Today I planned to get completely lost. So, after a “Nepali omelette” for breakfast (back again at the Bon Apetit cafe), I got my backpack together and wandered in the general direction of Durban Square. Thamel is a maze – full of tiny alleyways and shops waiting to sell you things. Unsurprisingly, many of these things are focused on mountaineering. It really seems that you can just turn up at Tribhuvan Airport with nothing and buy all the gear you need to take on a trek to Everest base camp.
The first time I went looking for Durban Square, I failed. I’d walked out of Thamel, winding south through alleys having had a quick glance of the guide-book map. Eventually, I found the remains of the tower at Dharahara, completely destroyed in the earthquake. As it turns out, I was within 100m of Durban Square by this point, if I had realised. Oh well.
I decided to go back up the main street – which was heaving full of people, and in parts was being dug up to aid re-building. In fact, the whole city seems to be in a constant state of re-construction, especially in the older areas (away from Thamel) which were worst hit by the earthquake. Lots of the famous wooden-and-brick houses are still here though – I’d post pictures, but today I thought it might be a good idea to leave my iPhone safely hidden in my room.
Next, I took a visit to the Garden of Dreams. It was stunning. Imagine a perfectly manicured set of lawns, ponds and trees, dropped in the middle of Kathmandu’s chaotic web of streets. By this point, I needed shade and water, so I paid the 200 NRs entry fee and lay down on the grass. The Garden is very popular – with both the locals and tourists – despite the way it manages to hide itself.
After a while, I went back to find Durban Square. I was determined. And I found it, pretty quickly. Only, when I tried to enter, a security guard walked up and asked for my ticket. It turns out that, to pay for rebuilding, the square has been fenced off and tourists are charged 1000 NRs for entry. I thought I’d spent enough today, so I turned and left.
Now it’s evening, and I’ve just come back from one of the best meals I’ve ever had. It was in a newari Nepalese restaurant called Thamel House, tucked to the side of a street close to my hostel. I’ve got my Rough Guide to thank for finding it. The place was an old-style Kathmandu house. I had vegetarian Mo Mo dumplings, which are a kind of cross-breed between Indian cooking and dim sum, with more veg on the side. It was all very, very good – especially for only 525 NRs.