. It feels very good to be back in this general part of the world. and feel I made the right choice by doing this. It's also just been fascinating just adjusting to the day-to-day experience of being here.
Kathmandu is still noticeably scarred from the earthquake that hit two years ago and there are still large piles of rubble and debris interspersed throughout the urban landscape, as well as omnipresent dust from the construction and rebuilding that is going on. On Sunday afternoon there was a brief clear patch when the foothills just a few miles away and even a couple snow-capped peaks were visible, but since then the haze has kept views to a minimum. Part of it is the time of year. Many of the Ricksha-Wallas, who are very poor, sleep in their rickshaws every night and they burn anything they can find in the streets every evening to help keep warm. There are many narrow dirt lanes in the old city center, which are filled with small-scale vendors, wafting incense, roaming dogs, and the occasional goat or cow. The main streets can get congested because there are no traffic lights anywhere in the city that I have seen, and while there is plenty of traffic, drivers are rarely aggressive.
Even though, I am near a major tourist area I was happy with the place I stayed my first few nights in the city. Having not booked anything ahead of time, I decided to let one of the rank-and-file of the army of touts assist me in finding accommodation when I landed at KTM airport (in Kathmandu, as elsewhere in the Indian Subcontinent, one is swarmed by an army of touts from the moment you step beyond the controlled area of the airport). Unlike Northern India, though, the touts here will generally take "no" for an answer and I have not yet been followed for more than 20 minutes by anyone grabbing at my shirt refusing to let go, as was often the case if I made eye contact with a tout in northern India.
Although load-shedding remains a defining feature of the city's power supply, there are also many notable changes since the last time I visited. Solar panels on buildings are ubiquitous now, and even budget accommodations have electric light available 24 hours a day. I packed my bag full of candles, remembering my last trip to Nepal, but so far I have had no need to light one. What's more, the loud, smelly diesel generators that many businesses and higher-end establishments used last time I was there have almost all been replaced by solar panels, which now cost less as a back-up power supply than diesel and are far better for the environment. This is another example of what is often referred to as a co-benefit, and provides further evidence that climate action may indeed be possible, even in spite of political intransigence.
Another major change are the widespread traffic check points throughout the city. On my very first visit to Nepal I do not recall seeing any civilian police force at all (it may have existed, but if it did, I never noticed), though there were plenty of soldiers standing guard around banks and major tourist areas. Now there are frequent spot checks for driver's licenses, and at night, frequent spot checks for drunk drivers. Given how narrow and how little room for error there is in many streets in the city center, I was quite happy to see the latter late at night.
After a few days, I grew weary of waiting for things to process ( I won't be able to start the paperwork for the visa until late next week) so I decided to leave Kathmandu and spend the weekend back in Pokhara while awaiting everything to process.