In other news, hanging out in Thamel, the most popular section of Kathmandu, I found out quickly I'm an international Bollywood star. Yes, it's true. I literally got chased by Nepali school girls yesterday, I've been asked out 3x by Nepali men in the last 2 days and people absolutely stare me down while I'm shopping for pashmina. This is the strangest part of my trip by far. It's like I went from absolute anonymity in the hillside towns of the Himalayas, where I could really lose myself, to gawkers chasing me down the crowded market streets.
But the Nepali people catch on fast when I finally start talking, because there are no Indian stars with Midwest accents. Yeah I say everything with an Aaaaayyyy and I just need a brewski and da bears. My fam is classically from the south side. Not sure if you're allowed to say classically and south side in the same sentence, but there ya go kids, I just did.
Anyway back to the story; Thamel is the central backpacker shopping district full of music, outdoor gear trading posts and great street food. It's a labyrinth of streets, all sort of strewn about, no rhyme or reason, where the rickshaws will follow you till you agree to a ride and you can get a full body (and yes I do mean FULL BODY) massage for $20.
Every street has some little mystery--a precious gem shop, Buddha and Hindi god statues alongside offerings down small alleyways and Nepalis stringing necklaces of marigolds for their daily offerings.
I wandered over to Pattan in a Adidas cab for 500 rupees. The cars here look like empty mortar shells and with no traffic signals it's frankly a wonder they stay on the mangled roads for as long as they do.
Pattan is the old part of town. The area is littered with old temples, palaces stupas and gompas dedicated to various gods. They're just randomly strewn in the middle of streets, in gutters and in beautiful small courtyards.
To me the people here are the most interesting part. There's always someone selling something, whether it's fresh eggs, strawberries, scarves, or little Buddhas.
I headed on a long walk to the Monkey Temple where I climbed a thousand steps up to the stupa. The temple is littered with monkeys running around grabbing food from tourists. There are so many, actually, when I had lunch on the rooftop I spotted several giant Hawks circling overhead looking to get a noontime snack.
The power goes out here every few hours because they don't have enough electricity. Nepal is a landlocked nation, constantly stuck in the middle of an ongoing fight between China and India.
They can't export much because they rely so heavily on ocean access from India and China (who clearly own the ports) and have their own self interests at heart.
So the Nepalis really don't have any money, or much infrastructure and what they do have, by what I can tell, is very corrupt and in place to keep security for the tourists whom they rely upon heavily for income. It's rather sad, but on a literal up note, when the electricity goes out, the big boom boxes stop playing and the city quiets to a sweet rhythmic hum of car horns, bicycle bells, Nepali flute sellers and I swear I could hear the sun still shining.
I'm happy to return, more than happy actually. Nothing like a third world country to make you appreciate what you have at home. I can see why we protect that freedom, infrastructure and people.
Because we all communally sacrifice for the common good, and where all of us came from, that's no small feat.
No matter where you're from, in America you have to really want to succeed to survive and I'm grateful, as always, I have that privilege and opportunity. I do not take it for granted.
Love and thoughts, from Thamel, Kathmandu.
Sent from my iPhone