Friday, January 21, 2011

The (best ?) places to stay in Nepal...

I stayed at the best place in Tulsipur, according to my boss. The Munal Guest House includes a private room with an adjoining bathroom. Mine had two toilets—a Western one, that looked like it had been broken for months on end, and a Nepali one, which was not clogged so usable. The showerhead was rusty, and the spicket produced very cold water once a day. There was a basket of used toothbrushes over the sink, which made me think they had given me the staff room for a minute. The cobwebs over them told a different story.

In the village of Belganar, I slept in a semi-empty storeroom. The lady of the house had laid down a straw mat, a few blankets and a surac, and provided a pillow for my comfort. I shared my room with two small mice that night. Thankfully, they were interested more in whatever was in the bucket in the corner of the room than me, or my bags. Food included Tharu festival specialties, such as dhikiri (a roll of dough made from rice flour and steamed), boiled and spiced green leafy vegetables, and fish relish (which consisted of minnows, prawns and crawfish that had been caught in the stream that morning, boiled and spiced, and eaten whole. I bit off all the fish heads; those I could not eat). I passed on the pork meat, and was not offered any rat (yes, Tharu do eat rat. That was one of the advertised delicacies available at the Maghi festival in Kathmandu).

Traveller’s Village in Nepalgunj was heaven. My room was heated, the bathroom was clean, and the place had WiFi. I took three hot showers during my two days there. With one day of rest, where I had no one to meet or interview, I felt like I was on vacation. I was ordering food from the kitchen that I would never eat in the States. Suddenly, chicken cheeseburgers, French fries, macaroni and cheese and other fattening food sounded really good. I figured I was making up lost calories from all the rice and vegetables off which I had been living at the other places. The staff consistently addressed me as “madam,” and were perplexed when I didn’t want my room made up each day.

Park Inn Hotel in Dhangadi was probably at one time a nice place. There were ruins to testify to its former glory, such as the broken and unhooked electric water heater in the bathroom. I chose to sleep on the bed with fewer yellow stains on the sheets. Iodine drops went into the hot water I was brought around 8PM. Why Nepalis want to drink hot water before going to bed I’m not sure, but I was brought a thermos of it, and later, the boy came back with a glass as an afterthought. In the morning, the unexpected knock at my door revealed the same boy delivering me a greasy omelet and cup of black tea that I hadn’t asked for. Complimentary room service? In the afternoon, as I downloaded interviews from my recorder to my computer, a mouse ran out from under the bed, saw me, and ran back under it. I saw a shrew in the reception hall, running from the office door to a crack in the floor. When I left the place at 4:30AM two days later, my fellow traveler told the manager, “we had a very nice stay; we’ll probably come again.” I could see the manager beam in the moonlight.