Sunday, December 20, 2009

Kathmandu

Greetings from Nepal.
I arrived at about 1am Sunday morning to a city in the grip of a Maoist "Bandh" (general strike). The Maoists are former insurgents who after a sporadic 20 years of fighting joined a peace process once the King was deposed a year ago. They joined the government but still engage in civil ( and violent) protest from time to time.
This is one of those times and Sunday was day one of a nation wide 3 day general strike.
A general strike in Nepal shuts everything down and is enforced by roving bands who torch taxis and buses breaking the ban. Buses ferrying tourists to and from the airport are exempt and are careful to display signs proclaiming their function. Tourists are pretty much ignored and not threatened.
I had no problems and never felt unsafe.







Nepal is much like India in terms of traffic chaos and congestion. Because of the shutdown, the place has been transformed into a city of pedestrian thoroughfares.
It didn't take me long to track down the main protests.

As protests go(not that I'm any sort of veteran) this felt rather tame and nonthreatening. The police behaved like bystanders and I saw no trouble.
As I walked home however I heard the percussion of tear gas and deep roar of surging, angry crowds.
Soon after a steady progression of ambulances (the first I saw outside of buses and army/police trucks) sped down the empty roads.
According to the morning papers ( I guess the press aren't on strike) it was a minor affair with only a couple of dozen hurt and a handful of arrests.
Without transport I did a lot of walking.
I did try using a peddle rickshaw for a bit but soon gave that up.
Sitting back with my $10K worth of camera equipment while an asthmatic 60 year old man peddled along barefoot, felt a tad exploitative.
I'm sure, had we come across any of the Maoist protesters they might have agreed.
So I walked.
And walked
And walked.
There's plenty to see and I managed some cool pictures of the temples in Durbar Square which being central to the city was most accessible given the circumstances. All the temples date from 1000AD-1700Ad and the sprawling chaos has been designated a World Heritage site.
Local people easily outnumber tourists and it really feels like you are somewhere "out there" if that makes any sense. I'd been told exactly the opposite about the city, and I think many people forewarned, have stayed away and for a brief period at least the earnest German and Brit hippies are marking time in India.
Here's a small sample of yesterday's pics.




As usual, I can't help but take pictures of people.
Kathmandu didn't disappoint in this regard.

Walking through Therma ( a downtown area of maddening, narrow congested, winding lanes) I stuck my head into a courtyard and came across the strange scene below. There was clearly some sort of celebration in the offing and a BBQ of sorts was being prepared. The carcass preparation by blowtorch was a first for me.
I was also surprised to see the slaughter of cattle as Nepal is primarily Buddist/Hindu.

Gruesome but interesting.
Back to the people watching.
















When they're not kicking the crap out of each other, I've found the Nepalese to be charming, open and friendly. I hope to see a bit more over the next couple of days though I fear I'll be restricted to walking distance. On Wednesday I'll make a mad dash to points outside the city though I fear I won't be alone in this regard and will be joined by the backpacker hordes similarly presently confined.
The internet connection is really slow and loading these pictures has taken most of last night so my next few posts will be necesarilly brief.
Despite the present hassle, the sun is shining, sky is blue and I'm enjoying myself and relaxing.
That to me, is a good thing.
Stay well everyone.
Love T

2 comments:

c said...

that little girl watching the animals getting slaughtered and torched - better than cartoons I guess.

Carme said...

The pics are very good