Saturday, November 12, 2011

I'm feeling rejuvenated in Kathmandu and I think it's the big city effect

I heard a great talk by Ethan Zuckerman at CHI 2011 which touched on the benefits of cities. He talked about how in Industrial Revolution England, people flocked to the cities even though life was terribly short (life expectancy something stupid like 28) and generally terrible. Why would they give up their country lives for the disease, starvation, and grinding industrial awfulness of the city? Because it kept them from being bored.

Yes, I'm back in a big city, and it is not boring! Not that I've been particularly bored staring at mountain lakes or the Himalayas. But there's so much more to do in a big city, stuff beyond the six sites that the Indian Tourism Board has declared are worth doing. There's enough to do that I can decide what I want to do and then go do it. People to meet. Places to go. Famous things to scoff at.

Durbar Square

Boudhnath Stupa

I only have had two days here, and today I am visiting the orphanage run by a fellow I met on Couchsurfing, so really kind of one day here.

Good things:
Bouda: the place where the stupa is. It's about 5km from the city center, but if I were to come here again, I'd stay there I think. It's Buddhist and kind of peaceful, and it has a nice european-feeling square.
Thamel: tourist central. It is easy when anything you need or want is 5 minutes away, tops. Also, there are good cafes/bars/places to hang out here. It might get old after a while, but I'm not here for a while.
Paknajol: where I'm staying, one street away from Thamel, in a pretty good place called the Nirvana Peace Home. Quiet and still central.
The food: Amazing Nepali and Tibetan everywhere you look. Still gonna post about Nepali food someday.
The weather: Right now it is 60's-70's and cloudy. I guess it never gets above 90ish or below 30ish.
People: the other travelers I've met have been cool. There are at least a few active Couchsurfers here. And I don't know many Nepali people in person, but based on my interactions with them, (gross generalization warning) I find them a bit more laid back and approachable than Indians.
Overall, I think this is the first place I've been that I could actually live.

Bad things:
Pollution: Some people wear face masks; that is disconcerting.
Disconnect: This is not how Nepal is. But that's not a problem with Kathmandu. Any big city is a world apart from the poor villages around.
Traffic: Okay fine, yes indeed we are in an Asian big city.

Pashupatinath, the holiest Hindu place in Nepal. They cremate bodies here, like in Varanasi.

"Garden of Dreams"- a nice garden with a $2 entry fee. (some of the tourist sites are rather expensive.)


Asan Tole neighborhood. I heard Cat Stevens wrote "Kathmandu" around here somewhere. I imagine it has changed since his day.



  1. hahaha i enjoy "google fast food" and "facebook restaurant" :D

  2. Katmandu

    I sit beside the dark
    Beneath the mire
    Cold grey dusty day
    The morning lake
    Drinksup the sky

    Katmandu I´ll soon by seeing you
    And your strange bewildering time
    Will hold me down

    Chop me some Broken wood
    We'll start a fire
    White warm light the dawn
    And help me see
    Old satan´s tree

    Katmandu I´ll soon be touching you
    And your strange bewildering time
    Will hold me down

    Pass me my hat and coat
    Lock up the cabin
    Slow night treat me right
    until I go
    Be nice to know

    Katmandu I soon be seeing you....

  3. Hey, nice poem. You ought to set that to music.

    All seriousness aside, I quite like the city Kathmandu, and I quite like the song Kathmandu, but they feel entirely different. Maybe it's because he's singing that he will soon be seeing Kathmandu, not that he is currently in Kathmandu. Still, if I were in the city Kathmandu trying to write a song, those words/music would never occur to me. Perhaps that's why I'm not a songwriter.

  4. I know, right? The inscrutable world of songwriters. Opium influenced, methinks.