Kathmandu Culture Shock

Nothing is as exotic as it used to be. I didn’t expect it to be the same, but 20 years makes a huge difference. We  found Pumpernickels Bakery, eventually, but, typically of Kathmandu now, buried behind economics. All of Thamel is overgrown with buildings. What was previously open lot and three or 5 story buildings is now 8 floor hotels.

Libertarians would be immensely happy with the traffic patterns here. Momentum, mass and volume create your right of way. We stopped at one traffic light in a wild whirl of traffic coming in from the airport. When there was a space, someone drove into it. We weaved like threads in a tartan through intersections, straddled potholes large enough to swallow these tiny cars, with the driver blessing himself after every daring move.

And Thamel is like that too. Every space that could possibly be used to produce income is filled with a shop, the building walls a lush jungle of signs. Every tiny alley is display space for goods. Glance at anything and you are invited into the shop. Stop for a confused moment and someone offers a cab, someone hustles a violin or Tiger Balm. A stream of identical, tiny women in saris with a baby on her hip and an empty nipple bottle beg for change. Endless t-shirt shops, but not a single shirt embroidered with the word “No!” which you use constantly.

Internet shops are everywhere. The Kathmandu Guest House has wireless in the courtyard. Many of the little shops have web addresses. Everything is in construction. Everything changes.