A Kath­man­dus

Be­yond the dusty streets, Nepal’s cap­i­tal is a vi­brant, be­guil­ing mo­saic of cul­tures and ar­chi­tec­ture.

Crave - - TRAVEL - Words Pho­tos Tif­fany Chan

Dust bil­lows in the air as our car jerks along a rugged dirt road. The way ahead is shrouded in a gritty haze and we can barely see the car two me­tres in front of us. We try, in vain, to roll up the win­dows. They’re bro­ken. “Nepali pow­der,” the driver says, with bit­ing sar­casm. He raises his hand in an im­per­son­ation of Britain’s Queen El­iz­a­beth, fol­lowed by a re­gal flick of the wrist. “All for free. We’re lucky.” We fall out of the car to find our skin, hair and clothes veiled in a light film of dust. Lucky, in­deed.

I’d been warned the Nepali cap­i­tal was “a real sh*t-hole”, that it was “dirty, dusty, a dump”.

It can cer­tainly seem that way at first. The un­paved roads are in dire con­di­tion, seething with beep­ing cars, scream­ing mo­tor­bike en­gines and rick­shaws. Crum­bling build­ing façades drip with mould.

Power out­ages are ran­dom and fre­quent. Yet vis­i­tors quickly dis­cover the la­bel is per­haps overly sim­plis­tic, if not in­ac­cu­rate.

Once one of three city-states in the Kath­mandu Val­ley, along with Bhak­ta­pur and Patan, Kath­mandu has over 2,000 years of his­tory and is home to 12 per cent of the coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion and more than a dozen eth­nic groups, in­clud­ing the coun­try’s first set­tlers, the Ne­wars. It is this diversity that makes Kath­mandu ev­ery­thing it is: fren­zied, chaotic and as­tound­ingly ex­as­per­at­ing, but also rich and vi­brant. In­deed, Kath­mandu takes thou­sands of forms. Nar­row, di­lap­i­dated al­leys open into broad an­cient squares. Dusty streets thump with a colour­ful pa­rade of roam­ing hawk­ers,

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