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