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Himalaya

Day 56: Kathmandu

Kathmandu, Nepal 
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With Pratima on a bridge over the Bagmati River at Pashupatinath, the most important Hindu temple complex in Nepal.
Michael Palin - HimalayaThere is hope. Kunda is generally optimistic about the way the old city centres are looked after (all three are UNESCO sites). He's much less happy about the way modern development is going. The urban sprawl around Kathmandu is, he feels, destroying the identities of the three cities. They are becoming part of a Kathmandu conurbation, which is bad for Nepal. It increases the centralization of wealth and government in the Valley, further alienating the country areas, and puts great pressure on limited resources. Water supply is becoming a major problem. The latest proposal is to bring water in direct from a glacier, 15 miles away. It will be the biggest engineering project in Nepal's history, and if it works it will only bring more people and more money to the central Valley, further dividing the country. And it would not go unopposed. Only yesterday, Kunda reminds me, the Maoists destroyed a hydroelectric plant.

On our way back, the insalubrious suburbs, and the congested roads that take us through them, seem to bear out Kunda's darker prophecies, but life is not all gloom.

He tells the story of sitting next to Prince Charles (of whom he has a very high opinion) at a Nepali banquet. Halfway through the meal Charles upended a full portion of rice wine into his lap.

'Great embarrassment all round?'

'No, everything was fine.' Kunda smiles at the recollection. 'I told him that was the way we do our dry cleaning here.'
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 56: Kathmandu
  • Country/sea: Nepal
  • Place: Bhaktapur
  • Book page no: 128

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