One thing you will notice when you come to Kathmandu is the pollution. Even the taxi drivers here complain about it. Although, it must be said when they drive around the city with all their windows wound down, I wonder why they complain so much! I used to think the Indian National Capital Region of Delhi was the downright dirtiest city I had ever visited. Now I have spent some time in the Nepali capital, I am not so sure.
First things first, the Nepali people are some of the friendliest I have ever encountered on my backpacking travels. However, the city in which they live is the true definition of third world. Stray dogs, dirty pigeons, and aggressive monkeys roam the streets and surrounding hills in search of food, and probably trailing around diseases with them.
The main problem with Kathmandu is the dirt and the dust. Much like Beijing’s infamous smog, Kathmandu has a haze of dust which blows up in your face every time a car or bike drives past you. It becomes essential for a prolonged stay here to invest in a surgical face mask that the Japanese have made famous in their own country. But believe me, Japanese cities are nowhere near as dangerously polluted as Kathmandu.
The habits of the drivers on the road also leave a lot to be desired. Constantly honking their horns to let other drivers know of their presence. Often, their way on the road gets blocked by a random stray cow or goat, which nobody bothers to clear out of the way, as there is no official authority to deal with such events in Nepal – it just happens, and you have to get on with it! But that leaves the tourist – especially Westerners – with a feeling of dread for what might be lurking around the corner next time.
Even the main tourists sites in Kathmandu are littered with potential hazards. You can see from the picture above that at Boudhanath Stupa there are thousands of dirty pigeons swarming the site and many of them almost flew straight into my face as I was walking around taking photos and trying to admire the views of the Stupa itself.
If you ever come to Kathmandu, be prepared for an altogether different experience from anything you have encountered beforehand! For more background reading on Kathmandu and some amazing photos, check out this blog from The Transcendental Tourist!