No matter where you go in Kathmandu you are faced with people selling things everywhere. Of course there are your traditional shops and arcades not unlike those we know here in Australia – only that most of them are much smaller in Kathmandu. It is on the streets and footpaths, however, that so sets Kathmandu apart from the shopping areas of Australia.
There are street stalls everywhere, and if vendors cannot afford a street stall, they become moving vendors, like the several dozen children I encountered on one of my walks. They were ALL selling socks. Then there must have been twenty or more elderly men trying to sell me Tiger Balm. Others were plying me with small musical instruments, postcards, jewellery and their services as trekking guides. And one gentleman offered me a massage, the details of which I didn’t ask any further!
Some vendors are imaginative in displaying their wares. Like the man displaying the floor rugs in the photo above. It was an eyecatching display and added much colour to this rather drab part of the city. A few steps further along another seller had a collection of some 20 or so paintings for sale. A few steps further and one could buy lunch or stock up on fruit or vegetables for the evening meal.
I spent nearly a week exploring the various sights of Kathmandu on foot, usually with my camera as my only companion. Getting around largely on foot has many advantages. I was able to photograph many interesting and some strange sights as I went along.
The above photo was one of those strange sights. It was typical of a number of building and construction sites dotted around the city. Scaffolding was crude and basic; the demands and standards of Australian Occupational Health and Safety regulations had obviously not had any impact or influence yet in Nepal.
The workers shown in the photo were attempting to trim some branches on this tree – at least, that what they appeared to be doing. The flimsy bamboo scaffolding obviously worked in keeping them up there. I’m just pleased that it wasn’t constructed over the footpath.
There were several other construction sites nearby and along the street near the hotel where I was staying. All sites had rather flimsy scaffolding, some more substantial than this bamboo style. Hardhats and safety boots were not apparent anywhere and much of the work was simply done by hard manual labour; machinery to do the job often seemed absent.
During my stay in Kathmandu I usually travelled around on foot. I probably averaged at least 5 hours walking each day I was there, somedays I did even more. At that point I was very fir, after all the hours of training at home before leaving, then on the trek in the Himalayas. So walking wasn’t a problem.
Several times I was transported by the hotel car. This was usually travelling to and from the airport. It was all part of the service and they had several very good cars. (As an aside, many vehicles doing hard service in Nepal would be proclaimed unroadworthy here in Australia. I didn’t see too many service and repair establishments – except for bikes – so I got the impression that they just drive them until they stop).
Many Nepalese did as I did – they walk. The pedestrian traffic in the shopping and tourist areas is heavy. A good habit to acquire is watching one’s valuables; in my case my wallet and my camera. (I kept my passport in the hotel safe except when needing it to go to other parts of the country.)
The next most common form of transport is by bicycle. These are present in their tens of thousands, along with just as many motor bikes. One has to be very careful walking along narrow streets because the motor bike riders consider these lanes as their own personal race track. They have an enormous range of novelty horns and warning devices – when they consider it necessary to use them. This seems to be every four to five seconds.
Tuk tuks, both pedal powered and motorised, are also very common form of transport. The latter can be overwhelmingly crowded for such a small vehicle. I wasn’t game enough to try this form of transport. Public buses seemed to be everywhere, slow, noisy, dirty, overcrowded and invariably in the vintage class. Most seemed refugees from the 1940s or 50s – perhaps even earlier. In the south, near the Indian border, they are elaborately decorated by the owners, copying those frequently seen in India.
My preferred mode of transport while in Kathmandu, when I didn’t feel like walking, was a taxi. Even a twenty minute ride across the city costs as little as $3. The standard of vehicles varied greatly, from cars almost in the luxury range (predominantly hotel cars) through to run down, barely working rattle traps. After returning from Chitwan, Jade, Kane and I took one of these latter styles. Halfway through the journey, Jade turned to me and asked if I was getting a wet bottom. Something – I dare not think what – was steadily soaking its way from the seat cover through our jeans and registering on our skin. I had to get some clothes washing done that day anyway, so it didn’t matter.
Ah – the joys of travel in a strange country.
January 26th is celebrated throughout Australia as our National Day. It was on this day in 1788 that this new country was founded by the first European settlers to arrive here. I thought I’d share a few images of things that are quintessentially Australian as my way of celebrating Australia day, and sharing something of our country with others.
Australia is known for its wonderful wildlife. The kangaroo would have to be one of the most recognisable members of our fauna. The cuddly look of the Koala would also be recognised world wide.
Australia is also known for its amazing array of plants and wildflowers. Probably the most easily recognised tree would be the eucalypt (or gum) tree. There are hundreds of different species; I will show only one here. This scene, taken in the mid north farming area of South Australia, is typical of many parts of our land.
Of our stunning array of wildflowers, the banksia is easily recognised by many Australians. These magnificent plants give an amazing display when in full flower. The birds go crazy feeding on the nectar and seeds they produce. Photographers, artists and gardeners go equally crazy over them
Now we turn to the birds. With about 800 species Australia is a plentiful land for the bird lover. Our vast range of parrots and honeyeaters, blue wrens and emus, waterfowl, waders, bush birds and sea birds attract birders from the world over. I’ve just chosen several to feature here.
Australia has so many beautiful birds it is hard just to show only two. Many more are featured in my photo gallery here.Finally, one of Australia’s most recognisable landmarks, the Sydney Opera House.
After arriving back in Kathmandu from my visit to Chitwan National Park I had the rest of the week in the capital city of Nepal. Discovering what Kathmandu has to offer the curious traveller is a fascinating experience. I spent much of that week exploring the various areas of the city, mostly on foot. I found that this was the easiest way to get around, for the traffic was often frenetic and somewhat crazy. I also was able to get up close and personal to the people of the city while walking through the meandering streets. This had a slight disadvantage; there are many beggars on the streets despite the practice being frowned upon by the authorities.
Whenever I wandered too far from the hotel to return on foot, however, there were always five or six taxis ready to take me back to the hotel. For every taxi there were three or four tuk tuks and numerous pedal driven rickshaws. I always took a taxi because they were very cheap, even for a twenty minute drive across the city. The photo above shows the street outside the hotel where I was based. It looks calm and not very crowded in this photo. The truth is – I waited for a lull in the traffic. Usually is is bumper to bumper with horns tooting incessantly. Crossing the street can be quite hazardous, except at intersections. There the pedestrians seem to have right of way. After a few days of walking in Kathmandu, I realised I had almost become as complacent as a local, walking out on to the road and expecting the traffic to let me cross. It still paid to look first.