Thursday, April 12, 2007

Same same.. but different

Kathmandu, 30'150 km

I was looking forward to moving to another country, the last 5 months in India were very exciting but now I've had enough of it and need some fresh air. By all accounts Sikkim and Darjeeling have been the real change, so the crossing of the border was remarkably undramatic. Same language (almost), same religion (almost), same chaos on the road and spitting on your feet, communist flags hanging everywhere (as in Kerala), cows munching on garbage on the street and dhal baat in the menu. The main difference seems to be that they prefer football to cricket and metal-rock to bollywood songs. I'm not sure it was worth making 2 different countries just for this.. Seriously, the Nepalese seem to be more laid-back and friendly than the Indians (especially north Indians), but that was the case in Sikkim already. And they definitely don't like the Indians..

My first reaction to Nepal was somewhat like Obelix returning from Switzerland: it's flat. That's true, the Terai, is flat like a pancake although beautiful with many rivers where farmers bring their water buffaloes and green paddy fields. Of course the northern half is in the Himalaya and boasts the highest mountain in the world, but Pakistan has #2 and India #3, so they're not short on high mountains either. It's not until I reached Kathmandu that I had to cross a pass. The highest one was boasting "the best views in the whole Himalaya" but Spring is definitely not a good time in Nepal either: haze, fog and late afternoon storms are the norm.

Kathamandu very interesting, a mix between a historically and culturally rich center with dozens of Hindu temples and Bouddhist stuppas, and a tourist area choke full of trekking shops selling fake Gore-Tex gear and hawkers selling Tiger Balm or marijuana.

I haven't followed the news so I don't know about the current political situation, but it seems that everything is calm. No petrol shortage has reported by some only a few weeks ago and no military/guerilla check-point on the road. So far so good.


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