Pilgrim On a Paper: Day 4

The pilgrim alighted upon the mystical hilly capital early in the morning, having spent much of the night in a somnambulant yogic state rather than sleep, and rushed to the first coffee bar he saw. I was with Nugo, a very helpful young man I’d met on the train, who treated me to a Nepali Breakfast special, the “Siel”, a mysteriously shaped doughnut that was divine when dipped in coffee. Nugo later proved invaluable, as it turns out.

siel

 

The Mysterious Siel!

Don’t trust in anybody who said “international” debit cards work in Nepal. Bereft of any Nepali Currency, Nugo and I wandered the shady sunny streets of Thamel, the ‘Amsterdam of the East’, with not a single ATM accepting my obsequiously proffered card, which sentiment later turned into profanity directed toward the marvels of modern technology, finance and banking.

Despondently checked into a hotel, having used Nugo’s phone to call Dad and arrange for a money transfer from India via a family friend who was to reach Kathmandu in the evening.

There I was, cold and sleepless in my hotel room in the centre of the party district of Nepal, with no money and nothing to do till I was rescued by this friend of the family, whose flight happened to be delayed too. I alerted Wim of my situation, promising to meet him and his girlfriend first thing in the morning, and cosied up into the luxurious duvet for a long sought-after nap.

When I woke it still wasn’t time to meet my benefactor, so I resolved not to depress myself and took to the streets to discover for myself what drew the hordes of Hippies to the capital of this miniature mystical Himalayan Kingdom.

thamel-bazar

 

Thamel!

The streets of Thamel are lined with shops and stores and restaurants and bars, some of a tasteful nature, while others seemed dubious. I walked alone, scoping out the neighbourhood, ascertaining where I would spend the evening once my funds reached me. Nugo had strongly recommended the Purple Haze Rock Bar (!) and I heartily liked the sound of that, so I mapped its location in my head.

I wandered further into Thamel and around, happily lost, drawing in the sights and smells and sundry sounds of the town, while I was periodically propositioned by ‘homies’ on the street with offers of all the various herbs, extracts and chemicals known to man, at ridiculously dirt cheap prices. I did not oblige them, however, and returned to my hotel room to call my redeemer.

Rabindra ji showed up at 8 o’clock, it turned out his flight HAD been cancelled, but since he was a professional charter pilot, he’d got clearance on another flight and had bothered to make the journey to Kathmandu for my benefit. I thanked him graciously, and we had coffee, accompanied by the friend he’d brought along, and they told me of the other fascinating places around the city, the Dhams of Hinduism and the Stoopas of Buddhism, which I hastily noted down on a scrap of tissue at the coffee bar, as my itinerary for the next day.

My wallet now lined with figuratively cold and hard cash, I happily re-sauntered the streets, hoping to relive the experiences of the evening. Unfortunately, the city shuts down quite early, as I found out, and only the few bars and restaurants that I managed to be dragged into, by the whispering punters on the alleys, were openĀ  with cheap loud bollywood music blaring onto the streets. Having visited a few of the joints, some that were alright, some a bit shady, and some that I wasn’t even sure were absolutely legal, I directed myself through the unfamiliar streets at night to reach Purple Haze, as I figured it was time for a wiggle.

purple-haze-rock-bar

Excuse me, while I kiss the sky!

 

Hendrix’s Heritage did not disappoint, and I tapped my foot and jerked my head to a surprisingly snappy local band that covered all the greats, from the Rolling Stones to Deep Purple, while periodically returning to Marley’s Reggae rock tunes. A lot of white people in the bar, many of whom seemed eager to chat about music. Refreshing change from the drearily repetitive conversations in the clubs I’ve frequented in India and elsewhere. People actually come here for the music, and to support bands that come in from not only the rest of Nepal but also from various countries around the world, some of whom have some mighty good original content.

Yet again, I kept being mistaken for a ‘Firang’ and a ‘Gora’ and was almost scammed by the waiters until I lapsed into Nepali and shamed the flamboyant con artists working the bar.

Spent a good two hours at Purple Haze, and then decided to take a walk to clear my head of the amplified live music and maybe grab a bite to eat.

I found a quaint little hamburger shop that very literally sold hamburgers made of ham, while the server crooked an eyebrow when I demanded beef. I ate a burger right there at the shop, talking to a friendly woman from America who told me she’d strongly decided against buying the “chillu- watchamaycallit smoking pipe” that was enthusiastically recommended on the streets, as a gift from Kathmandu, for her nephew. I had another burger packed, and headed back to the hotel.

chillum

Not a good gifting idea if your nephew back in the states is 12

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