RSS

Tag Archives: markets

Seoul, Korea – Week 2

Revisiting Olympic Park – Peace Gate

When I lived in Seoul I was part of an inline skating group called OOPS. Now, many might think this name perfectly appropriate especially for first time skaters, but in truth it means Out Of Park Skaters and they never even realised the irony of the name until I kept repeating it every time I fell.

Being part of that group was another reason why my time in Korea was so fantastic. They accepted and made me part of their inner circle without a moments thought or hesitation and I got to experience far more of the Korean culture (especially the drinking part) than I would have without them.

We used to meet every night at the Olympic Peace gate at Mongchongtosong subway stop on the pink line. There was always a sense of peace and relaxation at this park with reflecting ponds and the eternal Olympic flame. Returning to meet up with one of my closest friends from OOPS seemed like the perfect combination. I couldn’t wait to sit under the arch and relax, so leaving early to have some time to contemplate I headed that way. Unfortunately when I exited the subway I discovered a massive event going on, people and security everywhere. Well there goes the contemplation idea. Security was super tight and everything was blocked off, but I managed to find a spot to sit and watch the goings on.

So Young arrived a little late but we recognised each other immediately! It was amazing to see her, and it surprised me again how seeing someone after so long with only minimal contact can still feel like I met them last week. We giggled and talked and laughed and headed off to find some lunch. Behind the Olympic Park area is a back alley section with tons of restaurants and bars, walking through there was like dejavu. I even remembered us all visiting some of the places (my mind sometimes amazes me). We went to one of our regular hang outs from 8yrs ago and had Korean BBQ. Delicious as usual.

So Young and me at Korean BBQ

Then a short walk to Jamsil station area and coffee and cake. Not quite sure how we managed to fit in the massive slice of honey cake, but it was delicious. So Young agreed with Number 1 that I should return to teach… who knows, maybe I will.

Honey Cake

So Young and Honey Cake

We planned to meet for dinner the next night and said farewell. I truly hate saying goodbye.

The Dangers of Korean BBQ

Sunday was a very chill day, I made a big breakfast for everyone and then relaxed most of the day. Later Jamie and I explored some of the neighborhood and then headed off to meet So Young for dinner. We went to the same Sam Geup Sal (Korean BBQ) place we had been to the first night. The owner remembered us and especially Jamie being vegetarian.

We had a great evening and while Jamie practiced Korean with So Young, I ate… and ate… and ate. It was so yummy and even though I was full I thought just one more piece. Also it is very Korean to pass pieces over to friends and you can’t say no, So Young and I were doing this to each other all night. I ate so much my stomach hurt to breathe.

Later Jamie headed home and we headed for cake and coffee. We found a place with a slice of chocolate heaven and sat down to enjoy. About mid way through I had a stabbing pain in my upper right side of my back when I inhaled. It was like someone had punched me and bruised my ribs. So Young and I walked around a bit to see if that would help but finally had to say goodbye. I will miss her tons and hope to see her again before I leave.

I hobbled home and as I got in I collapsed on Jamie’s bed clutching my back and hyperventilating saying “I…. think….. I …. hurt…. my ….back”. She looked really concerned and then said “do you think you have to fart?”. Ummm well I hadn’t thought of that since it was so high up. But yes, in the end it turned out to be severe indigestion… note to self, moderation…moderation!!

Boston Campus Revisited

During my 3yrs in Korea I worked at a hogwan, after school program, called Boston Campus. I came for 11mths and after 3yrs my mom asked if I was ever going to return home, I simply renewed my contract each year and flew home for a month in between to keep my green card active.

Hoping onto the number 5 purple line I headed towards Sangil Dong. After some confusion trying to remember how one of the transfers worked I arrived. Up till now my memory had been pretty good at finding the right exits and such but I had to admit, nothing looked very familiar. I took the exit 4 and then decided it must have been exit 1 so walked above ground till I found it. Still nothing! Finally I called number 1 (my code name for my first taekwondo master) and asked. As I started asking I remembered it might have been the stop before, Godeok. Damn it all to heck, so close and yet so wrong! So back on the train and off to Godeok. This time I remembered the exit and found the school no problem.

I couldn’t believe how much it looked the same after 8yrs, everything was the same, from the art work to the plastic flowers. Janet, the head teacher was still there and she remembered me, so did the art teacher. Janet and I chatted a bit and she told me how bad the economy was and how they don’t pay very much, but if I ever want a job I am welcome back.

Then I went upstairs to find the Principal, we called her the Professor. She wasn’t there but one of the cleaner ladies went to find someone. It was Mr. Lee, he remembered me, but not my name, and he was so happy to see me. He called the Prof and said she was coming. Then we stood for a few minutes with him just smiling, his English is still non existent even after all these years working at an English School.

The Professor arrived a few minutes later and was thrilled to see me, she just stared and me at first and then pointed to a picture of me from a calender that was taken in 2002. “Every now and then I look at it and think of you!”… Awww that’s kind of sweet. She also insisted that I call if I decide to come back and work in Korea.

Afterwards, I walked around the old ‘hood for a bit and explored the shopping center I used to get steamed Mandu in. Finally stopping for a bite of donkas (fried pork cutlet).

Luggage Games
I spent the evening playing luggage tetris on Air Asia, trying to figure out the cheapest and safest way to check my bags. I opted for 40kg checked from Seoul to Bangkok and 15kg checked with 20kg sports going through to Surat Thani.

What’s in a Name

I was meant to meet my good friend, and language exchange, Jinsoo, for lunch. I went to spend some time at Olympic Park without the thousands of people from the week before and was thoroughly enjoying the memories when Jinsoo texted me that he had to go out of town for work. Always, Korean’s work way too hard.

Olympic Park Eternal Flame

I met Jinsoo through my Korean co-teacher, Esther. He was her brother and wanted to have some English practice and since I needed to learn Korean, Esther thought it was a perfect fit. I think he had more work to do than me as his English was fantastic. He taught me to read the symbols of Korean, and now prefer to read it that way than with the western alphabet, he taught me the sounds and the inflections and made it possible for me to pick up a reasonable amount of Korean.

He also gave me my name, Park Da Hi. Park being his last name and Da Hi meaning “big happy, always happy”. When he first told me he wanted to give me that name he said he couldn’t because it was the name of his hamster. And we all know you can’t be named after an animal…. 2 weeks later he arrived to our study session literally beaming!

He proudly announced “I have great news! My hamster is dead!”
I looked at him in confusion and said “why is that a good thing, I am sorry.”
Response, “but that means now you can have the name!”

So, yup you guessed it, I am named after a dead hamster…

Namdaemun Revisited

Wednesday I went to Namdaemun Market again in search of postcards and to see if I truly could find the curio shop I used to frequent all those years ago.

Instead of following my instincts from the subway I looked at the sign and promptly got myself lost. I forgot how truly big Namdaemun was. Eventually I found exit 5, my usual location for exiting the subway and then could orientate myself.

I had a flashback to the past for breakfast. Flat dough fried on a griddle filled with cinnamon and sugar that is hot and melted, truly spectacular.

I kept thinking I was finding my store but there was just something that didn’t feel right about them. Also finding just 5 postcards seemed impossible, only packs of 15. Guess the age of letter writing is going out the door. Then one of the sellers suggested I look down the row and 2 streets over and there was a store that had single cards. I walked down but didn’t get far as low and behold there it was… My Store!!! I couldn’t believe it. I was 100% certain it was the right one. I asked the guy if the store had been there for over 10 yrs and explained how I used to come in almost every week with teachers and even brought my parents here. He wasn’t working back then but he was thankful that I came back. I ended up buying a fan, a pack of postcards that was half the price every other seller had them for, and he also included a little cell phone dangly of a little Korean Drum as “my gift to you”. Yup, this is the place I remember.

On my way out I stopped to pick up a box of yummy delicacies. The maker takes honey that is spun into fine strands like spider webs and then encase some peanuts or almond filling inside them. Absolutely divine. Although when I mailed some home one year, there was an anthrax threat for letters and here came a box to my parents with fine white powder leaking out the one side. Something to remember when boxing them next time.

The honey candy guy – all comedians I am sure

Returning home on the 1hr subway ride home, I felt exceptionally satisfied with myself. 1hr there , 1hr exploring and 1hr back, and all worth it!

I had my favorite spicy chicken pieces and some left over rice for dinner. Think they put extra spice this time, as I lost feeling in lips for about an hour.

Spicy!!!!!

Sisterly Reunion

Today I get to have a reunion with one of my closest friends during my time in Korea. Esther was my co teacher during the first 2 yrs and we became very close. I went to her parents for Korean Thanksgiving one year and spent lots of time with her. I have not spoken or emailed her for almost the full 8yrs. For some reason we just sent messages through Jinsoo, her brother, who uses facebook. Esther tried to use Facebook but never got the hang of it.

I also get to meet her daughter, Christine.

While I waited I grabbed a subway waffle, used to love subway travel just for the food stalls. So yummy and filled with cream like stuff.

We met in the artsy market of Insadong. I used to love coming here just to walk around and look at all the different paintings and paper works and curios.

Lanterns made of Paper

For lunch Esther insisted on buying, I had mandu soup (like chinese dumplings).

Esther had a beef bulgogi broth type thing. So yummy.

We explored Insadong, found the post office and mailed my postcards. Then we took a taxi to Myeongdong as I wanted to show Esther and her daughter the cat cafe. Turns out her daughter loves cats and really wants one, but Esther is nervous as she has never had a cat before. Well, visiting the cafe is great practice.

I looked for Juno, my friend from the last visit and found her hiding in the back of a dark spot on top of a fridge that was keeping her extra warm. She did pop out to say hi though.

There are so many pictures I would be loading them all day. The easiest way to see more is to click on the blog where my flickr photos are. Hope you enjoy them.

All too soon it was time to say goodbye, only after a photo op with the mascot of course.

Advertisements
 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 3, 2012 in Korea, RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Final Day in Pokhara

17th November 2011

Taekwondo at Sunrise

I started my last day in Pokhara by waking up at 5.45am and meeting Garaub so he could take me to watch his taekwondo class. He was so excited that I was finally coming to watch. About 9 kids were there already and started doing warm ups with 2 of the higher belts leading the way. A few minutes later the master showed up. He seemed a little nervous to see me and apologised profusely for not having his uniform on, but that he hadn’t known I would be coming that morning. Then he made me stand in front of the class and introduced me, making all 9 kids bow to me. It has been such a long time since I have been involved with taekwondo and it felt really good. For those of you who don’t know, I lived in Seoul, Korea for 3yrs and earned my 2nd degree black belt while I was there. It is a sport that is still very close to my heart, as it taught me lot of confidence and so much more.

I stood and watched the kids trying not to fall asleep (too many movies the night before), they were doing great and the master tried his best to teach the whole class in English for my benefit, and occasionally to the confusion of some of the kids. The highlight of the class was when he had a couple of the kids show off their sparring skills. He has some good potential in that class. He was a very humble man and tried his best to do good by the kids, by day he would take tourists across the lake and some other side jobs. He was very interested in my opinion of his teaching and seemed pleased when I said it was a great class. We took some photos and as we walked he asked if it was possible to help out with buying some equipment. I said I would try but couldn’t make any promises. As Garaub and I walked home for some tea, Garaub asked me what the master asked me for, he was rather embarressed that he had wanted something and insisted that I did not have to buy anything, it was kind of sweet to see him so indignant, repeating that I was like a sister and did not take me to the class to try get me to provide financial aid. If possible I will help, but it is unlikely as the equipment would need to be bought in Kathmandu and then somehow sent by bus to Pokhara with no guarantee of arriving.

Taekwondo Class – Garaub is 2nd from the right in the front

Bacon Roasty

After tea with Laxmi I headed for a nap as it was barely 7am. Then headed to Fewa Restaurant for my regular breakfast and blog time. I decided to try their Bacon Roasty with cheesy hashbrowns, on Roger’s (who was here a year ago) recommendation. It was delicious, wish I had discovered it earlier. It was also very rich and so made sure I at least finished the important part…BACON!! Somewhere in the back of my mind there is concern about ordering meat in developing countries, but then when it comes down to it, sometimes its worth the risk for the taste!

After breakfast I picked up a few last minute things and then headed back to the hotel to pack and sort. Returning to Laxmi’s I bought another top and a few other smaller items and then helped her adjust the hem of one of the pants I bought.

Laxmi sister

Back at the hotel I met a couple from Australia, both of them engineers working on a project for Engineers Without Borders. They were about to head out on their motorbike to do some touring. I gave them some advice from the places I had been the day before and we decided to meet for dinner later that evening.

For lunch I met Gaurab and Laxmi and headed to the Tibetan restaurant for momo’s. I wanted to treat them to something as thanks for adopting me and treating me like family, when mine was so far away. They were both so excited as I don’t think they get to go out that often. They both ordered banana lassi’s, a selection of momo’s and I had a lemon soda (fresh lemon juice with soda water, my new favorite).

Laxmi, Gaurab and me at Tibetan Restaurant

Afterwards I gave Gaurab a hug in farewell, he got a little emotional but seemed to listen to me when I made him promise to study hard and listen to his mother. I think he had got attached and used to having me around, I will miss my little brother and his wonderful mother, my sister.

World Politics

Had a glorious hot shower, scrubbed down, shaved and chilled out a bit. Hearing voices outside I went to investigate and discovered one of the Aussie engineers chatting with a guy from Luxemburg. We quickly fell into a discussion about world politics, Africa, China and much more. There is something to be said about the ease at which world travelers fall into conversation with each other and discuss things bigger than themselves and yet we all seem to see the answers, and they seem so simple.

All this talk of saving the world made us hungry so the engineers and I headed to the Tibetan restaurant for momos. Oh so yummy. The conversations morphed into life experiences, jobs and travel adventures, one of my favorite things to do when I meet like minded folks.

Early to bed as there was another grueling bus trip starting at 6am. My friend Buddha promised to meet me at the bus in Kathmandu and take me out to dinner. Pokhara has been great but I am really hoping to the sun in Kathmandu…


The Closest to Sunshine in 5 days

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Shopping Nepali Style

15th November 2012

Early Morning Taekwondo

Ever since I told Garaup about having a black belt in taekwondo, from my years living in Seoul Korea, he has begged me to come to his early morning class at 6am. So at 5.30am in the pitch dark I rolled out of bed threw on some clothes and headed out into the night. I knew round about where they would be having class, and headed in that direction. It was about an 30minutes before sunrise and a beautiful time of the morning. This mist was rising off Few Lake and creating an eery presence to the morning. I could hear the disembodied ki-aps of the students but could not find entrance to the field. As I wandered down a lane full of buses I came across a staircase leading over a wall to some houses. I was fairly certain they were over the wall, but didn’t want to be that tourist that merrily walks into peoples yards at 6am in the morning. Call me a scaredy cat, but growing up in South Africa certainly makes you more cautious. Around 6.20am I gave up and headed back to the hotel. As I turned to look back at the lake one more time the sun’s rays had just kissed it and it was stunning, for a brief second before the grey clouds realised they were being lackadaisical in their duties and quickly filled the hole. I fear it might be another dreary day, but hey at least there are momo’s in this country, maybe for breakfast after another few hours of sleep.

Sleep didn’t last too long as I received a call from Raj, one of our drinking mates in Kathmandu. He is hilarious that guy, but not at 7am, I mumbled some kind of greeting and put the phone down. Oh well I was due to meet the German folks from Dresden at 8.15am anyway, may as well just get up. Headed over to Few Restaurant and got settled, unfortunately there was a misunderstanding on time and they had been there about 20min earlier. Oh well, all good though as Fewa has decent wifi, so I was able to sit and work on my blog. Been there so many times I pretty much have a table and they know how I like my coffee, one of my favorite things about stopping in one place for longer than a few days.

Walking Fewa Lake

As I could tell the sun was desperately attempting to break through the impenetrable barrier of clouds I decided to enjoy what little sun, or rather glare, there was and go for a walk. For weeks before I had arrived here I had dreamed of talking a daily walk around part of Fewa lake, relaxing perhaps sitting with my singing bowl I was yet to buy, and I was looking forward to it. I put on my MP3 and headed out. After some interesting criss cross maneuvers along the path and field that were saturated with the rain I finally made it to the path around the lake. EXCELLENT!!!!

The path turned out to be all of 500m long, it just stopped at the edge of the lake to the left and at the boats you could rent to go on the lake to the right. I was gutted to discover the only way around the lake, other than by boat, was to walk through town. As much fun as that can be it was not the relaxing, zen like hike, I had been imagining all this time. Oh well if you can’t beat ’em may as well walk and explore the main drag, luckily I had forgotten my money at the hotel so had an excuse everytime a seller approached me. I wish I had more money to be able to sit and bargain and interact with all of them, as it is one of the most enjoyable and occasionally frustrating things to do when traveling.

Rent-a-boat

Shopping Trip!

Popped in at Laxmi’s for tea and she said she was going to go to town to get some supplies and look for some cloth for me if I want a traditional outfit. I asked to join and we decided to leave in an hour. Went to get changed and take a rest and then headed back.

We hopped on the local bus and squeezed into a seat. Then enjoyed the 20 minute ride out of the tourist center and into the local shopping center. When we got to our destination we hopped off with barely enough time for both feet to hit the pavement before the bus hurtled off in search of more passengers. Laxmi uses one shop to buy material and the fabric was all absolutely stunning, the colors amazing and the embroidery beyond description. Unfortunately, even with the owner giving me the friend of local discount, it was still too much to pay for an outfit I might never wear. In hindsight I kind of wish I had, but when you are in backpacker penny pincher mode its often hard to see hindsight…

We walked around a bit and she bought us some peanuts to share. They are roasted out in the open, in their shells. Very yummy!!! She also chose some Indian style bracelets and bought us each a set, “a gift for my sister”. Explored some of the local produce and then caught the bus back home.

Prickly Cucumbers…


Fresh Produce on Every Corner

As we boarded the bus and squeezed into the front seat we were rewarded with this, some of the best word art on a vehicle yet… I am still not sure what to make of it!

Ummm… well I guess it’s better than two pieces…

To Stay or To Go

Back in Pokhara I went to my usual wifi spot at Fewa Restaurant to check emails and chat to friends. Chatted a bit with my mate who had been in Pokhara a year before in January about staying or going. He said the weather would clear if I wait another day. But considering the weather reports keep pushing the sun out another day, I am seriously doubting that. I will give it a few more days, but am leaning towards heading back early. At least in Kathmandu I have a great friend who can take me to many places on his bike and show me all the nooks and crannies with yummy local food. Staying in Pokhara is going to result in a serious dip in my bank account as I am just not motivated to go out sightseeing when it threatens, and often succeeds, in pouring with rain each day.

Around 6pm I headed over to the family and helped Gaurab with his homework. He told me that I should come and stay and teach, he would talk to his teacher and get something sorted for me. In his words:
‘Cause you’ve got skill Kathy, you’ve got skill!” Well at least I know I have skills somewhere. Laxmi is just amazed at how he listens to me. Unfortunately she was brought up very traditional and Gaurab, being a boy, barely has to disagree with her decision before she gives in. She changes significantly when her husband gets back, I don’t think he is mean in any way, but she just becomes quieter and more deferential.

I am a little concerned because she has developed a bad cough and was vomiting last night. I wish there was something more I could do, she is so sweet and am so blessed that she adopted me as her sister. Luckily Gaurab has facebook so we can stay in touch a little at least when I leave.

Back “home” involved curling up in bed with the movie channel…

 
2 Comments

Posted by on March 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

KATHMANDU!

Breakfast and New Friends

Since I had skipped dinner last night being so tired I went for the expensive breakfast, with 2 pancakes (crepes), honey, coffee, juice, 2 eggs any style and hashbrowns. A whopping $3 US give or take a few cents.

mmmmmm yummy!

While I was sitting sipping my coffee I struck up a conversation with the girl at the next table and within a heartbeat she popped over to my table and we were soon deep in conversation about travel and shopping in Kathmandu. At least until I tasted the hashbrowns, which were more a fry up of potatoes, onions and tomoatoes. It was amazing and actually stopped me mid sentence (not that I would have been talking with my mouth full mum). She was leaving that afternoon and needed to do some last minute shopping and so I asked if I could join her. Jessa lives in the UAE but is from the Philippines.

Shopping Nepal style

To say that walking through the streets of Thamel, Kathmandu is an assault on the senses would be an understatement, and from what I hear it is quite tame when compared to India. I was overwhelming and brilliant at the same time, with noise and colors and smells and music everywhere in every crevice and coming from every corner.

Beautiful colors

I hate shopping but I love markets like this, where you can bargain and meet people and dig through treasures piled higher than your head in stores the size of a porter potty.

stalls by the dozen

I was enjoying this preview of the market with Jessa and found it very amusing to watch her bargain. Here I thought I bargain hard, but Jessa throws in the sympathy card as well and wraps the store owners around her little finger. I should have taken notes. Our first stop was an art shop, to get something for her boss. We waded through piles of canvases until she found 2 she liked and then proceeded to bargain the guy down to well below his original price. The paintings were spectacular and all done by local Nepalese artists, apparently. I hoped to pick one up before I left.

Beautiful art

Then onto a little road side store that was barely the size of your average lemonade stand, to find a few keyrings. I was looking for a new bag, as the one I had bought in Ecuador and carried for almost 7mths really cut into my shoulder and I loved the styles here in Nepal. We finally found a store with some good looking ones and the owner ushered us into the back to see the rest of his stock. Turns out, apparently, he runs the factory that makes them, or one of the factories might be more accurate. We browsed and searched and pulled what felt like hundreds off the shelves to open and try and look at and finally I decided on a multi colored one and Jessa chose 2, plus a skirt. The owner then offered us tea, a habit that I would find most delightful in Nepal. We chatted and looked at photos of his children.

Jessa, Bag Guy and me

Another useful thing is that everyone seems to have a brother, cousin, uncle, sister… who runs a store with exactly the item you were thinking of purchasing. In this case the bag guy’s brother ran a pashmina store. We went in to have a look but Jessa didn’t have enough cash on her to buy one so we moved on back towards the hotel. That is until we saw a bag that Jessa had to have, she went and exchanged some more money and bargained for the bag, then with a few extra rupees we went back to the pashmina guy and, much to his bemusement, got a scarf (of the cheaper quality) at a 3rd of the price.

Meeting Buddha

When we got to the hotel she proceeded to run around like a busy worker bee exhibiting ADHD. It was quite amusing to the rest of us who just stood outside and watched. Finally she was in the taxi and heading to the airport. We exchanged info and promised to stay in touch both wishing we had met each other earlier.

After the whirlwind died down I asked Yoge (hotel owner) about a place called Monkey Temple. The conversation went something like this:
Y – you can walk
K – How long would that take
Y – oh about 30min or more uphill
K – what about a taxi
Y – you could do that or my friend here will take you on his motorbike.
K – how much would that cost
Y – oh you can pay or not pay its up to you (another trend in Nepal is this wishy washy statement)
K – oh ok well that would be great, if you don’t mind (looking at the guy next to the rather large bike)
Y – oh he doesn’t mind, he is on vacation from the cruise ship

Turns out the mysterious friend, who just sat and smiled through out this entire exchange went by the name Buddha, and is a bartender on international cruise ships. He said he was happy to take me as he had nothing else to do, how about we meet in an hour.

And so started a great new friendship with Buddha. Who else can say they have Buddha’s phone number 🙂

Not 1 but rather 3

We met about an hour later and after a few minutes of figuring out just how I was meant to climb onto the back of his offroad bike that was higher than my waist, we were on the road.

I thought we were just heading straight to Monkey Temple but instead we went to 3 separate temples. The first one was a Hindu temple called “Pashupatinath”. Also known as Pashupati, it is the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu and considered the most sacred amongst the temples of Lord Shiva.

Only Hindus are allowed to enter the temple areas, but others may walk around the area and try catch a glimpse of the inside.

The temple


Inside the temple

In addition to having to be of the Hindu faith to go inside, no leather (including clothing and shoes), photos or videos were allowed to be taken inside.

Need I say more...

For most temples in Nepal there is a small entry fee for foreigners and so after finding the small booth and paying we set about exploring the non-Hindu areas. The architecture and carvings were amazing.

carvings

As we rounded one corner there was a strange smell of cooking in the air. Buddha turned to look at me with an impish grin and asked:
“BBQ anyone?”
I barely restrained a positive answer as his smile told me there was more behind the smell that meets the … ahh… nose. I was right. The one bank that lined the river was the local crematorium for Hindus. Booking was required and then you could incinerate your family member and push the remains into the river. Remind me not to swim. It was strangely hypnotic to watch, you don’t want to, but its such a fascinating part of the culture you can’t help it.

crematorium

As we wandered through this vast temple we chatted about all the countries we had been to and how we got where we were. There were macaque monkeys everywhere and you had to be careful if you were carrying anything edible.

Macaque monkeys

The path wandered up the hill and gave you a spectacular view of the temple and surrounding city, it was quite impressive how it seemed engulfed by the surrounding houses.

Pashupati temple


Pashupati Temple

We stopped for a soda at one spot and watched someone give one of the monkeys some cookies, am not sure why she gave him the wrapper as well because that just gets added to the litter.

cookies!!


cookies 2!!!

There were also a lot of spotted deer in the “Deer Park”, or rather an exceptionally overgrazed fenced off area.

Spotted Deer

As we continued to walk we passed through another part of the temple that had troops of monkeys everywhere, but you could tell there were definite group structures… and that had nothing to do with the very loud, potentially dangerous to all around territorial spats that were going on. The local snack sellers (who just spread out their wares on blankets) carried slingshots just in case they got a little carried away or tried to shoplift (or maybe blanket lift) a quick treat.

Pashpupati temple


very new babe



keeping a lookout

After a good couple of hours we headed out of the temple. On the passing an enormous bull. There are cows everywhere often sleeping in the middle of the road, but as it is against the culture to kill them they are allowed to roam free, often not even having true owners. As we left I bargained for a necklace and got her down from 1000rs ($12US) to about 600rs ($8), but knew she still got one over me when she agreed to readily.

Bull anyone?

Buddhist Temple

Our next stop was a Buddhist temple, much more to my liking as they always seem to have a very welcoming and calming feeling. Boudhanath Temple (Boudha for short), has a massive stupa Sanskrit for meaning “heap”, a mound-like structure containing Buddhist relics), that dominates the skyline and is surrounded by stores and restaurants. The stupa’s massive Mandala (sansKrit for circle) makes it one of the largest spherical stupa’s in Nepal. I think it became one of my favorite places to visit and walk around. On this occasion it took me about 3 circles before I realized we were walking in a circle, I had started thinking some of the stores were chains.

Boudha Stupa


The massive stupa

It wasn’t only the amazing artwork and numerous small temples you could pop into or turning the prayer wheels, it was watching the people, such beautiful people.

Monk


Buddhist couple


"Miss Nepal" according to a bystander


the song "Old friends" comes to mind

truly a remarkable place and one I would return to day after day if I could. I even found a singing bowl store that I hoped to return to if I couldn’t find a bowl in Pokhara in a few days. One of the amusing things was when I came out of a temple and found Buddha with a big grin on his face and a new necklace. While he waited for me he decided to try and bargain a Nepali price from a local seller and got his for 250rs ($2), it was also bigger and better quality. We had a good chat with the seller and I ended up buying 2 more for 360rs each (foreign Nepali price…), but he did give me a free keychain!

Lunch – Tibetan Style

Buddha took me to a back alley (a place that normally I would most likely never go) and sat down with some locals for lunch. We ordered momos (similar to potstickers), tea and soup. After he had ordered, he told me we were having Tibetan tea which was salty. I thought I must have misheard him so disregarded the comment until I took a big swig of the tea and nearly spat it out exclaiming “It’s salty!!!!”, “told you so” was the reply. I found pretending it was soup made it easier to drink the tea.

Mmmmm momos!

Monkey Temple

It was getting late as we headed to the final temple, Swayambhunath also known as Monkey Temple for the hundreds of holy monkeys that live on the premises. The main entrance apparently has 365 steps leading up a very steep incline to the stupa with Buddha’s eye. But we took the motorbike entrance (and also missed the pay station) which consisted of about 10 steps.

Stupa with Buddha's eyes

We were too late to feed the monkeys but it was beautiful to walk around and admire the city as the sun set.

Tongba anyone?

Back at the hotel I was swept along with Buddha, Yogi (Hotel Silver Home owner) and Raj to go have Tongba (Traditional alcoholic drink) and dinner. It was almost surreal how they just included me like an old friend and pretty soon we found ourselves in a local restaurant which felt more like a house with a large dinning room. We ordered our Tongbas that came in large tin mugs with lids and a metal straw. Tongba is essentially millet seed filled with hot water. The combination creates a mild alcohol and you simply drink the liquid and refill with hot water until the water no longer has a milky appearance, then you get a new one.

Tongba


Buddha and me

It was a great night with great new friends and a perfect ending to a fantastic first day in Kathmandu. It is so strange to think coming here was due to Sri Lanka not working out.

I rarely end up where I was intending to go, but often I end up somewhere I needed to be – Douglas Adams

 
1 Comment

Posted by on January 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Cusco Day 9 – Brits and Breathing…

Jan 14th 2011

My stomach apparently dislikes the altitude and the copious amounts of coca tea I have been consuming. It has started a morning regimen and it is not a particularly pleasant one. Still feeling crappy but need to at least attempt to walk around.

Alpaca Sweaters and Lucio
I had planned to buy an alpaca sweater at some point during my stay in Cusco but it seems the zipper on my brown hoody/jumper decided that I needed to buy one sooner than later. So off I went to scour the alley ways in search of a good deal with as much pure alpaca as possible, there are a lot of substitutes out there. At the end of “my” street I turned left and headed to a little store just a few feet up the road. However, with the angle of the road it felt like it was more a of a mile than a few feet and I was huffing and puffing by the time I got there (a total of 2min walk).

This is when I encountered Lucio! What a spectacularly hilarious guy. His family owns a few alpacas and this is the family business, he had photos and everything to prove it. The very first sweater I tried on was a grey with blue vertical stripes. He was very enthusiastic about this one as it highlighted, how shall I say, my silhouette… which he motioned with his hands, all very amusing. i tried on a few after that and he was happy to give his opinion on all of them but we decided the first one accented my two best features the best. Then we looked for one for my mom, he wanted to know if my mom had two good features as well, just so that he could choose the best options for her of course. Eventually we found one to both our liking and haggled over the price. He finally agreed to 120soles for both (around $40). I had to go back to get some more money so he help onto them for me.
(photo to follow as it won’t load)

Lunch with England
After heading back to the hostel grabbing some money, and a nap, I decided to hunt down some grub and then go get my sweaters. After wandering up and down a section of my street trying to decide which place I wanted to eat I finally decided on Pepe’s. As I was entering the door I realised I was being closely followed in by two guys who had decided on the same place. we both chose upstairs and as we were being seated at different tables we introduced ourselves and ended up combining the tables. They were Mark and Joe from Conventry, England, and they were leaving for the Inca Trail in 2 days. They had only just arrived in Cusco that morning from England and were not sure if they were suffering jetlag or altitude sickness. We decided to hang out for the rest of the day. Turns out my very limited Spanish was fluent as far as they were concerned, so it might have been these skills that aided in their decision to hang out. But lets just go with my stellar personality 🙂

Exploring
After dropping off leftovers at my hostel (turns out another side effect of Altitude Sickness is a lack of appetite – means leftovers for later) we headed out to explore the town and pick up my sweaters. Lucio was excited to meet new people and promised them a good price if they came back. It was great walking with the boys as you felt a lot more confident to stop and take pics and their company also distracted me from the obvious breathing issues I was having. We walked all over the plaza, exploring the numerous alley ways with stall after stall of wonderfull stuff to bargain for.

Mark needed money so we went in search of a bank. As we walked down El Sol avenido the sky turned black and a thunderstorm was eminent. They usually appeared out of no where around 3pm and gave you about a 2min warning before letting loose a deluge. We decided to find shelter and a drink and joked that the bank was most likely the next building (on later investigations it turned out to be true). We made it just in time and what a deluge it was, the streets turned to rivers as we enjoyed a Pisco Sour (a first for the boys).

Uphill
We decided to head to the place I had had dinner the night before to see about food, but there was still 2hrs before dinner service so we headed to the boys hostel. They had, however, failed to tell me that the hostel was at the top of Mt. Everest (at least thats what my lungs thought). By the time we made it up a near 70degree incline to the hostel I was huffing and wheezing like a 2pack a day smoker. After relaxing and catching my breath (only took me about 20minutes) we headed back down the hill to have dinner.

Food Glorious Food
And what fantastic food it was, at least for the boys. Joe ordered some trout and Mark some beef and vegetable thing, both delicious. I opted for something on the appetizer menu as I was not so hungry and chose an interesting sounding mash potato with light pesto and yellow chilli. Turned out to look very pretty, but it was a cold dish and the pesto was overpowering. Not the kind of thing you want when you feel crappy and still the thought of it turns my stomach.

As we paid the bill and were considering leaving they suddenly brought out a free dessert and it was chocolate!!!

An Elephant on My Chest and the Mother of All Storm
The boys walked me home, such gentlemen and headed back to their hostel promising to meet up tomorrow for another day of adventure. I grabbed a shower, tried to watch part of a movie but finally decided to try sleep. No matter which way I lay I found breathing very difficult, and that also leads to panic. So trying to calm myself I tried to focus on deep breaths. However, it felt like an elephant had taken residence on my chest and my lungs felt almost bruised. Finally around 2am I grabbed my blanket and went out to the couch. I propped myself up and that seemed to help breathing. Around 3am I was woken by the sound of rain pelting down and thunder and lightening, I was quite nervous the roof would cave in. But at the same time I loved the sound. Truly an epic tempest was brewing outside.

So despite the battle to breathe it was a great day and I made new friends, always a bonus.

Stay tuned for our adventures around an old temple and the height of my altitude sickness.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on January 25, 2011 in RTW, Travel, Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: