Exploring Nepal (Part 1): Kathmandu

by Ashraf

“Holy shit!” First night in Kathmandu. It’s 1 am and I’m in a small room of a barely noticeable hotel in Z-Street, Thamel Kathmandu. It is humid and sticky, I’m exhausted, exhilarated and keep on thinking to myself, “Is this jet lag that I’m feeling?”  I sit down and eat the biltong that I brought along (which I later learnt is very much illegal in Nepal) on a roll which I procured from my Emirates flight.  What a strange sensation it is to not know what’s going on but at the same time, not at all being concerned about it.  I come to the conclusion that this must be what confidence feels like. The assumption that things will be ok, which all goes down the drain fairly quickly once I hear the mosquitoes buzzing in my room. “Won’t I get malaria if they bite me?”.

I then spend the next 30 minutes killing all the mosquitoes I can find before going to bed. Confidence returned, falling asleep to the sound of barking dogs and nothing else.

Nepal Kathmandu Photograph

Thamel, Kathmandu

First time traveler

After almost 2 years of planning and procrastination I was finally out the country getting that itch scratched. This was set to be a 3 month solo trip, my first adventure into the great unknown. Filled with big hopes, dreams and ignorance fueled by reading books by Jon Krakauer(12) and endlessly devouring the awe inspiring photographs by Eric Valli,  everything I needed was ready. A 65l backpack, bank account and a vaguely planned itinerary consisting of a few days in Kathmandu, a 2 month home/farm stay and a trek through the mighty Himalayas, I was set.

Kathmandu is a difficult city to be in. It is crammed with shops, people, taxis and motor bikes all sharing the same narrow dusty pathways. And roadsigns? There are none. If your sense of direction or orientation is not pristine (like mine), you can easily get lost within a few minutes.  And trust me, when you’re alone for the first time almost 10 000km away from home, the experience can be become pretty daunting. Luckily, I would soon meet up a with a woman named Durga.

Durga was the connection for my volunteer placement. My language teacher and tour guide. Her English was excellent (In fact, the best of all the locals I met) and she was well versed in dealing with anxious travelers. For the next few days life consisted of Dhal Baat (rice, lental soup and some curry) at 10am, Nepali language and culture classes at 12am, followed by some tourist activity. The Goddess Kumari, Dhurba square, The Garden of Dreams, Swayambhunath temple,  a flight around Everest and the Pashupatinath Temple were some of the sights I got to experience. It was all very interesting, but I don’t think it’s all worth talking about. Except for Pashupatinath, which I found to be the most memorable as well as the most difficult of places to be in.

Pashupatinath is a truly unique experience. Similar to the Ganges in India and situated along the banks of the Bagmati river. A holy place, where the Hindus cremate their dead . Monkeys, food, youth, tourists and a few meters away, mourning families praying while their late loved ones are set on fire. It doesn’t feel right having ones burial practice as a tourist attraction I remember thinking to myself, although it is incredibly remarkable how comfortable the Hindus are with death. I asked Durga “how do you feel about your culture being on display like this?” She humbly replied “The Hindus see foreigners as Gods.” Looking around, seeing so many people with massive white lenses continuously clapping their shutters giving off the impression of gunfire…All the foreigners seemed like assholes to me.

A few days later, I would be living in a villiange on a hill in Gorkhaa.

Nepal Kathmandu Photograph

Nepal Kathmandu Photograph

Nepal Kathmandu Photograph

Nepal Kathmandu Photograph

Chika having a cigarette

Nepal Kathmandu Photograph

Nepal Kathmandu Photograph

Rooftop view from the Hotel

Nepal Kathmandu Photograph

Swayambhunath Stupa

Nepal Kathmandu Photograph

Nepal Kathmandu Photograph

Children relaxing at Swayambhunath

Nepal Kathmandu Photograph

Nepal Kathmandu Photograph

Nepal Kathmandu Photograph

People taking it easy, away from the busy city at the Garden of Dreams

Nepal Kathmandu Photograph

Kathmandu domestic airport

Nepal Kathmandu Photograph

Nepal Kathmandu Photograph

Boarding for a tour of Everest, whom the locals know as Sagarmatha

Nepal Kathmandu Photograph

Nepal Kathmandu Photograph

Nepal Kathmandu Photograph

Nepal Kathmandu Photograph

>> Part 2


 

This is a 4 part series about my 3 month trip through Nepal.

Part 1: Kathmandu
Part 2: Asrang Villiage, Gorkha
Part 3: Pokhara
Part 4: The Annapurna Region

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