Venturing outside Thamel
I know, I know. It’s easy to fall into the tourist trap that is Thamel. Those apple danishes and pizzas are delicious, after all, and having wifi at the hotel is sooo nice. I’m guilty of it too.
But it isn’t Kathmandu. Thamel is just a cocoon of familiarity, designed to swaddle travelers.
It takes only a short walk outside any one of the several popular tourist destinations in the greater Kathmandu area to be able to detect the pulsating heartbeat of the city, the rhythm that is modern day Kathmandu, capital of Nepal.
Everywhere you look, there is a clashing of modernization and old fashioned resolve.
Shiny, brand new cars honk at old men straining at the pedals of a rickshaw. Slowly deteriorating Newari townhomes struggle to hold their own next to freshly painted cement buildings. The stores selling religious artifacts and so-called antiques are outnumbered by modernized electronics. Shops selling salwar kameezs and saris are flanked by boutique shops selling lacy, see-through blouses and tight jeans (note how dresses on display are always paired with leggings).
From outside, many of the Buddhist and Hindu temples are overshadowed by newer, bigger buildings. Often only two crumbling stone guardians flank the lone doorway. But inside the courtyards, probably nothing has changed in the last hundred years, and the faith seems to be as strong as ever.
Admittedly it took me a while but slowly I grew to love the optimistic chaos of Kathmandu, her seemingly contradictory philosophy and lifestyle.