Hmmm. Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Sudan and Tunisia to the West...heard they are lovely this time of year, but's what's all this about revolution? Rain check. Our friends to the South? Saudi? This whole "I'm a woman" thing might get in the way. Yemen? This whole "I don't want to be kidnapped" thing might hold us up. Surely our friendly neighbors to the North? Iran? Iraq? Apparently those visas take awhile.
So East it was! With Afghanistan and Pakistan pulling up the rear India and Nepal were neck and neck until Fly Dubai (our budget airline) ran a special to Nepal. A few clicks later and we were on our way to Kathmandu!
Matt, Lisa and I headed for 3 whirlwind days to the capital of Nepal. Sandwiched between two huge nuclear powers and home to 10 of the world's 14 tallest mountains, Nepal's people have a storied history. The country was almost completely isolationist until it opened it's borders in 1950. Centuries of pressure from India and China and a difficult geological placement make the Nepalese people some of the poorest in the world. The UN Human Development Index ranks them 142 out of 177.
Then why do they look so happy? We quickly found out that they are fiercely proud of their homeland, their traditions, and have a warm impenetrable spirit that is really contagious. The best way to describe Kathmandu is that it is a full scale assault on your senses. It's crowded, and loud, and visually stunning. There are weird smells and sensations around every corner and if you are not paying attention you will miss it all because it's not stopping for you.
The experience is decidedly medieval. Life takes place in the crowded streets and squares. A butcher is chopping the heads off of chickens. Another is dumping a bucket of guts onto the street. Someone is throwing bath water out a window, while a man pulling a cart of vegetables with his head walks by. Packs of dogs that belong to no one roam the streets stealing what they can but looking mostly to exhausted to to do so. An old man is showering in an alleyway and when you stop to peak in a shop your almost run over by a rickshaw. Women with babies strapped to their backs walk their older children to school while trading jokes with other Moms. And somewhere a local teen is etching his name into a temple that is nearly 400 years old.
Everyday life is a full day's work. Most homes don't have electricity and even if they did there are 18 hour a day blackouts. Water must be fetched from wells, rice pounded, pots cleaned, produce collected. It's takes a day to get dinner on the table. There is a lot going on! Across our three days we visited the three main cities which were the original three kingdoms that made up the capital: Patan, Kathmandu, and Baktapur. It just happened that we were there during a very important full moon festival so the templates were teeming with people. We got to see weddings, celebrations, offerings, and cremations. We concluded our trip by boarding a prop-plane and taking to the skies to see Mt. Everest. An awe inspiring site! Advice for Nepal? Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!