In 2009, I was made redundant from the company I had worked for for nine years.
It was an opportunity to do something I had always wanted to do and so with most of the redundancy pay out, I took myself off on a trip of a lifetime, around the globe.
My fourth stop on this dream journey was Nepal.
Looking back, I really should have planned what to do and where to go more. As it was, I bought the guidebooks, hardly read them and kind of lived by my own instinct and just went with the flow. That said, I have no regrets.
Nepal was not the first third world country I had visited. I had previously visited the Philippines. But Nepal was still very much an eye opener. I was hit by the heat as I exited the plane at Kathmandu airport. Ushered into the building and before long, I was free to go, my luggage in tow and tired from my long flight from Beijing, I eagerly found a ride to my hostel.
Eventually I found somewhere to stay (It’s another story for another time), Everest Mount hotel in the busy Thamel district of Kathmandu. It wasn’t ideal but as a young solitary guy, it was something I could put up with.
One of the main reasons for travelling, was to not only pursue a dream of mine but to also take my camera and pursue one of my passions, photography. I am not ashamed to admit that I was a Lonely Planet Photographer wannabe. Still am.
And so after resting briefly in my room, I set out to wander the streets of Kathmandu. I didn’t know where I was going. I would just walk. It was my ritual when arriving in a new place. Getting a feeling for a place by getting completely lost.
A maze of streets, resembling channels that had been cut out of some solid block, as the tall buildings either side of the dusty and bustling streets looked over us all. The meandering streets busy with people, scooters and rickshaws.
And it wasn’t long before I was lost. But I didn’t feel unwelcome or particularly out of place and yes, some people did look at me, but what surprised me, were the number of smiles I received. Without trying to sound all hippyish, I am a believer of energy and this place had an energy about it. A calming and peaceful energy. That’s what I felt anyway. There was no sense of ill feeling. Everyone just seemed really easy going. But then as I continued meandering through the many streets, I came across several Hindu shrines with incense burning and fresh flowers. I also found a Buddhist temple hidden away down an alleyway that could have so easily have been missed. The many lines of multicoloured prayer flags blowing in the golden light of this late afternoon. More incense, more prayers and more peace, hidden away from the bustling streets merely metres away.
To witness poverty can give a great sense of perspective. Also, to find gratitude for your own day to day existence and sadly as time has gone by, I admit this is something I have lost and need to find again. But whilst we watch our flat screen TV’s that bombard us with sh*t television programs and advertisements that encourage us to spend our money on the latest fashionable apple product, here I saw people with very, very little in comparison. But they still had a smile, they still had companionship and a relaxed way about them. I got swept up in the relaxed vibe of it all, despite the noisy scooter beeps.
I found my way into Durbar Square. A hive of activity for Kathmandu and a place where many tourists head to.
I climbed up the steps of a building similar to a pagoda and sat taking it all in. I wasn’t alone on those steps, there were other tourists and Nepalese alike, taking it all in.
I looked across to see a young Nepalese guy staring at me. I didn’t know what to make of it. He looked intrigued. He then approached me and asked me where I was from. I don’t remember his name but we spoke at length about where I was from, what I did for a living (I brushed over the whole insurance thing) and why I was visiting Nepal. He had a very gentle and humble manner about him along with his inquisitiveness. He seemed to not understand why I would want to visit such a place. I explained that I wanted to see and experience a different culture. He found this very strange.
He asked me to take his photo and sat patiently on his step, on that pagoda for me whilst I took his photo. His features were very striking and this made him a very interesting subject for me and his photo became one of my favourite images. I wonder what he is thinking as he looks into the lens. He seems to have an air of wisdom beyond his years.
We said goodbye and I continued to wander around Kathmandu and get lost again.
My journey around Nepal continued, where I found one of my favourite places to have ever visited. A place called Pokhara. I also trekked through the mountains, guided by a young man called Ramchundra, with the biggest smile you’ve ever seen. I also went on safari and rode a motorcycle through the jungle with my Nepali friend, Bijay.
The constant throughout my trip, was the warmth I felt from the friendly people of Nepal. I fell in love with that country.
Having seen the devastation suffered by Kathmandu and having heard the sheer loss of life (Over 5000 at the time of writing this) I can honestly say that my heart goes out to the people of Nepal. Nepal holds a special place in my heart and a big part of that is because of the beautiful, warm and peaceful Nepalese people.
That ancient pagoda where I sat and took that guy’s photo has been destroyed and I can’t help but think of that young guy and hope that he is okay.
When humanity is hit by tragedy, it is time show compassion and help where possible. Aid is being sent but if at all possible, any donation you can make will make a difference to someone in Nepal. Please send thoughts, prayers and any donations that you can to Nepal.