After scoping out the Thamel area of Kathmandu, it was time to discover the ‘tourist hotspots’. The combination of these words always cause a tightening in my chest. They conjure up images of hordes of people, beggers, people selling things agressively, pick pockets, tourist prices & being hoodwinked. I endeavour to find the balance between discovering a cuntry & avoiding the tourist production line of people queueing up in the same place to take a picture of the same thing just for the sake of it or because it’s a ‘tourist attraction’. I am trying to be a conscious traveller by visiting things that pique an interest within me, looking at the bigger picture instead of joining that queue to take a picture of that building I have no connection with. I am also trying to be kinder on myself & make sacrifices according to my wellbeing. If the climate is unbearable for me I’m not going to force myself through it for a cookie cutter experience. I have to consider my comfort & happiness. I have memories of places I have visited where I can just recall the misery I was in from the heat or exhaustion or forcing myself out in sickness. It’s not worth it for me. I don’t have a long to do list in each country. I want to discover what I encounter as my feet take me their unique path. I’m not here to see what every other tourist sees.
In saying that, I went with my Brazilian friend around some of the tourist sights in Kathmandu. As much as I want to avoid the main tourist sights, some I am interested in. In Kathmandu I have done such little research & some of the places are walking distance from my hostel – I’m not that stubborn (usually) that I will actively avoid somewhere I haven’t made my mind up on purely because it is popular with tourists.
Our first encounter was two young girls asking for chocolate. I don’t like to encourage the begging culture. In supporting these young girls I feel like I would be leading them down a path of begging & teaching them improper values that this is a possible way to get by & they would spend their lives on the streets begging, not striving for more. My friend had chocolate in her bag & big heart & she couldn’t resist. She opened the chocolate & shared it between the shy girls. She asked the girls for hugs & the girls obliged. I felt uncomfortable about the situation & was eager to get going. What’s your opinion on this? In giving do you think you may be supporting their ‘trade’, or do you always give believing you’re doing the right thing? It’s a very heart wrenching topic to have the privilege of not experiencing, as of yet, from the other side.
As we walked towards Durbar Square we were approached by beggars frequently. Sadhus were blessing us then asking for a donation, disfigured people were pulling at our clothes & others on the side of the streets were calling out to us. I felt completely overwhelmed & suffocated. Who do you help? Who is genuine? What can you do? In the touristy areas this culture is common & it breaks my heart.
When we entered the square we were swamped with people offering to be guides, demanding entry fee, selling souvenirs & begging. If this is tourism I would rather wander the less busy streets alone. Eventually we cleared the crowd & went to pay at the official kiosk. Although we managed to disperse our crowd of money thirsty followers, they were still lurking nearby, catching our eye at every opportunity. I’m ready to go back to the hostel for respite already!