Namaste. Greetings from Kathmandu. Before arriving in Nepal two days ago, I really didn’t know much about it. I knew that geographically it was between India and Tibet (China), so I figured that it would have some influences of both cultures. I had heard that Nepali food was good, but I hadn’t ever tried it before. I knew that it was a poor country, as is most of Asia. I only know two friends who have been to Nepal before, and they loved it, so I figured I’d give it a shot. I’m definitely glad I did.
I arrived really late Sunday night after a mishap with my flights. The visa process was actually pleasant and quick. I’d heard that it can take hours in line to get your visa on arrival. I guess landing at 11pm can be a good thing. I managed to get a taxi and get to my not-so-nice hotel. I only stayed there one night, and moved on in the morning. Needless to say, I didn’t get much of a feel for the city late at night while riding to my hotel in a taxi.
Morning came really early…because of all the noise! Beginning around 6am, my ears were inundated with all sorts of noises, from dogs barking, birds chirping, horns honking, hammers hammering and all sorts of other construction noises, and people chattering. I quickly realized that Kathmandu is not the place for lazy holidays where you can sleep in until the late morning. Despite my late arrival, I was up and out of the bed by 7am, on to explore the city.
The only way to describe the roads in Kathmandu is chaos. Unpaved, bumpy (What’s worse than bumpy? Because that’s the word I should be using.) roads so narrow that you think a car can’t possibly fit on it are filled with people on foot, motorbikes weaving through, carts and bicycles, oh, and cars as well, honking to signal that they own the road. Everyone fighting for space, zipping past, barely squeezing through. There’s no listening to music while leisurely walking the streets. No, you had better have your eyes and ears open at all times so you don’t get hit!
Speaking of the roads, let’s talk a minute about the traffic situation. It’s every man for himself. With no paved roads, no working traffic lights, and many (unmarked) one way roads, it’s a wonder they don’t have a million accidents all the time! People drive around other people, oftentimes on surfaces other than the road, with a beep, beep, get out of my way. A few of the major intersections have a traffic police officer who stands on a pedestal and directs traffic. The intersections without someone directing traffic, however, are everyone for themselves, flying through, dodging others as they go.
Another crazy thing is the electrical and telephone wires. They’re everywhere! A tangled mess of wires, going this way and that, hang from poles, sometimes near to the ground. How they possibly fix ones that are broken is beyond me. I wouldn’t know where to begin to make sense of it.
And the AIR! Let me tell you, I’ve been in dusty places (ahem, Egypt) and I’ve been in polluted places (Shanghai, duh), but this place takes the cake. Not only is there a ton of pollution in the air, evidenced by the permanent haze in the sky, but the unpaved roads and lack of maintenance mean that dust is constantly being flung into the air. I’m so glad I brought my face mask. I didn’t wear it all the time, though, because it got hot, so when I got home and blew my nose, my boogers were black! Sorry if you were just grossed out, but I’m just being honest.
The kids here are the cutest little people you’ve ever seen. Their smiling, sweet faces melt my heart. I love how curious they are, too. They’ll walk right over to me, smile and shyly say “Namaste” with their hands in a prayer-like position. So cute! Some of the children wear eyeliner. I’m not sure what the significance is, but it’s definitely different.
I’ve sampled some Nepali food, but one thing I tried can only be described as a “meat donut.” I was walking down one of the streets, and a man frying something resembling a funnel cake caught my eye. I stopped to watch him a minute, and asked him what it was. He said it was very sweet. Deciding to try one, I asked before I bought it if it had meat (I’m a vegetarian, remember), and he said that no, it was just fried sweet dough. Great! After my first bite, my tongue tasted a taste I have not had in a very long while. What is that? It vaguely tasted like meat. My friend, whom I’d met on the flight from Hong Kong, confirmed that yes, I was tasting meat. We figured that the oil used to fry the dough had previously been used to fry meat. Yuck! I had to drink lots of water to get rid of the taste. Some of my risk-taking doesn’t always pay off…haha.
Pigeons, pigeons, pigeons! Everywhere around the square you can find them. Scrambling for food, these birds congregate in one area, condensed so that all you see is a sea of pigeons. Children play a game, chasing the pigeons away, laughing as they succeed to break up the pack. The pigeons fly up for a moment, and quickly land back where they were, ready to peck for more scraps.
As Nepal is a Hindu culture (some are Buddhist), cows are sacred. You can find them roaming the streets, lazing around wherever they want, and generally taking advantage of the fact that no one can mess with them.
The thing that I love most about Nepal is the people. While they are impoverished and live on next to nothing, yet they are able to find joy in life. I have met some of the most helpful people on earth here in the last few days. Traveling alone can be troublesome, but I have met nothing but generous, kind people, willing to help me out.
More of Nepal to come! Stay tuned! 🙂
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