Expectations of traveling back to Nepal
There’s a lot to be said about leaving good memories in the past. Going back to relive them rarely, if ever, measures up. So what should you do when you go back to a country that had just so many of these good memories?
For me my guesthouse in Nepal is just as I remembered it. Slightly damp. Heavy blankets. Scalding hot showers. And still full of wonderful Nepalese smiles.
I am embarrassed to write that they remembered me well. Indeed, they still have photographs of my time there before on the walls. It brings back a wealth of memories.
My friend looks at me and after a few days confesses something like only a Nepalese lady can. With honesty.
In all honesty when returning to a special place:
“There’s going to be some bad changes, and hopefully some for the better”
I’m about to find out …
Coming back to a place is never the same
They don’t know of my medical results here. Only that I am without a beer in my hand this time. And, a little paler.
Paradoxically as I have been worried about how Kathmandu has changed, I must also remember that I have too.
The streets outside have not changed much in stature, but they are about to. As I take my first few breaths of its polluted air I realize I have been lucky. I have arrived yet again at a pivotal moment in time for Nepal.
Nepal is right now, right at this very moment, on the verge of another huge change.
What’s changed in Kathmandu? Motorbikes, Tourists & the Chinese
There are more motorbikes than ever on the crowded streets of Kathmandu city. To abbreviate a long-running diatribe of old memories here’s a mini list of first observations I’ve noticed since my last visit to Nepal.
- More motorbikes
- More young men riding said motorbikes
- Mandala street has been bought, and made to look new again
- There seem to be more tourists than before, though that can be a fickle thing
- There really are way more tourist women becoming the girlfriends of Nepalese men. Way more
- Nepalese young people are gaining an ego
- The old Nepalese people are as friendly as ever
- Maoist types are now deemed as “cool” by many rebellious youths
- The food is still utterly fantastic
- Prices have gone up nearly 50%
- Nepal Tourism have slapped more stupid visitor permits on everything these days
- More Korean / Chinese investors than ever
- Rum Doodle has moved … a bar with big feet, not my place, but it was a landmark
- Less cows on the road
- Fresh faced hippies still come up here from India like lost souls
- Backpackers and designer hippies from Thailand still don’t get Nepal. Are easily knocked down by rickshaws, cows and touts which still provides me with many a laugh from a cold rooftop coffee-house
- At this time of year it’s cold … I like it
- Did I mention the extra motorbikes …
Old bits of paper still count …
“Last time 200!”
“This time 300!”
“What official is pocketing the extra 100?”
The Nepalese lady looked up for the first time and I smiled widely at her.
I was doing my best to avoid paying for a pass through one of Kathmandu’s most frequented areas, Durba Square. You have a choice: pay everyday, or pay a little extra for a visa length pass.
Tough Nepalese ladies …
Nepalese ladies are tough. Honest and quite good at business. In all my travels Nepalese women top the bill on all these fronts.
I didn’t mention that I’d held onto my previous Durbar Square Pass. An important item when you noticed the layout’s not changed. I pointed to a document from some official pasted onto the wall.
“I think it got eaten up!”
We laugh as the joke spread around the room.
Durba Square is in the center of touristy Kathmandu. There’s a charge to visit it for tourists. The money is meant to go into restoring the area.
Has Durba Square changed? misgivings remain …
A visa length pass for 300 rupees helps you avoid paying every time you want to walk through the main public thoroughfare linking Thamel, Paknajol and New Road together. Yes, you have to pay to walk through a such a main thoroughfare in Nepal. Unless you are Nepalese of course. Or, like me, you hold on to your last pass and hope a guard doesn’t look to closely. And, if they do … well, it’s Nepal and you’ll just act confused and agree to pay the 300 rupees.
Sadly, instead of seeing a lot of restoration work, the Durba square area now seems to house more taxis than anything else. Perhaps the official in charge owns a few cabs …
Back in the heart of Kathmandu I start to experience the good things again
I flashed my old card at a nearby guard and got a nod. I can relax a little more now. Though I must say I still try to avoid the area.
Blessings to Shiva were underway on the far side. Evening markets were being set up. The smell of the nights smokey fires were starting to fill the air.
I peaked in to see if the Living Goddess, the Kumari, was still in residence. The house still looked the same. “No photo, no photo” signs quite prominent. I will return.
If there’s one thing I’ve always wanted to do, it’s meet a living god. The thought of even photographing them …
Kathmandu where the people still remember you
More making up for my misgivings about change in returning to a place were a few new surprising side effects from Kathmandu.
The people here and the outstanding memory they seem to possess.
The export trader remembering me as he pointed out across the street and came running across. We shared tea and a conversation about the changes in Nepal over the past few years. And the non-change of electricity load shedding that grinds Nepal to a halt for up to 16 hours a day.
I walked into a second-hand book store. The man looked at me. Blinked and as I waved, smiled wisely. He remembered me for my “discount, discount” phrase.
Then came the DVD lady. I walked in looking for something to take back for the evening. Her lower lip swelled with a bashful smile.
“No more exchange DVD.”
“No more shop here.” I retorted. She was serious though. Always the business lady. I bought two movies begrudgingly and settled on a new 2 for 1 deal instead.
Then came the internet cafe. The man took one look at me and extended a hand.
“Welcome back sir, welcome back. A long time …”
There is a difference in coming back to a land where people remember you
I remember returning to places in Thailand, and Malaysia. Even after a few months or even weeks people forget. Sure there’s the exception, however I sense an air of well-practiced profitable miming going on.
Here in Kathmandu names are remembered, dates spoken of and past conversations recalled. It’s impressive.
I am bashful to wonder if it’s me, or them. I think the latter.
Finally in my old momo restaurant. You’d swear I was away only for a week. The two young guys remembered me. They have longer hair than before and I’m only sure of remembering one of them myself. Either way my usual order of steaming chicken momos and lemon soda awaited.
It was indeed a good choice to come back to Kathmandu. Changes or not, there is still nowhere else like this place on earth.
A place where everyone remembers you.
Dawn life in Kathmandu
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