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!


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  • soo

    October 25, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    Nice article. I do not believe that is bollywood. I think that is called Kollywood in Nepal.

  • GayE @ Pinay Travel Junkie

    October 26, 2012 at 2:06 am

    BOO! You shoulda said yes so I could tell the world that I have a Bollywood Star friend.

  • chyng

    October 26, 2012 at 6:24 am

    american next top model worthy location! ^_^
    i agree with the “know when to use and not to use the camera.” sometimes taking too much pictures can get us to trouble.

    haberdey ronnie!

  • Hannah

    October 26, 2012 at 7:27 am

    yep, there were definitely areas where you cannot take photos and I was so praning kept asking the guide if it’s okay to take photos here or here. If we weren’t in a rush, I would’ve spent an entire afternoon reading a book on the top of the hill with the benches

  • darwin | tracking Treasure

    October 26, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Roooonnnnn!!!That movie might take you to Oscars or Academy!parang Slumdog Millionaire lang!!?? pero sayang!hahaha! next time say YES!!!haha

    but your moment with Ratna is the best part of it. Naalala ko tuloy yung tumulong samin ni Melo papuntang kelantan, hinatid kami ng walang kapalit, at yung nagbigay sakin ng upuan nya sa bus para comfortable ako, kasi 9 hours ride yun..

  • Scarlettie

    October 26, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Hi! 🙂 I’ve read your posts and it’s fun to read. I hope to be as great blogger as you are. Want to read mine? http://scarlettie13.blogspot.com/ it’s about relaxation and enjoyment through travels, books and movies. So far, it has a few posts but many posts to come! 😀

  • Oman

    October 26, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    i dunno if it was your intention but you got me LOL on the first part…

    …”The idiot was trying to slowly enunciate the words because I, the “local” dude, might not catch-up if he speak in normal pace.”

    …”There are monkeys, cows, doves… It was very nostalgic, it felt like I was back in my previous work place.”

    …”they do not have a concept of toning-down to neutral palate. With all these explosions of crayola boxes”

    Your wicked humor is so infectious that if I write a blog post today, it will surely rub on me.

    Anyways, back in my hometown in Cabanatuan, there is this popular girlie bar called Kathmandu. Pag umuuwi ng lasing tatay ko, nagagalit nanay ko at naririnig ko, “hinayupak ka nag-Kathmandu ka naman”. So may earliest recollection of the word is a girlie bar. Pero di naman ako napunta doon hehe.

    Pero itong Kathmandu mo, it gave me a more positive association now and this one, I know gusto ko puntahan because of your posts.

    Great Job Idol.

  • looneyplaneteer

    October 27, 2012 at 2:44 am

    i enjoy reading. as always. ang lalim mo sa huli. parang isang linggong retreat sa caleruega ang pinaghuhugutan mo ng talinghaga, ah. hihihi

  • joan | the backpack chronicles

    October 27, 2012 at 2:48 am

    can’t help staing at the pictures! ang ganda ng mga shots mo! kuhang kuha yung ganda ng place.

    sayang yung bollywood op! hahaha.

  • paul | walkflypinoy.com

    October 27, 2012 at 3:16 am

    sayang the bolllywood exposure! haha. even with all the chaos and touts about, i never really felt pestered and harassed in kathmandu. there’s just something about it (or us as pinoys look like nepalis. ha.)

  • Lifeisacelebration

    October 27, 2012 at 3:25 am

    First off. Those photos can make you rich. Sell them. Really, Ron, they’re super good photos! One photographer I know had a random photo yield as much as P250,000. Daming trips yan!

    Next, I have a confession to make. I’ve always loved the humor in your blogs. Would be in stitches reading through them. This time around, I actually cried. Shed tears on that part about “give that to mommy”. True, it’s typical to fall into that trap — checking the angles, searching for the best (read: cheap but nice and clean) hotels and dining places, not getting robbed or ripped off, etc. but the best trips are ALWAYS the ones that touch us right there. <3 Namaste!

  • flip'n travels

    October 27, 2012 at 3:59 am

    Tita Lili… Awe that is really sweet Tita, I almost cried too when she gave me that necklace for free, im mounting it on a frame. as for the photos, errr, i still consider myself a amateur and selling photos for big fat cheques is still a far cry. hehe
    paul… hahaha di bale next time ako na mag-o-audition, i need to practice the Bollywood dance basics 😉
    joan… thanks, that means a lot to me!
    Rv… korek, parang nag retreat lang sa baguio. f na f ang composition LOL
    Oman… hahahaha the kathmandu girlie bar cracked me off. cat-man-do LOL inspiring my idol lawstude.com means the world to me.
    Scarlettie… “great blogger” is too much 🙂 keep writing before you know it people are subscribing and waiting for your posts
    darwin… i really believe in the innate kindness of people. swerte ako sa mababait na tao when i travel. like your experience in malaysia… madami sila dyan. and yes sayang talaga yung op. lol
    Hannah… true! it was my best birthday trip ever! thanks
    Chyng… thanks teh! email na natin si ate tyra!
    Gaye… pag sumikat ako, papadalan kita ng autographed photo. hahahahaha
    Soo… thanks, yeah it was possibly kollywood. thanks for the heads up!

  • Glen | escapemanila.com

    October 27, 2012 at 4:22 am

    Great photos and very nice story. Will beg oing there on January and hope to meet nice people too 🙂

  • ian

    October 27, 2012 at 4:58 am

    sayang naman! kaya lang baka di ka na bumalik from that trip tapos sign ka na nila ng artist contract mamiss ka naman nyan… hahaha… and ang sweet naman ni ate na nagbigay ng necklace sayo =D

  • KatP

    October 29, 2012 at 6:37 am

    “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”” -heartwarming… Thank you for sharing this and I love all your photos but I super love your portrait of Ratna. 🙂

  • Wends of Journeys and Travels

    October 30, 2012 at 1:57 am

    This post Ron just made me dream of kathmandu and wanted to explore it too and to add more on your photos, I am mesmerized. These photos are so National Geographic-entry are an eye-gasm for a plebby photographer like me. I wanted to just stay there and snap photos of it.

    You should have said Yes for the Bollywood and I know you will be an instant hit. 🙂

    You take care wherever you are Ron and I thought Monette is with you on this trip?

  • Riz

    October 31, 2012 at 7:07 am

    Your humor is so addictive that i read your post everyday here at my boring desk. Love all the photos and sana pumayag ka sa shoot!! bongga un. 😀 I’m a fan of your writings and photos. keep it up. hope to meet you and monette one day 🙂

  • Kaiye Pallarco

    November 2, 2012 at 3:57 pm

    Sayang ang exposure idol! HAHA

    Nice post about Kathmandu!

  • Samuel Jeffery

    November 6, 2012 at 7:08 am

    I love your photos in this post. People shots really tell a story that not even words can often convey. I especially like your tips section and I will remember your advice to take a taxi over a bus or van.

  • KE

    November 10, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    nepal is definitely on my trip bucket list! good job on getting it off yours!
    and oh, i love your pics! =)

  • Mike

    November 12, 2012 at 1:57 am

    Wow nice post but honestly you should have said yes to be a part of the movie, its a once of a lifetime opportunity. Such a amazing experience and I wish I can also explore kathmandu.

  • docgelo

    November 18, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    i enjoyed reading this post; the photos are so crisp and everything’s postcard worthy. so compelling it made me want to experience nepal too. someday, perhaps. 🙂

  • Lyndsay/ Discount Travel Blogger

    April 1, 2013 at 3:35 am

    Awesome experience! I love the part when ‘she’ gave you something to give your mommy… And the Bollywood opportunity, dang! Why didn’t you jumped right in? LOL Love the post Ron!

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