The Dusty Streets of Kathmandu: Part I

Vegetable Vendors on the Street-side *photo by Nora Shuman-Moore*

Vegetable Vendors on the Street-side *photo by Nora Shuman-Moore*

Oh, Kathmandu, people warned me about you. What they didn’t warn me is that I’d fall in love.

Weeks before arriving in Nepal I reached out to some travel friends for recommendations on places to go and things to see. Unanimously, they all said skip Kathmandu; there’s not much to see. Save your time for the countryside and mountaintops. So, in my rough sketch of vacation plans, I set three days aside. I’d later find that just wasn’t enough.

Let me pick up where I left off last time. *To start at the beginning of my Nepal trip, read my first blog post Arriving in Nepal: A First Glance to get caught up**

After a surprising and unexpected trip through the airport, Nora and I ventured out to the city in the back of a beat down, white, Volvo taxi with woven wool seat covers that looked akin to Mexican ponchos. The car dove in and out of road craters, swerved away from sacred Hindu cows, and the tires kicked up dust in the air everywhere. When you smacked the edge of the wool-covered seats dust burst into a cloud.

I peered out the window trying to place myself somewhere in the world. “Where am I?” my brain searched, not recognizing the foreign land. I squinted and looked at the Nepalis selling wilted vegetables on the street-side covered in dirt and smoke from traffic. Men walked around, some with peculiar hats on their heads, others holding their bare bellies just above the pelvis, and even more sitting on stairs outside their shops. Everywhere I looked, men, and something seemed a bit off to me but I couldn’t put my finger on it. No, wait. The women. Where are all the women? Immediately, I noticed I saw very few Nepali women in the streets which lead me to wonder where they all were. Was I just used to seeing so many Thai woman traveling about the city of Bangkok in Thailand, well over half the population, or was there a larger cultural piece I was missing? I continued to wonder.

We spent our first hours in the country soaking delicious Indian naan into curried sauces, walking along the street peering into shops made of pieces of wood slapped together, shouting in the phone trying to talk to our Nepali couchsurfing host at a rock concert, and eventually having a strange man lead us back into an alley to a house while we waited for her to return. Her name was Neelam and she was quite delightful and awfully peculiar once we finally met her.

Enjoying Indian Food in Nepal. Neighboring countries means it has to be good, right? Well, it was.

Enjoying Indian Food in Nepal.

When we got to the house, made of brick, yet still dilapidated from ground to ceiling, the man escorted us upstairs to a small living room about 5 feet by 9 feet in dimension with tiny pillows nestled in the corners of the carpeted floor. The sun started to set and darkness crept in the room, none of the lights turned on. Some time passed and the young man returned with a birthday candle, dripped its hot wax onto the windowsill, and firmly affixed it so that the room glowed a soft yellow. Nora and I grabbed one small pillow each and rested our heads on the hard floor, exhausted from travel.

Shortly thereafter, an English-speaking man and woman walked in the room. We both sat up, confused that maybe other people decided to Couchsurf with Neelam and that she accidentally messed up plans. Surely four people couldn’t sleep in this one tiny room without bumping body parts. Besides, five hours passed and still nobody to greet us. As it turns out, they knew of us and had just come from Neelam’s work where she had to host a charity event selling Momos, a traditional Nepali street dough puff filled with meat and curry.

Eventually, after some brief introductions from James, the Canadian traveling around the world on his way to Australia, and the French woman, Eve, making her way to Tibet, we all tried to snuggle into the thin blankets left behind by the host. Nora curled up into the yoga mat Eve offered her to sleep on and I tucked my body close to the cement wall, absorbing the day’s remnant heat. Temperatures dropped dramatically lower than my tropical Thailand, and I wrapped my nose tightly in my yellow, Burmese scarf before drifting off to sleep.

A Nepali Road Rickshaw

A Nepali Road Rickshaw

Next time, we venture off into the backpacker parts of the city, get lost on a local bus, drive into goat land, and finally make it to a Nepali/Tibetan temple before sundown. And I promise, I have loads more pictures to share so stick around.

**click on any image below to view larger in gallery mode**

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