Kathmandu has exploded in population and urbanization over the last decade. In the early 1900s the population was a little over 5000 people. Today the population has grown to over 1.7 million and has an annual growth rate of 6%. This tremdous growth rate has also been accompanied by unplanned urban development which is causing a whole range of problems from traffic jams, unclean water supplies, inadequate infrastructure, power outages, not to mention the lack of strong instituations because of political corruption.
When we first arrived in Kathmandu the pollution and litter on the streets was overwhelming evident. Residents use their streets as a trash can as there is no public garbage service, nor are their any visible public garbage cans. The picture below was taken after a rain fall. It shows what looks to be oil or dark silt draining into the river. Because of non-adequate water treatment local populations can’t trust their own water supply. This causes tourists to rely on bottled water which only adds to the waste problem.
There is also no regulation or enforcement on motor emissons. Walking in downtown Kathmandu is equivalent to smoking a tail pipe. Bronwyn developed some form of bronchitis from walking around the city. The view from the top of Nargajun Hill shows the city spawl. Because the city also city sits in a valley all the emissons from the traffic sit above the city in a gray haze.
Shanker, Padma, and their daughter Chun Chun welcomed us to Nepal with open arms. We stayed with them for a week at their house in Kathmandu. We got a real appreciation for authentic Nepali life by participating in meals, parties, and staying at their home. They fed us very well, almost too well. Nepali people are very generous and are always offering more; especially when it comes to food. We thought our stomach would explode and so we learned the word “Pugyo” quickly, which means “That’s enough”. The common Nepali meal is dal bhat, which is rice (dal) and lentils (bhat). Shanker had a comical saying; “Dal bhat power twenty four hour”.
Their are many, many stray dogs in Kathmandu. They roam the city freely without any masters sometimes running in packs. During the day they mostly sleep and at night they get wild, protecting territory and getting into fights. It is quite common to hear dogs barking and growling for hours on end in the middle of the night.
Shanker had another funny saying for Kathmandu; “Dogmandu”!
Religion & Spirituality
Nepali society and culture is emersed in Hinduism and Buddhism. In Kathmandu there is a large Hindu population and everwhere you go you see statues Vishnu, Shiva, and others. On every street corner you see Hindu temples with the smell of incense burning and coloured chalk splattered along the walls. Each house hold has a small shrine with a oil wick burning all day which produces a very nice smell.
Bhaktapur is an ancient Newar town located in the east side of the Kathmandu valley. It is a popular tourist destination because of the beautiful temples, amazing wood work, and religious significance.
Nargajun hill is situated to the north-east of Kathmandu and it’s about a two hour hike to the top which sits approximately 1000m above the city. At the top is a buddhist stuppa with prayer flags hanging all over the place. Nagarjun forest and hill are named after one of the most prominent Buddhist philosphers Nagarjuna. It is said that Nagarjuna’s cave resides on the hill where he used to meditate.
When we reached the top of the hill we came across a group of Buddhist monks that were hanging prayer flags. After they finished hanging prayer flags they sat down next to the stuppa and began chanting.
Durbar Square is located in the south part of Kathmandu city. It is a popular tourist destination for it’s temples, holy men, and exquisite architecture.