Published: April 13th 2012April 12th 2012
Welcome to Nepal
I woke up today saddened by the fact that we are leaving Tibet, and chances are I will never return. These people have touched me, and their plight and oppression will haunt me forever.
We arrived at the Nepalese border after going through 4 Chinese military checkpoints, within 8 kilometers. At customs I was told that my Lonely Planet book would be confiscated due to it’s accurate depiction of historical events. I had carefully cut out pages from my China lonely planet to fit the Tibet one before I had left and happily it worked. A Chinese immigration officer confiscated someone’s travel guide right before us, so I was definitely feeling the stress as if I was smuggling illegal goods. Our bags were first x-rayed, then rummaged through by hand. They showed keen interest in some carved snow lion figurines I had bought, and the officer disappeared with them for several minutes. Our guide said that because the snow lion is a symbol of Tibet, they may confiscate them. The officer returned and said it was ok, and we were cut loose, free to cross the border. Throughout the trip I felt some modicum of what stress the Tibetan people must
Immigration for Nepal
endure. Every checkpoint we went through, I had anxiety that we would be detained or denied further passage. I even began to feel guilty for my anti-Chinese thoughts, as if the thought police knew what I was thinking.
We walked across the Friendship bridge, crossing a river into Nepal. Immediately the smells of curry and the hoards of people overwhelmed us. It was amazing that you truly felt as though you were in an entirely different country altogether.
We boarded a “non-stop, direct” four hour bus to Kathmandu after quite a bit of haggling. I finally conceded to the price of $4, after I realized I was bickering over what amounted to about a dollar. The bus eventually left after an hour wait, and we quickly realized that this was far from a direct bus. We stopped in every small village, picking up dozens of people to fill an already full bus. There ended up being about 60 people on our bus, with seating for 30. There were passengers sitting on the roof, and hanging onto the sides of the bus. I read that you are 30X more likely to die in a car wreck in Nepal than any other
country in the world. I began to think less of the “indirect” slow boat to Kathmandu, and more for hoping that our bags were not being pillaged on the roof, and hoping our bus would not go careening off the road and into the deep gorge beside us.
During the serpentine drive, an old Nepalese woman beside us vomited about a half dozen times, sometimes in a bag, sometimes on the floor. Thankfully it did not start a chain reaction that was reminiscent of Monty Python’s Meaning of Life.
We were stopped two times by Nepal police carrying bamboo sticks and FAL’s, boarded the bus and searched it. I don’t know what they were looking for, but we held no interest for them, and we were never asked for our passport.
I noticed several buses on the way had anarchy signs on the back. This is not because they are fans of punk rock, but because the Nepali gov’t is one of the most tumultuous in the world, and the standard of living is one of the lowest. Since 2000, Nepal has had nine gov’t’s in ten years. It has the third highest infant mortality rate in the world, the
Bus from hell
average person makes less than $240 a year. There is an average of 5 doctors for 100,000, whereas Italy has 550.
We arrived in Kathmandu 8 hours later, feeling lucky to have survived, and our bags intact. I struck up conversation with a girl on the bus from Kathmandu, who informed me that it was the Nepali New Year. She gave me her phone number and facebook address, and told me to contact her if I needed anything. Her two siblings live in the US, and obtained their PHD’s from Amherst. Education is a highly prized and rare opportunity in this place, as it is in India, and no one would dare squander it.
We spent the night in the Thamel area, which is an amazing tourist area filled with North Face gear shops, trekking companies, and restaurants. We feel as though we have died and gone to heaven. My dinner of chow mein cost less than $1, and our nice hotel was $15. Apparently you can get lodging for $5, but we’ll splurge and maybe avoid getting lice and bed bugs.
A beautiful white shepard mix wandered into our courtyard restaurant and joined us for dinner. She contentedly accepted
My seat (note guy hanging off the bus outside)
our pets, but not our food. I think I may have taken at least 20 dogs home by now if I could.
As we walked back to our hotel we saw a young boy, about 7 years old sitting on a step outside a shop. He had a bag covering his mouth, huffing what smelled like spraypaint. To see abject poverty and illness is depressing, but to see a child who is already a drug addict is a whole new level of sad. Apparently Nepal has a huge drug problem amongst its men, ranging from hash to heroin. I couldn’t have imagined seeing such a sight in Tibet, however the Chinese would immediately disappear someone openly abusing drugs.
Tomorrow we will spend the entire day exploring this wild and fascinating city.