to say about Kathmandu? A hectic place, with wandering cows
and jostling traffic, where the most important piece of equipment
on your taxi is the horn. Many of the streets so narrow and
crowded with pedestrians that they should be walking streets
only, but cars and motorcycles and bicycle rickshaws jam down
the streets too, horns beeping a warning. At first it felt
very close, pressing in on me, claustrophobic. And it is loud
late into the night, with bars and such. Dirty air (blow your
nose after a day walking there and you will see the evidence),
partly due to seemingly unregulated vehicle emissions, partly
smoke from cooking fires morning and evening, partly it is
shopkeepers sweep and wash the street in front of their shops.
There are a lot of old buildings, old neighborhoods, old streets
that are not straight but are narrow and seem to have no names,
certainly no name logic that is easily understood by novice
travelers such as me. In the tourist section (Thamel), street
vendors and shop keepers approach you everywhere. You don't
want to be rude, but you quickly learn to pay them no attention
at all. You want to take your time and take it all in, but
the pressure of the place seems to keep you moving. Not that
the sell is that hard, it's just constant.
But even so, there are so
many sights that do register. Right in the narrow street outside
a restaurant, two guys crouched on the street with an ancient
relic of a stone wheel in a wooden frame that they were using
to sharpen knives. On one end of it crouched a guy with a
leather strap wrapped around one end of the axle, pulling
it with one hand and then the other, making the wheel spin
one way and then the other. On the other side crouched (seems
to be a natural position there, you see people of all ages
doing it) a guy sharpening knives. Just a sight on the street
in passing, and there were thousands of others. At an intersection
with a towering stupa in the middle, women with cloth or tarps
spread on the street, piled with fruit or vegetables, selling.
Some really sad old beggars. So many faces and forms and colors
and smells and sounds, an assault on the senses, potential
That first night we had curry
and beer for dinner. There was loud rock music booming from
a bar near the hotel, but I didn't pay much attention. The
next morning I went to Rob & Andy's room, which had a
balcony over the street, and knocked to see if they were ready
to have breakfast. Are you awake, I asked when Rob answered
the door. That would presume that I slept, Rob said. First
it was the rock music in the bar practically next door, with
the bass guitar rattling the fixtures in the room. Then it
was Andy snoring.
We spent a day exploring and
visiting one of the historical sites, a collection of old
temples at Durbar Square. They are made of wood and stone
and seem in need of preservation. One was a Shiva temple,
within which were four Ganesha shrines.
Another had roof beams that
were carved with erotic figures. It was overwhelming, really,
there was so much history and artistry in this one place.
We hired a guide to explain it to us, but his English was
hard to follow. And you couldn't get a few minutes of peace
to read the guidebook. We had lunch at Freak Street, now quiet
but once the center for the hippie wanderers. Back at the
hotel, we arranged a new room for Andy and Rob, one in the
back where it was quieter.
- - - -
We went to buy tickets for the Everest flight for the following
morning, just for Andy and me as Rob had taken it on his previous
visit. We went to the Buddha Air office. Lots of business
names there are amusing, like the Trust Me Shopping Center.
But I really liked the names Buddha Air and Cosmic Air. Anyway,
the scene in the Buddha Air office was a delightful contrast
to the office I work in, where we all sit quietly in our cubicles
working on our computers. There was a counter with three people,
and there was a division of labor, but I couldn't quite figure
out the roles. One guy did the talking, and as he talked with
us he simultaneously helped people on two different telephones
(one in each hand) and a number of people who came in and
leaned across the counter in front of him. There was a bewildering
array of procedures involving the other two staff, including
completing forms, writing out the tickets by hand, stamping
things, and other paperwork and authorizations, which resulted
in our purchasing our tickets. And not a computer in sight.
It made me realize I hadn't seen a cell phone in Nepal either.
The next day
travelogue is part of the subside