MY RECOMMENDATION: YES
AMAZON SUBSCRIPTION LINK: Mr. Smith Goes to Kathmandu, by Brian Smith
WEB ADDRESS: http://smith-kathmandu.blogspot.com/
BLOG DESCRIPTION: Trials and tribulations experienced by an American couple who sold everything, quit their jobs and moved to Kathmandu, Nepal. Learning how to be a foreigner in a new land and looking for good food, good friends and great adventures. Experience the weird and wonderful differences that make life so full!
MY REVIEW: I thoroughly enjoyed this blog. Learning about everyday life in Kathmandu and surrounding areas is fascinating. Author Brian Smtih writes well and has a real feel for place and description.
Illustrated with lots of photos, that lose a little bit in the greyscale translation, but do give enough of the flavor of the photo's subject.
Giving the Palace The Run Around
Now as I stated recently, I'm the only person I usually see running in the streets of Kathmandu. During a conversation with some expats while we were in Bhaktapur observing the Gaijatra festival the topic of exercise came up and someone mentioned "It's not like you can go running in Kathmandu". Well you can, I do. Kind of. It's a little more like an obstacle course, and in some ways it makes things more interesting. Some times though you just want to run and not deal with all of the traffic and people and cows or whatever might get in your way.
As I've mentioned, the only place I see people running jogging most of the time is around the palace. The house owner of my apartment also recommended it to me as a place to go running. So the other day I didn't get a chance to go out until sometime around 5PM. I really wanted to go running, but the traffic out by the ring road on the way to Boudha would be terrible during this part of the day, so I took the opportunity to try out the route around the palace. I gave it two laps plus the distance from and back to the apartment.
[Not reproduced in this review]
Map showing the route around the palace, almost exactly 1.6 miles.
The palace route has some real advantages going for it. First there are sidewalks around the whole thing, and in most places you can actually use them. In some places they are full of people, like near the east gate and over by the foreign ministry on the west side, but other than those two spots you don't have to run in the road. Because really no vehicles go in or out of the palace area for the most part, you don't spend too much time dodging cars or getting stuck in traffic. Another bonus is that the trees and bamboo that line the walls provide some decent shade from the sun. With many of the normal obstacles removed from my path I was able to keep a fairly consistent pace. Also the mile and a half loop that isn't far from home allows for a nice variable run depending on how I feel, and if I pull a muscle or something it isn't a long walk back to the apartment.
So with all of those advantages, you'd think this would be my new route, but I think I'm gonna stick to the Boudha route. The main reason is that the air quality around the palace is terrible. Sure I cross the ring road on my way out to Boudha, but for the most part the air isn't all that terrible on my way out there. Around the palace I felt like I was constantly sucking exhaust. Narayanhiti Path and Kanti path are especially bad. The sidewalks that are concrete are fine, bu the brick ones, though even enough for walking are a bit tough when running, during these segments I usually shifted to running on the side of the road. While the trees and bamboo provide shade, they also provide homes for birds and fruit bats, and thus when running under the trees on Kanti Path especially, not only do you have to dodge poo from the sky, but you have to inhale the smell of the poo on the sidewalk.
While the sidewalks are nice, young Nepalis seem to like to take up as much space on a sidewalk as they can. I don't think it's done on purpose, but it's common to see four people spread out perfectly to take up the entire length of the sidewalk, and thus you end up jumping off and back on to the sidewalk. The sidewalk near the foreign ministry is always full of Nepali people waiting to get a passport. The quantity of people there is always really high, and due to this the number of people already walking in the street is already high, thus you end up dodging people and oncoming traffic through this section. Also there is very little difference in elevation over this route, just a few places with some minor variation giving some gradual up hill and down hill segments. On my route out to Boudha I get a couple of really good hills in each direction, so I get some good practice on both up and down hill running.
All in all maybe not a bad place for an early morning run before the traffic gets going. I'm sure I'll use the route from time to time, but all in all not too impressed. If I want to do some distance running once in a while it might not be a bad option if I got up in the morning and did like five laps or something. Running long distances otherwise gets me too far from Kathmandu, and I'd hate to strain my calve way out by Sundarijal or something.
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