Return to Kathmandu, and suddenly I’m addicted to Cauliflower. Okay, no worries. Because if this clip doesn’t make you want to drop everything and come here to join me, then you may need to see a specialist. (And by “may”, I mean “probably”; and by “probably”, I mean “indubitably”.)
Travelers who’ve been to both countries say that Nepal is like the training-wheels version of India. Be that as it may, arriving here from Thailand/Malaysia is somehow even more culture-shocking than was arriving here from the USA. Kathmandu is wild, unhinged, dirty, smelly, dusty, crazy, chaotic, and completely deranged – also, of course, completely exhilarating.
To give an example of the difference, right now Nepal is in the middle of its most important festival. In Malaysian festivals, they light huge bonfires and blow off firecrackers like no tomorrow. In Thailand, they walk up and down endless rows of food and toys and DVDs, then maybe watch some Thai superstars performing in the evening. In Nepal, they…
And this is right in the middle of Durbar Square — the birthplace of Kathmandu, and a World Heritage site. They call it a “sacrifice”, but considering the animals had no say in the matter, seems to me “slaughter” would be the more appropriate terminology. However you call it, they were going on all over the square – and gathering huge crowds of gawkers. I couldn’t bring myself to watch.
When not massacring goats, the Good People were standing on line to get in to the holiest temples, which are open to the public only on this one day.
It was a bit like Disneyland, in that one could walk around to the various temples and judge roughly how long it would take to get to the front of each line. I dutifully queued up for the massive Teleju temple…
…but a guy told me not to bother, as they’d never let me in. That’s what really pisses me off about the Hindus, the bastards: They’ll charge you a good sum of cash-money to get onto the grounds of the holiest sites, but not let you step foot into the sites themselves.
Nutjob faux-holy-men were all over the place, aggressively asking for money to get one’s picture taken with.
For the kids, there was kite-flying aplenty, as well as feeding of the pigeons.
Everybody had smushed grains of red-dyed rice into their foreheads, and placed flower stems behind their ears; and the temples and shrines were seeing plenty of business. Also, there’s this badass temporary shrine with plastic orange Coconut trees out the front.
At night, the light show here was quite impressive. Eat your heart out, The Pink Floyd.
But the favourite activity has been processions. Big ones, small ones, short ones, tall ones. All over everywhere. In this one, from the second day, the band were a mix of Nepali and Dixieland stylings.
They hoed down for a while at this one market square area, then marched across town and played some more in a residential courtyard; then picked up this, like, goddess-child…
…over whom everybody was going so apeshit ga-ga that it was almost impossible to get a photo in edgewise, and marched right back over to the market square and paraded around with some cardboard sabres for a while.
On the third day, there was this procession, a mixture of truck-borne and pedestrian revelers.
Wow, when was the last time you had as much fun as they’re having? Why is Nepal fucking awesome? This is why Nepal is fucking awesome:
After this procession had finished, I barely had enough time to grab some Avocadoes (!!) and greens from this one out-of-the-way market that I discovered by chance, when, down the road here come another one. Why are they drinking orange soda straight from the two-litre and rice beer out of teakettles? Well…you tell me.
‘round and ‘round and ‘round the town they danced and drummed and twirled the massive umbrella, stopping at various shrines to get really groovy for a while before taking it to the streets again.
I followed them around for a good three hours – at first they were afeared of me because of my bare feet, but then warmed up and became quite friendly – before finally peeling off to head back toward the hostel. But, walking through the market area, there were a bunch of plastic chairs arranged (and re-arranged and re-arranged and re-arranged) about the courtyard, so I guessed perhaps there was to be some sort of performance.
I sat down to, finally, eat my Avos, and it caused this big spectacle. The man had said that they were of Nepali vintage – and they were cheap enough that I thought that I believed him. But, none of the Nepalis had ever heard tell – kept asking me, “What is it?” I shared out as much as I could, but very few were brave enough to try. One little boy who did try seemed elated at its taste, but the other few who did liked it not.
At about nightfall, the same group I’d been following around all day showed up, jammed for a while, then sat down to join in a big group dinner. It was an assembly-line service – the servers walking around with buckets, and plopping or scooping the course onto each plate. One of the drummers noticed me, and said he’d seen me walking with them, and invited me to eat up. I had to decline, of course: not only was the food cooked, but I think they were serving up the goats they’d been decimating all over town.
After a while, all of the bands from the procession (there must have been four or five of them) took up the charge again, each parading off in a different direction. The one I followed wound around and through several narrow alleys before finally landing at this cool little shrine here…
…and having one big, final, swingin’ dance-off, before finally beginning to disperse. A friendly guy forced some orange soda down my throat – wouldn’t take no for an answer – helpfully explaining, “It’s not alcohol, it’s Fanta.”
Dashain verdict: Nepalis fucking know how to party!
Apart from festival activities, digging back in to the incredible temples here…
…doing a bit of people-watching…
…and discovering some more awesome street art…
…has sent me reeling here one more time – and I still I feel I’ve only scratched the surface of this wild and wonderful place.
Now, however, it’s off for a spot of barefoot trekking. Hopefully, this time there’ll be some fruit available. If not, then, it may end as inauspiciously as the last time. Here’s to finding out. Blog at you in a few weeks, I will…