We woke up to our first lie in and it was glorious! With pretty awful food at our hotel we headed out to Gaia’s – a lovely alfresco cafe nearby for pancakes and omelettes. After finishing both my own and dad’s it really feels like my stomach was back on track! Today was one of the days I was actually most excited about as I knew it was Holi festival for Hindus in Nepal and having narrowly missed the celebrations in India I was kind of hoping for something to happen in Kathmandu. All we could find on blogs and websites was that in our district Thamel, you risked being water-ballooned by local kids and the possibility of a showering of coloured powder paint. Obviously being overly prepared individuals we waterproofed up and donned white t-shirts not really knowing what to expect.
We were just finishing our breakfast having witnessed a few shouts and screams from tourists and locals when the Nepali group next to us gestured for us to join them in their celebrations and pretty delicately decorated us with red powder on our faces. After a few selfies dad and I felt ready to head out and see if that was it but of course, again, even for the most prepared of people we were unprepared for what was about to greet us. Tonnes of people had begun to fill the streets dressed in white T-shirts emblazoned with ‘Happy Holi’ carrying water pistols and bags of powders in every colour. Starting pretty gently we were greeted with a palm to the face filled with powder and a call of “happy holi” but eventually as we bought our own powders it became mad and we were joining in dousing those around us with handfuls of colour wherever we could find space! Then came the water. As we strolled the streets following crowds buckets upon buckets upon balloons and jugs of water showered down into the crowds below saturating our colour soaked bodies. One particularly great shot COMPLETELY drenched me to the hilarity of everyone around but it was ridiculous and hilarious and hard not to join in! Trying to avoid mouthfuls of powder or worse, water, was the most difficult part and I was constantly trying to clean my mouth from being entirely blue or red but it was hard to shout happy holi with a closed mouth and to hold in a laugh at these ridiculous scenes! We followed the crowds to Durbar Square where powder filled the air in bursts and a drummer kept the most enthusiastic participants dancing. Here we paused for a breather and to try and dry off a little standing high on a post above the crowds to take pictures of the scenes below – through my well planned waterproof phone case of course! As we walked back on a slow loop to our hotel it became clear that I was possibly the most covered out of the hundreds of people there, one tourist just burst out laughing at the sight of us! Now professional water dodgers, we paced back to our hotel avoiding adding too much more to our bodies and took some great pics together before heading in for a shower. The initial wash made no dent on the colour at all but about 4 goes later and I had a pretty clean body aside from one green hand and a slightly blue nose. My hair on the other hand was a shocker, grinch green with touches of red and yellow. Goodbye to my beautiful and bloody expensive ashy blonde colour (sorry Alice at No3 Salon Bath). Dad wasn’t looking much better with half a turquoise head but being colourblind he doesn’t really care! As I type we have booked ourself a final blow out feast at this lovely hotel just outside where we are staying. Having booked we realised our lack of smart clothing and mad hair might not gain us entry so wish us luck for an afternoon of frantic trainer washing and games of ‘what smells least’ or ‘are these creases obvious’.
So updates on this mysterious dinner… after directing the taxi ourselves to where we assumed the restaurant was, we arrived at an incredible red brick building. Hotel Dwarika was a gorgeous heritage style building, huge and decorative with wooden ornate detailing, paved courtyards and sweeping vines linking the mass of buildings together. It was like stepping onto a film set for Indiana Jones! We were directed to the Restaurant Krishnapan and removed our shoes in the beautiful foyer space. Our hands were bathed under hot water and we were guided by elegantly dressed waitresses to our table. The table itself was low to the ground with big cushioned seats so you were essentially seated on the floor and as we sat more waitresses dressed us in aprons and presented us with personalised menus! The meal was to be 6 courses each exploring a different region of Nepal and aspect of traditional cuisine. The first was a beautiful platter of foods from mountain region – essentially the local cuisine in melamchi. There was crispy beaten rice, a spiced potato curry and a variety of dried beans and crispy fried pieces of garlic – so Yum! The waitress also poured us fragrant rice wine into tiny terracotta bowls to drink. The second course was a little warm black pancake with a lentil salsa and a spicy tomato relish. Next, my favourite, bright green sesame and vegetable momos served with a hummus style dip. Then we were bought a tiny bowl of a super smooth vegetable soup to eat using the biggest spoons imaginable! Each course was cleared and laid with such precision it was like a ritual happening around us! The main course was an amazing veg thali, two varieties of rice, paneer, spinach, cauliflower, a beautiful crunchy mushroom dish and these sweet and spicy pickled plums!
By now we were pretty stuffed but super comfortable and the rhythm of each course being laid around us seemed to always leave a little room for more. Dessert is never my favourite course but this was AMAZING! Fresh melon with a semolina pudding that tasted like the frangipane in an almond croissant with hot juicy sultanas inside and a bowl of perfectly sweet and spicy cinnamon and honey yoghurt! We left super satisfied after a tiny cup of fragrant tea to top everything off. Definitely one of the best meal experiences I’ve ever had!