Kathmandu outside and in

Kathmandu, Nepal: I am getting my Indian muscle memories back – how to dodge motorcycles, rickshaws and taxis on streets where sidewalks may be a luxury of only a few yards duration.

The sensory overload is just like India’s. We went out looking for a hair salon and Don really studied up to make sure we could find it. But as there is really no street signage, and instead there are so many other signs, it is very hard to pick out one particular place. But there are lots of nice surprises if you look up sometimes, or duck down an interesting side street.

Of special note on the streets is the wiring situation, which will make an engineer I know turn pale. Someone explained to us that once there is an electrical problem, it’s either impossible or too much trouble to figure out what wire to remove, so they just put in a new one. Makes sense to me.

At any rate, we finally did arrive at the Asylum Salon, which I almost avoided due to its name. Language is a tricky thing. My heart sank a little when I saw the place – highly recommended by our hotel – but we both got great haircuts from a little dynamo of a Nepalese woman who tackled us one at a time.

While Don was getting his locks shorn, I talked to a woman whose daughter was also having her hair cut. This woman is a Swede who has lived in Kathmandu for seven years and runs an import/export business, plus gives “shopping safaris” to tourists who want to know the best places to go and the best prices to pay. We agreed on everything important in the world, so it was a very pleasant way to spend some time.

Our tourist destination for the day was the antidote to all the chaos on the streets. It is called the Garden of Dreams, a neoclassical garden built in 1920. From the mid-1960’s, upon the death of its patron, it lay in neglect but was recently restored with the help of the Austrian government. It has a very quiet entrance, and offers the kind of serenity and artful landscaping that draws in visitors who just want to stroll and sit and soak in its charm. (More about its surprising Austrian restaurant later.)

We also fell captive and had a lovely time just breathing in the quiet.

Don couldn’t understand why I insisted on a taxi back to the hotel, but I couldn’t bear to have my peaceful feelings attacked by walking back. Of course, I forgot that taxi drivers here don’t know where any hotels are – though they must know some major landmarks. They always say they know where to take you, then stop to ask ten fellow cabbies where your destination is. Thank goodness we were able to tell him where to turn.

So much for serenity….

There is now a terrific thunderstorm, very enjoyable as I am safely inside our lovely room. Don is down the street having a message from blind people at the Seeing Hands salon. I’m sure he will share….

Don’s Food Corner

First, the Seeing Hands massage:  This rather well-known massage center is located only three doors down from the hotel where we’re staying. And at $30 for a 90-minute deep tissue massage, it could not be ignored. All of the therapists are blind, but they have one seeing person at the desk who collects the money. The place was packed with clients, all tourists. A seeing person also seems to have done the interior decoration since it looks like a rather upscale spa, clean and attractive. The highlight of the experience was, after a few minutes of some body work, my blind therapist said, “So, you’re about 60?” I would have preferred a blind appraisal of “about 50” (or less), but you take what you can get. I guess this means that the one-week Ayurvedic rejuvenation experience has had some lingering effects.

But the biggest news of the day was lunch at the restaurant in the Garden of Dreams. The Austrian restoration of the garden brought an Austrian-influenced restaurant menu. And you know what that means. Schnitzel! I thought Jo would weep with joy and relief. It’s been nearly four months since she has had any schnitzel or actually a piece of meat like that. Although it was pork schnitzel instead of true Wiener schnitzel (veal), she was pleased with the result. It came with a potato salad of some type, but not really something you would find in Vienna. We started with a salad that featured actual lettuce, apples, nuts, tomatoes and deep-fried balls of chevre.  More California than Nepal, but it was welcome. I had a whole trout, grilled, with a very nice caper sauce on top.

If it hadn’t started to rain, I think Jo would have wanted to linger in the Garden the whole afternoon.

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