After spending 10 nights in a village in the mountains overlooking the Annapurna region, I’ve grown accustomed to waking up before 6am. Even a week later sleeping in a 10 bed dorm in the middle of busy Thamel, Kathmandu I’m waking up at 5am. I do some meditation, I do some yoga, I watch some YouTube. It’s nearly 7am…time to stretch my legs, maybe I’ll grab a nice roti curry for breakfast at some local shop.
Upon stepping outside I see this is not gonna happen. Almost every place has their metal shutters down. There ain’t much activity on the streets yet. But this feels pretty nice – to have the streets to myself in the morning hours. I can enjoy this.
I start wandering about, find an open cafe (maybe I’ll do some blog writing), but the coffee here is at a crazy price ($1.50usd – yeah…that’s crazy in Nepal). A local Nepali is standing outside the shop and he says “Hi” to me.
“Hey brother! Why don’t you come in for a coffee?” said with a friendly smile. I figure he works here and is gonna entice me into the shop.
“Nah nah. This coffee is too much. Too much,” I let him know very sternly and with no hesitations to jump on (any wobble in your voice and locals feel it and dive hard into selling). But he doesn’t work here, he says, “I’m poor too. Poor in the pocket, but full in the heart. Here, let me show the local palace.”
I walk with him around the corner to a small stall. They’re making chai, coffee, and small veggie omelettes. He orders in Nepali and I’m like, “Woah! Woah! How much is the coffee here.” He tells me it’s 2 for 50npr ($0.50usd).
“Ok…But I don’t want two coffees.”
“Aeehhhh…One for me brother.”
“Eh…alright, fine.” I buy him a coffee.
Turns out Prim’s (Prim is his name) a bike cart driver and has been for the past 23 years – since he was 16 years old. Sitting next to his cart we’re talking and drinking coffee. He offers me a ride down to Durbar Square (a famous temple square). I tell him that I’m alright, I can walk any distance just fine. He says, “I have a big heart. You have a big heart. I’ll drive you there for free no problem.”
I’ve heard this gimmick many times in every country of SE Asia so I continue to say no. But he is insistent and there is something about him that makes it feel a little less like a gimmick so I say very clearly, “I will not pay any money for this cart ride. You are ok with this? I will pay nothing.” He says “Yes, brother. I’ll show you temple x, the square, temple y.” Alright…I hop into the cart.
It’s still quite early around 7:30am. Most shops are still closed, but at certain large intersections things livin up. People are selling veggies and fruits, trinkets, frying food. Wait! What was that about fried food? “What is that Prim?”, I ask pointing at a lady sitting on the street with a fire and a wok full of oil. In the wok are a bunch of little balls and I have not seen this before. Those are “mabmamaembley” Prim says…I have no idea what he said :/ But lets get some 🙂 I buy 10 for 20npr (like 20cents USD). We go a little further to Durbar Square stopping to look at a group of soldiers protecting an ancient temple. Together we enjoy some mabmamaembley; they’re simple fried flour dough balls that are super delicious when dipped into some chai (tea…particularly good in milk tea).
To get into the square they ask for 1000npr, which is crazy talk, so I don’t go in. He continues to pedal us to a new place asking if I’ve tried rice wine or rice beer before. I tell him it’s way too early to drink. “No worries brother! I’m buying!” We stop in the middle of some nowhere street with only locals to be seen. He takes me through some ripped dirty curtains into a small little “restaurant”…really just a tiny Nepali kitchen with a couple tables. He orders up some roxi (local rice wine) and some rice beer and boiled potatoes. Reluctantly I drink the roxi to give him a drinking buddy while he slowly drinks a huge bowl of the house made rice beer. This all totaled to 100npr (about $1usd).
After this, he’s looking pretty drunk, but he wants to show me one more place. I ask if it is safe for him to bike still. “I’ve been doing this for over 20 years. It’s nothing!” Yeah…sounds safe…but I hop in back anyway – nothing is going very fast in these tiny streets. We only drive a short distance until he parks his cart and we start walking to his gambling spot.
Down a few back alleys it starts getting really quiet and surely not a tourist within earshot. It’s starting to get a little sketchy. I feel like I should start to get worried or have a bit a fear creep in at this point, but I’m not scared at all…maybe I’m naive to start trusting Prim with such confidence.
We get to a shop/kitchen with a group of guys playing carrom board. The first time I saw this game was in Myanmar, but here the table is much much bigger. There are two teams where the teammates sit across from each other and the table has 4 holes – one in each corner. The goal is to flick the striker disc into the game discs so that the game disc goes into one of the 4 corner pockets. A similar style to pool but the striker disc starts at a base line after each flick/attempt. The guys only put up 20npr each so it’s just friendly play. I couldn’t figure out all of the rules, but each game disc is worth 1 point with a single red disc worth 5 points. Then after some number of rounds a team reaches enough points to win.
I was supposed to play on Prim’s team…but he kind of got a little too drunk and fell asleep drooling in a chair. Must have been a long night 😉 I hung out a bit with the guys there, they spoke a little bit of English. They even bought me a tea and a little cake. So nice! Eventually I left to continue my day about 3 hours after meeting Prim for a coffee. Maybe I’ll eventually get to do some writing :p
I hope you enjoyed the story – Feel free to check out the “Support Me” page and leave a comment! If you want more stuff like this join the mailing list.