Kathmandu, October Kathmandu, October 2009

- A snapshot from the capital of Nepal

Text & photo: Erik Pontoppidan , Copenhagen, Denmark

Copyright: Erik Pontoppidan

For Danish version of this page, please click HERE

We are sitting in our hotel room at night in the Thamel district of Kathmandu in Nepal, writing our diary. Suddenly, the light disappears due to one of the numerous breakdowns of electricity in the town. Shortly afterwards, a generator starts producing emergency stream. It works fine in the beginning, but after a few minutes, the electric bulbs of the room start flickering, and although the generator keeps on booming, it quickly gets dark again all over the hotel.

However, the lack of electricity is only local. At a café right next to our hotel, the light is sparkling, and shortly afterwards, a live orchestra starts playing retro-music. The notes from John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” and music from “Creedence Clearwater Revival” are booming out into the night.

This is a small snapshot from Kathmandu as we experienced it in October 2009. The legendary town, which creates warm feelings in the heart of many Europeans and Americans. Especially in the hearts of the old hippies, who are now close to the pension age. Many of them visited the town in the sixties and seventies, where they got impressions, which forever changed their lives. Not only because of the drugs, but also – and perhaps mainly – because Nepal became one of their first encounters with a completely different world outside the western culture. But Kathmandu also creates warm feelings in the hearts of thousands of people, who have visited Nepal after the hippie era and have got fantastic impressions on treks in The Himalayas.

Today, Kathmandu is an over-populated city with traffic jams everywhere. Too many people are living there, and the pollution is enormous. Those who intend to visit Kathmandu today should know, that that’s another truth about it. Nevertheless, it still has so much experience to offer, that still – even after my latest visit in 2009 – I have kept my affection for it.

After the hippie era, a new district called Thamel has been built in Kathmandu, and that’s the place where the tourists live. Here, the traffic is less chaotic, and the shops in Thamel are offering very attractive articles to the tourists. CD’s with quality music, shawls, clothes and leather goods can be purchased for a very cheap price, and the tourists have a choice among several quality restaurants with very modest expenses. And besides, the district has another attraction, which is not quite understandable to me: In many ways, Thamel is a time gap, with plenty of nostalgia. The whole day, retro music is booming from the shops: Dylan, Beatles Pink Floyd, you name it. And many of the shops are selling clothes with style and fashions from the sixties and seventies. Is all this because Kathmandu wants to preserve the myth of Nepal as the old paradise of the hippies? Or is it rather because the town today is visited by several rich, middle-aged tourists, who were young in the seventies and feel good in the Thamel atmosphere?

However, regardless of the deliberate focus on the past, and in spite of the booming traffic and crowds of people, Kathmandu and the Kathmandu valley are definitely still worth a visit. Keep all your senses open, and you will realize, that the better you get to know the town, the more you will like it. Apart from the many compulsory and fascinating sights, Kathmandu is full of unexpected surprise and experience, which will chisel into your internal memory card and casually turn up on dark winter nights in your homeland several years after the end of your trip. And finally: If you intend to go trekking in the world’s best and most beautiful trekking country, you can’t avoid Kathmandu. It’s the gate to the Nepalese part of the Himalayas, and almost all treks start and end here. The fantastic nature starts only a few kilometres outside the Kathmandu Valley.

Click HERE if you would like to see the main entrance to the English version of my home page, with links to several articles about travelling and trekking