“Woah, take a breath. We can definitely go there and yeah, I’m sure they have at least a few monkeys haha. I mean, it’s named ‘the Monkey Temple’. I can’t imagine a monkey temple NOT having any monkeys. That would just be absurd.”
“Ok, ok. I get it. Most likely they’ll have monkeys.”
“I’ve never seen a monkey outside of a zoo before.”
Krishna pipped in, “Hey, before you go. Do you want to have some Momo?”
Jenna and I exchanged glances. “Momo? What’s that?” Jenna asked.
“Oh, you need to try it before your trek for sure. Let’s go.”
We all waved to Gopal and thanked him for helping us out by grabbing the tickets. We left Krishna’s big white gate and walked 2 minutes to a small restaurant that had only a few chairs and tables. Krishna ordered for us and we chatted about the monkey temple, the possibility of monkeys actually being there, our trek and what we wanted to do for our last full day in Katmandu. While listening to the exciting places that we were going to see, a plate of steaming hot dumplings landed in front of us.
“Here you go. The best Momo in Katmandu.” Krishna said with a big smile while waving his hand over the momo like Vanna White from Wheel of Fortune. A tiny plate with an orange sauce sat next to the perfectly arranged dumplings, which were in a circle. He picked one up, dipped it in the sauce and then motioned a ‘cheers’ sign with it before shoving it all in his mouth. He wasn’t silent by the way he chewed. I wasn’t sure if I should be disgusted or turned on. I dove in and grabbed the dumpling, it was like a floppy half-moon in my hand. Warm to the touch and the insides were squishy. “In the spirit of trying everything, here we go.” I dipped the momo and bit half of it off. My face lit up like a Christmas tree.
“Oh my god, what is this miraculous thing? This is amazing. These are delicious, so savory and flavourful but bland at the same time. Seriously these are the best things I’ve had ever.”
Jenna shoved her hand in “give me one. They can’t be that good.”
And just like that we ordered two more plates of the little piles of heaven. I paid our tab and thanked Krishna for introducing us to momo.
“I think momo changed my life.” Jenna said with a little orange thing stuck in her teeth. Before I could tell her about her teeth, she began to dance.
“MomoAZING. Momo changed my life.” She danced out of the restaurant and onto the street. I couldn’t deny it, the song was rather catchy and, she was right, it was momo-azing. We waved bye to Krishna and headed towards the monkey temple.
“Do you think they’ll have momo in India?” Jenna asked.
“No clue dude. If they don’t, I’m not going to lie, I’ll be quite sad. I can’t believe how amazing those were. Either way we are going to be eating some phenomenal food on this trip.”
The thought of not having momo again made me upset. Jenna could clearly see that in my face.
“Oh dude, wait until you have palak paneer and aloo gobi. You think that was good, just wait!” She said trying to make me feel better.
“Better then momo? I mean you came up with a song and a dance.” We both laughed hysterically. That’s one thing I always love Jenna for. She’s so silly and makes everything fun. Our talk about ethnic food lasted 30 minutes and brought us to a tall set of stairs.
“This is it.” Jenna said with her nose in her lonely planet book. “Only 365 stairs to the top. Race?” I shook my head laughing at her as I took the first step in clearly an ‘I’m not running these stairs are you mad’ way.
Groups of people sat along the stairs trying to catch their breath. We slowly passed them, in no rush at all. One step at a time. A group of young school girls in little blue uniforms started to run down the stairs in a large hoard. Within seconds Jenna and I were sucked up into the hoard. “Namaste” they said as they ran past us. Over a hundred young girls screamed Namaste as they past us giggling and smiling. We ran up the stairs through the swarm of cheery youngsters joining them in saying ‘Namaste”, which, in its most basic form is a salutation. Namaste, Namaste, Namaste was coming from everywhere. When the hoard of girls running and saying Namaste was over it was like I just had the best sleep of my life, I felt so energized reaching the top of the stairs. Jenna looked at me and we instantly began laughing.
“That was incredible,” we said together as we jumped around at the base of the temple. I turned around to see the large gold steeple in the center of the temple. It was massive and had Tibetan eyes on it. I saw Jenna take her book out.
“According to lonely Planet, this is a Buddhist Temple and those are Buddha’s eye. They are all seeing helping us rise up from our material lifestyle. It also says here that at sunset this place is beautiful. Want to stick around so we can watch the sunset from way up here?”
“Absolutely! This place seems huge anyway, so much to see.”
A monkey jumped in front of Jenna and tried to rip her bag away from her hip. “Hey” she yelled. “Screw off!” She went to kick the monkey that was at her feet but, he was quick and sprang into action and disappeared. “Fucking monkeys.” She said shaking her head.
“I’ve never seen a monkey in real life before. At the zoo, yeah, and African Lion Safari back at home but, that’s it. Are all monkeys little jerks like that guy?”
“Not sure about all monkeys, but I do know that MOST monkeys I’ve met are little shits! Watch your stuff around them. They seriously go after everything.”
“He looked so cute.”
“Dude, not cute, not cuddly. Learn this now before India or you’ll be swallowed by them whole!”
“Wait, what? They eat humans?” I asked wide-eyed. Jenna just started laughing at me.
“Omg, you are the most gullible person I ever met. Come on, let’s go explore.”
After sunset we headed back to Krishna and Rina’s place. Rina was just walking in the door with a few yummy treats for us when we arrived.
“Nice, I’m so hungry.” Jenna said when she saw the food.
“Since you only have one more day here we thought it would be fun to hang out here tonight.” Rina suggested with a smile pasted on her face.
“Yeah, that sounds great!” I said. We sat down in the living space that still had boxes lining the room from when they moved in.
“How was the Monkey Temple?” Rina asked when she re-entered the room.
“It was awesome. I can’t believe how many monkeys there were. They were seriously everywhere! One tried to steal Jenna’s purse. They didn’t get it though.”
Jenna jumped up and re-told the story, showing us how she almost kicked the monkey away. Krishna and Rina were laughing at us.
“The sunset was gorgeous and I can’t believe how many prayer wheels there were. I must have said like a million prayers. Buddhism is so neat. I’m excited to visit a few more temples tomorrow.” Jenna said as she sat down.
“Ahh yes, you’ll need to go to Boudhanath Stupa. It’s not too far from here. Like a 1 hour walk. It looks over the city too.” Krishna said. “Rina and I have work to do so we can’t join you, but we can meet for dinner in Thamel. Maybe that place we had Dal Bhat the first time together?”
“Yeah, sure that sounds great.” I said.
“Hey, maybe we can meet up with those guys I’ve been chatting with through ‘couch surfing’.“
“Uhhh, sure if you want. They can give us one final tour.” I said.
The next morning we met Jenna’s two new friends in the center of Thamel for tea. They were younger than I would have expected, maybe early 20s or late teens.
“Hi, I’m Raja and this Kamal. You want to go site see today in city?” Raja said in a squeaky voice.
“Oh brother,” I said under my breath. I smiled at them both. They both had brown eyes and darker skin. Raja was attempting to grow a mustache, which was clearly the first time as it would have passed for a ‘hi, I just started puberty stash.’ I gave Jenna a look saying ‘seriously, you couldn’t have found older and better looking guys to show us around.’
“Hi, I’m Frankie. Yeah, what did you want to show us?”
“Temples around town. Some Hindu and Buddhist.” Kamal piped in. I’m surprised he could verbalize anything as he was being hypnotized by Jenna’s long blonde hair.
Jenna giggled, “Great, let’s roll like a herd of turtles.”
My eyes rolled so far back into my head I almost passed out. We began to walk through the streets of Thamel. The boys told us about their school, family, and areas outside of Katmandu where they grew up. They seemed innocent enough and I wasn’t starting to mind them until we stopped suddenly in the street. Kamal got down on one knee.
“Jenna, will you marry me?” he asked sincerely.
Jenna giggled some more and said no. Her big blue eyes and blonde hair had captured his heart. ‘Damn, already? It’s seriously been less than half an hour’ I thought to myself. I really never understood why guys always pined over her. I really hope this isn’t a trend.
Two more marriage proposals, lots of giggles from Jenna, and two words from Raja, we made it to our first temple.
“According to Lonely Planet, this temple was built in 600 ad and the Stupa was added after the prince killed his father as penance. And, like the Monkey temple we could watch the sunset from way up here overlooking the city.” Jenna said.
Raja and Kamal laughed as Jenna read from her book. “This temple is the same as ALL temples. Same, same but different.” Kamal said.
“Same, same but different? I’ve never heard that saying before.” I said curiously.
“Oh dude, get used to it. Everything is same, same but different in Southeast Asia.” Jenna smiled.
We walked around the temple, spun prayer wheels and followed the long lines of visitors to every nook and cranny of the place. I could feel myself getting sucked into the giggles and childish energy the boys were exuding.
We visited three more temples, all equally beautiful. Along with each temple came an abundance of prayer flags, prayer wheels, meditating monks and more proposals. Jenna was eating up each proposal from Kamal. She was loving the attention. Jenna was always the master of flirting, even back in grade school. She’s able to get a guy to eat out of hand within minutes. This was a little over the top, even for her. I was starting to get nauseous from it all.
“Hey, it’s almost dinner time. Want to head back to meet Krishna and Rina in Thamel for dinner? “I asked, being hopeful to lose the guys.
“Sure.” Jenna said.
Kamal looked sad that our day was coming to an end. He did his best to flirt with her, trying to make her feel special. Raja and I were walking behind them, both grateful to be so. Kamal, being blind to anything aside from the blonde hair beauty that was next to him was oblivious to anything else. He tripped over his own foot twice, almost walked into a vendor sign and fell going through the cement door that leads us into Thamel. It was entertaining, to say the least. We approached the restaurant with perfect timing. Krishna and Rina were just 150 yards or so away, walking to meet us for dinner. We said our goodbyes to the guys and thanked them for being our tour guides for the day. Before I knew it, Kamal was once again on his knee, pleading and begging for Jenna to return his love.
“Jenna please. You are everything. You marry me? Make me the happiest man in the world?”
Krishna and Rina’s expressions were of concern. I gave them a little nod indicating that everything was ok. Jenna, with big smiles approached Kamal. Then she did the unthinkable. She ‘leap frogged’ over his head. Standing on the other side of him, Jenna stood laughing. Kamal on the other hand was knocked to the ground when Jenna was in mid jump.
“Check you on the flip side.” She said, then walked up the stairs to the restaurant.
I shook my head in disbelief. Said my thanks to the boys and followed Krishna and Rina up the stairs.
“You are a nut!” I said to Jenna when I sat down with everyone at the table. She just laughed.
Dinner was delicious, just like we expected. We loved the company of Krishna and Rina, and Thamel was such a cool city. It was starting to sink in that in the morning we would be on a plane to Lukla, then Everest!! A heaviness sunk in. It could have been the fact that we walked over 35 kms around the city looking at all the Temples. It could have been that I over ate. It could have been that I was sad to leave Krishna and Rina. Either way I was feeling exhausted.
“I hate to say this, but I think I need to get some sleep.” I said unwillingly.
“Ok, let’s go.” Rina said with a compassionate smile on her face.
Twenty minutes later we arrived at their house. I gave Jenna a wink and disappeared into the bedroom. I came back with a huge package for Rina and Krishna. I slyly hid it behind my back. Krishna handed papers to each of us.
“What’s this?” Jenna asked.
I had to sit down slowly to not let them see the gift I was holding at my back so I could read the paper Krishna handed to us. I looked kind of dumb being the only person sitting down in the middle of their living room. They must have gotten the hint because within moments everyone was sitting down with me.
“These are your tickets for tomorrow.” Krishna replied.
“Oh my God. It’s actually happening. This is so insane. Thank you for this, and everything. You two are seriously the best. Thanks for being so supportive during this first portion of your trip. To thank you, we brought you guys this.” I pulled the gift out from behind my back. Both of their faces lit up instantly.
“What’s this?” Rina asked in excitement. “You didn’t have to do this.”
“We wanted to. Open it.” Jenna said.
They tore it open like a gift under the Christmas tree.
“Syrup?” They said in unison. “MAPLE SYRUP?” Oh my!!!” They pulled out another package then tore that open too. “Pancake mix” Krishna said laughing. “Maple syrup and pancake mix. This is the best gift ever. Thank you so much.”
We all hugged in gratitude. My eyes started to feel heavy again. The gift was delivered, mission complete. “I think I need to go to bed now. Sorry everyone. I’m zonked. Goodnight.” I closed the door as I heard Rina ask what the word ‘zonked’ meant.
I dialed Mason but, unfortunately he didn’t pick up. I left a quick voicemail letting him know that in the morning we would be heading to Everest and that I’ll chat with him in about 15 days. Thoughts of him flooded my brain and my heart. They soothed me like a lullaby and helped me go to sleep.
I woke up with a bolt of energy. ‘Today is the day’ I thought to myself. I hopped out of bed, showered, brushed my teeth, then got dressed in my black lululemon tights and white tee-shirt. I was ready to start the hike. I piled everything into my big green backpack. It was lighter now without the syrup and pancake mix. Jenna followed suit with the shower, teeth, hiking clothes and the packing of her bag. We were starting the next chapter of our big adventure. We left our room and met up with Krishna and Rina in the living room. They looked sad to see us go, yet also so excited for us.
“I have to stay here and work.” Rina said.
I went in for a big hug. “Thank you for everything. You are amazing. Thank you.” Jenna gave her a big hug too and we followed Krishna out of the house and onto the street.
“It doesn’t take long to walk to the airport from here. Just 10 minutes.” He said.
I did my best to soak up everything. All the stray dogs wandering around, the children playing in the dirty puddles. The piles of garbage in each street corner. The horns. Oh, the horns. “I’m going to miss all these horns. I swear, they have put me to sleep every night.”
We arrived at the airport. People were everywhere and they were from everywhere. Russia, Germany, France. Piles of hiking gear were stacked up all over the place.
“Is this the same airport we landed in a few days ago?” I asked Krishna.
“It looks so different during the day.”
“It’s because of the trekkers. Every day we get lots of tourists hoping to fly to Lukla then, to climb Everest. If they're lucky.” He said.
“What do you mean, if they’re lucky?”
“Oh, well Lukla is the most dangerous airport in the world. The runway is really short and people die all the time because the weather is so unpredictable.” Jenna chimed in staring into her lonely planet book.
“Yes, that’s right.” Krishna said. “Flights are cancelled all the time here for people wanting to get to Lukla. It’s a waiting game. Weather looks good though. Want me to wait until you guys get on the plane?” Krishna looked at Jenna and he looked concerned. “I’ll stay. No big deal.”