Durbar Square.
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