Dadu Aur Madak

First a little afterthought about Chitwan.
I wonder if this guy below was pissed about the slow connection speeds.

Kathmandu was really not exactly what we were expecting either. The shot below is taken near the highest point before entering the Kathmandu valley. As you can see it is still quite tropical. The elevation is just over 4000 feet, and the temperature in the city, even in October, hovered near 90.

We had been fairly impressed by the quality and hospitality at the two hotels that we had stayed at in Nepal, so when Madham the manager in Chitwan said he had faxed our information on to their resort on the outskirts of Kathmandu we decided it was worth checking out. He said there was no obligation to stay, but it sounded great. It also helped us to avoid the real hardcore madness of driving into the inner city. The low grade diesel fuel in Nepal causes the trucks and buses to smoke so much that even the ten kilometers or so that we had to do on the ring road around the city had left us filthy. Another reason we wanted to stick with this place was the way Madham had talked about his employer with such reverence. It made quite an impression. I have rarely seen anybody with such obvious respect for his boss since my own father passed away. He also made us a really attractive price on staying at what turned out to be a first class resort. The father in this enterprise had opened his first hotel The Kathmandu Guesthouse in the Thamel district of Kathmandu in the early seventies. It was not only his first, but it was also Thamel's first hotel. The Guesthouse has been host to celebrities from John Kennedy Junior to Pink Floyd. Thamel is now the premier tourist area in Kathmandu. Prior to the development of tourism in Thamel, the main area for tourists was street known as Freak Street for all the hippies that came there in the 60s and early seventies to enjoy the cheap hash. It continues to be a commodity even today. Thamel has just about anything you can imagine, The Kathmandu Guesthouse is the flagship of this group of hotels and most places are referenced by their proximity to it. Thamel is one of the more "cosmopolitan" places we have visited with scores of restaurants, coffee houses, bakeries, and guesthouses. There are also supermarkets selling international favorites, and plenty of places to purchase high-tech mountaineering gear for climbing or trekking in case you had forgotten to pack your crampons or ice-axe. They even had restaurants that served beef and bacon, neither of which have we seen for close to two months.

 The newest place belonging to the Sakya family sits just below the Shivapuri National Park in the foothills at the edge of the Kathmandu Valley. In the photo at left--taken from the park--it is part of the cluster of buildings in the foreground. The ciy is just visible under the haze on the horizon. All of the rooms there are suites, and it has full resort services and one of the nicest pools I've seen anywhere. The price was $40 US per night including a full buffet breakfast. The area is known as Budhanilkantha, named for a temple just up the road from the hotel that is home to this statue of the reclining Vishnu below.

The sixteen foot long image of Vishnu which lies in a pool is one of the most impressive images of him in the country. He is surrounded by an eleven headed cobra, and his four arms hold the four sacred symbols of Vishnu. It is carved from a single stone and dates to the 7th century. It was found in a rice field nearby. It attracts pilgrims from all over the world and many of these sadhus. Sadhus are wandering holy men who lead the life of ascetics, owning nothing but the small bundle of necessities that they carry with them. Non-Hindus are not allowed in to the enclosure, but they do allow you to take a photo from the gate.

When we arrived at the Park Village hotel we were greeted like we were celebrities. They don't get the motorcycle tours there the way they do in India, probably because of all of the warnings that the US State Department pumps out about the Maoists. They had been advised that we might be coming, and the operations manager really fauned over us. The place was actually very conveniently located for us very near Nepal's only Enfield dealer, and my bike was due for its regular 3000 kilometer service. We dropped both bikes so Karen's could get checked out as well. When we returned, we ran into Sunil Sakya the owner who we had had lunch with in Lumbini. He introduced us to his father, Karna, who was very congenial, and was very interested in our trip. He said he had heard about us from several of his employees, and had been looking forward to meeting us. He invited us to tea at his home, which is a restored palace just down the street from The Royal Palace of Nepal. His home is also a bed-and-breakfast that is by invitation only. He makes it available to artists and writers to have a quiet place to work, and it also houses The Carter Center that helps promote the humanitarian work of the former president. Karna himself is a writer, having written seven books on such diverse topics as the wildlife of Nepal, Nepalese folklore, an autobiography, and books about some of the remote paradises in Nepal. Our suite also had several original oils that were signed Karna that we later found out were his work. Before opening the original Kathmandu Guesthouse, Karna had worked for the Nepalese government as a forester. He is responsible for proposing the Royal Chitwan National Park to the old King of Nepal. He was one of the driving forces in developing that reserve. After losing both his wife and daughter to cancer within a one month period, he undertook a campaign to develop and raise funds and awareness for Nepal's first cancer hospital. He has traveled all over the world, and currently sits on the boards of several NGOs, the Nepal cancer society, as well as a UN organization that does work in the areas of Indigenous peoples' rights and environmental issues. A large contingent of students doing studies in a UN based program were staying at the hotel while we were there. Following the death of his father he opened the original guesthouse in the early 70s in his family's thirteen room home. The Kathmandu Guesthouse has now grown to 110 rooms. When he developed the place that we were staying in he returned to his roots as a forester (pardon the pun) planting over three thousand indigenous trees on the property. Karna was very interested in our trip, and was also interested in having us send him pictures of us with our bikes on the grounds of his hotel so he could include them in a brochure. The place is really more like an arboretum than a hotel.