Once the emotional component wore off here, so did a little of the allure. I spent five days or so with Sagar’s family, enjoying his father’s amazing dal baht, playing with his adorable daughter and exploring local temples and some big ones too. Plus seeing some of the earthquake damaged Durbar square.
Unfortunately, during a day hike, we saw a young man dead by the river. I guess it was a selfie gone wrong. We left just as his distraught mother arrived. So sad.
It has been 19 years since I’ve been here during high season. Geez. What a zoo! I have spent more time in a taxi in five days than the rest of my trip combined. Traffic. Traffic. Traffic. But worth it.
After moving to a hotel today to hook up with a Humboldt friend and ready myself for my trek, I got to spend some more time walking around. At first, I was like, there aren’t any dudes selling cheap street stuff like Tiger Balm every five feet. After awhile I saw a few but it seems they have let less folks into Thamel to sell stuff on the street. Thamel is sanitized. Gone is the feeling of being in backpacker central. Now it’s a shopping destination. Remember I said 5000 shops. Adjust it up again. And I haven’t seen the Israeli mobs. Maybe they are rafting and trekking. Mainly an older clientele it seems. Not as old as Bhutan. But slightly more well-heeled dare I say.
I went into my favorite pizza place that has been here since 1995. Fire and Ice. Basically every meal between treks was me gorging myself on a mushroom pizza. Today I decided to do it before the trek.
At 3 PM it was PACKED with people. Many Chinese. It turns out there is a direct flight from Guangzhou now (my friends are on it tonight) and who knows from where else in China. It’s safe to say most Chinese I saw aren’t trekking or rafting. It seems this is a destination to spend their (more than they need) money.
That’s the impression I get from people I have spoken with. All of sudden (well using 1995 as a baseline) the Chinese have cash and don’t know what to do with it. Travel and show people they have gobs of it. Whatever gaudy shit Americans flaunt when traveling ? Well you ain’t seen nothing yet.
I was sitting in Fire and Ice and noticed a guy in a black shirt. Likely a manager. It was one of those time warp moments of seeing someone you know much older than when you met them. I asked the waiter, “how long has that guy worked here?” Since the beginning. 1995.
Damn. I remembered him as one of the young boys i used to chat with after ordering my usual Margerita pizza with Funghi. In fact, he might have even been the kid I gave my Telluride Wild Mushroom t shirt to when I left in 1995 because he loved it.
I introduced myself, told him I’ve come many times over the years, and had become friends with the Italian owner Anna Maria. And I remembered him.
As I looked into his eyes, there was this ever so slight twinkle, then it was gone. His eyes turned black again. His boyishness beat down by 22 years of restaurant work in Kathmandu dealing with tourists and protests and pollution. Who knows? But he really seemed to not give a shit that I remembered him. Maybe it happened every day. Maybe he doesn’t care. Maybe it’s not all about me. Haha.
I have searched far and wide to try and replace my failing hat. I cursed myself for both not buying two in Bhutan five years ago and missing the town where the shop was this trip in Bhutan. Mine was made in Kathmandu coincidentally and Chhimi assured me i would find one here. Chhimi!!!
Well, there are hats here. And there are hats that are kinda close. But if you’ve seen my now beaten down repaired in Guatemala too small for my head and ripped on top hat, well, you don’t just replace it with just any hat.
I’ve somehow not lost this one and it’s gonna make it on this trek with me. However, I’m not just buying any old hat. I mean, I’ve had maybe 7? In my life that I have become attached to? The Billabong ball cap that made it almost my whole first year of traveling in 1995 (while my hair went from zero to 60 in 9 months. Yeah. Ponytail) after I bought it in OZ, was ripped apart, ate and shat out by Namche and one of her San Fran playmates 1997.
I had this epic leather one from Peru that was just the shit and it got moldy when I stored it outside my house in Humboldt. I washed it and brilliantly hung it over the fireplace “just for a minute” to dry. Well you all know I get distracted easily. Shrunken head might be the best description of what it looked like. I found it’s replacement ( I bought THAT one in 2002!) in 2012 in Bhutan. Hats don’t come easily. The man makes the hat? Nope. Not always. Wish me luck.
Thamel is cool. But it’s like a gated community now. Tuk tuks and most motorized vehicles can’t come in. Less dogs (we will see tonight), less aggressive selling. It’s still a cool place. But I challenged my San Fran friend Donald years ago to name me ONE place that is better now than when he first visited. He couldn’t.
The fact is, in my experience, normally with growth and progress, people on the fringes are pushed out. And normally that’s where I’ve found the charm.