I’m just going to say it right from the start, I like Kathmandu. I love all its dirty, grimy, crowded, noisy mess. It has as much character as any major city anywhere in the world and is filled with sights, sounds and flavors that I have never experienced. If you travel to Nepal, chances are you will pass through Kathmandu along the way. For most travelers, myself included, it is a place to sleep off the jet lag, get supplies, permits and visas before moving on into the mountains. I have noticed that it’s become somewhat fashionable amongst travelers to hate on Kathmandu. Much like somebody from the country would hate on a big city. I feel that is a lazy opinion, but I can see where they are coming from. The difference between the peace and beauty of the Himalayas versus the mayhem of Kathmandu is staggering. The mountains have crisp clean air, blue glacial rivers and livestock quietly grazing about in fields of Marijuana. The city has busses and scooters belching sooty exhaust, a river that more closely resembles an open sewer and cows eating piles of garbage in the street. It’s enough to drive any nature lover crazy. But there is just something about Kathmandu that draws me in.
This past trip to Nepal, I had a lot of down time in Kathmandu between trips to the mountains. I found myself going for a lot of rides and walks through town. Getting lost in the maze of narrow streets and taking in as much as possible. Being a night owl by nature, I most of these walks happened after dark. It is at night when Kathmandu transforms. By 7pm there is a lot less traffic, people are already where they need to be. The sound of laughter and conversation rivals, and sometimes overtakes, the revving engines and honking horns. After 10pm, the shops and cafes are closing and people are heading home. By midnight, the city is nearly silent. Only the barks of stray dogs and the occasional scooter motor can be heard. Sometime around 2am there is a sweet spot where it’s as if time has stopped. The streets are post apocalyptic and silent, it is a special time to be awake. By 5am, the city is coming back to life. The sounds of prayer bells greet the rising sun and the cycle starts all over again.
I’m not a photographer but I like to make a lot of photos. Here is a sampling of what my camera saw while walking around Kathmandu at night.