I shook hands with my opponent across the chess board. Beams of early-afternoon sunlight broke through the roof of the Pokhara cafe where we were sitting.
My opponent grinned a toothy grin. He was dark-skinned, freckled, missing one of his front teeth, and had a big, bushy white beard. He wore a light scarf wrapped around his head. This was the Malaysian.
Fifty-one years old, professional itinerant, and damned good chess player.
He’d just taken four out of five games from me, smoking hash almost the entire time.
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The next day I resolved to escape Thamel.
I awoke with a sore throat and a cough — a common traveler’s affliction in Kathmandu.
The past two days had been exhausting; and without a trek to take, my motivation to go back and tangle with the shopkeepers and hustlers was low.
I strolled over to Himalayan Java, where I again purchased the big breakfast and two coffees. I brought along my computer and researched treks. Remembering the woman I had met in Himalayan Java yesterday, I expanded my search to include the Annapurna treks.
I carried Yanti with me as I walked the streets of Thamel.
I was still a little wary bringing a $1,000 computer onto the streets of Kathmandu, but I was slowly starting to feel comfortable in the chaos. As long as I carried the bag slung crosswise across my body so it couldn’t be snatched, I really faced no risk. Nothing could cut through the thick leather straps, if that was even a thing that happened here. Hell, I’d carried it on the much more dangerous streets of Kuala Lumpur, I could carry it on the streets of Kathmandu.