This was written Oct 15, 2001
Arriving in Kathmandu was an experience. The Fight path took us by the Himalayas…They are so huge. At first I thought they were clouds…then the man next to me pointed out Everest. These mountains were well above the Clouds and our flying altitude!
The airport was easier than I expected and the ride to the Hotel was enjoyable…well, after the driver recovered from almost hitting a sleeping cow in the middle of the road!
Once arrived, I quickly set out to explore. The sights and smells were wonderful yet also overwhelming. Best way to describe it is Sensory Overload. Kathmandu is a very fast paced city…Cars whizzing by while constantly honking, various smells of of all sorts of cooking and new spices and exhaust form the all the various vehicles packed on the streets, rolled up together. There are wild dogs, cows and the occasional monkey! At this moment, when jet lag meets overwhelmed, I dream of my trek into the quiet and clear air of the Himalayas.
So many people also are on the streets. One unique sight were Sherpas carrying massive weight, using a strap wrapped around their head for balance and stability. This would snap the neck of most people.
For those who know my sense of direction or lack thereof would be surprised that I was able to find my way successfully to the Thamel District. After getting to the Thamel District, the main tourist area, I ended up all turned around because of all the hawkers and rickshaw drivers. Eventually, I found my way out…and even though I was completely turned around AND jet Lagged, I, miraculously, ended up walking in the correct direction.
The stores are all quite small…all nestled in buildings…they remind me of caves. Each space in no more than 10X10….Some as small as 4′ X 4′ and maybe 4′ high.
I met a woman on the plane who invited me to wander around with her. She was well versed in all Kathmandu since she had been here before. What great fun we had. I followed her from shop to shop as she was having a few dresses made. She was an experienced haggler and I learned a bit from her during our visit.
Amy introduced me to the adventure of riding in a cab which rivals the adventures of crossing the street. Cab rides are like a roller coaster gone awry. They drive on the left…or sometimes on the right if they feel like it. There are no traffic lights or stop signs….they have traffic circles where there seems to be no rule of the right of way! The roads are full of Cars, Cabs, Rickshaws & Tuck Tucks, which are mini public buses packed full of people hanging on to anything they can, including the back bumper. There are also 3 wheelers and buses also filled to the brim with people.
Kathmandu is a cosmopolitan city, hustling and bustling from dawn and through the night. There are street markets covering the sidewalks as well as Markets in open fields. There are beggars but not nearly as mainly as you might imagine in such a poverty stricken country. This is a very poor city but the people seem immune to their own condition. Everyone holds their head up high and greet you with a big smile. Amy said the perfect thing to describe the Nepali people. She said they are Materially poor but Spiritually wealthy. There is great pride here. And they certainly deserve to be proud. They have created an incredible society…One that is vibrant and moving forward.
One thing that surprised me is the cultural tradition of men holding hands in friendship. Women also hold hands but I saw far more men than women. How wonderful. Funny how a society that may be economically struggling is far ahead of us in certain areas.
Everything is negotiable and you can buy anything. I have a hard time saying no. But I am slowly getting used to it.
Amy & I had lunch at a place called the Thamel House. What a wonderful restaurant. We climbed 3 flights to get there, took our shoes off and sat on pillows on the floor, which was good since the ceiling was quite low, as most in this district seem to be. The food was wonderful. We ordered Dal Baht(lentils & Rice), Curried Chicken, Nepali veggies and a lovely rice dessert. It was all delicious.
After lunch, we headed back to Amy’s hotel for tea and ended up running into a large demonstration against the new war in Afghanistan. We quickly moved on. I parted ways with Amy, as we were going on separate treks. But what a wonderful woman she is. I hope we actually do keep in touch. I headed back to my hotel and will plan all sorts of fun things to do in my week in Kathmandu…I decided to come a week before my trek to acclimate to the altitude since I am a sea level person!
Kathmandu is wonderful and other than the incredible loud din of all of the activity, I highly recommend a visit.