Hey – on a rest day in Lukla today, which is good considering my injured left knee, stubbornly persistent chest cold, and lack of sleep due to cold and altitude of late. Tomorrow we take off, and the Hongu portion of our journey begins. Hopefully our solar chargers will provide enough battery life for the 7D to last the duration; I’ve made a careful shot list and am going to have to be conservative with my filming, but with the extra cards and batteries Skip loaned me, I think it’ll be possible.
Lukla is a strange place where the rapid evolution of the region is perhaps most pronounced. Every business and hostel is entirely catered towards the huge tourist presence and flux — there’s an Irish Pub playing Pogues and a Starbucks with free Wifi, while outside donkey and Yak trains still trod through the unpaved streets.
Despite these apparent comforts, I find the place somewhat cognitively dissonant and disturbing. The locals, assailed by a constant stream of tourists, have none of the friendliness and graciousness you encounter in more remote areas. The environment feels fabricated: the projection of a tourist’s ideal of the place, rather than the place itself. Our lodge played Taiwanese dance music so their tourists would drink and dance into the night. It’s a vacation spot, plain and simple, with the aim of providing people with comfortable vacation experiences. The result seems to be that any underlying or original culture is repressed, hidden, or wiped out. I’m aware that this is a worldwide phenomenon of the globalized age — however, I am anxious to get into the remote Hongu, and see the Rye villages where tourists are rare to non-existent.
The question is, at what point does our romantic perception of a distant Shangri-la turn it into a parody of itself? And what does that create? Will Lukla be identifiable from a European or American city in another 10 years? What is gained, and what is lost?
Since I have this extra boon of time, and since I’ll be out of touch for 3 weeks after this, I’ve decided to frontload as much content as possible. Here’s a few more photos from my travels: