PHOTO: Prayer Flags and Paddys - A Weekend in Kathmandu
I was lucky enough to visit the Kathmandu valley two years ago on one of my (at the time) frequent swings through Asia. This was during a time in my life when i was much less fit than I currently am, so my interest in Nepal was less about hiking in the notoriously gorgeous mountain ranges and much more about exploring the dusty corners of Nepal's biggest city.
Unfortunately I made a big mistake on this adventure - I forgot my camera! I'm not sure what happened during my packing process but my DSLR never made it into my carry on. Nowadays that wouldn't be an issue as I often take most of my travel photos on my iPhone 7+, but two years ago I was still putzing around with a shoddy iPhone 5 with some pretty sketchy picture quality.
Consequently I ended up not taking many photos on my visit, which was a blessing in a way. I love to capture my travels from behind the camera lens but being able to put all of that aside and simply enjoy my surroundings for once as a new experience for me.
Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Nagarkot were the areas I spent my time in the valley. Kathmandu was just as chaotic and dizzying as I imagined. Perhaps not as insane as her cousins to the south in India, but the back alleys and road ways are similarly cluttered with bicycles, cars, animals, and people. The real gem for me was the drive out into the country side on my way to Nagarknot. The vibrant greenery and slow rolling hills giving way to steep mountain arcs was the highlight of my visit.
So without further ado - a look at the Kathmandu Valley.....
Prayer flags flutter in the wind with a brilliant blue sky behind the Boudhanath, a major buddhist stupa in Kathmandu. Prayer flags were kind of the epitome of Nepalese "kitsch" prior to my trip into Nepal, so it was a bit redeeming for me to see they do in fact blanket Kathmandu in a faded kaleidoscope of colors.
A view of the Kathmandu valley with spring flowers, mountains, and big sky for days. Montana has nothing on Nepal, though to be fair I've never been to Montana so I'm making that comparison completely out of my ass. Still, this view over the valley really did stop me in my tracks while exploring one of the stupa complexes.
Two farmers rest along the side of the road on the road to Nagarkot with lush fields in full bloom. I wish I had a better camera with me for this trip because while I didn't really find the view from Nagarkot particularly worth the drive from Kathmandu, the scenery along the way was what really captivated me. Sadly most of what I snapped out of the window with iPhone 5 was useless but despite the blur, I kept this one.
The smoke from funeral pyres wafts into the air around the Pashupatinath Temple complex along the Bagmati River. While most of Nepal is Buddhist, a sizeable community of Hindus makes their home in Kathmandu and Pashupatinath is where they worship Lord Shiva. Despite several trips to India, I'd still never encountered the open air cremation that can often be found throughout South Asia. It definitely was the most prominent thing happening in that area of the city, but I never felt comfortable photographing the actual ceremonies.
Several Nepalese men sit next to a large statue outside of an intricate wooden door with murals on either side of them. Kathmandu is a chaotic city, but no matter what street or alley you turned down while exploring, you'd always find a group of men or women huddles up like this and passing a quiet moment of respite with idyll chit chat and smiles.
Young people relax at the base of a stupa as prayer flags run in a criss crossing traffic jam through a public square. It always seems odd to me that so many country let people use major landmarks or religious buildings as places to relax and rest. In the US anyone seen loitering on a monument is generally tolerated for a few minutes before being shooed away.
A father and daughter unload product from the back of a truck as smoke from funeral pyres drifts past along the Bagmati River. It might seem odd to have food and commerce happening just across a river bank from cremations but no body seemed phased by the activity whatsoever - just an every day part of life. Eventually I got used to the sight as well though to be honest if I ended up buying some vegetables here .... I'd wash them extra carefully. There's some particular particles in the air in this part of town.
Much like it is further south, the residents of Kathmandu seemed to give a wide berth to cows as they wandered around the city. I stumbled upon the cow parked right in the middle of an entrance to a foot bridge over the river. Despite its super inconvenient location, no soul did anything to attempt to move it. Like a rock in the river, the water moved around it.
Another view from the car ride to Nagarkot with the lush rice paddys stretching for as far as the eye can see. I was struck by how green everything was outside of the dusty interiors of the city. I visited during monsoon season but oddly enough it didn't rain once my entire trip. The lack of rain was clearly an anomaly though as the vibrant green everywhere was evidence of a substantially wet season.