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Chapter 4

Riding in taxis in Kathmandu makes me want to play a video game based on being a taxi driver in Nepal.  We went for a walk to look for the Patan Durbar Square, heading in the direction we thought it was in only to realize our sense of direction was not quite right.  We turned back and found a taxi, a compact car from the 1990's, parked at the front of a line of taxis.  It should have been a warning sign that it was the one parked closest to a large pile of trash. 


We said to go to the Golden Temple, and he heard something else that sounded just like "Golden Temple" but really meant "The Airport."  The problem there is that the airport is fairly far away and the golden temple was only about a half of a mile away.  At first it seemed he was taking a route to get around traffic, or maybe he was just trying to run up our fare, which would have been an odd choice because he had already told us the price before getting into the cab which was a seemly very reasonable equivalent to $6.  As we were on the highway I asked him "are we getting close?" and he said "to the airport?" and we laughed and said "no, golden temple" and he responded saying something similar and then realized what we were trying to say as he did a U-turn on a major street.


During all of this taxi cab hijinx I found the view through the windshield very entertaining.  I started thinking that all of the winding and dodging and passing and breaking would make a fun video game.  Although, I'm not sure how sitting in traffic waiting for people to cross the street while traffic is backing up would be fun in a game.  As the driver backtracked his route we went off road onto a rugged dirt path covered with deep ruts next to a river in order to avoid a huge traffic jam we were stuck when we were lost.


The taxi sped up and passed cars any chance it had, even if there was a motorcycle in the lane it is moving in to.  The strategy seemed to be to drive on the opposite side of the road to move faster only unless something is coming directly at the cab and is dangerously close.  Ultimately the streets are completely packed with honking, beeping vehicles. The taxis themselves would make interesting video game vehicles because they are battered little white hatchbacks that all look to be at least 15 years old.  They are driven like rally cars, racing through corners, and braking just behind the car in front of them.  The cars stall, sputter, and there are no seatbelts but the drivers accellerate and speed through open straightaways when they finally get the chance.  There are never seatbelts.


We made it to the Golden Temple which was pretty nice although I think I was picturing another temple from the guide book.  After walking through the temple we tried heading toward Durbar Square which appeared to be nearby on the guide book map, however we did not have a compass to orient us or street signs.  In the time it took to walk through the Golden Temple, which was much smaller than expected, a distant thunder sounded and rain came pouring down for the duration of our trek to Durbar Square.


Our only map was very small inside our Lonely Planet book and we could not decifer directions on the map due to missing landmarks, language differences, and a lack of street names.  It was raining rather hard and we were not prepared for the wetness.  We had no umbrellas or raincoats and our clothes were soaked through.  We tried taking a few turns off the main road in the direction we thought the square would be only to find those turns appeared to take us further away from any activity. 


In a moment of exhaustion from being lost and backtracking we stopped and looked up to find an actual sign with street names, and these street names were on our map in our book.  By looking at the signs and the map my fiance was able to orient us to find we were actually a rather short walk away from the square.


Patan Durbar Square is an impressive place.  It is a large open square surrounded by apartments and restaurants.  In the square are several incredibly old temples and a former palace that is now a museum.  During the earthquake some of the temples and old buildings were demolished, however in square there was much evidence of the destruction beyond a couple open spaces.  I thought I saw a hole where a temple had been destroyed but when I looked down it I saw a very interesting looking fountain full intact about twenty feet down some steps.  Many of the temples had wooden supports that appeared to be propping them up.  The structures didn't seem to have any outward damage, but many of the buildings in Patan have cracks in their structures instead of being fully demolished.


My fiance enjoyed seeing the dogs around Nepal.  They often sleep on the side of the road, and she enjoyed taking pictures of the dogs at the temples of Durbar Square.  At our apartment there is a little skinny dog that lives on the porch named Jack who gets very excited when she gets home.  I can tell when it is her walking up to the door because I can hear her talking to Jack and rubbing his head.


By the time we walked around the square we were both very hungry.  We noticed a restaurant overlooking the square called Third World Cafe.  It was noted on our map in Lonely Planet and it looked interesting and clean.  Walking into the first floor stairway there was a large pack of American tourists, one of whom had their nose in a lonely planet book.


We seated ourselves on the third floor facing out the windows onto the rainy square and ordered momos and a few other fried items.  Momos are the most popular local food in Nepal.  They are like spring rolls but also come filled with cheese.  They can either be steamed or fried and come with a variety of local sauces.  No matter what you get for food they bring a red and green chili sauces.  I am hooked on the green sauce.  It has a great sweet flavor and has a spiciness that stays in the mouth.  I enjoy it more than sriracha and I'm glad that it seems to have a universally good quality from restaurant to restaurant.


After dinner we took a cab back to the Hospital to walk back from there.  This cab ride was only about five minutes long and cost the equivalent of under $1 US.  I recalled that in Europe I had two cab rides in different countries that were about the same length but had very different prices.  In Prague in the middle of the night the cab driver was well aware that me and my companions were not in a state to pay attention to the length of the drive that was only 15 minutes and charged around $30 US.  Additionally, near Venice the cab driver started his meter well before I got into the cab and charged $25 for a 2 mile drive.  And I don't remember the cost of the cab rides in Los Angeles that were over 45 minutes long.  Those have been blocked out of my memories.










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