Arriving in Kathmandu at 1pm after a 23hr layover Delhi left me too drained to want to do anything so what did I do? I slept for passed out for 8hrs and of course I missed Maha Shivaratri (Night of Lord Shiva), which is a Hindu festival celebrating the reverence of Lord Shiva. I actually found out about this festival when I woke up to find the hostel almost empty because all the backpackers left to go watch the celebrations- I also found out that people smoke a lot of marijuana at the festival so I guess that explains why the hostel was empty. Anyway I was staying in Thamel because my earlier research suggested that was the place to gain some orientation before moving on to other parts of the country. I knew I’d meet some fellow travelers but I guess I wasn’t ready for the swarms of deadlocked blondies (not the neat kind of dreadlocks but the one that says I’ve given up everything to go find myself) in saggy clothes who spend most of their days doing yoga, smoking weed and eating mo:mo’s. Okay there might be a bit of generalization here but trust me I’m not lying, those guys and girls are actually cool and easy to talk to – when they’re not blowing smokes of macroaggression in your face.
Okay some seriousness. I spent about a week in Kathmandu, which was longer than I wanted but nevertheless a very good exposure to Nepal. I structured my own walking tours which led me to the Durbar Squares in Kathmandu and its sister-city Patan. The plan was to take in the atmosphere while seeing the changes around the city because even in a taxi ride to my hostel, I could feel how much impact the earthquake in 2015 has had on the city. Walking around, you can see multiple destroyed buildings and several scattered rubbles all around but what’s more visible than this damage in the spirit of the Nepali people as they continue to carry on their seemingly peaceful daily lives. Since Thamel in known to be the tourist/trekker spot, the streets are lined with crazy traffic, multiple trekking gear shops, tons of booking agencies, etc. However, further down to the Durbar Square area of Kathmandu are glimpses of normal Nepali life with the several rows of ladies selling strawberries, sweets and other food items (fun observation: The men normally sell oranges and pomegranates while the women usually see grapes and strawberries).
The Durbar Square in Kathmandu was really nice but most of the structures had been destroyed by the earthquake- some were repairable while others were sadly gone forever. Oh! FYI Durbar square is the name given to plazas or areas opposite old royal Palaces, they mainly consist of temples, idols of all shapes and lots of birds! I really enjoyed walking around the Durbar Square even though there were about a billion eyes following me every step I took. The Durbar Square in Patan was actually my favorite, it wasn’t as crowded and a lot of the structures weren’t really affected by the earthquake. What made me enjoy Patan the most was the several alleyways surrounding the Durbar Square, It was like every alley led to some new place and there was always some interesting stuff going on. Although people just stared and occasionally asked “where from?” they seemed very nice and approachable which made it easy for me to make some quick acquaintances to gather some info for my project.
Project-wise, I had planned to work with an NGO and stay for about two months in Nepal but I quickly realized that working with NGOs in Nepal is largely a voluntourism business and I am not up for that. So I decided to stay one month, travel by myself, meet people and learn about Nepalese culture and I couldn’t have made a better decision. Volunteering for NGOs are fun but from what I learned in Rwanda, lines soon get blurred and you get sucked in further than you want, which makes leaving and having some independence tough. Any who, I decided to head east to Pokhara after Kathmandu to spend some time among locals and away from the various forms of pollution available in Kathmandu (seriously everyone in the city wears a surgical mask because vehicular pollution and dirt from rubbles is not a good combination for anyone’s lungs)
At this point you must be wondering why I haven’t said anything about Nepali food. Don’t worry I may or may not be stuffing my face with some paneer masala curry and garlic naan while writing this post but just know that the food is really good. Due to proximity and historical factors, a lot of Nepali food has Indian influences but they do hold their own and make it theirs like the famous Dal Bhat which I can’t get enough off- well mainly because you can ask for more when you’re done and its free99!!. I also I think I found my favorite local restaurant already, Western Tandoori, which I’ve frequented every day for lunch and dinner since I arrived in Nepal. They have the best selection of curries and naan in town, also their masala tea is to die for and if you ask nicely, they might hook you up with their masala mix- I didn’t tell you this.
One more thing before I go. Nepali clubs are really fun! Especially the club that may or may not be known as Purple Haze (the name has no hidden subliminals) that has giant painting of Jimi Hendrix on the wall. They regularly feature a live band and it’s it’s… just fucking fun okay so go when you get the chance! End of story. Tune in to my next post which would be a mix of adventure and some seriousness about what I’ve actually learned about Nepal- Oh and awesome photos if I find good internet.