Sunday, July 11, 2010

Kathmandu Chaos - Exploring the Boundaries of My Comfort Zone

Convincing myself to sit down and write about our weekend in Nepal has been more difficult than I expected.

There is without a doubt a great deal of beauty in the country. the world heritage listed village of Bhaktapur, 45 minutes outside of Kathmandu is an excellent example. The time we spent there, wandering through temples and narrow cobblestone streets, certainly made a lasting impression on us. And some day I would love to visit the Chitwan forest (just a 30 minute flight from Kathmandu). Then there's Mount Everest, which we flew around on a tiny 20-passenger plane. What a trip!

But honestly, I hated Kathmandu. People there looked tired and hungry. Much of their cattle -often found in standing in busy intersections - looked starved. And emmaciated stray dogs lay motionless on every street corner. Indeed, every living thing seemed to struggle. And while streets were littered with trash, various motorized vehicles spewed black carbon bi-products into the air, causing many to wear surgical masks as a means of "protecting" themselves. Competing with the carbon monoxide is the smell of trash and waste, which comes in bouts, seeping into the taxi through open windows. If only that were all. In a somewhat unlucky twist of fate, a huge wave of muddy street water actually found it's way through the windows of our taxi, shocking our drunken taxi driver, and soaking everyone but Alex.

Streets are dotted with guard towers and barbed wire (a bitter reminder of Nepal's bitter Maoist-rebel past), and are overrun with old beaten up white toyotas "taxis" (without seat belts), families of four on motorcycles, frightened pedestrians (for whom there is little regard), and surprisingly street savvy animals. It's total chaos.

As icing on the proverbial cake, black-outs happen every day, food and water are often contaminated, people are advised to brush their teeth with bottled water, and I'd guess that if the cuisine's not spicy, it's not Nepalese.

For every nice person we met, there was a manipulative one out there, begging or coniving for money (though one could argue this is the case most everywhere). And most taxi rides have to be negotiated beforehand. In fact, outside of restaurants, nearly everything is negotiable.

Having said all of that, I'd still recommend Nepal for a visit. Why?
Because if we only choose to see the parts of the world with minimal suffering, we will never really know this world, or the people that call it home. And I'm a firm believer that beauty can be found everywhere... though sometimes it requires a trip outside of our personal comfort zones - in this case - a trip to Nepal.

I feel for the Nepali people. They have to fight just to stay alive. But their home, nestled in the verdant valley beneath incredible Mount Everest, certainly is a stunning one. Perhaps this is what makes it worth the fight.


Rzl977 said...

Hate is a strong word to be used don't you think? It's not Paris but they do struggle everyday and manage like everyone in the world struggling for different things in their own rat race. Your quest to find something through travels? I don't not like the city as much as you do it's an environmental disaster. But I don't hate it people live there, it's home for millions ... Glad you like the outskirts they are beautiful hopefully for a long long time :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a trip and what a well-written perspective of your travels to Nepal! I would love to make a visit one day in my life though would need to consult with you prior to booking the trip for tips on where to stay and more about how to see the culture safely. When will you start offering your services to arrange these amazing trips for paying customers?