Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Yesterday morning we drove from Pokhara back to Kathmandu for our final afternoon in Kathmandu and today we flew back into Dhaka.

We spent our final afternoon yesterday exploring Durbar Square, which is located in the old, traditional area of the city. We wandered around the three squares that make up Durbar and are filled with temples and pavilions. The cobbled streets were crowded with Nepalese going about their business, a surprising amount of foreigners on holiday, and cows wandering aimlessly about. Little Hindu shrines were decorated with crushed red powder and garlands of fresh and dried marigolds garnished low-hanging stone doorways. As we breathed in the heavy incense and the hustle and bustle of life surrounding us-laborers hauling burdens, hippies wandering, and children scampering about- two priest suddenly appeared in front of us.

We were ambushed.

Not bothering to ask if we particularly wanted red-spotted heads, they grinned wizened smiles at us and stamped our foreheads with red dye. Ah, but nothing is free in Asia, so they demanded boksheesh for their blessing. Hmm, now where have I heard that word before? Boksheesh! Of course, beggars only pester me for boksheesh every day in Gulshan, Dhaka. But these priests requested money gently and their blessing was genuine, so the generous Est gave them some rupees.

A crack of thunder filled the square and a heavy downpour began. Laughing, we backed into a silver and brass metal craft shop to avoid the downpour, where the friendly shopkeeper announced this is the first rain since August. We spent a pleasant twenty minutes with the man, mainly discussing the interesting Hindu and Buddhist mix of religions in Kathmandu.

The rain lessened to a trickle and Est and I began the trek through the maze of streets back to our hotel, arm and arm under an umbrella. Our blessed foreheads brought us no luck, as the rain soon picked up again. Soon the icy drops drenched us and by the time we negotiated the twisting, narrow streets to our hotel, I resembled a wet kitty. The doorman started laughing uproariously at my mud-covered legs and Est, a few feet behind me, began laughing, too.

“What?” I demanded, still feeling like a disgruntled kitty.

“Sweetie,” she gasped, the dye of your headscarf ran and you have blue-streaked hair!”

Three washings later, I still have periwinkle-colored curls.

Now that our trip-or maybe I should call it an adventure- is over, I have several recommendations for when visiting Nepal. One thing I recommend doing in Kathmandu is getting yourself caught in the rain with a good friend. One thing I recommend avoiding is Nepali quality fabric dye!

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