Travels with the Beard – Nepal and Beyond

Our travels, chickens and surviving life

The Garden of Dreams, Kathmandu

on March 13, 2013

Over the past few years we’ve spent many days wandering the streets of Kathmandu. We’ve seen the sights, dodged the sprawling piles of rubbish, avoided the pools of rancid, smelly water, and marvelled at the enduring testaments to bygone splendour tucked away round every corner.
How we feel about Kathmandu can be neatly split into two:
We love it. We love the now familiar sights and sounds; we love the all pervading smell of incense; we love the smiling people who endure so much simply to survive.
And we dislike it. We dislike the all too pushy shopkeepers (who have forgotten the government dictate that they must not hassle tourists); we dislike the corruption that sends creeping tendrils into every walk of life. And what could you find to like in the fact that the only water available to the residents of Kathmandu is delivered in water tankers once a week, and that electricity is rationed to the bone.
The latest in a series of general strikes kept us trapped here 2 days longer than planned. We wanted to be away, up to the small village of Salle in the Everest Region, up and out of the Kathmandu Valley smog, up to see our friends once again – after all, that is why we are here.
Our large, heavy rucksacks are packed with presents for the children and villagers of the small, isolated village where we attempted to teach English for 5 months, 4 years ago.
This will be our second return, but exactly as before, actually getting back up to the village is fraught with problems.
So we wait and wait. The ultra grimy heat begins to get us down – you can taste the polluted air in your mouth. We begin to cough, and the constant disturbed nights sleep takes its toll.
I fall over the straps of our rucksacks which wait by the door of our room – Tod’s fault for leaving them there; I drop the only towel on the dusty, dirty floor, rendering it unusable – Tod’s fault for, well, some reason or another; I can’t find my hairbrush – Tod’s fault again; My face cream shoots me in the eye under pressure from the altitude – the final straw.
I’m lucky.
“We need to go & spend time at the Garden of Dreams” Tod says, and smiles that smile of his that makes everything ok again.
So we go, walking slowly and carefully along the narrow, morning streets, avoiding the water that most shopkeepers are throwing down outside their shops to keep the filthy dust at bay; swaying out of the path of speeding scooters; jumping out of the way of dashing taxis; politely refusing rickshaw rides; and laughing as Tod is offered drugs for the umpteenth time.
“Do I look as though I smoke it?” he asks me, peeved,
“Yes!” I tell him.
We leave the tourist area & walk along a wide boulevard lined with street sellers, beggers, and tiny crying children who may or may not have parents. We walk in silence, weighed down with guilt.
A high wall, high enough to block any view of what is behind it, suddenly looms on our left. We walk along to the small, arched doorway in it. ‘Garden of Dreams’ is etched into the brickwork above our heads, and we pass through the doorway and turn sharp left.
The ticket seller smiles at us and asks for 400 Rupees, surprisingly less than on our last visit. We pass our money through the glassless window & take the proffered tickets.
We walk half a dozen steps and enter the Garden of Dreams.
As on our previous visit 4 years before we stand and stare around, marvelling at the sight that has unfolded in front of us.
The noisy rush of sound from the street outside is suddenly so muted as to be almost excluded; the filthy, grime filled air that habitually blankets Kathmandu is kept at bay here by the tall trees and gentle breeze.
We breathe deeply.
A couple of nosey chipmunks rush across to us and then race each other up and down the thick trunk of an impossibly tall, exotic looking tree. We smile.
And then we stroll over sloping grass to what looks just like a perfect Victorian band stand, and settle down on the seats around the inside.
We sit in peaceful silence and stare around.
The ‘Garden of Dreams’ is described as ‘a neo-classical historical garden.’
It was created by Field Marshal Kaiser Shumsher Rana in the early 1920s.
We gaze at pavilions, fountains, pergolas in a mixture of ancient Greek style beauty & European colonial style facades.
The large pond is classical, and through its clear water we watch fat, slow moving goldfish weaving in and out of the floating water lilies.
After Kaiser Shumsher’s death the Garden fell into disrepair. Its eventual renovation was financed by the Austrian Government, and the Gardens were opened to the public in 2006.
It is worth noting that the 200 Rupee entrance fee means that probably only foreigners will benefit from this wonderful, unique Garden.
We strolled about & then sat under the high, cool columns of one of the pavilions. We had coffee, served to us by a friendly, softly spoken waiter who told us he was proud to work in the Garden of Dreams. We understood.
Some time later, when we felt refreshed and renewed, when the Garden had worked its magic on us, we left that peaceful, elegant oasis of calm, and walked once more back through the teeming, airless streets of Kathmandu, ready for our forthcoming trip to the village of Salle.

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2 responses to “The Garden of Dreams, Kathmandu

  1. Lesley says:

    Hi Fi and Tod.
    Thank heavens you had that little corner of paradise to repleniish your sanity! Talk about ‘night and day’ – don’t know how you do it but I know why you do…. Just wait ’til those kids and the rest of the villages see you both again and your now famous beard, Tod!!
    Take care and for what it’s worth, thank you on my humble behalf for making such a big difference to the lives of those kids and villagers. You are special friends and true angels.
    Love and a hug
    Lesley xx
    Ps, loving the blogs, keep them coming……..when you can!!!!!!!!!

  2. Lesley says:

    Just going through my earlier e-mails and discovered that you have already been to the village!!!!
    Finger on the pulse Lesley!!!!!!!!……..Duuuuuhhhhhhh!!!!
    xx

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