Today is the day I can safely say I’ve settled here. I moved into an apartment last week, and bought a scooter today. It was a long and difficult process, which I’ll fully elaborate on in a later post.
Ever since I moved into my apartment near Patan Durbar Square, I’ve passed by the same group of taxi drivers every day, twice a day on my way to and from the bus stop. They always perk up when they see the white guy coming towards them and eagerly cry out, “Taxi, taxi sir?” I always shake my head and smile because I’m not trying to pay 400 NRS (3.45 USD) for a taxi when I can pay 15 NRS (0.13 USD) for the bus. Yet as many times as I turn them down, they always offer. I haven’t yet decided if it’s frustrating or endearing.
Today was different. I passed their hangout near the square and turned down the offers like I always do, and jumped on the bus to Naxal. I taught my morning classes, had some tea, and then got in a car with my boss to go to a dealership. I paid 52,000 NRS (448.34 USD) for my refurbished Honda scooter, plus a few thousand for my helmet, registration fee, and insurance. All in, it was 55,000 NRS (474.20 USD). I sat on the back and my boss drove us to the nearest gas station. It cost 500 NRS (4.31 USD) to fill the tank, then we went back to the school. Here’s some pictures of my scooter:
I took maybe 15 minutes to drive my scooter around the school parking lot. My first time ever driving one was the test drive at the dealership, which lasted maybe two minutes. It was rush hour in Kathmandu, and I wanted to make sure I could stay upright before jumping straight into the fire. As I drove back and forth, my boss shared some of his wisdom about Nepal’s bizarre traffic laws.
- If you get in accident and someone is hurt, you can go to jail for up to five years even if it’s not your fault. It’s not unheard of for both parties in an accident to go to prison because the police couldn’t prove whose fault it was and went, “why not both?”
- If a bus driver hits someone and injures them, they are required to care for them for life. However, if a bus driver hits someone and kills them, they only have to pay a settlement to the family. So bus drivers are basically incentivized to kill you if they hit you.
- Foreigners are not allowed to register a scooter under their name — it must be under a Nepali name. So you need a friend who will take you as a liability. I’ll get into that later, but if I get into an accident, my friend may get in trouble.
With those three nuggets of positivity in my mind, I decided to buckle my helmet, drop the visor, and jump out of the frying pan. My scooter has an image of Ganesh, the Hindu god of luck on the front, so that and 15 minutes of practice is all the prep I need, right?
It was about a 30 minute drive in heavy traffic back to Patan, but I made it without incident. Driving a scooter is actually very easy once you get even a little speed going. Kathmandu traffic is a series of incredibly close calls, but I didn’t have any that were especially so. White people driving scooters is kind of a novelty in Kathmandu, so I got a lot of funny looks. Mostly it was dudes my age who would laugh when I flashed a peace sign on the way by. People would do double-takes from their scooters as I pulled up next to them.
I passed by the taxi drivers near the square, who recognized me and cheered some. I’m betting they’ll still offer me rides whenever I walk by, but that’s okay.