Kathmandu: A lonely place, or is it?
Nepal is a place that is neither Chinese nor Indian. It is crazy and sane. It is arctic and safari. It is chaotic and peaceful. It is what it is, or isn’t…
A displaced county caught in the middle of two vibrant cultures, a route in the middle of a huge continent, land locked by serene terrains and opportunist governments. It is the lonely place perched on the world’s roof isolated for centuries by cultural defiance and discrete history.
With cheap tickets booked on the last minute, I flew from Kuala Lumpur and made sure that I will get that right side window seat to get a good view of the Himalayas. At that point I have nothing in mind but to see the planet’s highest mountains. But other than the snow-capped Everest, who is Nepal?
A place I have been longing to see eversince I stepped-in that geography class in junior years. Something books portrayed as an unforgiving outdoors sashed with bold tapestry of different cultures, where numerous religions collide and where both explorers and pilgrims share the same welcoming towns of brick houses for centuries. Where nomads passed-by and quickly left at the break of dawn, a lonely place, humble and nonchalant–or is it?
The crisp afternoon breeze welcomed me as I ascended down the tarmac of Tribhuvan International Airport. I queued up the visa counter where Philippine peso is totally unknown. Proved my speculations right that there’s a small count of Filipino tourists who dared to explore the valley. From countless queues from money changer to all imaginable processes where inspection can be done, I braced myself to officially set foot on this childhood dream.
Nepali co-passengers, who are contract workers and mostly men were welcomed by families by smiles, kisses and laying satin scarves around their necks as a sign of prayer and honor. I on the other hand, was welcomed by no one…
Someone approached me like an old comrade: “Namaste Bhai…” Followed by strings of vernacular words that registered like a melodious sound of a finger caught in a running electric fan.
“Sorry, I don’t speak Nepalese”
With everyone thinking I’m Newar, I literally slithered out the complex without being bothered by hawking dispatchers. I hopped on what looked like a decade old Suzuki mini and headed off to Kathmandu. Searching the horizon I extended my neck to all direction to look for the majestic Himalayas but to no avail.
The capital city unfolded himself with dust filling every single sac of my lungs, traffic was crazy, roads are soil where you can literally plant corn and both sides of the road were lined with debris of what looked like something between a road reconstruction and earthquake aftermath.
Kathmandu was a mess, redeemed by a single thing that out-stands its visual pandemonium–The beautifully chiselled, fine looking people (Read: Zack Efron herding goats and Catherine Zeta-Jones selling mineral water).
The vendors of busy streets of a foreign country usually gravitates towards visitiors like me to sell or offer services, but I happen to look like a local so I was ignored, like no one can see me. The aloneness felt weird and all of a sudden the afternoon rush hour noise was muffled to almost mute.
I entered the hotel and the receptionist did not care to talk, not even a slightest gesture of welcome.
“Tapaaiiko ghar kaaha ho?”
… I was cluless what she just said.
“…Where’s your guest?”
“Hmmm… I’m not a porter, I am the guest”
She flushed with petrified horror.
I walked along the luxurious hallway and swung opened my suite’s heavy wooden doors. Pure opulence and fine details became nothing but blurred images. I was drowning with a deep thought in an attempt to understand what was unfolding to be a lonely place… or is it?