I See. I Like. I Blog.
If I have to choose one word to describe Kathmandu, that word would be scruffy. Pretty much everything here is covered in dust. Some parts of the city look as if a bomb just went off the night before – like a war zone minus the dead bodies.
Kathmandu is also loud And aggressive. The traffic, that is. Be warned people, traffic here is insane! Walking down the (very) narrow streets and alley-ways between ramshackle brick and wooden buildings, is certainly not for the faint-hearted. See, when you’re sharing space with 10 cars – 5 rickshaws – a few dozens motorcycles – 3 trucks – 99 other pedestrians and oh, 6 dogs – all coming at you from every direction at the same time, it would serve you and your DNA well to get the hell out of the way. Chances are they’ll miss but don’t take my word for it. And you can be sure they’re there alright with the non-stop honking and beeping, the ringing and whistling and yes, the barking too. It’ll drive you nuts after just one minute out on the streets – that is if you’re lucky the motorists haven’t sliced your behind already. If I had done an audio recording of the traffic noises, I could probably make a million bucks selling a 8-second ringtone on iTunes!
The locals are pious people. And not surprisingly so, in a city where there are hundreds of temples and stupas and shrines and deities and idols and prayer wheels, in all shapes and sizes and adorned with colorful prayer flags, flowers and offerings from the faithfuls.
The Nepalese don’t seem to want to do things in moderation. Not only do they have the highest mountain in the universe standing in their backyard, there’s also a young Goddess staying right smack in the middle of the city! And I think I’ve already made my case from the crazy traffic scene and the countless holy hotspots in the city. But if you’re still not convinced, check out the Shopping. In and around Thamel District alone, countless shops and stalls cramped together like sardines in a can. There is nothing you can’t get here.
If you’re flusterred by the chaotic scenes, all is not lost; for underneath the dusty facade, there is refuge to be found at the Garden of Dreams. Just take a short walk around the corner at the end of Thamel’s shopping district and voila! you are transported into another world where people and nature co-exist in an almost surreal aurrounding. Within the confines of high red-bricked walls, you’ll find well-manicured gardens with lawn terraces, pathways, white gazebo and shaded nooks and crannies to lose yourself momentarily. The tranquil atmosphere is broken only by the sound of kids playing in the corner and the soothing trickle of water from the fish ponds and cascading fountains. Pure bliss.
Bakhtapur District is another getaway option from the hustle and bustle. Hop on a cab from Thamel and within 20 minutes you’ll arrive at an ancient city filled with fabulous architecture, some dating back to the 17th century. You’ll be impressed with the superior beauty of the stone and wooden carvings of lions, elephants and other mythical creatures that have stood guard in front of the temples for hundreds of years. Things also seem to move more slowly in Bakhtapur. No daredevil motorists to run over you here!
So was it worth the time and money to come to Nepal? It was certainly an eye-opener and a culture-shock experience. Still I won’t be too quick to dismiss Kathmandu, or more precisely Nepal just yet. I may have seen and heard enough of the chaotic rumble of its capital throughout the 4 days of my stay, but I’m not done with the country. Far from it! I have yet to savor the renowned beauty of her landscape. I want to uncover the secret world of the Sherpas and Gurkhs, and hope to get as close as possible to the Everest. After all, embarking on a journey is more than just crossing borders and getting your passport stamped, right?
I shall return, one fine day.