kathman-do’s and don’ts

Alone and confabulated, I dumped my backpack on a corner, slipped in my ribbed jacket and stormed-out the room faster than a receptionist can utter the word “Namaste” on a bad hair day.

What’s my plan? I do not have a plan.

So I wandered aimlessly, crossing my fingers that another traveler will approach me and be my companion for that day. Hello, everybody needs a FB profile shot!

I was about to cross the street towards Pashupatinath when finally, a caucasian guy approached me and asked: “Namaste, do-you-know-the-way-to-Pashupati-temple? The-BIIIIG-temple” The idiot was trying to slowly enunciate the words because I, the “local” dude, might not catch-up if he speak in normal pace.

I pointed towards the uphill street where a ginormous signage written in red: To the temple.

While walking towards the complex of 1,600 year-old Pashupatinath, I was mesmerized by the presence of stray animals everywhere. There are monkeys, cows, doves… It was very nostalgic, it felt like I was back in my previous work place.

The people are dressed in brightly colored fabrics that proves a point that they do not have a concept of toning-down to neutral palate. With all these explosions of crayola boxes, it totally skipped me that I already passed the gate for worshipers. I was supposed to go around the block to pay the entrance fee as a tourist, but I already covered a good stretch of steep incline so I just continued walking, looked up the sky and whispered “Sorry Lord Shiva.”

As respect, I kept my camera inside my bag and refrained from taking photos.

DO: Respect religious structures and be sensitive on what and what not to capture in your camera. And pay the entrance fee!

The streets of Kathmandu on rush hours are comparable to EDSA on a payday. You can rent a motorbike or a car, or you can also take the sporadic public buses, WHICH by the way, are something that I would not recommend. With crazy traffic rules, absence of functioning traffic lights and ninja-trained drivers, going around the city may require serious skills with inner jedi force. But if bear wrestling, street luging, heli-skiing and Baseco compound parkouring is up your alley? You can go ahead and give it a shot.

DON’T: Try your luck taking public buses or vans. Flag a cab instead and make sure you check with your hotel staff the average fare from point A to point B.

As a traveler in a foreign land, I always keep a subtle demeanor to avoid unnecessary attention. But that was not the case in Kathmandu—I blended in the crowd and walking around was easier… I put on my earphones and moved with the music with a different bravado. Traveling alone gives me an unwarranted macho disposition, in this case I was rocking the streets with a David Hasselhoff swagger.

Okay, my allusion on the preceding statement just exposed my age.

When I arrived at the Hanuman-Dhoka Durbar Square, a movie crew was filming a scene on the Jagganath temple. I was watching in awe, it was the first time I actually witnessed a legit Bollywood taping in action.

My silent revery was interrupted when a crew approached me and asked if I am interested to be part of a scene segment. Chills creeped my spine. Excited and dumbfounded, I answered with an outright enthusiastic–NO. I chickened-out on what could have been my only opportunity and jumping board to Bollywood stardom. But I couldn’t say yes because I know it will take forever for me to nail the bobbling head dance routine without sustaining cervical spine quadriplegia.

I continued on walking around enjoying the plethora of interesting subjects that will surely put photographers and wannabes like me to a state of shuttergasm.

DO: Flash a sweet smile to people, Nepalese are naturally friendly and you will not be disappointed to receive a smile in return.

I sat down and spent some quiet time reading a book on the steps of Shiva Parbati Temple. Until an old jewelry vendor sat beside me and without warning, she swung her hand just few inches away from hitting my face. I squeaked a bit and almost threw a reflex of knocking her on the nose until I realized she was just offering her bun of bread.

I smiled and gestured my appreciation “Dhanybhad“. The whole time she thought I am a Newar, so she quickly stood up and apologized for disturbing me.

I asked her to stay and I opened my protein bar to join her with her day’s meal. We talked for about an hour covering random topics, from Napali government to bizarre matters like how her son got so attached to their yaks.

After an hour of laughter, Nepali phrases tutorial and political debate, I bade farewell. Before I even got the chance to turn and walk away, she quickly snatched my arm… Opened my hand… And she put a yak horn necklace on my palm “Give this to your mommy

With a lump on my throat and guards down, I gave her a big hug.

Sometimes, we forget the real essence of traveling. We are so fixated with how we will be taking good angles of sceneries, how to look good in pictures and how we can avoid danger in a foreign land. Thus making us cloistered in our self-built prison walls. We are missing so much of the real experiences: Those short human encounters that will be etched in our hearts for a long period of time. All it takes is a little time to stop, a sincere smile and the courage to open our hearts to strangers.

This is for Ratna Devi, whom I spent an hour in Kathmandu that I will never ever forget.

But DAMN that Bollywood cameo! I could have been the next Amir Khan!