Thamel Tales

Kathmandu Travel Blog

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A walking wardrobe. Kathmandu suburbs.

I will leave Kathmandu with fond memories, but these will not really be for the place itself. A bustling, polluted heap of a city, Kathmandu, and particularly Thamel, is fascinating as a window on a melange of cultures that is amusing as much as it intriguing. It seems that this is a world where a variety of people, from Nepal and beyond, find their own niche.

Walking the dusty warren of narrow streets that is touristy Thamel is an assault on the senses. Music blasts from copied CD shops whilst the North Face emblem is ubiquitous amongst the trekking gear hanging like Gortex fruit outside knock off clothing stores.

One of the really rather rude romp carvings in the New Orleans Bar, Thamel.

Trekking tour touts and young beggars who can name every world capital under the sun cast their lines and wait for fresh tourist fish to bite. Hippies stroll hand in hand, rope-like dreads and baggy trousers in burnt orange or damson purple the uniform of choice. In a quite different uniform, smart casual holiday makers, here to take on treks to Everest or Anapurna, tread the streets gazing in wonder at the alien nature of it all. New York, London or Berlin, this is not. 

And through it all, motorbikes roar, riders thumbing horns and caring little for any poor sap who might happen to be in the way.

The biggest factor in the chaotic life of Thamel and beyond though, is the unquenchable spirit and unerring friendliness of the Nepalese people. For me, they stand alongside the Lao and Sumatrans as the friendliest people I’ve met.

Rebecca stroking a filthy, mangy, diseased, gluttonous, old goat. Her hand probably still stinks of goaty wrongness even now.

Despite their overpopulated tangle of city with its rolling power cuts and traffic snarls, the people of Kathmandu embody a sense of pride in a country that never succumbed to European imperial expansionism. Strongly political, yet sometimes charmingly naïve, they welcome visitors to their city with smiles that are as genuine as the Thamel knock offs are fake.

In terms of other travellers, I was lucky enough to spend time with some lovely people during both my stays in Kathmandu. To a lone traveller, especially one who is homesick and floundering a bit, this can make all the difference.

Although enduring the process to secure an Indian Visa was painfully slow, meeting Rebecca, Katie and their respective friends made the whole thing worthwhile.

Rebecca is an English girl with an infectious enthusiasm for travel and its idiosyncrasies.

A wedding procession in Durbar Square.
Even when she was locked in a cycle of frustration with the Indian embassy, she somehow retained her good humour. Katie meanwhile possesses the driest wit of any Australian I’ve encountered. Obviously she absorbed it via osmosis during her time living in London whilst fending off unsuitable suitors.

There are others. Autralian couple Matt and Nousk and English gent Dom, who I met on the rickety bus back from Pokhara were great company in my final few days. I haven’t laughed so much in a long time as our last night on cocktails in the Jazz-themed café.

Meeting people is the very best and worst of travelling. The best because you get to share brilliant experiences with outgoing, fun new friends. The worst because it's inevitable that you will, sooner rather than later, be forced to watch these people leave or leave yourself. It’s a merry-go-round of the short term and, despite the anarchic lure of India, I’ve finally decided to get off.

I’m tired of the temporary, home is calling and this time, I’m picking up.

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A walking wardrobe. Kathmandu subu…
A walking wardrobe. Kathmandu sub…
One of the really rather rude romp…
One of the really rather rude rom…
Rebecca stroking a filthy, mangy, …
Rebecca stroking a filthy, mangy,…
A wedding procession in Durbar Squ…
A wedding procession in Durbar Sq…
Streetside sellers.
Streetside sellers.
The huge Buddhist stupa at Boudhan…
The huge Buddhist stupa at Boudha…
photo by: sharonburgher