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Himalaya

Day 44: Kathmandu

Michael Palin - HimalayaIt sounds a long-shot but we follow it up and make our way to Hanuman Dhoka, the Old Royal Palace. Although it is dimly lit and hard to distinguish individual buildings, the complex of streets and squares has an extraordinary atmosphere. I'm reminded of walking at night in St Petersburg or Rome. There is a theatrical unreality to the place. Astonishing buildings, unlike anything I've seen before, are silhouetted against the night sky. Towering pagodas with long wide-eaved roofs, stacked one above the other, are topped with Hapsburg-like spires. Deep balconies cantilever out on long poles, the lintels and sills of the windows are thick timber beams. A fairytale kind of architecture, the more magical for being first encountered at night.

The general public seems conspicuously absent. We walk through empty squares until we come upon a small crowd that seems to consist mainly of flak-jacketed military, armed police and press photographers in dark suits.

The authorities look nervous, their eyes constantly scanning us and each other. Nigel grabs a camera position a few feet off the ground beneath a lamppost, and defends it against all comers as we wait for the production to begin.

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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 44: Kathmandu
  • Country/sea: Nepal
  • Place: Kathmandu
  • Book page no: 101

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