28 August 2008

Letter 3.15

Katmadu, Nepal -- '66

I could stay here for a long long time. In my book only Istanbul ranks with it. The quality is very hard to get at that creates a great city. What are some things Katmandu and Istanbul have in common? Certainly the vast number of mosques, temples, pagodas, churches, shrines, stupas, and secular public buildings as fantastically designed. Just to walk past them is a trip. Also people leave you alone. They don't poke their nose in your conversations or simply stare at you all the time like in so many other countries where white skin announces you in no way I appreciate. If I can't expect anonymity here, atleast I'm allowed to proceed with my affairs freely -- as in Istanbul. And -- as in Istanbul -- there are central areas where most everybody lives with everything available. Also wandering around you're always stumbling on some surprising and beautiful spot. Add to that -- here -- the incredible backdrop of the Himalayas. But, really, I can't say just what it is that's so good about Katmandu. It just has the right atmosphere for me.

Bloody cold at night, though, and it doesn't warm up until late morning. The water's so cold it's painful to wash and washing clothes is nearly hopeless -- they don't get clean and take forever to dry -- also the water's so polluted that even the backpack crowd at the Globe and Blue Tibetan won't drink it (even in Kabul, where U.N, doctors warned me that the water was unsafe, I drank it with no problem, so I take this hitcher's injunction to heart).

The U.S. Embassy is – surprise! -- extremely unfriendly and nobody not prepared to be shipped off to Vietnam to be killed can use their toilet.

When I came into Nepal, a rickshaw driver -- a sturdy, smiling Tibetan refugee -- actually tried to help me without wanting money, which amazed me. Unheard of in India. Then I hitched up here without difficulty. Got my first view of the Everest range, 50 miles away and 26,000 to 29,000 feet high. Vast mountains, snow and cloud covered, rearing into the sky almost unearthly; certainly the most gigantic thing I've ever seen from that distance -- and one of the most awesome.

Nepal's two English-language dailies both carried several long pro-Israel articles yesterday, obviously reflecting the King's position. The King, Mahendra looks like Peter Sellers with 5-o'clock shadow and large rimless glasses. Very un-king-like.

So, that's about all I can say -- just that I like it here but don't know why, that I could get hung up here very very easily, but don't want to, atleast this time around.

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