Archive for the ‘daily life’ Category
in booze, daily life, Dashain, Food
Food is unquestionably a big part of the Dashain holiday, and each year there are tasty tidbits to enjoy, some particular to the family or establishment serving them. On Monday, stopping off at my landlady’s to pay the rent, I enjoyed this plateful of Newari goodies, prepared by her teenage daughter this year for the family for the first time. In addition to the ubiquitous goat, circling the beaten rice was also chicken, mulako achaar (daikon radish pickle) undetermined greens, potato, peanuts and sliced fried goat’s lung. Yum!
The next day, Tuesday, was the auspicious day of Dashain Tika (October 8), and I headed to Khokana (famed for its mustard oil) to catch the last day of the Newari town’s unique Shikali Jatra, something I only learned about last year when one of our freelance writers pitched me a story about it. Unfortunately, this isn’t the year I get to experience it for myself, as it was already over the day I went–it’s either a three day and not a five day festival, or it begins earlier than I’d been told; never mind, I’ll make sure to come earlier next year.
It’s a quaint little town, though, with goats adding to temple still lifes (spot at least two);
empty, scrubbed chaang pots drying in the sun (sorry I missed out on the contents);
and old buildings of many kinds.
Heading back towards Kathmandu, I stopped at a local restaurant on a hill, where, after learning I only wanted a drink and not a meal, I was ushered to a seat with a view, where, in addition to homemade raxsi, Dashain snacks kept coming. When I paid my bill and headed out, full and happy, it was hard to see how I could have had a better Dashain; I’d have never come this far out without the festival, and despite being too late for it I was so glad I had.
in daily life, Kathmandu, spring
Today is a glorious spring day – the first so far, really. The weather started warming up early this year; my azaleas started blooming in February, as you can see. Then we had an unexpected cold snap that saw some parts of the Kathmandu Valley get snow for the first time in 12 years. It was wild. And cold!
But then, today: sunny and windy, one of those days where scooter driving is a joy, and the air feels light and bright. Driving alongside the royal palace, the wind rustled the bamboo, blowing its dry leaves over us commuters and making me feel pretty darn cheerful.
Seems like spring is here.
This post has been in my head for ages. A few years ago, some amazing pieces of street art started popping up all over the city. I never knew when I’d turn a corner and see a formerly bare wall now covered with an image that would make me think, wonder, or just feel grateful for the beauty. I have been taking pictures of them for years, spurred on when several pieces vanished after the walls or buildings they adorned got torn down. Today I took the photo below, on a side alley off Paknajol, behind Thamel, of a piece I was seeing for the first time.
The others were taken earlier this year; I’ll track down the older photos for a future post, but for now, enjoy. To the best of my knowledge all of these are still up and can be viewed at the location noted.
On Sunday, I woke up a bit under the weather. I really didn’t want to go anywhere, but stronger than that feeling was the desire for my favorite greasy, spicy, Boudha-style Chinese restaurant. Rain threatened– it has for much of the past two weeks–as my hunger overcame my laziness and I headed out. To find to the Yak Restaurant, you have to enter the Boudhanatha Stupa area from the main entrance, and walk exactly half-way around it before going down an alley. You’ll find it on your left, after souvenirs, piles of chilly peppers and hunks of butter. It doesn’t look like much, but with its strange hybrid of mostly-Chinese-with-a-little-Tibetan-food, it’s one of my favorite places to eat. I always tell myself that with the plethora of good places to eat in Boudha, I should try something new. Then I find myself driving along the muddy, pot-holed roads for the sole purpose of eating exactly here.
In an attempt to avoid those said muddy holes, particularly bad now as we are in monsoon season, I decided to take a detour along some back toads that I know indirectly link my area to the Boudha area. I was unsuccessful and after driving in circles ended up back on the main road not that far at all from where I’d left it. So I went to Boudha the usual way, but with some sort of flooded pipe or drain making the road far worse than usual – and that’s saying a lot, believe me – I determined I’d find the shortcut on my way back. Famous last words.
On reaching Boudha I did what I always do, no matter how often I come: took a photo or two of the stupa. It’s one of my favorites places in Kathmandu and I never tire of photographing it, even when the skies are grey as they were on Sunday. I bought a few lovely cloth bags from a local shop here that I like (not that I don’t have enough bags) and carried on down the alley to the Yak Restaurant. I ordered pretty much the same thing I always do: spicy cooking buff, which is a bowl of spicy delicious broth, thin sliced buff, potatoes, greens, noodles, two kinds of mushroom and more in the bowl besides, eggplant in chilli sauce, a steamed Tibetan bun, and a beer. I don’t think the picture does it justice, but it’s delicious. Too much food, of course, but I take the leftovers home and eat spicy soup for a couple of days after each visit.
While I was waiting for my food, the rain started. From my seat by the entrance I enjoyed the downpour while staying dry and taking pictures through the open door.
When the rain let up, I set off on my scooter once again, determined not to take the main road, which I knew would be even worse after the downpour. I like to think I have a pretty good sense of direction, but boy did it let me down in this instance. Which is actually a good thing, or I’d never had the experience that I did.
After driving down several fascinating streets I’d never seen before, I began reading the place names on shops and realized that I was going in the complete wrong direction. But I was enjoying myself, and didn’t feel like turning around, so I kept on to see what I would see. Before long, I was in the vicinity of Gokarna, far beyond Boudha, while still somehow having bypassed the main road. I ended up driving up a beautiful green hill, past rice paddies and prayer flags, into an area called Jagadole, which I’d never heard of and could find almost no information about when I researched it after getting home. Passing a small crew engaged in a film shoot, mothers and children, and people out enjoying their weekend, I came to an amazing viewing point, looking out from the hill all across the Kathmandu Valley: I could see the stupa of course, but also as far as the airport in the distance. Fluttering prayer flags made a picturesque scene even more so, as they are wont to do, and I felt grateful for my mixed-up sense of direction that took me, on this Sunday, to a place I’d never been to before.
Today I was in Cafe Soma, and when they brought me my cold coffee, the waiter also offered me a straw from a holder he held in his other hand. I was happy to decline, because just yesterday, Swosti (a museumologist and one of our great ECS writers) and I had been having a cold drink at a cute little place near the office and we were talking about how both our drinks came with straws, we didn’t want them, but always forget to tell servers to give us our drinks sans straws.
So cheers to Cafe Soma for making it optional – it’s a start in reducing waste caused by single-use plastics!
There’s this lovely woman who sits outside the Shangri-La Hotel in Lazimpat most every afternoon, selling a fresh, random assortment of vegetables from her garden (I presume) and around this time of year she sells courgette flowers (aka squash blossoms). It’s the only place I’ve ever, ever found them available in Nepal. Ever. This year I was too lazy to fry them up in the Italian way, so into my soup they went. Lovely.
in booze, daily life, Food, Patan, Roads & Kingdoms
After my earlier piece on breakfast was published last year on the award-winning Roads and Kingdoms website, I’m super thrilled to have another one in their section 5 O’CLOCK SOMEWHERE: Drinking the World Every Afternoon. The article, which they’ve creatively titled Everybody Seems to be Eating Brains These Days (a huge improvement over my working title, I can tell you) can be found here.
In addition to being voted the Gold Winner for Best Travel Journalism Site by the Society of American Travel writers, they also had an unusually high number of James Beard Foundation Journalism Awards nominations this year. They’re an awesome website that I’m proud to be associated with, and if you haven’t checked them out, you really should. Their longform work is amazing, in-depth reporting, and the shorts are a lot of fun to read.
Most days since I became a regular here at ECS, I’ve either brought a sandwich or followed a group of coworkers to their favourite lunch spot, a local joint around the corner. However, not long ago a large rodent ran through there, inches from my feet. Fortunately I did not see it, but it has been enough to put me off returning there since. I’m well aware that many eateries in Nepal often play unwitting hosts to small creatures of all sorts, but what made this different was the fact that this place seemed to tolerant of or possibly even catering to the animal’s presence. And it was running from the direction of the kitchen, so…
This might seem a strange way to begin a post about delicious food, and yet. Feeling a little disloyal, the next time I wanted lunch I let the group go on without me and headed out on my own to a place across the street from our offices, where I’ve seen some of the staff eating before. It’s only marginally more upscale than the place favoured by most of my colleagues, but not by much. With chilly days still very much with us, I ordered one of my favourite winter dishes, a chicken thukpa. Thukpa is a thick soup of noodles and vegetables, served in a spicy broth, with or without your choice of meat or egg. It has its roots in Tibet, though the incarnations generally served nowadays in the valley’s small restaurants have evolved into a unique local variant.
Well, this version was delicious, and I was back again and again. A few days ago I opted for the slightly pricier ‘mixed’ thukpa, which has everything–veggies, eggs, and several kinds of meat. Heaven!
Yesterday–literally from one day to the next–warm, spring weather flooded the valley. Usually the change is more gradual, but this year the cold had lingered much later than usual, so the sudden change was all the more noticeable. Someone here at work said that the warm weather was triggered by the hailstorm we had a few days ago – everyone has a weather theory here!
All that to say, my thukpa eating days are pretty much over, unless we get another cold spell. So today, despite the heat, I ordered a last bowl of mixed thukpa anyway, the one you see here. It was delicious, another reminder, if I needed one, of why I love cold days best.
Whatever you’re eating as you read this, I hope it’s as tasty.
in daily life, Himalaya, wintertime
These past three days have mostly started off chilly and hazy, and yet each of the last three days have cleared up beautifully by afternoon. Crisp, clear, snow-topped Himalayas stand out in perfect definition against the blue, blue sky. As the sun sets, they turn a beautiful, soft pink. I can’t get enough.
Wonderful winter days that make you happy to live in Nepal.