May 25, 2020
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Neon Jungles

Neon Jungles
WHILE it's hardly Las Vegas or Monte Carlo, Kathmandu is well on its way to becoming India's first choice for a wild weekend. And why not? As one Punjabi tourist traipsing round the tourist haunts and casinos observed, "It's the only place we can go where our money goes further than at home." It also helps that you can spend Indian rupees freely, although Nepalese banks look with barely concealed disgust at the torn, stained notes offered by their visiting neighbours. "Why they do that?" one Nepali shopkeeper asked me as I struggled, cursing, to tear apart a bundle of 50-rupee notes stuck together with six industrial strength staples. I couldn't enlighten him.

Indian tourists wander through the neon jungle of the tourist quarter with big grins on their faces. You can find Mughlai, Bengali, south Indian and even Nepali restaurants, not to mention reasonable facsimiles of Mexican, Italian, French and Chinese cuisine. To wash it down, a better choice of beers and local liquor than you'll find at any eating spot in Delhi. There's shopping galore and for anyone who has any money left after Diwali, an opportunity to lose all your remaining cash in the surprisingly calm and wholesome casinos.

Just as another illustration that we're all the same under the skin, I came upon a family from Delhi having an animated discussion in the hotel lobby one morning. "All they want is our money," said a women in a pink sari. "They lie to us, and take us to expensive shops owned by their brothers and cousins." My flash of deja vu wasn't hard to explain. Just listen to almost any exasperated western tourist in Agra, or Jaipur, or Delhi.

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