Every trip to Nepal starts with Kathmandu’s airport, a small, overcrowded place where you’ll be waiting for your bags to come for what it seems an eternity. And of course, the trip is followed by a stay in Thamel—the tourist neighborhood, trekking agency central, and home to everything “Everest”—Everest Hotel, Everest Café, Everest Beer!
One of the things you’ll first notice in Nepal is that you are constantly being “watched” by countless Buddha Eyes. They are virtually on every stupa (Buddhist shrine), door, flag, and t-shirt you encounter on the street. On the stupas, they are looking out in the four cardinal points symbolizing the omniscience of Buddha, and they do really transmit a sense of peace and wisdom. Simon, of course, could not stop taking photos of them!
Nepal and momos are simply made for each other. Sticky and soft dough pockets filled with soul-satisfying meat and vegetables, smothered in a savory vegetable sauce with a little chili for heat, will make any wanderer, trekker or local a happy person. Wandering though the streets of Kathmandu would beckon us to buy 6 momos from the woman selling them out of a make shift steamer, and for the mere price of 70 Nepali rupees ($0.60USD). Momos represented a respite from the chaotic Thamel streets and the cold wind from Everest. Simon and I had a cold pretty much the entirety of our Nepali trip and momos were one of the main medicines to keep us going on to see more of the beauty in Nepal. During one of our trips to see Boudhanath, the countries’ largest stupa, we happened upon a small, local Nepali shop to buy tea and of course, momos. There was a familiar voice ordering to the side of our table. I (Tracy) turned my head, not actually believing I could know the person in this obscure spot, but holy hell I did! In the far corner of shop sat a girl that was a regular at the restaurant I used to work at in Moscow, Idaho. Of course I had to go up to her, she didn’t really remember me but we talked for a few minutes about our mutual home on the other side of the world. Not only did momos make us feel comforted in a foreign country, but they also brought me home again.
Kathmandu has many things to offer and is a great place to start experiencing Nepali culture. From the monkey temple (Swayambhunath) to Durbar Square (Kathmandu’s historical downtown) people are able to immerse themselves in Buddhism and Hinduism and to see how these two religions coexist with seemingly no difficulty.
Visiting Nepal in December 2014 was a gift that both of us enjoyed in our own ways. Simon loves the mountains, and stupas. Tracy relished the generosity of Nepalis and we both obviously loved the food. After the devastating earthquake that killed more than 2,000 people in Nepal last April, we both truly treasure the time we spent navigating our way through thousands of Buddhist temples and the iconic engravings on each one. Sadly, so many artifacts and living ancient villages were destroyed. Nepalis must rebuild and accept the destruction so unfairly brought upon them. We ache for the woman who sold her momos on the street and the ancient ruins now decaying in a landfill, there is no replacement that can quickly be built. Nepalis are strong, resilient, and peaceful people, and an ancient one as well. Our hope for Nepal is that it can find peace within its borders by remembering the beauty of its history, but also the necessity of looking forward. The best way we have to help Nepal is to promote its beauty and encourage people to visit.
Bye for now Kathmandu, hopefully we’ll be able to quote Cat Stevens in the near future: “Katmandu I’ll soon be seeing you…”