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Kathmandu and Lhasa

Kathmandu and Lhasa are two of the most evocative names of cities anywhere in the world and both immediately bring associations to mind. Kathmandu as a ‘rite of passage’ destination for hippies and backpackers in the past and for many gap year students today whilst Lhasa is immediately associated with the Chinese occupation of Tibet and it famous landmark the Potala Palace is the spiritual home of Tibet’s exiled leader the Dalai Lama.

Both cities are also located close to the world’s highest mountain range, the Himalaya, and it is inevitable that anyone planning to trek or climb in the Himalaya will pass through one, or possibly both, of these fascinating cities. I first visited Kathmandu in 1972 but did not return until 1998 but since then I have stayed in Kathmandu more than 20 times. By contrast I have twice been to Tibet for two extended visits but on only one occasion visited Lhasa. Although they share some similar traits and a location close to the Himalaya, one to the south and one to the north Kathmandu and Lhasa are very different cities.

Kathmandu is colourful and hectic but sadly as a reflection of Nepal’s status as one of the ten most impoverished nations in the world, it sometimes appears as if the very infrastructure (as well as some buildings!) are crumbling in front of your face. Indeed on successive visits I have often wondered how the city keeps going with ever more traffic congestion, pollution, potholes and shortages of power. But it possesses a collection of temples, ancient buildings and colourful inhabitants that never fail to make a visit to Kathmandu a fascinating and rewarding experience.

In many ways there are more Tibetan influences today in Kathmandu than in Lhasa as the Chinese occupation of Tibet has resulted in many Tibetans relocating to Nepal  so many people will find Lhasa less colourful and certainly less exotic than Kathmandu as the majority of the Chinese investment in Tibet appears to have been concentrated in Lhasa. Consequently Lhasa increasingly takes on the mantle of a Chinese rather than Tibetan city and indeed Chinese residents now outnumber the Tibetans.

I have long considered that one of the most rewarding trips a photographer can make is to combine visits to Lhasa and Kathmandu with the land journey connecting the two cities along the ‘Friendship’ highway. Such a journey will combine an unequalled range of people, attractions and landscapes and with a short detour can also include a visit to Everest Base Camp but that is for another exhibition on another day. 

I hope it may our exhibition and the images on our website may inspire you to make your own visits to Kathmandu, Lhasa and the Himalaya. I am sure you will have a fascinating experience and will not be disappointed.

 

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