Kathmandu: A trip to the top of the top of the world

Kathmandu: A trip to the top of the top of the worldKathmandu is one of the places where the name automatically conjures up images of the exotic!  Like a scene from James Hiltons “Lost Horizon” one expects to find Nepal to be Shangri La nestled in the Himalayas, with multitier temples set against a backdrop of the snow capped mountains. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Kathmandu: A trip to the top of the top of the worldThis is a country in the midst of a meltdown! I wish that this was a new development but from what people here tell me it has been going on for a long time and the quarrelsome, ineffectual government seems incapable of making decisions that will solve the problems that affect the most basic needs for its people. Since I have arrived electricity has been in short supply…it ceases to exist for many hours each day. Sometimes the power is off for a few hours and at other times it is off for eight hours in a row. There is no safe water and most home have no source for water other than public wells or the plastic storage tanks they have filled by commercial water trucks.

Kathmandu: A trip to the top of the top of the worldGarbage collection is hit or miss with the streets piled with plastic bags of garbage which attract groups of wild dogs or a cow or two. Once collected, the system of garbage disposal is an ecological disaster. The maintenance and construction of roads has all but ceased due to lack of money or the political will to get projects started. The local streets have broken-down into  a never-ending stream of bone jarring potholes and the main highway in the country which runs from Kathmandu to India is in such poor condition that the 90 mile trip takes over 5 hours to complete.

Kathmandu: A trip to the top of the top of the worldNow having said all that… Kathmandu is a fascinating place to visit…wonderfully exotic, amazingly colorful and the quintessential backpacker destination for young and old alike (I’m one of the old backpackers). However, it is not a place for non-adventuresome travelers. Visitors come here in small part for the culture but mostly they come for the outdoor adventure of trekking or climbing the Himalayas.  My reasoning was in reverse of most other travelers as I am not a great outdoor person.

Kathmandu: A trip to the top of the top of the worldMy first days in town were spent taking self guided walking tours of the old center of Kathmandu…down narrow streets and alleyways, in and out of ancient squares filled with temples and pigeons, wandering the produce markets that line the streets and squares, browsing the tiny shops filled with an amazing array of stuff and even watching women wash their cloths in a below ground communal water tank called a hiti.

Kathmandu: A trip to the top of the top of the worldPrayer flags, stretched from tops of stupa’s to the surrounding buildings, fluttered in the breeze and flocks of pigeons rose up in a swirl as I walked through the squares surrounding the domed stupa’s topped with the eyes of Buddha.

Kathmandu: A trip to the top of the top of the worldBy the time I made it down to Hanuman-dhoka Durbar Square where the old palaces and temples of kings are located (a Unesco World Heritage Site) I was already in sensory overload. The sights, colors and smells would have been enough on their own but throw the traffic into the mix and it was too heady a mix for a mere mortal. The narrow streets are filled with a mixture of motorcycles, scooters, cars, trucks and bicycle powered rickshaws all honking their horns at the same time. As the dust, thrown up by the passing vehicles from the unpaved streets, swirls around and the cacophony of horns continues unabated one is forced to ask themselves which section of Dante’s Inferno I have landed in.

Kathmandu: A trip to the top of the top of the worldThe city, founded in the 12th century, sits on the old trade route between Tibet and India and shows the heavy influences of both cultures. Both Hindu and Buddhist shrines populate the city and the smell of incense is ever-present.  It is impossible to go anywhere without seeing garlands of marigolds draping doorways, offerings of food on banana leaf plates lying before street shrines or the sound of temple bells in the distance.  People even walk around with piles of marigold petals on their heads…go figure!

Kathmandu: A trip to the top of the top of the worldI think for the serious traveler this is a place to add to your bucket list and maybe go to Bhutan as well for a total Himalaya experience. It won’t be easy but it will be a mind blowing experience.


About Larry Bosco

In 2010 I had one of those “Is this all there is” moments and so in January 2011 I retired from Real Estate Appraising, sold off all my worldly goods and headed out as a solo traveler in search of a new place to live. Since then I’ve traveled around the world, made new friends and had many great adventures and some not so great. After staying almost a year in Cuenca, Ecuador I have headed back to South East Asia where I began the journey in 2011. Currently I am living in Chiang Mai, Thailand
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6 Responses to Kathmandu: A trip to the top of the top of the world

  1. ShaNoan says:

    Thanks, Larry, It’s great to travel there vicariously once again! I was first there in ’83 and have been back several times since. Long before the road was completed to China and Maoism was just starting to disrupt the northern areas, I trekked to Kagbeni (and beyond) with the donkey trains. Then flew into Lukla and trekked to the Everest Base Camp. It certainly was a mind blowing, inner tectonic plate shifting adventure! I’m glad to see some things have not changed, at all!

  2. George Xillas says:

    I traveled there on business in the mid nineties. You hit the nail on the head.

  3. Libby says:

    This is fascinating. It comes alive. More, More!
    What is the significance of marigolds?

  4. Gene says:

    Thanks for the update. I am not sure whether we are that adventurous. We have a trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand with Overseas Adventure Travels in February from the 15th until the 12th of March. Didn’t quite make it while you were in the area.

  5. Sara says:

    Thank you for a beautifully written, descriptive experience. This is as close as I will get to Kathmandu. As for Bhutan, I recently bought Bhutan red rice. When I brought it home and emptied the plastic bag of rice into a glass jar, i discovered little flying bugs. Enough of an exotic experence for me. :-)

  6. Claudia Hammer says:

    I am fascinated by the strands of Marigolds hanging on the buildings. What is the meaning of that? Good luck or prayers? Love the brass/copper shop! Some of those would make a great painting! You bring it all to life!

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