Out of the four days that I was at
Kathmandu, two days were declared as bandh. Upon my arrival at the airport, the hosts phoned and apologized for not coming to receive me because of a total bandh called very suddenly. Due to the volatile climate, only tourist vehicles were allowed to operate and I was told that instead of going to Park Village Resort where I was supposed to stay, it would be advisable to spend one night at Kathmandu Guest House which happens to be run by the same group. After much discussion and deliberation with the hosts, the taxi driver and the hotel and after weighing all options of the safest mode to travel, I finally got into a tourist vehicle along with a colleague and a couple of other passengers.
Only when I reached the Kathmandu Guest House did I discover that it was a legendary place to be in. Located in the heart of the city at Thamel, it has served many distinguished guests over the years. At the entrance, it has its own walk of fame recognizing those who have stayed there - The Beatles, Jeremy Irons, Ricky Martin, Jimmy Carter, mountaineers George Band, Doug Scott, Chris Bonington and the Lonely Planet founder Tony Wheeler. Inside, there were several pictures taken of historical moments in mountain climbing, diagrams and pictures of the
Himalayas. A soft board outside their business centre carried letters sent to the guests. I realized that several guests stay at the Guest House for several weeks and months. Most of them are drawn to the Himalayas and are there for trekking or mountain climbing. Others are on a long holiday or even on writing breaks. Early morning as I stepped out to have breakfast, I saw a bunch of bicycle riders returning to the Guest House from a ride in the mountains. I felt a slight tinge of guilt because I had packed my running shoes with all intentions of training but had chickened out after seeing the mercury drop to near zero.
Located right in the middle of the happening area of Thamel, the Guest House is very popular with international tourists. The interiors are traditionally designed and my Swiss colleague found it very exotic. In the evening, it was biting cold outside and so we decided to skip eating at their open air restaurant although they did have a warm fireplace. Instead we ate some awesome Italian food at La Dolce Vita, which was right across the Guest House.
The next day after the bandh was called off, I found that Thamel is a buzzing place and meant specially for the tourists. It has restaurants serving all kinds of cuisine, there are internet cafes, stores selling mountaineering and trekking gear, laundry services that charge by weight, shops selling pashmina shawls, brass idols, and other souvenirs, and of course, the disco bars with live music and dance. I was really amused to read the hoardings outside some bars calling themselves ‘Naach Ghar’. Given the nature of Thamel, I was not surprised to see the streets being heavily patrolled and tourists roaming freely late in the evening.
Thamel is a colourful and vibrant place and a must-see for all tourists visiting
Kathmandu. I was happy that I got a flavour of it – all because of the bandh!