Friday, June 3, 2011

Family Day Out-On a Budget

If you happen to bring kids with you to Nepal you will enjoy a trip to this Children’s Park here in Kathmandu. I joined Naba and his family for a nice day out for under 1,000 rupees, which included lunch for the five of us. The rides are 30 rupees or less and are quite long, a bit too long for me, so it’s probably perfect for most people. The lines were not that long and I was surprised that it wasn’t dustier. I didn’t notice the dust that day at all. I mention it because I remember going to the fair as a child and it being very dusty. Maybe because it is set up as a permanent amusement park they are taking care of the issue. Or maybe I was having too much fun to notice a little dust. I even rode on the fast and high rides, which isn’t something I would ordinarily do, but the rides were running very quietly and smoothly. They seemed better kept than the county fair rides back in the US.

I have to say how wonderful it is to get to know the Nepali people. Naba, his wife, Indu, and their sons Nitesh and Nishar are a delight. I am impressed by how happy and positive his family is. His older son takes care of the younger one without complaining and they interact with a deep sense of caring. I remember how I would hesitate to take my own children to such places for the drama and bickering. These boys were enjoying each other. 
 
There is a skating area where you can rent in-line skates and a small concrete skating area. It’s a great place for kids to learn to enjoy the little pleasures and get some pent up energy out. It’s also a great place for them to interact with other kids. The Nepali children have a reputation for being very respectful and that is exactly what I’ve found. These young people are the kinds of friends you would want your children to have. Of course there are exceptions but I have been very impressed. 

 
There are several things for small children and about six rides for older kids and adults there at the Childrens’ Park. There are also a few games of chance, ring toss, etc. How long has it been since you enjoyed cotton candy? It is actually common at many gatherings here to see cotton candy and a Nepali version of snow cones. When I saw them packing the shaved ice with the same bare hands that take the money I had to pass.
 
At this point we decided to have some lunch. The Nepali people eat a late breakfast/brunch as a normal practice. We walked out and down the street to the pavilion where they often have something going on. One time I saw quite the festival going on right there and gained admittance for about 20 rupees. At other times I saw crowds gathering for a political discourse. 
As we walked through this open area there is a park between the fun park and the pavilion. It costs 25 rupees per person and is where many of the young Nepali guys bring their girlfriends for a little quite time. I have never seen a couple get too carried away, very innocent by western standards. Even though they charge admission it isn’t all that well maintained, but passable and a nice place to take a break. There are several trees, as well as a shaded, platform area for gatherings. But we did not go in that day. I mention it because it is a lovely place to go to relax. There is an older man and a woman who sell bottled water and snacks like peanuts. Either of them will assist you with your needs for a tip if you can get them to understand what you want.

So, there is the park on the left as you enter from the street, and the pavilion on the right. We crossed the pavilion and had lunch at the cutest, cheapest place in town. I’ve eaten there several times without incident, but I try to follow my own rules that I share in my book. Just look beyond the pavilion to the red Coke sign "Dhakal Khaja Ghar" on the corner of the long row of businesses and social service agencies.This place is usually crowded so you shouldn’t have an issue with bacteria. 

We had a bowl of Rajma (beans), rotis (flat bread) and milk tea. It was very good. Notice how this restaurant is completely in the open air and everyone sits wherever there is room. I like places like this because there is always someone to talk with. It was quite nice being in a family environment for a change. Naba’s oldest son, 14, will be going to Germany on scholarship for three weeks very soon. The entire family is so excited about it. Nitesh has been studying the German language for quite some time.
I was surprised to see Indu, Naba’s wife, getting a ball out of her bag for the boys and as the boys began to play catch in the open area Indu and I decided to do some shopping. There is a huge covered area of flea market stalls right there behind the pavilion. This is also where the Tourist Police and Board of Tourism are located. If you are ever in trouble you can call the Tourist Police and they will help. If you need to go to the station, this is where it is. The emergency number to call is 100. If you are this close, go into the Board of Tourism office and get some maps and brochures. The Board of Tourism has been giving a cloth, environmental shopping bag for free, so check to see if they have a supply on hand. 

 
As I wrote about the environmental shopping bags, it brought up a serious issue for me, the reputation of the Nepali for not being good environmental caretakers. This is so ethnocentric I become ashamed for being a westerner every time I hear or read it. The reason the sacred Bagmati River is so filled with plastic bottles and debris is because there is no sanitary land fill in Nepal. The reason there is no sanitary land fill is because there is little to no infrastructure. The reason there is little infrastructure is because they just came out of a civil war. So, why are there so many bottles and so much debris floating in the river? Because no matter where you place that empty water bottle it is likely to find its way to the Bagmati River. I am still using the little water bottle from the plane ride out of the US over a year ago and that is some serious 21st century bragging rights. Yet, there may be a few of my own floating there, too. I’ve gotten stuck and had to buy water so we are all complicate, Nepali and westerner. We can only try.
Back to the story: Indu and I walked behind the pavilion to the flea market, which can also be entered from the street side. It was huge! Vendors were lined up aggressively seeking a sale. This is where a good Nepali friend, like Indu and Naba, comes in handy. I know Indu saved me at least 50% on my bill. I got some lovely items, all at a very reasonable prices.
I went there on the 25th of the Nepali month only to find they close on that day. Check with your guest house clerk to make sure of the day. Not only do the Nepali have their own calendar, but their own number and alphabet characters, too. Otherwise, it is up to the individual stall owner to open or close, but the flea market is always open. The association of shop owners is very good for the individual proprietors and have a micro-finance project to support each other. This flea market is known as the cheapest in the world. They have 5 rupee lighters, sunglasses 150 rupees, etc.
My best find was a Chinese looking, two-piece night gown that come in three colors (located on the far right isle and at least half way down). I had purchased the blue night gown previously, so I bought the green and red ones, 500 Nrs. for both of them. What I thought was really amusing was that I take an extra large size. I wear a size 8 back in the States. Be careful with the sizes and remember these simple tricks:
Your body is proportionate and most people can use the following as a guide:
Your foot is the same size as the bone in your forearm.
Your waist is twice the size of your neck. Take a pair of jeans and buckle them. Now wrap them around your neck. If the two ends meet they should fit you. Note: I will list other short cuts to measuring in my book, which hasn’t gone to print yet.
I am very impressed with this flea market for the variety of goods they have. You can find just about anything other than fresh vegetables. I strongly suggest that you make a round first, before you decide to buy anything. There are no exchanges or refunds and several vendors sell the same things so don’t look too eager. It’s Thamel on steroids. 

Here’s a tip to not spending too much money. If you go with a friend, trade money so your friend has yours and you have hers. Now, if you want something you will have to go find your friend, which means you will need to leave the booth. When the vendor sees that you have to go get the money he will likely give you a price that you can either come back for or use to negotiate with other vendors for the same item.

Beware of Chinese crap being sold as electric or electronic goods. They are not. They are trash. Do not think it will last until you board the plane to go back home. China obviously has some policy that sends acceptable items to the west and the rest to Nepal. I actually bought a pair of sandals that broke my feet out in a rash and made me sick-a full two years after the ‘Chinese shoe scare’ came and went from the US. I bought a rechargeable light that lasted two weeks before the cord caught fire as I watched helplessly. However, if you do not heed this warning and the item breaks before you go home, please pack it and dispose of it in the west. We have no sanitary land fill. If you can please take the plastic bottles you purchase back with you too, it would be really wonderful. Otherwise your plastic bottles will be floating in the river, too.  

All in all, this was a very fun filled, family day. If however, If I offended anyone with my rant on the environment, I apologize and ask for your kind feedback in the comments section. Anyone who would like to come and work for an NGO in the environmental issues, please let me know and I can give you a few referrals for some excellent agencies. 

While you are here in Nepal be sure to drop by Azizz Restaurant & Rooms for either a delicious meal or a comfortable night's lodging. Check them out at: www.azizznepal.com (under construction)

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