Date: 24 May
Location: Somewhere over Thailand, seat 23A (window — view out of Nepal so required), Malaysian Airlines flight from Kathmandu to KL.
Notable sightings: the last day on my Nepali visa; countless and increasingly stressed airport workers trying to work out why I haven’t got a Japanese visa; India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand from the air.
Below, a list of things I loved and loathed on the subcontinent. I’ll let you decide into which catergory they each fall.
- Getting my laundry done. For 50 cents a kilo.
- Monks on motorbikes.
- Playing the super fun load-shedding game (aka Blackout Roulette): whenever will the power go out today?
- The omnipresecene of Nescafé.
- The omnipresence of masala chai!
- When you give the impudent waiter a death stare when he says you’re ‘hot’ and then have to apologise when he brings you a free juice. He meant sweaty hot, not sexy hot, genius.
- Indian trains.
- The lack of Nepali trains.
- The mazes of bookshops in Nepal.
- Metamorphic chocolate that has melted, been reformed, melted, been reformed over and over since the Brits left — before being handed to you.
- Cholera outbreaks. Malaria. Mosquitos the size of my Kate Spade wallet.
- Having an excuse to drink Coca Cola. (It kills all thing malevolent in your tummy).
- When all the Jungle Book characters come to life. (Save Shere Khan. Next time, India, next time.)
- Free wifi.
- When the free wifi works!
- Having to buy bottled water so I don’t die — but seeing so many plastic bottles in the Himalaya-worthy mountains of trash that fill the cities and villages.
- Bollywood movies. The catchiness of the songs is directly proportional to the implausibility of the storyline. Special mention to Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty.
- Sneaky taxes. 13% + 10%? Come on Nepal.
- The Indian hobby of just sitting… staring…
- Being offered drugs every ten steps in Thamel: ‘Smoke, madam? Fun, madam?‘ Must be the floral harem pants.
- The way Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity all mix in a holy, heady harmony. As my host in Nagarkot put it: ‘I’m Hindu – I go to Hindu temple. But also to Buddhist temple! Easy. All god, all good.’
- When you’re really getting the hang of the language and order, in basic Nepali, ‘vegetable pagoda’. It’s ‘pakora‘. A ‘pagoda’, as we all know, is a temple and not at all edible.
- All the coconuts.
- All the mangoes.
- Getting an introduction to where your meat comes from.
- Going vegetarian!
- The child beggars.
- The, startlingly, beautiful Himalayas.
- Varanasi again (both categories).
- That you can’t change the equivalent of a $10 note anywhere save a hotel, leading to an obsessive and jealous hoarding of 10 and 100 rupee notes.
- 80% humidity. Not cool, Southern India. Literally, not cool.
- Thali plates of vegetarian goodness for less than the price of a Myki swipe to get you from one side of the Melbourne CBD to the other.
- Getting to start your delicious meal when it arrives, rather than waiting for all the other poor hungry sods at the table to be served.
- Spending $1.20 on dinner. And then $120 on cashmere.
- Trying to swim in a saree when someone pushes you into a pool.
- Prayer flags. It’s been remarked that it’s impossible to take a bad photo in Nepal. True dat. Did you know that the idea behind prayer flags is that, when the wind blows, the prayers are whipped from the flags and carried into the sky to bless all sentient beings? Aww.
- Gleaning a new sense of appreciation for your sweet, sweet life every time you successfully cross a road.
- The word ‘namaste‘.
And now, from the land at the top of the world to the land of the rising sun. (Autocorrect just tried to change that to ‘land of RSI’ and, to be fair to autocorrect, the Japanese do play a lot of video games…)