With so much in common with Indian culture its no surprise to see such vibrance in Nepal. The colors are everywhere from the women’s saris to neon trekking gear and clothing reminiscent of the hippy hub that it was 40 years ago. Even the turquoise and coral slipped into the mala beads of pious add to the visual appeal. The outcome is uniquely Thamel, the most touristic area of Kathmandu. It can leave a lot to be desired for anyone spending just a few nights in the city but after being here for a month to do some volunteer work I am starting to see beyond the busy streets and hawkers at every turn.
I once read an article that named Kathmandu as one of the most photogenic area in the world, so there is no doubt that the natural beauty around the Kathmandu Valley is stunning. It is a large part of the reason for Nepal’s popularity as a trekking destination. But along with all of the popularity that its natural beauty has attracted, a highly polluted and over populated city with an infatuation for trekking gear and western culture has sprung at its center. Any one who has been to Thamel has seen the tour companies in every other store front, separated only by souvenir, outdoor gear, and cashmere shops. The Western concept of development is in full swing here and so are all of its byproducts – polluted air, congested city life, poverty, and a booming tourism industry.
I wish there was a clear and easy answer for how a community can grow and prosper without exploiting its own land, but for now I am simply posing a few questions. Is it possible to share natures beauty with outsiders without exploiting it in the name of profits? Will every beautiful place that still exists today become a tourist hotspot within the next 20 years, or even 10 years?