Letter from Kathmandu – September 2009

From our war & peace correspondent  Andy Klein who was last there in 1971.

Diggers behind Swayambu - April 2009.Haze over Swayambu - April 2009.Kathmandu is exactly the same as it was in 1969 except it has 3 times the population. There has been very little infrastructure investment; basically the same airport, highways, power grid (the neighborhoods look like Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon; a patchwork of homemade electrical connections at head height), with 3 times the population. The crowds, the traffic, the pollution; the pollution! It would take your breath away. I have never experienced air quality like that before; not in Benares, not in Sana’a, or Istanbul, not even in Ahmadabad. Nowhere else. An urban mess of staggering proportions.

We loved it. The people were the Nepalis of old; great folk.

They were hospitable, friendly and curious, of course plenty of semi-obnoxious hustlers, but not to worry, they were reasonably cool too. The cultural artefacts! We circumambulated Swayambunath from both top and bottom of the mountain, and it was wonderful.Swayambhunath - September 2009 But my 1969 cooled out hippie scene in Swayambu was gone; just some new shacks at the bottom, and no hippie restaurants and dopers. No hippie scene in Swayambu; all the hippies are basically day-trippers in Thamel and Durbar Square, although obviously there are some cool scenes tucked away somewhere, but you would have to know how to find it. I searched high and lo for old friends in Swayambu and they were no where to be found.

Bouddhanath Stupa - September 2009Boudnath was great, although the same as Swayambu; lots of tourists and native merchants, few hippies.

I kept thinking that I would find a cool place to spend the month of July in; maybe in Boudnath, maybe rent a house in Kath or Swayambu; but by the third day I realized that living in Kath was a labor of love probably beyond my current capacity; very difficulty to get around, unless you’re walking. Heaven help you if you get sick; In India, they have accessible hospitals, but if you find yourself in the Kathmandu hospital, better call for the mortician right away. Don’t get wobbly, weak, or dizzy in Kathmandu! “The cops don’t need you, and man, they expect the same.” I gotta say, for my money, Thailand is so much easier if you want a nice Buddhist country (which I do). I think this summer we’ll do Chiang Mai, check out Laos and hopefully Cambodia, and do a comparison.

Kathmandu Market - September 2009.

Finally, there were still some foxy hippie chicks on the street and that looked nice. You single guys could do well there.

Links:

Wikipedia – Kathmandu

Wikipedia – Boudhanath

Wikipedia – Swayambhunath

Andrew Klein - Kathmandu September 2009

Andy Klein travelled to India from the USA in 1967  and visited and lived in Kathmandu between 1969 & 1971.

He is currently on the Faculty of the School of Business & Management of The American University of Sharjah, UAE .

He took the weekend of Eid Mubarak (2009) off to revisit Kathmandu for the first time since 1971.

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7 Responses to “Letter from Kathmandu – September 2009”


  • Penelope Newsome

    Hello Andy!

    Lovely to see photos of places. But so sorry 1969 is all gone; clean air and hippies. Have a good journey.
    (Isn’t William Forbes in Kathmandu?)
    Penelope N.

  • poor old kathmandu
    what have they done to you?
    the gods have gone on holiday
    have they turned their backs
    on every holy view?
    oh poor old kathmandu
    beaten black and blue.

    ferrous projects blare and blink
    poison vapours fill the air.
    poor old kathmandu
    what did they do to you.
    if rivers run black
    concern is slack
    for poor old kathmandu.

    leave something for tomorrow
    just the scrapings on the plate
    to hide the innate sorrow
    at out worlds sorry state.
    leave something for your children
    don’t get swamped with greed.

    go on for your mornings run
    whilst there is still air to breathe
    leave something for tomorrow
    our energies combine
    and grow, for those who follow
    a life both pure and fine
    could be quite divine!!!!!

  • I thought the letter from Kathmandu was good and kindly towards the place.

    But ultimately your friend is looking for his youth and foxy chicks he equates with hippies. Good luck. The hippy wave has passed.

    Different types travel on a low budget these days. If you’re going to come here on a 3-day stopover and want to meet the surviving veterans of that era, you should come for one of the communal parties like (American) Thanksgiving, or Losar …

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Losar
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanksgiving

    Love & Pranaams,
    Billy

  • Hi Andy —

    Stretch back, can you remember me and an Australian woman named Ganga who stayed with you and James (that was your music studying room-mate’s name, no?) in your Benares pad around Shiva ratri, 1969. I had found my teacher, whom I called “Father”, outside of Calcutta and my name had been changed to Hari (it remains so). I knew you and James from an earlier stay in Benares in Sept-Oct, 1968, when I lived with Paul Tuel near Assi ghat.

    By the way, I re-encountered Ganesh Baba at the Calif. Rainbow Gathering in 1984. He came to Sonoma county and lived on and off with me and my family for two years until he went back to India via Europe. An account of my visit with my 15 year old son to Alakhnath Mandir to visit Baba’s grave in 1989 appears under my name on Peter Meyer’s website on Ganesh Baba.

    On that ’89 journey I went back to Kathmandu, which I hadn’t seen since 1967. I was heartbroken and don’t think I’ll go again. I do visit India every few years. I now have friends, third generation in a family I’ve known since the old days and I always visit those who are left of Father’s neighbours in the village Gorkhara by the Sonarpur train stop, West Bengal.

    Nice connecting with you. Hope you can recall me.

    Hari

  • Harvey Meyers! Great to hear from you! James and I are in your book; The line goes something like…”We took Shivaratri from the roof of the comfortable flat of James and Andy in Benares.” We spend many an evening with you smoking and hanging out in our Shivala crib.

    Also, in 1972 you were in San Francisco and Keith, Terri Clifford and I hooked up with you, your guru bhais, and Father for a Darshan in one of your flats in SF. Remember that? I recall your story of cutting your foot on acid in Berkeley, pre-India days. Should have worn shoes! Send me an email offline andrews.klein@hotmail.com

    Om Shanti Om
    Andy

  • The Hippy Dippy Days are long gone my man! The Hippies discovered all the really cool places but were pushed out by the “tourist” that followed them to these exotic places. They brought the high prices and the politics which ruined it all. Like Kathmandu and Goa etc. No where left to hind anymore. I now pray to Monkeybone! Bom Shankar! Bb

  • BB, sad but true! How hard to let go of those old memories! Just like the artists were yupped out of all the cool urban hoods in the States, the hippies were yupped out of the old haunts. Going back again is the same but different. Benares was the big shocker. I almost got in a fight with a crew of German tourists at the Nepali temple below Dashashwamedh last year; lost my cool defending a specter. Just barely got out with my hide. Live and learn.

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