By the morning, I am feeling immensely better, although still not really on for a 5 am start for the Everest flight. I opt for a more gentle start to the day, with a couple more emergency trips to the bathroom, but manage to shower and get dressed ready for the others’ return from the flight.
At about 11.30 am, we meet downstairs and get into a minibus for a visit to nearby Bhaktapur. Siling explains that Exodus have managed to rearrange my Everest flight for Monday morning, which cheers me up. We follow the route of Kathmandu’s decrepit trolley bus and are deposited just outside the city gates. Payment of an exhorbitant 750 Rs tourist entrance fee gains us entry to the main square. Bhaktapur is the perfect antidote to Kathmandu. It is much quieter—the central area is completely free from traffic—clean (comparitively), and unrushed. The haunting sound of Buddhist chanting—that by now very familiar ‘Om man-ni pad-me hum’ tune—drifts over the air from nearby CD shops. It is easy to appreciate the monuments here—intricately carved windows and ornate pagoda-style roofs.
Alex goes after a wooden mask for her living room wall. She is not entirely convinced by a rather grotesque ‘Angry Shiva’ mask with bulging eyes and a firey mouth proffered by a street trader. We pay a brief visit to the Golden Gate and the royal bath beyond, an algae-filled sunken pool guarded by two creepy-looking serpents. On then to the potters’ square, where hundreds of small oil lamps are laid out to dry in the sun, and potters sit in the shadows around the edge of the square shaping vessels on spinning truck wheels.
Our late lunch leaves me feeling rather ill again, but I survive without mishap and sit out in the fresh air of Durbar Square to recover. On returning to the hotel, the others head off into Thamel on a souveneer-hunting spree.
We regroup at 7 pm and head off for dinner at an expensive ‘authentic’ Nepali restaurant with a live culture show, the ‘Bhanchha Ghar’. We are escourted upstairs where we take off our shoes and sit down on mats around the edge of the room. Drinks and rice wine that you could set fire to are served, and then the culture show begins. Two groups of dancing girls—a four and a three—take turns to perform for us, each dance representing a different ethnic group of Nepal. The taped backing track features a rather ingraciating commentory between pieces and the dancing is thoroughly lack-lustre. The girls look as if they’ve been doing this for more years than Starlight Express, and there is no sense of enthusiasm or energy from them. I give the rice wine a wide berth. Ray downs his in one.
The food is served back downstairs. I resolve to stick with soup for the evening. Although it turns out to be a set menu, Siling negotiates with the waiters on my behalf and they are very accommodating, rustling me up a very good chicken soup. The rest of the food looks and smells very good too and I eye it enviously.
On our return to the hotel, we must bid goodbye to Ray, Val, Simon and Alex, who leave on the early flight tomorrow. James, Martin and Nicky have an extra day, and I have arranged myself an extra week before going back.