At the end of the most iconic street in Kathmandu (and I call it iconic because it houses the greatest icons of modern age: Adidas, Nike, Benetton, KFC and Pizza Hut), sits a Royal Palace. As you might deduct on your own, the Royal Palace is the home of the royal family. Duh. Or at least it used to be. Now Nepal is “an independent, indivisible, sovereign, secular, inclusive democratic, socialism-oriented federal democratic republican state.” No mention of monarchy, so that’s definitely out of the equation. After the royal family left the premises, the palace has been turned into a museum. Not a very well promoted one though. Most of the people don’t even know they can go in there and get a tour. I, however, read Tripadvisor on occasion, and therefore knew this is the place to visit.
Two friends in tow, and off I went to the museum slash former palace. The entrance fee is Rs.200 for foreigners and Rs.100 for Nepalis and residents. A steal. After buying our tickets, we were asked to deposit our bags in a locker room. Say what? You want us to leave our bags with all our money and our phones in a poorly-guarded locker room? I peeked in there – there are no lockers in there, just a row of shady looking shelves. We got into a huge debate with the guards not understanding why in the world we are not allowed to bring anything with us. After lots and lots of back and forth, we understood that in essence we are not allowed to bring our phones with cameras with us. Oh, this must be good! We left our phones, and took our wallets with us, and off we went on the most unusual museum tour ever.
The palace is exactly what you would expect from a museum – a place where time stopped. However, the difference here is that when time stopped in this one, it also seems the cleaning ladies stopped coming in. Dust everywhere. And carpets. Carpets full of dust. Not a place for asthmatics. We moved from one room to another fascinated by the furniture and trinkets the royal family owned. An elephant leg turned into a side table? Wow, that’s a first. Several hours later and we’ve explored all the rooms, seen multiple photos of world leaders who visited Nepal, admired the crowning room, and wondered why the royal couple’s room was as tiny as it was. We moved on outside to the garden, only to discover that the building where the family actually lived was flattened. Gone. Only the foundation remains. This was the building where the infamous royal massacre took place back in 2001. I wonder what kind of nasty secrets this place hid that it needed to be completely demolished. It was a bit creepy back there looking at the remaining foundation and a map explaining where each of the bodies was found after the massacre. Yikes.
The garden of the Royal Palace Museum is huge. One of the largest green spaces I have seen in Kathmandu so far. Sadly, it is not kept up well at all. At all. We wandered through for a bit, but all we could see was weeds and trash, so we cut the walk short. Maybe a gardener could be one of the foreign donations to Nepal. Just throwing an idea out there.
The most bizarre part of this museum is that everything looks like it was abandoned in 1970, where in reality, people actually lived there since 2005! Nothing was ever updated. Even the phones looked like something that was taken from the set of The Brady Bunch. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that it has only been 10 years since someone lived there.
If you get a chance, go and visit, just don’t forget to leave your phone at home. And don’t even think about bringing the camera with you, though I am still not sure why they keep everything such a secret. There was absolutely nothing in there that would make me understand why photos were not allowed.