I leave Nepal tomorrow, just shy of two months in the country, with a month spent in the capital city, Kathmandu. While I could stay another month on my visa, I’ve seen and done what I wanted to do here: go trekking in the Himalayas to see the mountains of my dreams. I hope to return to Nepal in the future to tackle some more treks and explore other parts of the country, but for now, I feel like it’s time to move on to a new destination.
Kathmandu will always hold a special place in my heart. As the first stop on my #YYZtoTBD trip, I felt so overwhelmed and alone when I initially arrived in the city; I was exhausted from 24 hours of travel and apprehensive about being alone in a place vastly different from my home. I questioned myself and this entire trip those first few nights. I was staying in a cheap guest house just outside the main tourist area (Thamel), and lay awake at night listening to barking dogs, hoping the roaches I saw in the bathroom wouldn’t venture into my room, and missing the comfort and familiarity of home. Everything felt so foreign and strange to me as I walked the streets of my neighbourhood alone. But as time passed, I met people and made friends, and my view and experience of the city shifted. I moved my accommodations closer and closer to the centre of Thamel — paying more money with each new hotel, but feeling less alone and more connected to other travellers and the social experience I had hoped for. I’m currently sitting in a hotel that’s basically at the centre of Thamel.
I will admit that the majority of my Kathmandu experience has been in a happy, bright tourist bubble, but through my excursions around and outside of the city — walking to Kathmandu Durbar Square, day trips to Pashupatinath, Bouddhanath, Patan and Bhaktapur — I have also seen and been exposed to everyday life here, the festivals, funerals, markets and street activity that go on with or without tourists. While I’ve been pretty insulated from the dust (Thamel is dusty, but it’s nothing compared to the city limits), disrepair, filth and poverty that exists in the city and just beyond, I’ve not shielded my eyes when I’ve been confronted with it. Between last year’s earthquake and years of political turmoil and civil unrest, people have it hard in here…while I’ve had the luxury of complaining about the poor wi-fi (seriously though, I really miss reliable Internet).
I’m a realistic traveller. I know that it’s an impossible task to fully absorb all of the culture or truly “know” a place. But I’m pretty happy with my experience in Nepal. I’ve enjoyed my small glimpses into the history and life of Kathmandu, Pokhara, the Annapurna and Khumbu regions. I have tried to go beyond the surface tourist experience and speak to local people and learn about their lives — I believe that people are at the heart of the place. I know that there is so much more to see and experience in this city and country, but I have tried my best to appreciate what I have encountered.
I leave Kathmandu having spent good times with people from around the world and having learned some more about a new place and culture that truthfully, isn’t so different from what I know or have been exposed to as someone with Indian heritage, and family in a developing country (Trinidad). More than anything, this city and my experience in Nepal, has given me the courage to continue this trip, and to look to my future destinations with great hope.
Goodbye Kathmandu, goodbye Nepal. May we meet again!