Old Kathmandu

May 2017

Kathmandu

The streets of old Kathmandu are choked with traffic during the day so if you want to explore then the early morning is a good time. That’s when the streets are quiet and the air is clear and you can walk easily without risk of being run over by a rickshaw or cart or motorcycle, and the endless throng.

These ancient streets are narrow and paved with stone. Not so long ago the only traffic here was people on foot, pack animals and carts. How wonderful those day would have been and it’s not difficult to imagine. The streets were made for walking yet there are often cars beeping to get through the crowds.

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Nepalis move to Kathmandu for the opportunities, study, jobs and work. It’s populated by those from country towns and small mountain villages. Many live a modern lifestyle in Kathmandu, away from their village mores. There are migrants from India and refugees from Tibet and other unfortunate countries. Nepalis are respectful and well mannered. Many do it tough yet they treat visitors as welcome guests.

It’s not unsafe yet something is always going on. There are plenty of cops to keep order and soldiers sometimes patrol with trigger fingers ready. The country has had its problems in recent years. The Nepali soldiers are famous for their bravery can often be seen jogging through the early morning streets.

The earthquake

An earthquake happened in 2015 and many of the historical buildings around Kathmandu are still damaged or completely destroyed. Some are being rebuilt and work continues slowly. Temples in the old Durbar square have been destroyed by earthquake including the Kasthamandap temple from which the city takes it’s name. There is rubble stacked neatly behind fences and only the stone lions remain. The royal family no longer rules Nepal so now you can go into parts of the old palaces. I saw a couple of thrones there. Painted gold and covered and crowned with cobras. Its exotic like a Hollywood movie.

Freak street
Earthquake Damage near Durbar Square

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The UN had declared some of the damaged areas are World Heritage sites. Too bad the world can’t help more with the repairs.

This city is as chaotic as one gets and there is a serious rubbish problem. Some of the most beautiful places you visit have piles of garbage nearby and no-one seems to give a damn. A lot of it is non-biodegradable plastic as the tap water can make you sick and people drink from plastic bottles. The rivers running through Kathmandu carry rubbish down into the south. The population is booming and the Kathmandu Valley is bursting.

The roads are cracked and broken and dug up for repair or to lay pipes and services. The passing traffic churns it up creating dust. You will be choked with it, so buy a dusk mask from a stall or wear a bandana it you don’t won’t to spend time cleaning out your nose. Forget wearing contact lenses, wear your glasses. I imagine when the monsoon finally arrives then the streets turn from dust into a mud pit.

Religion

Yet Kathmandu despite it’s problems is a facinating city, as exotic as it gets. There is a wonderful living culture here. The people are pious and worship their gods openingly. Faith seems to pervade the everyday life of the people. As a foriegner it is difficult to understand how they worship. It seems complicated and mysterious.

Worship

Yet the mysterious and ancient cultures of Nepal thrive and when I mention culture, I mean that Nepal has a truly multicultural population. There are many different groups here from other areas of Nepal, such as the mountains including Tamang people, Sherpa and the Gurung people of Mustang to those of the Kathmandu valley and the tropical  plains and desert.

Immigrants from India and Tibet bring thier own culture into this wonderful and profoundly interesting country. These are ancient and and these people are rightly proud to defend their culture. It’s not just language and religion, its their dress and habits, the way they build and furnish their houses.

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