First Impressions of Kathmandu

I was traveling in Nepal for the last two weeks of April, first in Kathmandu, then a five day trek in the Annapurna mountain range and finally in Pokhara, Nepal’s second city and a gateway for many Annapurna treks. As with the trips to India and Bali last year, Nepal was so rich in atmospheric cityscapes, memorable people and natural beauty that I’ll probably post thoughts and photos from this trip for a month or two.

I spent the entire morning of the first full day in Kathmandu applying for a new visa at the Thai embassy there, leaving only a half day for strolling around that day. Here are my best photos from a single afternoon in Kathmandu, my first impressions of that dusty and chaotic but fascinating city.

A vendor at Swayambhunath Temple (AKA Monkey Temple), a hilltop temple with great views over the city. This is one of my favorite photos from the entire trip and one of the things I immediately noticed about this scene is the way the colors in the poster, the woman’s dress, bucket, bag etc. are beautifully matched. At the time I assumed this was a lucky coincidence, but when I started sorting and editing the photos from the trip I noticed that she has a Bindi dot in the same color on her forehead (instead of the usual dark red).

Just as I was leaving Swayambhunath Temple in the early evening it started raining and I saw these two locals take shelter under a tarp at the bottom of the long flight of steps leading up to the temple. Just to their right there was a row of prayer wheels and a table with lighted devotional candles. I liked the nice glow the candlelight gave to their faces and I asked them if I could take some photos.
A young local girl in front of prayer wheels at Swayambhunath Temple. This and many other Buddhist temples I saw in Nepal are radially symmetrical and worshipers spin each of the prayer wheels while walking clockwise around the temple.

 

A street vendor resting near a mailbox in Kathmandu
I regularly saw itinerant Hindu holy men like this walking the streets in both Kathmandu and Pokhara. My understanding is that it’s customary to make a donation after accepting their blessing.
A young local girl in front of her father’s vegetable stand
A delivery truck stuck in traffic in Kathmandu. In South and Southeast Asia it’s common for vehicles of this sort to be decorated in flamboyant colors.
Local men at a motor repair shop I came across while walking back from the Thai embassy
Prayer flags for sale at Swayambhunath Temple
Masks of the Buddha for sale at Swayambhunath Temple

(Above three photos) Handheld prayer wheels for sale by the temple. 

(Above two photos) Cycle rickshaws on the streets of Kathmandu. A similar type of vehicle is popular in Vietnam but the appeal of this type of transportation is still a mystery to me. Because they have to maneuver through traffic but are much slower than cars or motorbikes they generally take more time than walking and using them feels like paying to be stuck in traffic. My best educated guess is that the people who use these hate walking and are looking for the cheapest possible alternative.

(Above two photos) Bicycle fruit vendors.
A makeshift shrine near my hotel
A street food vendor I stumbled upon while walking back from the Thai embassy
A local mother and her children watching dogs play at Swayambhunath Temple

 

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