Part 1 – Journey, Khumbu, and Kathmandu
(Not to Sound Cliche but: At the Top of the World…Literally!)
Chapter 2: Of Cultures and Kathmandu
(Monkey Temples and Uniform Chaos)
Let’s jump back about 30 minutes. I have just completed my deal with the taxi man and jump in his cab at the airport with all of my stuff. The driver immediately rockets off into streets unknown. We appear to be heading down a main highway of sorts. It is wide, unevenly paved with no lanes or any semblance of order. We swerve in and out of the teeming masses of tiny taxis and motorcycles. Horns are blaring from all directions. They seem to be more of a musical form of entertainment on the roads here than an actual signal of awareness. We rocket on, passing cars on the right while facing oncoming traffic. And when we need to pass those cars coming towards us…well, we just continue to pass on the right.
Eventually we made it off the main road onto some completely unpaved side-streets. People were standing by and walking between shops all around.
Without missing a beat and with our horn continuing its scream, we rocketed down this road, trusting people to get out of our way. As we turn down some more back alley ways, I start to worry a little at the fact that I have no idea where I am and have only been in this country for about 20 minutes. I still unfortunately had a biased opinion of the less-than-good intentions of people from this side of the world. How truly naive I was.
My feelings were, of course, completely misplaced and truly unfortunate but I challenge you not to feel this way at least a little when you are thrown into a culture so vastly different from your own. As I am thinking this, we start heading down another main road called the Tridevi Marg, which passes in front of the old Royal Palace.
The palace is a beautiful structure behind tall, rod-iron fences that now stands as a museum instead of a political center.
This road takes us into the heart of the tourist district and gives me my first glimpse of the beautiful insanity that is Thamel.
Tall, skinny buildings, of all sorts of colors, peer down on the tiny streets of Thamel. This illusion of a cramped and crowded street will become my reality for some time to come. Initially I was overwhelmed with all that was happening around me.
My cab pulled up in front of Potala Guest House’s blue sign and I stepped out into the lobby. I was pleasantly surprised by the wonderfully up-kept front room and the friendly, helpful people behind the counters.I booked my room and was led to the first floor. I opened the door, dropped my bag and reveled in the fact that I was here. I had my room and I was comfortable.
I laid down and I vividly remember thinking about how awesomely, terrifying it is to be thousands of miles away from anyone who even knows my name! I remember thinking that the closest family to me at that moment was my cousin Bryan in Seoul, South Korea and even that was half a continent away.
After awhile, I summed up the courage to go out and walk around the streets of Thamel to get a feeling of where I was. I walked out of my room, down the stairs, through the lobby and onto the street.
It was barely a couple of hours after noon, the Sun was high and warm and I was ready for anything!
Stay tuned for Part 3 of “Of Cultures and Kathmandu”