When you get to Pokhara, you head out onto the lake to admire the mirrored views of the Himalayas or kick back with a cocktail watching the world go by. Or, in our case, it rains incessantly. So we headed straight for the old town, where time has stopped but life goes on.
Now, you know when your parents go on about how things aren’t what they used to be, how neighbours used to know each other’s names and how the high street used to be so different? This is that. A one-stop lesson in what a perfect high street was. The drizzle had driven what tourists there were away, so we shuffled up the road under a combination of suspicious glares and friendly smiles.
On the traditional row of Newari buildings, the shops are open-fronted and painted in faded shades of pastel. And each place does one thing. There are no ‘burger/pizza/chicken/kebab’ hybrids. No pound shop extravaganzas. No special offers. You know where you are here.
In a scuffed powder pink room, an old Singer sewing machine takes centre stage, the tailor draping a protective arm over it, his clients waiting and his kids playing.
The pharmacy has one wall lined with drugs and another lined with people, the pharmacist himself engrossed in a group chat about various ailments.
One lady has only snacks, their garish packets hanging down from plastic holders. Another just fruit, the display of apples and bananas on metal hooks standing out brightly against the dark wood backdrop.
The recycling bank is an open-air affair, the local men picking through bags of rubbish, trying to make sense of it. A few doors along, two women sit on the floor of their shop, chattering amongst the handmade terracotta pots they are trying to sell.
And it’s a family business, this. A three year old boy flies back and forth on a makeshift swing outside his front door. A mother plays with her two young sons on the porch, only pausing on the rare occasions that a customer comes along. Groups of siblings sit on their steps, not even speaking to each other, just co-existing.
It might be raining, but still, it’s quiet. We have no idea how this street survived. We’re just really glad it did.