Wednesday 18th January 2006.
This fascinating city of Kathmandu:
This morning I walked in Thamel again, this time with my camera. I could have used the cheap local taxis but I preferred to keep walking to keep up the fitness levels. It is also a very good way to see some of the extraordinary sights in this exotic city. I took several photos on the way to Thamel and many more in the Thamel area itself. I tried to capture life in the raw as it is here in Kathmandu. I also tried to get photos of some of the stupa, the temples and other historic buildings.
I stopped at Kilroyâ€™s for lunch. I ordered a Sprite and a cheese and tomato toasted sandwich, thinking I only needed a light lunch. What a sandwich! Half the plate was covered in chips! It was more than an adequate lunch and at a total cost of Rs180 ($3.60) it was a bargain. It was also very delicious.
Durbar Square Kathmandu
I wandered in a southerly direction through the Thamel area trying to locate Durbar Square (Kathmandu). At one stage I thought that I had become hopelessly lost. The streets and lanes meander in and out and around and are a confusing muddle, something akin to a plate of spaghetti. I had a reasonable map of the area from the travel agent in the hotel. Trouble was, very few streets are labelled with any kind of signage. The few major streets are often named only in Nepali, which is not at all helpful to foreigners who donâ€™t read the language. Oh well, I thought, just keep the sun in front or over my right shoulder and I should eventually find the main road leading back to the hotel. If all else fails, catch a rickshaw or taxi and for less than $2 Iâ€™d get back to the hotel. Every second taxi stops to ask if you want a ride anyway.
Shopping in Kathmandu
I went through some very busy lanes where one could buy almost anything, from very expensive jewellery to a pair of cheap socks. The jewellery shops would not have looked out of place in Rundle Mall, Adelaide, and were complete with their own doorman come security guard. The sock sellers seemed to be everywhere that day. It must have been a special sock-sale day or something. A small cardboard box brimming with socks at very cheap prices carried by very insistent young boys seemed to appear in my face every few seconds.
Colourful shops and colourful characters
Old wrinkled men selling tiger balm in tiny tins seemed to be everywhere too. This is supposed to relieve aches and pains and the only connection with tigers is the picture of a tiger on the lid. Vendors with poorly made miniature wooden chess sets or tiny wooden musical instruments were also in evidence everywhere. Whole shops full of copper plates and bowls and every other possible type of copper utensil glowed in the sunlight, the little copper statues of Buddha giving a stark reminder of the dominant faith here. Every third shop was awash with colour; fabrics and pashminas in all the colours of the rainbow. Fashion conscious ladies were well catered for with beautiful gowns and skirts flowing in the breeze as they hung from whatever point the shop keeper could manage to utilise.
Splashes of colour
Fruit and vegetable stalls abound, each adding colourful splashes to overload the visual impact. The sellers varied from large well set out shops like we have in Australia, through to a person sitting on the ground with say, just tomatoes, spread out on a small ground sheet. Selling bananas and mandarins from a basket mounted on a bicycle was another common sight. The Nepali are largely vegetarian but one still comes across the typical Asian style butcher shop, often no more than a rickety wooden table just outside the door and laden with meat and no sign of refrigeration. Mobile pop-corn vendors are common too, with the selection of different coloured corn on trays mounted on a cart made with four bicycle wheels and complete with its own gas cooker. Motor bike repair shops seem to be everywhere. With so many bikes in the city it is not surprising. I also saw several specialist bicycle shops.
I went down many very busy shopping lanes seething with jostling humanity. I also discovered some rather poor and seedy looking back lanes with a very low standard of living. Here the pungent aroma of incense and the occasional part open sewer attacks the nasal passages. I wasnâ€™t worried in these areas; I just kept walking steadily knowing there were always taxis nearby. I eventually found my way to the main road leading back to the hotel. By then I was feeling quite tired so I steadily walked back to the hotel. Over four hours on foot was quite enough exploration for one day. On one corner I saw a small gathering of people listening to a speaker. I couldnâ€™t understand him of course, but I assume he was a political speaker. The police were nearby watching but did not interfere.
The hazards of walking in Kathmandu
I didnâ€™t have any trouble with beggars today, only seeing about four of them who were easily shrugged off. The greatest hazard today seemed to be the birds. I received two great deposits from above, one on my cap and shoulder and the other on my thumb. A bit of washing was in order on my return to my hotel room.