What a difference a day makes! Nepal, a country of twenty million people, with Kathmandu as its bustling capital. Near the Himalaya Mountains, and most notably Mt. Everest, there are many similarities and many differences with their Indian neighbors. As a “sandwich” country between India and China, the people share many characteristics. Nepali, the official language, is very similar to Hindi. However, there are many dialects and languages used by the various areas of the country and people from different regions look quite different.
As chaotic as India’s roads were, Nepal is truly civilized. There are police officials directing traffic, intersections and lights where drivers allow others to enter, and a typical profusion of motorcycles and scooters. It is mandatory for the driver of any vehicle to wear a seatbelt or helmet, but not required for passengers. You will only see a maximum of two on a motorcycle, not four or more, as in India. Whew!
Since the earthquake a year and a half ago, there has been a tremendous amount of construction, both on buildings and roads. Slowly, they are catching up, but the damage was considerable, especially in the old parts of the city, where Buddhist temples and very old buildings came down altogether. The bricks and wooden beams have been catalogued to rebuild them meticulously, only with some unseen earthquake-proof measures.
Our first stop was a Buddhist temple that is very well known. It is the Great Bouda Stupa and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a major destination for pilgrims from the Himalayas.
Because so many trekkers come to Nepal, there are many shops that sell North Face clothing and accessories. They may be genuine or knock offs, but many of the items are made in Nepal, so they are priced at pennies on the dollar as compared to US prices. The windbreakers and puffy jackets were incredibly cheap. Caps and hats were $2-3 US. The quality was the same as anywhere.
And cashmere, whether in shawls or sweaters, was also very well priced. Jewelry and clothing are beautiful, but the people are the best, so kind and helpful. We spent most of the day visiting different temples and older areas, even eating lunch on the top floor of an old building with a great prospective of the nearby buildings.
The Nepalese eat meat, unlike most of India, and beer and wine are generally available. Lamb and fish are pricey, but chicken and water buffalo are inexpensive. Jim had a buffalo burger for dinner and declared it tasty! The women wear a variety of dress, including the traditional Indian-type sari. However, mostly they wear long tunics with pants. They are usually of cotton, noin subdued colors, but not here.
One couple in our group collects Hard Rock Cafe t-shirts and they thought there was one in Kathmandu. Turns out, no. But, there was something that would suffice.
We had a nice rest at the hotel, dinner and for almost everyone, except me, an early call to take a flight all around Mt. Everest to see it up close. Amazingly, there was no road to get to Everest until 1959, so provisions and gear were brought up by wagon and by sherpas. Hard to imagine!