Nepal Impressions

I travelled to Nepal in April, 2000, with some friends from Canberra, to climb a small peak called Tharpu Chuli (5663m). I went on to do a short walk in the Khumbu and then moved on to Tibet. I spent three weeks there, in fabulous Lhasa, before coming home via Hong Kong.

People asked me "What is Kathmandu really like?"
Well, this is what I wrote when I was there....

Ill start with Kathmandu: My hotel is the "Hotel Pyramid" located in the middle of Thamel, the main tourist suburb. I have a single room with a bathroom attached & balcony for AU$6/night. Sounds OK, but: its noisy. Outside my room are several embroidery shops which start-up early with chugging sewing machines and don't stop till after dark. The alleys and walls reflect all the sound: cars hoot, dogs bark, people talk loudly in the hotel courtyard till midnight, the sewing machines start at 7am (it used to be 6am in high season), the restaurant next door plays spacey music on continuous loop!

My room is funny: shower screens don't exist in Nepal so the water splashes everywhere soaking the toilet seat and rotting the door; toilets sometimes flush, sometimes don't (keep trying!); loo paper is bright pink Chinese stuff, recycled paper with flecks of plastic in it! It used to feel as rough as sandpaper but no longer does. Sorbent is going to feel weird when I get home;) There are five light switches in my room, only three do anything; the balcony door is warped leaving a gap at the top for noise and mozzies to get in; the windows are warped too and almost impossible to close. Hot water comes via a solar heating system, which, surprisingly, is OK in Spring when the sun shines, but with the present monsoon its always cloudy. Therefore, no hot water!

Monsoon is here and it drizzles most of the night and periodically thru the day, kind of Englishy weather. Occaisionally it pours like it does in Sydney, but an umbrella is all you need.

In the morning I get up and go for breakfast. Out into the street. It's about two lanes wide, three- to four- story brick and concrete buildings crowd in on either side. The ground floor of every one is a shop (I'm in the touristy part after all), above that is maybe a restaurant, pub, hotel or office, then maybe a residence on top. On top of one building is a chicken coop and a vege garden:) Every inch of streetfront is taken up; tables of carved things, t-shirts and jumpers hanging everywhere. Signs galore; side-by-side, one above the other, very confusing. Dodgy (very dodgy) electrical wiring streaming above the shop facades. People sit in every door: "Hello sir. Where you from?", "Hello. Come look...". Taxis cruise up the street hooting to warn you they are coming. One drives straight at me, veers away centimetres from me as I step around a woman walking the other way and avoid the muddy drain simultaneously. And meanwhile the man in the rickshaw asks "Hello friend, where you go?" and the kid beside me mutters under his breath "Smoke, hashish, opium?"....

Whoa!! Complete sensory overload! And I haven't even had breakfast yet!

Into the Weizen bakery courtyard. Peace at last! Fresh croissants, porridge, omlettes, a pot of tea, or whatever you wish. It comes to just a couple of dollars.

Off to look at a bookshop. Past restaurants, jewelry shops, jumpers, postcards, t-shirts, carved wooden elephants, owls, gurkha knives, tote-bags, cheap ice-screws, shawls, necklaces, dodging men on bikes, taxis, tiger-balm sellers ("200 rupee, sir": when it only costs 25R in the supermarket!), and hotel sandwich boards. You can eat Thai, Indian, genuine Nepali, Italian, Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Austrian, everything under the Sun....there is even a Baskin & Robbins here!

...and on it goes. A million things to see, distractions everywhere and all the while you walk thru the muddy streets: men hoiking and spitting on the street, beggars, piles of rotting garbage (here and there) smelly drains, dripping rooves, rickshaws, "Smoke, Hashish?", more tiger-balm sellers....!

And I escape to bookshop or a restaurant/cafe or the sanctuary of my hotel room to try to make sense of it all before venturing out again into this maelstrom of life!

So thats what this part of Kathmandu is like. Other parts are even smellier and filthier but not so touristy, just full of people existing and surviving: fascinating! Its all very interesting and different but I think I'm getting used to some of it as I dont notice the smell or the garbage much anymore, and I've become quite adept at ignoring, or dodging, the taxis and bikes and muddy puddles!

But Kathamndu is not Nepal, of course, just like Sydney is not Australia nor London England. The country-side is very different, much nicer, quieter, with a slower pace of life and it's generally cleaner. And in the right places you can get tsampa porridge which is really yummy. On the other hand it often doesn't have electricity or running water, but that's only a small problem which you soon get used to. Getting up with the sun, walking an hour so, having breakfast, walking on till lunch, maybe stopping in a teahouse for a glass of tea: very sweet, milky tea (delicious when you're knackered from walking up a huge hill!), and stopping at a lodge around 2 or 3pm with the rest of the afternoon to read, wash, walk about the village, or just veg while the monsoon rain pours, then drizzles, away. Its a very easy, relaxed, and thouroughly enjoyable way to pass the time.

Last modified: Thu May 22 01:27:46 EST 2003