Friday, March 14, 2008

Hello Developing World

The flight into Kathmandu was amazing as we were right next to Mount Everest, and since it was a clear day, we were afforded magnificent views. Yet, immediately on the other side the plane, the views were not so nice, as the extreme pollution of the Kathmandu Valley became very evident. Flying into Kathmandu did not elicit the same memories of my visit 10 years ago. This was not the, old, mountain city with unique character that had somehow resided in my memory (I did see a very limited part of the city then). It was a sprawling metropolis with massive pollution, obscuring any view around. From the plane and then the taxi ride, I could see the majority of certain parts of the city were being built incrementally. And I really felt like we had entered the true developing world.

We quickly found out that things are not that great in Kathmandu. There is only 6 hours of electricity a day. And there are major gas shortages. I tried to order a steak, and the waiter said that the beef had been blocked from entering Kathmandu. As Natalia and I tried to figure out how to get to Sikkim, India, it became clear that the bus journey was not an option as much of the country was too dangerous to venture out in. Cooking gas, water, and petroleum are in short supply due to a strike on the southern border with India.

Tourists are abound here, and the constant barrage of guys trying to set you up with treks, helicopter flights, and rafting quickly got old. Someone was even riding in our cab from the airport directing us to his travel agency. It was amazing to see all the books and literature on Tibet, especially of the Dalai Lama. While such images of him are completely banned in Tibet, most people seem to have pictures of him somewhere in their homes. Later that night, as we walked to our hotel, past the humming generators lighting up the few dance clubs (with showers), I realized that Kathmandu was not the city I had expected. I miss Lhasa.


The power cutting off in the middle of dinner in the restaurant we were at. No big deal. Just whip out the candles and no one skips a beat. Yet, somehow it seemed all the skanky night clubs had electricity.

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