There is no real way to effectively describe the crazyness that is Kathmandu. The city is always a buzz with traffic that seemingly has no rules. I would call it chaos – at least to an outsiders eyes. The Kathmandians are unaffected. To them, it is organized chaos. Regardless of the yelling and horn blowing there is no notable road rage. Nobody is angry. Their world is chaos. That is normal.
When I am home and the electricity goes out, I am a little annoyed (ok, sometimes more than a little) – here, power outages are part of life. You plan when you will work on your computer or use the internet. When the power goes out, you go out to dinner or relax by candle light. You have to develop a chill attitude: I can’t work… not right now so and that’s ok. It is ok unless you are trying to submit an important time sensitive document and the internet suddenly goes out.
If the city of Kathmandu is chaotic, Thamel (a very touristy area of Kathmandu) is uber chaotic. Thamel’s theme is climbing and trekking. Last time I visited Nepal, I found myself repulsed by Thamel. The grimy streets complete with a slight acrid oder of urine. The intermingling smells of burning incense and charred meat along the narrow streets crammed with trekking and over stuffed souvenir shops. Topped off by the dank, almost rancid air heavy with black pollution. I definitely experienced sensory overload.
This time, I was ready for this crazy part of the city. This time, Thamel is intriguing. Full of fabulous foods and interesting people. I like to venture out for small chunks of time, haggle for a purchase and move on to the next store. The people are intense yet not. They are busy but not. They seem to be doing something all the time yet doing nothing most of the time. The Nepali’s in Thamel know enough English to entice you into their store, to match you on a good haggle and to politly give you the correct change. Mostly, they are just trying to make a living. Sometimes you get caught up in the haggling, which is a learned skill.
Twenty-one hundred rupees- that is far too much for that water-proof North Face duffle, i’ll give you 1,500. Ok, Ok. 1700…that is really good price just for you. No, still to high. I can get that for 1,500 at this other store. 1,600, that’s my lowest! 1,550? Ok, it’s yours. Nice $15! A bargain, even if it is a knock off- works for me!
Our hotel is a fairly nice place for Thamel. It is in the heart of Thamel and is therefore not quiet. The construction workers begin working well before 6am. Hammer, drill, bang and yell. The stores open around 7am and the traffic, complete with constantly honking horns, is fierce by opening time. The night brings a symphony of stray dogs barking and howling along with the myriad of drunks singing as they make there way through the streets.
We have a good view from the 4th floor. Today’s view had the added bonus of a poor dead pigeon hanging by the wires from the roof. The bellboy and maid used every tool available to release the pigeon, a mop and a broom. Upon release, the pigeon dropped onto a motorcycle parked below. It is still there.
An interesting way to start the day!