Saturday, August 2, 2008

Impressions of Kathmandu

So now I've had a full two days to wander the streets of Kathmandu and I have to say, I'm totally bewitched. I can see why people get stuck here for long periods of time, it is really lovely and there seem to be several coffee houses with press coffee!

My first impressions? Well, for one, people don't bother you too much. Yes, you get a lot of people saying hello and in the tourist areas they are generally trying to sell you something, but I'd much rather people bother me to sell me something than to be rude (which was, sadly, the case most of the time in Sri Lanka, and by rude I mean sexually harrassed).

For photography there are all these beautiful architectural details to be snapped. Children run up to you asking, "One photo please," generally demanding several (and you have to be careful because they like to grab at the camera). In a twist, the older women do not like having their photos taken. So for Sri Lanka I have a ton of old ladies and no children (kids were very shy in front of the camera) and in Nepal I'll have many photos of children, but no old ladies.

Yesterday I just sort of wandered around and tried to get lost (but not too lost). Last night I was very daring and went up to the people sitting at the computers at the hotel and asked if anyone was interested in having dinner with me. One German girl, Sabeina, said yes and now I have a companion. Today we did the two walking tours listed in Lonely Planet. With another person you definitely do not get bothered as much as when you are alone.

I'm eating really well now that I have cash and a plethora of food options. There seem to be so many different types of food represented here and it isn't too expensive (though I admit it is a bit more than I had anticipated, but that is definitely because I'm hanging out in tourist areas). Nepali food seems to be loosly based on Indian food with a bit more potato.

I found my roadblock delay in the paper. Apparently three people were killed by a police truck. The families were insisting on declaring the people as matyrs, 5 million rupees and punishment for the guilty. Agitators vandalized two vehicles for defying the strike over the three days.

But my bus chose to just sit there, so I wasn't really in any danger. The conflict here is very similar to Sri Lanka in that the opposing sides have both said they are not interested in involving tourists. So don't worry about me. Plus, I'm staying out of the areas that are heavily patroled by Maoists, but that is really in the hopes of keeping my camera and not in concern for my safety (apparently the Maoists will often insist on tourists paying and fine and even taking their camera equipment, but they provide a receipt for the theft!).

Before I forget, I promised details on my rickshaw accident in Delhi. I was traveling out to Noida to leave my excess luggage with a friend of a friend. I had actually just gotten into the rickshaw when a car suddenly stopped up ahead, another car ran into it and then we ran into that car. My rickshaw driver, always the gentleman, managed to swerve so that I actually ran into the car (rather than risk a head-on collision). My bag was on that side and I like to think my now destroyed coffee mug (goodbye Cafe' Wren, you served me well!) saved my rather more expensive computer and hard drive. And this bag o'stuff saved me from serious injury. I was a little sore afterwards, but not too bad. Definitely not as beaten up as I was after my tuk accident in Sri Lanka.

In Delhi I decided I could walk from my hotel to my bank to get cash. I headed out and of course, went the wrong way. But I welcome these wrong turns because they always lead to something interesting. This is the time of year when devout Hindus visit the Ganges to collect water to take back to their home temples. They can drive to the Ganges, but they have to walk back and the water cannot touch the ground. So they carry these rather elaborate wooden structures decked out in crape paper and streamers. I happened upon the market where one goes to buy a water carrying structure and where they also sell many other religious items for the pilgrims. See, I wouldn't have seen that without the wrong turn.

After I figured out I was walking the wrong way I noticed there were hundreds of hawks in the sky and I wondered why. Turns out, there was a little garbage dump there on the side of the road, of which I quickly crossed to the other side to avoid the rats (which is why the hawks were there).

So that was Delhi. I'll be back in a month for it to redeem itself. Honestly, I actually like Delhi, but I'm not a huge fan of the travel agency I used to buy my bus ticket to Kathmandu!

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