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Midnight run into old town Kathmandu. It’s almost one in the morning on our last night in Kathmandu.  Karen is long since gone to bed.  Greg, Jeff and I are sitting in Jeff’s hotel room.  The bottle of Scotch has been hit hard, already. This is after a couple of hours in the bar and sundry other refreshments.  It’s trouble time.

Jeff says something like, “Let’s go get a couple of rickshaws and ride them into the heart of Themal.  I guarantee it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”   I was tired and just wanted to go to bed.  But, how can you not take advantage of a once in a lifetime experience?  So we find our way to a crowded corner in Themal, rent a couple of rickshaws, and start rolling south into the heart of  Kathmandu. Only dogs and the occasional rickshaw driver are awake.  It’s dead quiet.  We roll along streets that just hours before were crowded with hundreds of thousands of people.

Now there is no one.

We visit all the temples that we’e spent the last couple of days elbowing our way in.  Now they’re  deserted except for us.  Above is shot from my rickshaw as we go deeper into Themal.  Jeff is sitting next to me, keeping up an on-going dialog in Nepalese with our driver.  We pass the Scotch back and forth between rickshaws.  Jeff was right.  I will never forget this night.

September 2008
Spin the globe and you’ll see Nepal on the opposite side of the world from Hollywood, just north of India and south of Tibet.  It’s a 20+ hour plane flight, even with the most direct route. Nepal is more than just geographically remote, its culturally distant as well.  The villages and mountains seem barely touched by “today” with people living much like they have for centuries.  That’s not surprising given that Nepal was only opened to outsiders in the 50’s, mainly as a result of Hillary’s first ascent of Everest. The people of Kathmandu — Nepal’s largest city– are making up for lost time though as they’ve created a totally engrossing mash-up of today’s technology with a culture largely derived from centuries old practices.  Walking the streets of Kathmandu made me think of the famous bar scene in the first Star Wars movie, where bizarre people and animals are the norm.  Things are just way different here.

What are we doing here, you ask?

It’s all Greg’s fault, of course since he was the one who decided to have his birthday party in Kathmandu.  Greg’s wife, Sindhu, is from Kathmandu and they met while Greg was working in the Peace Corps.  When Greg sent out the invitation to attend his BD party, KR and I both thought the same thing: “we gotta go!”  It was the perfect excuse to go to a place on our list of places to visit, but admittedly not near the top.   So, we cashed in a ton of frequent flyer miles and got on a plane to… St.Louis, and Chicago, and Delhi and then Kathmandu.  Almost 48hours after shoving off on this birthday party trip, we landed in Kathmandu.

This is the story of our trip to The Other Side.  I hope Nepal’s Tourist Office will forgive me…