Bollywood Dance in Thamel

I was put in the first floor room to the right of Shangrila Boutiqe Hotel’s reception desk. Putting my 45 litre backpack and took my boots off, after some time, I let the warm water splash my tired body after almost half a day of hard journey in a road trip leaving Pokhara.

Not wanting to be trapped in boredom at my room, I started stepping red carpeted stairs to hotel’s roof. At above, a young man who standing at cash counter greeted and offered me a special restaurant menu. There wasn’t special menu which I ordered, I would just spend the evening with a cup of hot tea and enjoying the charm of Thamel area from above.

Shangrila Boutique Hotel restaurant.

Until my adventure desires teased. It felt like a loss if I didn’t move closer to the road and directly enjoying the atmosphere. Thamel was really special. Imagine, the streets were dedicated every night especially for their country’s guests. Each end of the road was guarded by police who wouldn’t allow motorized vehicles to passing through. Thamel was always crowded with travelers to spend the Kathmandu’s night.

I started out on the street.
Evening before dark.

Still dusty….I walked along the streets lined with pashmina outlets, souvenirs, restaurants, money changers, hotels or tourism agency offices on either side of it. Tips for you….If you aren’t interesting in buying pashmina, then don’t try to bid it, the seller will ask you to transact in their outlet and they are the best negotiators and I make sure that you will go out from their stall with carrying one of their wares.

Wallet’s teasers.
Typical colorful flags like on their shrine.

I had a little trouble in finding dinner menu because I purposely avoided a restaurant menu. I struggled to find a food stall for dinner. Exiting and entering some alleys until finally I found it, really far into the alley. Luckily, this food stall provided momo. To completing this Nepalese typical food, I ordered a small glass of honey lemon mixed with ginger slices which made me feel warm.

Nepalese momo.

Back on the street after almost an hour sitting at the food stall. Passing a different road, I stopped at an intersection and turned to the right. A crowd with music kicking off Chaksibari Marg. After approaching it, it turned out that a group of dancers were practicing Bollywood dance. It was also fun to directly see the dance.

They practiced for a film.

Getting colder, I left the crowd and headed straight for the hotel. But because of a tourist area, some bar waitress stopped my steps. Now a young man spoke to me and offering me to spend a warm evening at a bar. “You can enjoy our band performance“, he said. I who have never entered a bar in my life, starting to be tempted, “Okay, there’s nothing wrong to try“, I thought.

As a result, I started walking on the steps of Sisha Bar & Restaurant. It was true, a local band with 4 millennial youth members with 1 female vocalist was singing local pops which made me excited to sit down and enjoying the show. Until I drank two large portions of hot lemon with honey for enjoying the band show.

Beautiful and unforgettable evening in Thamel

Wrong Seat in Pokhara-Kathmandu Tourist Bus

Mr. Tirtha still accompanied me to speak, we leaned back in his tiny taxi while observing the bustle around Tourist Bus Park. Several hawkers took turn getting on and off in all small sized-buses offering their wares.

A while later, Mr. Tirtha widely spread his arms and we lightly hugged as a substitute for saying “thank you and see you later”. I entered a bus on half an hour before departure. It would be better because Mr. Tirtha could immediately continue work with his taxi.

The conductor showed me a seat where I should sit. At second row behind driver which was limited by a glass screen. Now situation became tense, when an Indian spouse argued with the conductor. They felt were aggrieved because a ticket agent in Kathmandu had promised them to giving them a front seat. The conductor casually snapped back, “This is Pokhara, Not Kathmandu”. Instantly situation was silence. I just realized, that spouse wanted my seat…. Hahaha, even though I was asked to exchange, I didn’t refuse either. Seriously.

Three European tourists in the front seat near driver had fun playing cards the whole way.

Three and a half hours after departure on 7 am, bus stopped for breakfast break for 20 minutes after an hour earlier, bus had once done 15 minutes of toilet break. Hotel’s breakfast which Mr. Raj prepared on the last morning seemed quite effective for me to didn’t spend any consumption budget this time. Come on!, let me showed you how the restaurant which I stopped at:

Buffet eating!
That was the cost.
The hat which used by the cashier was called as Dhaka Topi.
Yups, I still full….Just drank a coffee.

I felt hungry at lunch break on 1:30 p.m., enjoying a thali (Indian wide plate) of food which I picked up from buffet table for 400 Rupee and drink a free-orange juice which was given to all passengers since our  departure in Pokhara.

For free….
I got on the white one.

My watch pointed to 15:34 hours. The last toilet break was the most memorable part. Taking the time to explore area around the rest area. I moved towards a side of road and enjoyed panoramic view of valley and ravine below.

Most trucks in Nepal are Tata Motor.

Impressed with situation on a side of road, I entered a small alley and saw a glimpse of local residents activities who living on a side of road. Observing a banner which stucked in a concrete wall, I tried to slightly open an outer skin of Nepal’s politics.

Nepal is a parliamentary republic which has four main political parties. The Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) became the winning party in Nepal which placed two important figures, namely Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli as Prime Minister and Bidhya Devi Bhandari as President of the country.

That’s the symbol of CPN.

Back in bus seat, this time, my journey encountered a terrible traffic jam when it descended the last hill nearing Kathmandu border. Looked like a traffic jam in Cianjur on the weekend (Cianjur is tourist destination near my home).

The bus arrived in Kanti Path Road on 17:08 hours. Excessive fatigue persuaded me to immediately looked for Shangrila Boutique Hotel in Thamel area. I walked through many narrow alleys and asking to local people to find the location. Only walking for 20 minutes, I finally found the hotel.

I handed over 2.300 Rupee as the rate of staying per night. This time, I would spend 2 nights in Kathmandu to enjoy the city.

Tourist Bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara

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Bus queue at Kanti Path Road.

Enough with 300 Rupee for 10 minutes, riding a taxi from Thamel to Kanti Path Road. If you weren’t afraid of getting lost, you could also walk for 20-25 minutes.

My imagination told me that a bus which I was chasing would standby at a travel agent office. But the reality was far beyond presupposition. All buses from various travel agents lined up along Kanti Path Road.

48 minutes before departure, I took time to have a light breakfast because this was a long journey which I myself didn’t know how the travel time management was.

BG’s Coffee Shop which had opened on a side of Kanti Path Road.
You could also have breakfast on sidewalk, guys….Wouw, a child was pious to help his father in selling food.

I already ordered the ticket via email from Jakarta for 750 Rupee, it was just the payment was do at departure location. It was a strange transaction which I encountered for the first time abroad. Now the problem was only one, I had to be transferred to another bus because according to ticket seller, a bus which I ordered was fullseat (it seemed that this was their strategy, catching passengers via email first and regarding which bus would be placed on, that was the next business….Hahaha, smart).

Amazingly, I was only given a ticket and then asked to independently find a bus along Kanti Path Road based on a number plate on the ticket. I confidently executed his order. It was just that, just walking for 5 minutes to looking for it, I started to get overwhelmed….Yes, it was puzzling!….Nepali numeric was different from Latin numeric!.

Worse …. Now half an hour to departure began to be count down. Armed with no communication access, I returned to starting point of searching to ask ticket seller who seemed to be concurrently as bus coordinator. Dizziness was made by him because I couldn’t find him. I showed my ticket to several people around, they just shouted “wait!…. wait!”. Trying to disguise my panic with 15 minutes remaining to departure time, my eyes closely watched crowd one by one to find the person who I was looking for. Yes, I recognized green color of his winter beanie and a polyphonic phone necklace around his neck. I approached and asked him to help me in finding the bus which was referred to in the ticket….Yes, he only briefly said “Looking for light green bus….Row number three from the front”. Seeing her busy and impossible to accompany me in looking fo the bus, I immediately ran towards front row.

Finally, a light green bus departed at 7 o’clock. Armed with a liter of free mineral water, I sat in the back seat with Korean students who would then have a friendly conversation throughout 8.5 hours journey to Phokara.

Bus interior.

Along the way, the bus would stop four times.

Twice for toilet breaks for 15 minutes, i.e 1st break stop on 9:30 hours and 4th break stop on 14:30 hours.

Apart from toilet breaks, bus would also stop twice for meals, each with a duration of 20 minutes. 2nd break stop for breakfast on 10:30 hours and 3rd break stop for lunch on 13:30 hours. I paid a little attention to restaurant cashier table. It was seen that if how many of food was taken, passenger would pay for 450 Rupee.

So sweet….
You have to be fast if you didn’t want to be left by bus.
I didn’t even have time to chew it….I swallowed it in my mouth.

During the trip, I was really fascinated when I was presented with views from right side. Leaves were turning white because of thick dust from streets, giant billboards which were displayed in the middle of rice fields, suspension bridges which connecting hills, rafting along river and bustling Chandragiri Cable Car tour. Even I could be made to smile by residents behavior in sunbathing in 9° C air while playing carom or some of them surround fire which was lit in house yard.

.

Dust….Look!
Rice fields also became commercial land.
Do they have neighbors?….

Slowly bus climbed, descended and circled mountains with ravines on the right. I wasn’t too worried because bus was slowly running. A thing that then made me realized that most of cars, trucks and buses in Nepal came from Tata Motor manufacturer, India.

Look at trucks in mining area along Kathmandu-Pokhara.

I thought bus which labeled with “Tourist Bus” word wouldn’t pick up passengers on streets, it turned out that its little conductor had picked up passengers twice, but the better ting was no one stood up in bus.

The trip was stopped due to a wheel leak on 15 minutes before reaching Pokhara. The conductor was a teenager who struggling to change bus wheel, luckyly three taxi drivers came to help. In this condition, I still managed to do transactions at a street market to get a bag of oranges for 100 Rupee. But repairing took too long time and didn’t fast finish, so I was finally transferred to another bus.

Old taxis but exclusive.

In Pokhara, bus would stop at Tourist Bus Park with a view of the Himalayas behind it…..pretty amazing.

Ignoring many offering from taxi drivers, I rushed to a travel agent office, not far from where I got off. Yup….I took initiative to immediately order a return ticket to Kathmandu because later I would fly to New Delhi via Tribhuvan International Airport. This travel agent offered three types of ticket prices, ranging from 650 to 850 Rupee depending on bus quality. Not taking it long, I chose the cheapest price.

Tourist Bus Park.

Let’s Explore Pokhara!

Check out a video which was related to this article here: https://youtu.be/sSDNtAYx0tQ

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Sweet Spicy Sour Panipuri at Swayambhunath Stupa

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First destination in Nepal.

Receptionist: “Mr. Donny Suryanto from Indonesia? ”, greeted me when he got closer to his desk.

Me: “How do you know me?“.

Receptionist: “Yes Sir, we are waiting for you. Our last room which we have. And you have kept it via Booking.com

Me: “Yeaa wright….Hahaha, excellent”, Simultaneously signed a confirmation sheet with a smile.

I entered Holiday House Hotel room for 1,100 Rupee. Planning to stop overnight in Kathmandu. And next morning, I left for Pokhara to enjoy the Himalayas.

Limited time forced me to hurry up. Without taking a bath and immediately took a folding bag to fill it with important items, then heading to Swayambhunath Stupa.

Now I walked along narrow streets of Thamel with inevitable suction of dust with every step. Distinctive smell of dust was obscured by pungent smell of incense which slowly diminished by small embers in pashmina stalls.

I approached a driver who was wiping his tiny taxi from dust, then started a transaction to Swayambhunath Stupa which was 3 km away from hotels where I was staying. I deliberately canceled to walking because I was worried that it was getting late.

Rows of stupa in Swayambhunath.

400 Rupee was my agreement with him. During trip, Nepali pop songs, which I never understood, made my head nod in following its tune. Every now and then the driver who was the owner of that taxi looked at me with full of smiles and finally we nod together.

Taxi driver advised me to get off at top gate of shrine. He said it took a long time if I had to tread from bottom gate. After I agreed to his suggestion, that tiny taxi slowly drove in a circle following Swayambhu hill contour and dropped me off right at front gate.

Exploring between stupas.

Security: “Where are you come from?

Me: “Indonesia, Sir

Security: “Oh, I know…. I know…. Jokowi“.

Me: “Hahaha great….You know that

Security: “He is very famous here“, he said while tore my entrance ticket for 200 Rupee.

Swayambhunath’s main stupa.
Look at those sharp Buddha eyes!

It was true, according to its nickname, i.e “Monkey Temple”, area around stupa was often found monkeys which cheering up tourists arrival in front courtyard. Crossing “the peace pool” which full of coins which were tossed by travelers. It was said that they believe their prayers would come true if they throw coins. I continued up the stairs to worship’s main place at hill top.

Rotate it and your prayers would be answered.

Congregation took turns coming and turning prayer wheels one by one…. Of course they hoped that Buddha would grant their request.

Around the stupa, souvenir sellers offered their merchandises to tourists. Souvenirs made fro metal which dull because of were exposed by dust didn’t deter tourists to buying and owning them.

Lots of souvenir were requested by my frends….

Passing through each groove around stupa, dogs as guard animals looked limp and some of them were asleep anywhere. Meanwhile, thousands of colorful prayer flags neatly lined up on a rope which centered on stupa and stretched out in various directions.

Cute.

Meanwhile, on other side, there was a sunset which splashes the city with a reddish-yellow spectrum. Combination of religious nuances and natural beauty which really spoiled the eyes.

Kek BandLike Bandung City which was seen from Bukit Bintang, right?

Exiting at the same gate, I took time to walk down street, watching activity of street food stalls. My steps stopped when a husband and wife who selling panipuri were busy. Then I redeemed a portion for 100 Rupee and started to enjoying Nepal’ street food for the first time. Spicy taste mixed with sweet and sour, also strong aroma of curry made me a little slow to swallow every piece of panipuri which I bought. In the end, that seller spouse laughed at me when I chewed that snacks while glaring.

Must taste Nepal’ street food.

After enjoying this famous South Asian folk-style snack, I stopped a taxi which had just dropped its passengers. It was time to go to hotel, took a shower and got ready to enjoy dinner on my first night in Nepal.

Bye Swayambhunath….Got ready to go to Pokhara tomorrow.

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Old Transportation from Tribhuvan International to Thamel

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Invoice of Nepal’s Visa on Arrival.

Thai Airways TG 319 was perfectly parked in Tribhuvan International Airport’s apron at exactly 14:08 hours. There wasn’t aerobridge which greet me, one by one passengers descended the stairs on either side of plane door.

Aviation security: “Hi, Sir….Please, directly stepping to airport building!“, While stepping closer while hold a handy talky and his hand clearly pointing at my face….Assertive with a dark skin and thick mustache.

Tribhuvan-Thamel pre-paid taxi invoice.

Me: “OK, Sir….I’m sorry“, without thinking, I put a black Motorola E4 into right pocket of Emba’s brown pants whixh I was wearing.

In the end, I failed to capture my face image along with Thai Airways TG 319 in one frame because of it. Then I began to enter in passengers queuing who entered into terminal building.

Wow….music in the taxi was cool.

My hands tightly gripped my backpack’s shoulder harnesses and my face saw from side to side, paying close attention to Tribhuvan’s interior, which momentarily felt like I was passing through a temple room. Red-brown brick patterned walls with several carved decorations were scattered in every corner of room. Then I was greeted by a line of Visa on Arrival application machines on left side. Without any command, I understood and immediately took a queue at machine in the middle.

In the queue, I was intrigued by behavior of a son who was inputting visa data for his mother who not tall. He ordered his mother to step closer.

Ring road situation towards Thamel.

Snap 01….Just her forehead which was captured….Failed.

Then he told his mother to tiptoe.

Snap 02….The photo was 100% her face….Failed again.

A second later, his mother while looking at me with full of smiles, stood on top of small cardboard which she was still carrying a while ago.

Snap 03….Yeaaaa….It worked.

Similar to India’s streets, yes?

I immediately went to payment counter after successfully printed out the VoA application form. No needed to queue long, I got my visa after handing over USD 25 to female staff who wearing blue saris and on middle-aged age. “Oh, Indonesia. Welcome to Nepal and enjoy your trip. ”, She said when ending our immigration transaction.

Now I was getting closer to arrival hall exit gate. Before I actually went out, I took very slow steps to read whole information in a hallway. Instantly I quickly stopped at information board which displayed transportation rate to several areas in Kathmandu. Finally, I was relieved to find the word “Thamel” which became my next destination. It was only cost 700 Rupee (USD 6) to got in a dull red minivan which could accommodate 4 passengers and its last row seats were removed and changed as luggage.

The dust was incredible.

Ticket seller: “Where will you go, Sir?” Asked to me while holding a wad of red transaction notes.

Me: “Thamel, Sir“.

Ticket seller: “Do you want private booking or shared booking?“.

Me: “Is there someone who is ready to join with me?“.

Ticket seller: “Come!… .Come!”, he asked me to follow him and out through airport door.

Competition in tourism services in Thamel area.

After a while, I finally entered an old car which looked like a Suzuki “Carry” (Carry is a brand from Suzuki manufacturing in Indonesia) from the 80s. The car slowly drove leaving Tribhuvan and down a dusty road. Yes, only dust which I remembered in the first time when I had to tell about this “Land of a Thousand Temples”.

At an intersection, the car stopped and was entered a man who dressed in dapper Bollywood style and accented with extraordinary English. Offers all kinds of tour packages, from hiking, rafting, trekking and canoeing. It was common knowledge that Nepalis were competing to earn money from their tourism excellence which was famous for the beauty of Himalaya. I told him that I had bought all tour packages which I was going to take while stayed in his country from Jakarta via online. Even though, in fact I never had any tour packages which I prepared. I prefered to follow my heart and foot in my Kathmadu and Pokhara exploration.

Hotel Holiday House for 1,100 Rupee (USD 9.4) per night.

Passing the Ring Road route, I continued to be stunned by road view which at a glance resembled to old Indonesia. Thamel, which was only 6 km away from Tribhuvan, was finally reached in 25 minutes.

Now I entered a famous tourist area in Kathmandu. Dropped down in an alley and taxi driver showed me which way to head towards hotel which I had booked.

Welcome to Thamel !

Next Story—->

Inspirasi Menulis dari Tribhuvan International Airport.

Waktu begitu cepat. Sore kemarin aku masih mengeksplore area Basantapur. Tetapi kini sudah pukul empat pagi. Aku sudah saja mengguyur diri di bawah hangatnya shower Shangrila Butique Hotel. Setelah memastikan tak ada barang yang tertinggal, aku segera menuju resepsionis untuk check-out dan selangkah kemudian aku sudah turun di jalanan Thamel. Gelap, kosong dan penuh kekhawatiran.

Aku terus menyusuri jalanan dan berharap segera menemukan taksi, sementara dari arah belakang yang gelap terdengar suara derap langkah beberapa orang diiringi nyanyian Nepal yang membuat jantungku berdegup lebih kencang.  Kuberanikan diri menoleh ke belakang, lima pemuda tanggung melangkah cepat menyusulku. Sepertinya aku tak bisa lebih cepat lagi karena backpack membebaniku di punggung. Aku seakan pasrah jika terjadi sesuatu saat mereka benar-banar telah menyusulku.

Plakk”, tangan salah satu dari mereka menepuk pundak kananku kencang. “Ah, alamat”, batinku cepat merespon.

Good morning, Brother. Are you happy in Nepal?”, dia berucap sambil mengiringi langkahku yang terlanjur melambat ketakutan.

Hi….Yeaaa, nice country”, aku berkata lebih keras dari biasanya untuk menunjukkan keberanian saja.

Good….Be careful, bro”, dia melewatiku dengan cepat sementara keempat teman lainnya menatapku dengan senyum ringan dan serempak berucap “Hi”.

Oh, Tuhan terimakasih engkau masih mengirimkan orang-orang baik untuk menyapaku di gelapnya pagi.

Sampai pada sebuah perempatan, tampak deretan taksi mengantri untuk mengangkut penumpang. Taksi terdepan memancarkan lampu tembak ke arahku dan aku mengangkat tangan sebagai jawaban bahwa aku akan menggunakan jasanya.

Airport, Sir….How much?”, aku bertanya singkat.

Seven hundreds Rupee”, jawabnya sambil meraih backpackku yang menutup niatku untuk menawar.

“Ok”, tak ada jawaban lain yang bisa kulontarkan.

Taksi dengan cepat melaju kencang tanpa penghalang di Pashupati Road yang tentu masih senyap. Tak sampai 20 menit, taksi perlahan merapat ke Tribhuvan International Airport.

Pukul setengah enam pagi, airport masih tutup dan senyap.

Tak banyak yang bisa kulakukan, aku hanya menunggu di meja milik polisi bandara yang tampak kosong sambil terus menatap international gate dan berharap pintu itu segera dibuka karena udara sangat dingin diluar.

Perlahan penumpang berdatangan.

Orang Indonesia, mas?”, celetukan itu berasal dari arah belakang.  Aku menoleh ke kiri dan ke kanan, tak ada siapapun di sampingku. Suara itu jelas menanyakanku. Aku menoleh kebelakang dan terlihat seorang perempuan berusia 30 an tersenyum ke arahku.

Loh, kok ibu tahu saya dari Indonesia?”, sahutku membalas senyumnya.

Itu mas”, Si ibu menunjuk salah satu kantong backpack yang tak tertutup sempurna dan sedikit menyingkap bendera merah putih yang sempat kukenakan  empat hari lalu di Sarangkot.

Alhasil kami saling bercakap sembari menunggu gate dibuka. Ternyata beliau ini adalah lulusan kampus ternama di Indonesia dan pekerja senior pada perusahaan eksplorasi minyak di Bangladesh. Setelah berwisata ke Nepal, dia akan kembali ke tanah air melalui New Delhi.

Sepesawat denganku ke New Delhi, dia bersambung terbang bersama Singapore Airlines yang transit di Singapura. Sementara aku akan mengeksplorasi New Delhi dan Agra terlebih dahulu.

Gate sudah dibuka, aku segera menuju konter check-in. Sedikit agak lama berproses, aku menguping bisikan antar mereka dan terucap kata internet connection.  Pantas proses online check-in ku gagal semalam.

Pertama kali terbang bersama Jet Airways.

Kemudian di deret lain konter imigrasi, kulihat Si Ibu berbincang hangat dengan petugas imigrasi. Bahasa Inggrisnya sangat fasih. Dia sempat menjelaskan kepadaku di waiting room bahwa petugas imigrasi di Asia cenderung lebih luwes daripada petugas di Eropa dan Amerika. Tentu aku mengamini itu.

Waiting Room Tribhuvan International Airport.
Si ibu mentraktirku secangkir chiya hingga pesawat tiba.

Boleh dibilang, Si Ibu yang tak mau disebutkan namanya inilah yang menginspirasiku untuk menulis dan membagikan setiap pengalaman perjalanan yang kulakukan sehingga bisa mensupport setiap traveler dengan informasi. Si Ibu sendiri tak pernah kesampaian menulis karena kesibukannya yang teramat sangat, padahal dia memiliki kisah-kisah yang luar biasa. Salah satunya ketika dia bisa selamat dari badai gurun yang menghantamnya di Kuwait.

Jet Airways bernomor terbang 9W 0263 telah siap. Aku keluar dari waiting room menuju parking lot. Ada satu keunikan yang tak pernah kualami sebelumnya, yaitu ketika ada pemerikasaan cabin baggage setiap penumpang di area extension tepat di depan pintu pesawat. Pengalaman yang menggelikan dan menyenangkan.

OK, saatnya terbang.

Sampai jumpa lagi Nepal. Selamat datang India.

Selamat Tinggal Basantapur

Melangkah meninggalkan Kumari Ghar, aku masih berfikir. Apabila Sang Kumar nanti telah pensiun, bagaimana dia bermasyarakat setelah selama belasan tahun hanya sekali setiap tahun keluar dari tempat tinggalnya, bagaimana dia bekerja hingga lelaki mana yang beruntung memiliki Sang Kumari itu….Ah sudahlah.

Langkahku sampai pada sebuah plaza nan luas. Bangunan putih memanjang berarsitektur Eropa mengapit pelataran luas itu di kiri dan kanan, sementara ditengahnya para pedagang souvenir meletakkan lapak-lapaknya.

Basantapur Dabali adalah landmark bersejarah yang wajib dikunjungi.

Memainkan peran sebagai  jantungnya Kathmandu, Basantapur memang menjadi tempat bertemunya khalayak dari berbagai penjuru untuk berpolitik dan berdagang sejak zaman Nepal masih berbentuk kerajaan. Oleh karenanya Basantapur selalu ramai hingga kini.

Untuk kamu millennial, Basantapur menyediakan banyak cafe modern untuk sekedar berhang out. Teh khas Himalaya pun mudah ditemukan di area ini. Kamu bisa merasakan nikmatnya Chiya (teh bercampur susu) di dinginnya udara Kathmandu.

Berburu Himalayan Tea di salah satu kedai.

Freak Street menjadi jalur yang terlihat cukup sibuk dengan keberadaan plaza ikonik ini. Pesona Basantapur Dabali menghinoptis siapa saja untuk bertahan berlama-lama menikmatinya. Tapi surya sudah jauh tergelincir, sudah saatnya aku meninggalkan Basantapur untuk kembali menuju Thamel.

Sinha Swan Khala, lembaga keagamaan yang cukup ramai di Freak Street.

Menikmati Kathmandu tak bisa dilakukan dengan menunggang taksi, pastikan kamu terus melangkah dan menikmati keotentikan budaya dan arsitekur Newar yang ada di setiap sisi kota.

Kini aku sudah kembali di jalanan Layaku Marg. “Layaku” adalah kata lain untuk “Durbar Square”, sedangkan “Durbar Square” sendiri berarti “Alun-alun Istana”. Memang benar apa adanya, Layaku Marg ini membelah Basantapur dan menempatkan istana Kerajaan Malla di salah satu sisinya.

Layaku Marg menuju ke area Bishal Bazaar.

Bishal Bazaar atau Vishal Bazaar merupakan area berbelanja yang dahulu cukup terkenal di Kathmandu. Ditandai dengan keberadaan mall tua dan China Market . Bishal Bazaar mungkin menjadi tempat yang tepat bagi para penggemar pernak-pernik perhiasan.

Area Basantapur dan Bishal Bazaar dibatasi oleh Jalan Sukra Path yang berawal dari Juddha Statue, sebuah patung di bundaran perempatan untuk menghormati Raja Nepal Juddha Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana yang berperan besar dalam membangun negerinya dari kerusakan cukup parah akibat gempa Nepal pada tahun 1934.

Juddha Statue.
Salah satu sisi Sukra Path.

Sebelum benar-benar menyelesaikan perjalanan hingga ke Thamel, aku berusaha menikmati sibuknya aktivitas penduduk lokal dengan  memasuki sebuah resto di bilangan Sukra Path

Vegetable Chow mien seharga Rp. 15.000.

Sore itu adalah petang terakhirku menikmati kota Kathmandu karena keesokan harinya aku akan terbang menggunakan Jet Airways 9W 0263 menuju ibukota India. Mungkin malam nanti aku tak akan banyak keluyuran karena harus bersiap diri untuk berangkat ke Tribhuvan International Airport di gelapnya pagi.

Aku sampai di Thamel dan segera melakukan check-in online, malam nanti aku hanya keluar sebentar untuk menikmati santap malam saja.

Duh…cantiknya perempuan dalam iklan shampoo itu.

Goyang Bollywood di Jalanan Thamel

Aku ditempatkan di kamar lantai pertama dibalik sebelah kanan meja resepsionis Shangrila Boutiqe Hotel. Menaruh backpack 45 liter dan melepas ikat sepatu boots maka selang beberapa waktu, kubiarkan air hangat lama menyiram tubuh lelahku pasca hampir setengah hari berjibaku pada perjalanan darat meninggalkan Pokhara.

Tak ingin terjebak kejenuhan di dalam kamar, aku mulai menaiki tangga berkarpet merah menuju atap hotel. Di atas, seorang pemuda berdiri di meja kasir menyapa ringan dan menawarkan menu spesial restoran. Tak ada menu spesial yang kupesan, aku hanya akan menghabiskan senja dengan secangkir teh hangat dan menikmati pesona Thamel dari atas.

Restoran Shangrila Boutique Hotel.

Hingga kemudian hasrat petualanganku menggoda. Rasanya akan merugi jika tak merapat ke jalan dan menikmati suasana secara langsung. Thamel sungguh istimewa. Betapa tidak, jalanannya tiap malam dipersembahkan khusus untuk para tamu negara itu. Setiap ujung jalan dijaga oleh polisi yang tak akan membiarkan satu pun kendaraan bermotor lolos melintas masuk. Thamel selalu ramai ditumpahi para pelancong untuk menghabiskan malam Kathmandu.

Aku mulai ke jalanan.
Suasana sore menjelang gelap.

Tetap berdebu….Aku menelusuri jalanan yang dibatasi dengan kios-kios pashmina, souvenir, restoran, money changer, hotel ataupun kantor agen pariwisata di kiri-kanannya. Tips buat kamu…Jika tak berminat membeli pashmina, maka jangan berusaha menawarnya, penjual akan mengajakmu bertransaksi di dalam kios dan mereka adalah para negosiator ulung dan kupastikan kamu akan keluar dengan menenteng salah satu dari dagangan mereka.

Kios-kios penggoda kantong.
Khas bendera warna-warni seperti pada kuil mereka.

Sedikit kesulitan mencarinya karena sengaja menghindari menu restoran. Aku berjibaku mencari sebuah kedai untuk bersantap malam. Keluar masuk gang hingga akhirnya menemukannya, benar-benar jauh masuk ke dalam gang. Beruntung kedai kecil itu menyediakan momo.  Menyempurnakannya, aku memesan segelas kecil honey lemon tercampur potongan memanjang ginger yang membuatku terasa hangat.

Momo khas Nepal.

Kembali ke jalanan setelah hampir satu jam duduk di kedai itu. Menelusuri  jalanan yang berbeda, aku terhenti seketika di sebuah perempatan dan menoleh ke kanan. Sebuah kerumunan dengan musik menghentak-hentak di bilangan Chaksibari Marg. Setelah mendekatinya , ternyata sekelompok dancer sedang berlatih tarian Bollywood. Asik juga melihat secara langsung tarian itu secara langsung. Untuk tak ada pohon, bisa-bisa aku ikut menari mengelilinginya.

Mereka berlatih untuk sebuah film.

Semakin dingin, aku meninggalkan kerumunan  dan segera menuju ke hotel. Tapi yang namanya daerah wisata, para penggoda kembali menghentikan langkah. Kali ini seorang pemuda memanggil dan menawariku untuk menghabiskan malam dengan hangat di sebuah bar. “You can enjoy our band performance”, ungkapnya. Aku yang seumur hidup tak pernah memasuki bar kini mulai tergoda, “Oke lah, tak ada salahnya”, batinku.

Alhasil, aku mulai menaiki tangga Sisha Bar & Restaurant. Benar adanya, sebuah band lokal beranggota 4 pemuda millennial dengan 1 vokalis perempuan sedang melantunkan pop lokal yang membuatku bersemangat untuk segera duduk dan menikmati pertunjukan itu. Hingga aku menghabiskan dua porsi besar hot lemon with honey saking khusu’nya.

Malam yang indah dan tak terlupakan di Thamel

Salah Bangku di Tourist Bus Pokhara-Kathmandu.

Mr. Tirtha masih saja menemaniku berbincang, kami berdua berdiri bersandar di taksi mungilnya sembari mengamati kesibukan di sekitar Tourist Bus Park. Beberapa pedagang asongan silih berganti naik turun di seluruh bus berukuran tiga perempat menawarkan dagangannya.

Sewaktu kemudian, Mr. Tirtha  merentangkan tangannya lebar dan kami berpeluk ringan sebagai pengganti ucapan “terimakasih dan sampai jumpa”. Aku sengaja memasuki bus setengah jam sebelum keberangkatan. Akan lebih baik karena Mr. Tirtha bisa dengan segera melanjutkan mencari nafkah dengan taksinya.

Si kondektur menunjukkanku tempat dimana aku harus duduk. Baris kedua dibelakang sopir yang dibatasi sekat kaca. Kini pemandangan menjadi tegang, ketika sepasang suami istri India beradu mulut dengan si kondektur. Sejoli itu merasa dirugikan karena agen tiket di Kathmandu menjanjikan bangku paling depan buat mereka. Si kondektur dengan santainya balik menggertak, “This is Pokhara, Not Kathmandu”. Seketika suasana hening. Aku baru sadar, sejoli itu mengincar bangkuku….Hahaha, padahal jika disuruh tuker aku juga tak menolak. Ada-ada saja.

Europeans di depan itu seru bermain kartu sepanjang perjalanan.

Tiga setengah jam setelah keberangkatan pukul 7 pagi, bus berhenti untuk breakfast break selama 20 menit setelah sejam sebelumnya bus sudah sekali melakukan 15 menit toilet break. Sarapan yang diberikan Mr. Raj di pagi hari nampaknya cukup efektif bagiku untuk tak mengeluarkan budget konsumsi apapun kali ini. Yuk, kuperlihatkan bagaimana restoran tempatku berhenti:

Makan prasmanan aja ya!
Itu tarifnya.
Kopyah yang dipakai kasir itu bernama Dhaka Topi.
Ah masih kenyang….Ngopi aja lah.

Aku baru merasa kelaparan pada lunch break pukul 13:30,  menikmati se-thali (piring lebar khas India) makanan yang kuambil dari meja prasmanan seharga  Rp. 52.000 dan sebuah free-orange juice yang diberikan pada semua penumpang sejak pemberangkatan di Pokhara.

Lumayan free….  
Aku naik yang warna putih.

Jarum jam menunjuk pukul 15:34. Toilet break terakhir kali ini menjadi bagian paling berkesan.  Kumanfaatkan waktu dengan menelusuri area di sekitar tempat peristirahatan. Aku bergerak menuju tepian jalan dan menikmati panorama lembah dan jurang dibawahnya.

Kebanyakan truk di Nepal adalah Tata Motor.

Tergeletik dengan kehidupan di pinggiran jalan, aku memasuki sebuah gang kecil dan melihat sekelumit aktivitas warga lokal yang hidup di pinggiran jalan. Mengamati sebuah spanduk yang tertempel di sebuah sisi tembok beton, aku mencoba sedikit membuka kulit luar perpolitikan di Nepal.

Nepal adalah negara berbentuk republik parlementer yang memiliki empat partai politik utama. Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) menjadi partai pemenang di Nepal yang menempatkan dua tokoh pentingnya yaitu Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli sebagai Perdana Menteri dan Bidhya Devi Bhandari sebagai  Presiden negara tersebut.

Itu dia lambang CPN.

Kembali berada di bangku bus, perjalanan kali ini mengalami kemacetan luar biasa ketika menuruni bukit terakhir menjelang perbatasan Kathmandu. Layaknya kemacetan di Cianjur saat weekend tiba.

Bus merapat di Kanti Path pada pukul 17:08. Kelelahan yang teramat sangat membujukku untuk segera menemukan Shangrila Boutique Hotel di area Thamel. Aku menelusuri banyak gang-gang sempit dan menanyakan kepada penduduk lokal untuk menemukan lokasinya. Hanya berjalan selama 20 menit, akhirnya penginapan itu kutemukan.

Kuserahkan Rp. 280.000 sebagai tarif menginap per malam. Kali ini aku akan bermalam 2 petang di Kathmandu untuk menikmati wisata kota.

Tourist Bus dari Kathmandu ke Pokhara

Antrian bus di Kanti Path Road.

Cukup dengan Rp. 40.000 untuk menunggang taksi selama 10 menit dari Thamel ke Kanti Path Road. Jika tak takut tersasar, kamu juga boleh menempuhnya selama 20-25 menit dengan berjalan kaki.

Imajinasiku mengatakan bahwa bus yang sedang kukejar ini akan standby di sebuah kantor travel agent. Tetapi kenyataannya jauh diluar perandaian. Semua bus dari berbagai travel agent berbaris menyemut di sepanjang Kanti Path Road.

48 menit menjelang keberangkatan, kusempatkan bersarapan ringan karena ini adalah perjalanan panjang yang aku sendiri tak tahu bagaimana manajemen waktu perjalanannya.

BG’s Coffee Shop yang sudah buka di sisi Kanti Path Road.
Bisa juga sarapan di trotoar, gaes….Duh, anak sholeh bantu bapaknya jualan.

Tiket sendiri sudah kupesan via email dari Jakarta seharga Rp. 92.000, hanya saja pembayaran dilakukan di lokasi keberangkatan. Transaksi aneh yang kujumpai pertama kali di luar negeri. Kini masalahnya hanya satu, aku harus dioper ke bus lain karena menurut si penjual tiket, bus yang kupesan sudah fullseat (sepertinya ini memang strategi mereka, menjaring penumpang via email terlebih dahulu dan perihal akan ditempatkan di bus yang mana, itu urusan belakangan….Hahaha, cerdas).

Hebatnya lagi, Aku hanya diberikan selembar tiket lalu diminta untuk mencari bus secara mandiri di sepanjang Kanti Path Road berdasar plat nomor yang tertera di tiket. Penuh percaya diri kuiyakan perintah itu. Hanya saja, baru saja berjalan 5 menit mencarinya, aku mulai kewalahan….Ya puyeng lah!….Numerik Nepal kan berbeda dengan numerik latin!.

Parah….Kini setengah jam menuju keberangkatan mulai dihitung mundur. Tak berbekal akses komunikasi apapun, aku kembali lagi ke titik awal pencarian untuk bertanya kepada si penjual tiket yang nampaknya merangkap jabatan sebagai koordinator bus. Kelimpungan dibuatnya karena aku tak menemukan batang hidungnya. Kutunjukkan tiketku kepada beberapa orang di sekitar, mereka hanya manyahut “wait!….wait!”. Berusaha menyamarkan kepanikan dengan 15 menit tersisa menuju waktu keberangkatan, mataku lekat mengawasi satu persatu kerumunan orang untuk menemukan orang yang kucari. Yes, aku mengenali warna hijau penutup kepalanya dan kalungan handphone poliponik di lehernya. Kuhampiri dan memintanya menolongku menemukan armada yang termaksud dalam tiket….Beuh, dia hanya berucap singkat “Looking for the light green bus….Row number three from the front”. Melihatnya sibuk dan tak mungkin menemaniku mencari, aku segera berlari menuju barisan terdepan.

Akhirnya armada hijau muda bertolak tepat pukul 7. Berbekal seliter free-mineral water, aku terduduk di kursi paling belakang bersama mahasiswa asal Korea yang kemudian akan bercakap akrab sepanjang 8,5 jam perjalanan menuju Phokara.

Interior bus.

Sepanjang perjalanan, bus akan berhenti empat kali.

Dua kali untuk toilet break selama 15 menit yaitu break stop ke-1 pada jam 9:30 dan break stop ke-4 pada jam 14:30.

Selain toilet break, bus juga akan 2 kali berhenti untuk makan masing-masing berdurasi 20 menit. Break stop ke-2 untuk sarapan pada jam 10:30 dan break stop ke-3 untuk makan siang pada jam 13:30. Aku sedikit memperhatikan meja kasir rumah makan, terlihat bahwa sedikit banyaknya makanan yang diambil, penumpang secara merata membayar Rp. 53.000.

Duh imoetnya….
Harus cepat kalau ga mau ditinggal bus.
Bahkan aku tak sempat menguyahnya…..Masuk mulut langsung telan.

Selama perjalanan pula, aku sungguh terpesona ketika tersuguh pemandangan dari sisi kanan. Dedaunan yang memutih karena tertutup tebalnya debu jalanan, papan-papan iklan raksasa yang terpanjang di tengah pesawahan, jembatan-jembatan gantung penghubung antar bukit, kegiatan rafting di sepanjang sungai dan ramainya wisata Chandragiri Cable Car. Bahkan aku bisa dibuat tersenyum dengan tingkah warga yang berjemur di tengah hawa dingin 9°C sembari bermain karambol atau beberapa dari mereka mengelilingi api yang dinyalakan di pelataran rumah.

Debu….Lihatlah !
Sawah pun menjadi lahan komersil.
Punya tetangga ga tuh?….

Perlahan bus menaiki, menuruni dan mengelilingi pegunungan dengan jurang di sebelah kanan. Aku tak terlalu khawatir karena bus berjalan pelan. Satu hal yang kemudian membuatku tersadar bahwa kebanyakan mobil, truk dan bus di Nepal berasal dari pabrikan Tata Motor, India.

Lihatlah truk di area pertambangan di sepanjang Kathmandu-Pokhara.

Kupikir moda bertuliskan Tourist Bus ini tak akan mengambil penumpang di jalanan, ternyata dua kali kondektur ciliknya menaikkan penumpang, hanya saja tak sampai ada yang berdiri.

Perjalanan sempat terhenti karena terjadi kebocoran roda pada 15 menit sebelum mencapai Pokhara. Kondektur belasan tahun itu pontang-panting untuk mengganti roda, beruntung 3 sopir taksi datang membantu. Dalam kondisi seperti ini, aku masih sempat saja bertransaksi di sebuah pasar tumpah untuk mendapatkan sekantong jeruk seharga Rp. 13.000. Tetapi perbaikan yang terlalu lama dan tak kunjung usai, akhirnya aku dioper ke bus lain.

Taksi jadoel tapi ekslusif.

Di Pokhara, bus akan berhenti di Tourist Bus Park dengan pemandangan pegunungan Himalaya di belakangnya…..cuannteeekkkkk luar biasa.

Tak mengindahkan serbuan para sopir taksi, aku bergegas menuju sebuah kantor travel agent tak jauh dari tempatku turun. Yup…Aku berinisiatif untuk langsung memesan tiket balik menuju Kathmandu karena nantinya aku akan terbang ke New Delhi melalui Tribhuvan International Airport. Travel agent ini menawarkan tiga jenis harga tiket yang berkisar dari dari Rp. 80.000 hingga Rp. 105.000 tergantung dari kualitas bus. Tak ambil pikir panjang, aku memilih harga termurah.

Tourist Bus Park.

Yuk Explore Pokhara!

Lihat video terkait artikel ini disini: https://youtu.be/sSDNtAYx0tQ