Video night in Kathmandu?

No, not tonight guys. Not when the power is out more often than it’s on. Load shedding, they call it.

Welcome back to the real third world – where the people are great but the system is a mess. Even the capital’s international airport, usually a showpiece, is surrounded by wasteland.  Returning to Kathmandu makes me realise how much Indonesia, Thailand and even India have moved on.

So much destructive turmoil and strife here in recent years, in a country already disadvantaged by terrain and remoteness. Time zone here is 5 1/4 hours behind Melbourne – yes, probably the only sovereign country which doesn’t fit neatly into the scheme of international time zones.

Freak Street, Kathmandu

Freak Street, Kathmandu

Thamel, this part of Kathmandu, lies within 40 minutes walk of the great hilltop stupa of Swayambu on the western edge of the city, so that’s where I went yesterday afternoon.

Swayambu Stupa, Kathmandu

Swayambu Stupa, Kathmandu

Three hundred stairs climb steeply up the hill – watched by gambolling monkeys – to the white dome surmounted by a golden four-sided pillar painted on each side with the eyes of the Buddha. Pleasant conversation in a teashop with the Tibetan lady proprietor and her uncle, a monk, over a cup of tea made with butter milk. Lots of local sightseers and pilgrims about, some turning the copper prayer wheels.

The power was down as it is every afternoon, but the guesthouse restaurant prepared me a thali-style Nepali vegetarian dinner served on a steel dish. And so to bed, as Samuel Pepys would say, tucked up under a nice warm quilt.. .

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