This photo was taken at Pashupatinath ghats – a beautiful place of temples, greenery – and even monkey and cows (it’s nice to see them again!) What a change from the traffic and pollution elsewhere in Kathmandu. Once you get over the fact that dead bodies are being burned around you its a wonderful place to hang out – it’s a bit like a Nepali version of London’s Highgate ceremony, as there are tombs here too, unlike in Varanasi where all the bodies end up in the river in one form or another.
It was nice to meet up with some sadhus again. They were so happy and friendly and didn’t mind me taking their pictures (albeit for some ‘bakseech’, but that’s only fair). The only thing I did object to was paying the 1000 rupees entrance fee – firstly because its a strange place to charge a fee, secondly because we are not talking a small sum ,and thirdly as I was the only one paying! I generally don’t object to a two-tier system in poorer countries were tourists pay about ten times as much as the locals, because it works out about the same in what we can afford – but to charge an exorbitant 1000 rupees (bearing in mind that you can stay in a hotel on the main Durbar square for 400 rupees a night) just to anyone that doesn’t look Asian (SAARC countries don’t have to pay either) seems very excessive. They also charge you 300 rupees to visit Durbar square , even though its on a public route. The irony is that if you stay on the square you get a special exemption, which means that your 400 rupee hotel room is saving you 300, so effectively only costing you 100 rupees a night!
I realise that Nepal is not a rich country but I feel sure that such radical taxes on visitors is only discouraging tourism. Also, hundreds of people sell souvenirs in the squares and the ghats, whose main customers are tourists. If the wealthier foreigners only visit once, if at all, these people are missing out on sales. I also find it strange that the country has started limiting the time that foreign visitors (except SAARC neighbouring country residents) can stay, to just 150 days a year. This means that no other foreigners can permanently live there because they would have to be out of the country for five months. Maybe it is to stop us buying up land and property and pricing locals out of the market, or more likely they are tired of the undesirable ‘traveller types’ making it their home because it’s cheap, and hash is easily available!
(Incidentally, I tried to post this yesterday, but it disappeared, so if subscribers have already received it, apologies for the repetition)