First Impressions: Kathmandu

By Emily Stanley

Motorcycles. Rickshaws. Exposed electrical wire. An outdoor gear afficionado’s paradise. Dal bhat. Northface. Tuk tuks. The ring road. Bhat Bhateni (Nepal’s super store). Marmot. Donkeys. Mammut. Newari buildings. Fog and dust. Prayer flags. Durber Square. Stupas. Lamas. Monkeys. Pashmina. Trinkets. Smiles. Thamel. 

Kathmandu is everything. It is crazy, yet sometimes strangely quiet. The people are warm but busy. And the vibe is, simple put, vibrant. It is different from any other city I’ve visited yet similar, or perhaps just somehow familiar. Some people feel overwhelmed by the pace of the city. Not me, I love it.

In Kathmandu, cows, bicycles, tuk tuks, donkeys, pedestrians and cars share the road. On my first day there, I saw a monkey straddling 2 power lines until he could go no further.

The crowded, narrow streets make the city seem heavily populated. During the Nepali Civil War, which plagued the country from 1996 to 2006, many local people fled violence in rural areas and sought safety in the city.  Today a number of different ethnic groups live side-by-side, numerous languages are spoken and Kathmandu’s population is nearing 1 million.

As Nepal is home to several of the world’s highest mountains, fog, smog, and dust naturally seem to settle in the valley of Kathmandu. Everything is covered with a fine layer of dust.

The power lines.

The tourist areas (Thamel).

But the cloudy air is not a deterrent to the Nepalis. Again, this is what I like. The energy. The industrious, creative, positive nature of the local people. It is not uncommon to see someone walking down the street with a 100kg load on their back and a smile on their face.

To me, Kathmandu is strength, it is community, and it is colorful. I look forward to the day when I can return!

Photograph by Rachael Weaver

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