The 30-minute flight back to Kathmandu went smoothly; great mountain views and interesting viewing of the farms and estates on the outskirts of the city. After a brief wait our driver brought us back to our same the “Friends Home” hotel. Max wasn’t feeling well, so we let him rest and hydrate while Sue, Ben and I set off on a few errands.
The chaos of Kathmandu grates on Sue and the boys; I seem to enjoy the humanity and tune out the sensual pollution better than most. Though I too will be glad to leave the crowds and filth… there’s more density, dust, dirt and decibels than when I was here half a lifetime ago. It’s more commercial too – I don’t remember the sheer number of shops catering to trekkers and tourists… especially the gear shops, which burst with knock-off down sweaters, poles, boots, bags, and anything else you might need on the mountain. My mission today was more mundane… laundry. $22 to wash, dry and fold a week’s worth of grungy, sweaty clothes for a family? Deal.
By the time we returned Max was up to 102. We all took an afternoon breather then Sue, Ben and I set out for a safe pizza at the tourist mecca of Fire & Ice. By Sunday AM Max had knocked his fever down, but we let him rest a bit more as we three ventured over to the “Seeing Hands” massage studio, which trains and compensates blind masseurs. By midday Max felt well enough to set out, so we ventured together to the quiet and bucolic Garden of Dreams, built by an Austrian Kaiser a century ago. After a week of rice, soup and noodles in the mountains we were glad to have an upscale colonial lunch there. Sue lingered to catch up on her journal while I took the boys out for a garden tour and romp on the big bamboo swing.
Later we were denied entry to the high-walled, very secure “American Recreation Center”, which after some inquiry we derived was the country club for the American Embassy and perhaps some local VIPs. Further down Kanti Path I found the back entry to the Hotel Annapurna, a business class resort and welcome respite from the noisy streets. Ben and I scouted and found a fine local bakery and Durbar Marg, which is apparently Kathmandu’s upscale shopping street. We dragged Sue and Max over for some cake and an obligatory jaunt through the Nike store… like their Nepali brethren, our boys are Brand Betrothed.
That was enough adventure and adversity for one afternoon, so we wobbled back toward our hotel (Max: “Kathmandu is an ADA nightmare!), picked up our neatly folded laundry, and began the leisurely and pleasant process of packing for our next destination, Bhutan. With Max back in tow we returned to Fire & Ice – pizza, beer and a game of Exploding Kittens… then back to bed.
Monday I was up early so slipped out for a dawn walking tour of old Kathmandu. I enjoy the quiet hours when a town wakes up: no tourists nor motorbike horns; temples awaken, shops open and locals pay homage to both. I used the walking tour on the Lonely Planet’s Kindle App to learn a bit about the various temples, stupas, shrines, architecture and markets then snapped pictures of each along the way. Old Kathmandu is so byzantine and rich with these that finding the named sites is a bit like a treasure hunt.
Back at the Friends Home I joined Sue and the boys for a last breakfast before a final pack up and traffic-choked drive back to the Airport, where I write these words as we await our Druk Air flight to Paro, Bhutan. Goodbye Nepal, thanks for your warm wonders!