by in Out of India

Football jerseys in Kathmandu

For our “last mandatory exit” of the Indian territory, we wanted a change so we went to Nepal, even if it’s not the easiest one when living in Bangalore… We had kept in mind a wonderful memory of Kathmandu when we went there for the first time, 5 years back but we knew this time it would be almost impossible to trek due to the monsoon.

We didn’t have a lot of expectations this time apart from eating more momos (little stuffed dumplings) as possible and have some rest. We finally really loved to re-discove Kathmandu and its Valley. We also knew what to expect and that the time of hippies’ paradise or “little town in the mountain” is now over. Kathmandu is a big city, chaotic and polluted (but when one comes from India it’s not that obvious) but it also has hidden treasures when taking time to walk around.

On a cultural and historic point of view it’s also a very rich city. Wandering in the back alleys, you discover ancient temples very easily, going through a gate, you can end up in very peaceful courtyards, decorated with stupas and which are the center of community life… This time we also took time to discover other cities of the valley, (Bhaktapur, Patan), all as (and even maybe more) beautiful as Kathmadu but less crowded. The architecture is very different from what we can experience in India due to the multiple roofs pagodas which reminds more of China. The biggest surprise is that all these places are finally… Hindu! Because it was and it’s still the main religion in the country… Before leaving, we also checked again the magnificent and impressive Bodhnath Stupa, a Buddhist worship place and the center of a real Tibetan neighbourhood.

Other surprise: we went there just before the soccer World Cup final and Nepalese are completely fond of Football! An impressive number of people were wearing the German or Argentinian jersey (Argentina outnumbered Germany here though), huge flags of every countries were deployed in all the cities and giant screens were waiting for the d-day.

Leaving the country and flying along the mountains (which we were unable to see before due to the clouds) we promised ourselves to come back to trek and come closer to these splendid monsters.

The bike in the middle of paddy fields

We feel that the more we go to Sri Lanka, the more we appreciate our stays there.

We have to admit that this time we’ve done what we should have done from our first visit: renting a bike.

As the tourism is very well organised there (compared to India) we were wondering if renting a bike would be complicated in term of licence, guarantees… Arriving in Sri Lanka we’ve slept in Negombo, which is a seaside city only interesting because close to the airport and hosting a motorbike renting office… In 15 minutes we were finally driving an impressive Trail motorbike (Honda Baja), very high, nervous and made for the Paris-Dakar race. At least that what we felt. It’s a very different bike from what we’re used to drive but it was a nice experience to try something new.

As in a lot of countries, but even more in Sri Lanka, due to crazy buses, there is a huge difference of driving between the main road, which is hyper chaotic, very crowded and dangerous and the small roads which are wonderful, very calm and full of surprises. We wanted to go to the historic part in the center of the country, which was not a very short trip for only 3 days. We admit that being on this bike is not perfect in term of comfort but we had been very surprised by the efficiency of the suspensions on the unpaved roads. It’s also thanks to these secondary itineraries that we were able to contemplate wonderful landscapes, to find ourselves in the middle of paddy fields, to stop only to admire a piece of life, discover amazing view around a corner, have a quiet pic-nic… Well, it seems that, we don’t really change and travelling on a bike changes completely our overall experience.

We’ve also discovered a wonderful cultural past. We’ve loved discovering Sigiriya, which is a real rock-city overlooking the area. We were there for the opening at 7am so we we’ve also taken advantage of the nice morning light, the low number of visitors at this time to be able to appreciate it at its best, both the natural site and the heritage. On our way we also stopped to Dambulla which contains nice religious paintings in caves. However, we were a bit disappointed with Polannaruwa which is very vast and whose ruins are quite difficult to understand. Moreover the site is not well maintained compared to the other two. Fortunately, the roads around the city, specially one between paddy fields and a lake, are stunning!

We’ll change our visa this summer so it was our last “mandatory” week-end in Sri Lanka. We needed time to find what we could like in this country but now, we feel that we’re going to miss going there. And we can bet there will be aSri Lanka#6 in few months…

Gol Gumbaz
Determined kid
White loneliness

Bijapur is not exactly the first tourist attraction you’ll hear about in India. Lost in North Karnataka, far away from any big city and from any traditional tourist trail, you have to be a history buff or to have been living here for a while to plan a trip there.

Bijapur has a lot to show if you’re a little bit interested in history and architecture. Capital city of one of the Deccan Sultanates during the 16th century it used to be an international, commercial and cultural hub. From this golden age remain many heritage sites including one mausoleum made of the second largest dome in the world! (after St Peter of Rome).

After an overnight train trip as we like them, we discovered Bijapur, at first glance a dusty big village like any others in India (in this case the “village” was hosting 300 000 inhabitants!). The difference here, is that behind the usual xerox shops (“zerox” in the case of Bijapur to respect the local pronunciation), “family-restaurants” and other shops of all trades, rise signs of an history too big for this common city: domes of mausoleums or mosques, citadel walls, watch towers, archs and monumental city gates.
We discovered here a delicate Islamic heritage, sometimes even imposing, specially in the case of the Gol Gumbaz, a dome with extraordinary proportions and an amazing sound reverberation (which is entertaining the local tourists big time as they scream here continuously).

More than anywhere else, we quickly felt that foreign tourists were pretty rare (we didn’t meet any during the week-end!) so we were the object of non-stop requests for a picture and the usual “which-country-what-is-your-name” from locals. Fun at the beginning, that’s quite exhausting after a while but that’s unavoidable when travelling in small towns of India.

Next time, we’ll visit Bidar, an other Sultanate past capital-city, closer to Hyderabad.

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