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Bhaktapur – An Ancient Town

28th November 2011

Leaving the stunning Langtan and Himalaya Mountain Range behind we returned to Alpine Sherpa Cottages to have breakfast and pack.

The drive back had us pass through an army unit doing training runs and maneuvers, they did not look too impressed at having to be out running at that time of the morning.

Trying to Sneak a Pic from the Bike

We also past some houses in the process of being built, if “built” is what you could call it. Using bamboo to hold up sections and to align bricks, it was the kind of set up that would building inspectors from the States heart palpitations at the mere thought of it.

Back at the cottages we ordered some tea and within seconds Steve the dog was there. Buddha immediately poured half his tea into the saucer and went off to find him some sort of cookies to eat. I ordered some breakfast and poured half my tea into the saucer for Steve. Buddha returned shortly and started dishing out cookies for Steve, who also got to lick our plates. Once he realised there was nothing more, he trotted off without so much as a backwards glance. I almost felt used, at least Bob sat and waited for us and showed true dedication. Oh well, some strays are just a little fickle I guess.

Good Old Steve!

Just before we left a little boy ran up selling postcards and hand made hats. I couldn’t resist.

It was a stunning day and I was going to miss our little cottage. The views were spectacular as we climbed on board the bike and headed out of Nagakot and on to Bhaktapur.

“Bhaktapur is an ancient Newar town in the east corner of the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. It is located in Bhaktapur District in the Bagmati Zone. It is the third largest city in Kathmandu valley and was once the capital of Nepal during the great Malla Kingdom until the second half of the 15th century.
Bhaktapur is listed as a World Heritage by UNESCO for its rich culture, temples, and wood, metal and stone artwork.”

Courtesy of: Wikipedia

It was a beautiful day to drive to Bhaktapur with the sun shining brightly. Half way down the mountain Buddha decided he was a little peckish and suggested we stop to eat. Considering I had just eaten breakfast I wasn’t too fussed but figured what the heck. We past a few decent looking snack shacks, but he chose one that had “local” written all over it. Something I really enjoy about being with him is that he always chooses the place that tourists would avoid and usually has the best yummies. In this case it was some Nepali tea and some cake like things. After about an hour we neared Bhaktapur. There is around a $15 charge for all foreigners to enter, this is to help in the preservation of the city. Buddha had me cover my head with my scarf and had no problem going through. Turns out they weren’t even checking folks that day. I didn’t feel bad about avoiding the entrance fee as I planned to spend money within the city itself.

Within seconds of entering I was overwhelmed at the beauty of the architecture. This was everything that Kathmandu wasn’t. I got quite irritated that Buddha wouldn’t stop as he was determined to find the city square. But when he did I was glad for it and the only way to explain the history that oozed from every doorway is to show you in pictures:





The Lower Part of the Carving Shows Childbirth


It wasn’t just the history that was beautiful, it was the people and day to day life:

Carrying the Days’ Load

One of my Favorites

A Tight Squeeze

Spinning

We ended the day with some lunch and then drove back to the chaos of Kathmandu. A fantastic 2 days, I wish I had known of these places earlier as I would have liked to spend more time there. Oh well guess I have to come back then…

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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“the Animal Cutting Place”…

26th November 2011

Temple of Kali

This morning we both managed to get going early and head out on the bike. Buddha wanted to take me to, what he called, “The Animal Cutting Place”. It’s a Hindu temple devoted to Kali, the goddess of destruction. How it works is that families bring chickens or goats or the like as a sacrifice. The animals are ceremoniously slaughtered, cleaned and returned to the family to take home for dinner.

The drive was longer and much colder than I had expected and by the time we got there we both had frozen fingers. Parking, we headed down to the temple. I have visited many places around the world but the intensity of this place was off the scale. Even though we were there before 10am there were already hundreds of people and the lines for the sacrifices wrapped round the temple. There was almost a festive air to the place, with people selling food, spices, toys, and everything else. At one point a guy came and tried to sell me a small brass lock shaped like a tiger. Even though I thought it was neat, I resisted and finally, in an attempt to get rid of him, I made the mistake of saying “Maybe later!”. He nodded and walked away. I figured there was no way he would find us in this crowd on the way back….

Everything for sale

Rows of beans

Colors and sounds abound

We attempted to enter the temple area and bypass the hoardes of people, but were promptly shoo’ed out by who I can only assume was “The Keeper of the Line”. So we walked around the perimeter and found another entrance. It was very smoky with all the incense and such and rather overwhelming in truth.

View from above

This is just part of the line

Bells

After wandering around for an hour or so we decided to pop into one of the “cafe’s” for breakfast. It was fascinating watching the food being made, we opted for tea and some sort of donut like things and a bowl of some sort of beans. It was delicious, but really have no idea what it was other than the tea.

Making Donut like things

Breakfast!

About half way through this old gentleman came up to us and started playing a traditional instrument. I wasn’t sure if he was playing for money or was going to try sell me something, but I got 50rupees ready just in case. He was superb and added a great atmosphere to breakfast, in hindsight I wish I had given him a little more.

Music Man

On the way out we decided to buy some veggies to make for dinner at the hotel tonight or tomorrow night. There was so much good stuff to choose from and pretty soon my shoulder bag was chock-a-block full and I was starting to get concerned on how my balance might be affected on the bike.

Remember the guy selling the brass lock, the one I was certain wouldn’t find us in this mass of human beings…. I underestimated the tenacity of a Nepali lock seller. He spotted us immediately and came right over. Being rather insistent and no matter how much we bantered and encouraged him to go sell to the obvious tour group just behind us, he was hell bent on selling me one. Eventually we settled on 300 rupees, as I did kind of like it. Later I found it for 270 rupees in Kathmandu, and that was without bargaining. He certainly was a persistent bastard, and was fun to barter with so its all good.

Walking around the grounds we came across family after family setting up their picnic areas. Each family had rather elaborate hand made screens that were set up and made a perfect private location for a family outing. It was rather touching to watch how the families interacted and it reminded one of how similar all families are all over the world.

Oops!!!

At the bike Buddha got on and then braced himself for me to get on. As I went to swing my leg over I realised that:
1- we were on a slope
2- I was on the higher side
3- my bag-o-veggies was rapidly overbalancing me

My first attempt failed immediately. The 2nd attempt on the other hand had me almost all the way on the bike when I felt the bag slide. Next thing I remember is that the bike lying on me and somehow had managed to kneel on one knee and the outside leg got under the bike. Buddha managed to jump out of the way, but one of the rear breaklights had popped off and was damaged. I also knew I was going to have a whopper of a bruise later.

I felt unnerved and embarrassed, because you know there were people watching. Buddha decided to move the bike up to where a stump would allow me to get better leverage onto the bike. I limped behind him and managed to get on this time. The drive home was insane as it was high traffic time, and if you thought bus drivers were crazy in town, try them outside of town. It was damn near terrifying on one section as a bus wouldn’t let anyone get passed and people were getting quite insistent.

But making it home barely, Buddha took the bike to the shop to get it checked out and I chatted with a couple who were staying in the apartments next to the hotel. He was from Australia and she was Nepali, they lived in Goa, India and were back in Kathmandu to see her family. Its always interesting meeting couples of different nationalities.

After a very interesting, intense and insane day we opted for pizza before calling it a night.

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Singing Bowls!

25th November 2011

Sneaking in for breakfast

around 9am Buddha and headed for Bouddha Temple for breakfast. Technically, you are meant to pay for parking and go through the front gate where tourists pay to enter. But Buddha knew a back route to a little Tibetan tea shop on the edge of the temple. It was definately a locals hang out. Unfortunately they were all out of salty Tibetan tea, awww schucks…. so had to have normal sweet Nepali tea to go along with our freshly baked Tibetan bread, almost like roti. It was a perfect start to the day.

Breakfast Tibetan Style

My Search for a Singing Bowl

After breakfast it was time to find the shop I had seen on my first day in Kathmandu when Buddha had brought me here the first time, it was time to find the bowl that would sing for me.

When I told people I was going to Nepal, everyone said “great, where are you going to trek?”. My reply was always “Trek? I am going to find my singing bowl.” This was often answered with “Singing what???”. Yes, since the first time I saw one of these bowls I have wanted one, but promised myself I would only get one when I visited Nepal. For those who aren’t sure what the heck I am talking about, here is some explanation courtesy of Wikipedia:

Singing bowls (also known as Tibetan Singing Bowls, rin gongs, Himalayan bowls or suzu gongs) are a type of bell, specifically classified as a standing bell. Rather than hanging inverted or attached to a handle, singing bowls sit with the bottom surface resting. The sides and rim of singing bowls vibrate to produce sound characterized by a fundamental frequency (first harmonic) and usually two audible harmonic overtones (second and third harmonic). According to singing bowl researcher Joseph Feinstein, singing bowls were traditionally used in Asia and the tradition of making sound with bronze bowls could go back 3,000 or more years to the Bronze Age.

I had searched for one in almost every shop I had visited in Kathmandu and Pokara and had found none that would sing for me. The guy at this shop had been very helpful the first time and gave me excellent information. As I walked in he recognized me and was very happy to take his time and help me find the perfect bowl. Many bowls seem more intricate and decorated, but are also made by machine. He recommended one of the hand made older ones and I finally found her, and she sang beautifully. She even had Om Mani Padme Hum, the Buddhist chant, in graved on it in Sanscript. I barely had to touch her side with the wooden stick to make her sing.

I also bought a small one for my mom, I wish I could have bought more if I had had the space.

I was given the meaning of Om Mani Padme Hum and thought I would share it, exactly how it was written:
OM: I invoke the path and experience of universality so that…
MANI: the jeweline luminosity of my immortal mind,
PADME: be unjoled within the depths of the lotus centre of my awakeness consciousness….
HUM: and be wafted by the ecstasy of breaking through all bonds and horizons.

Got to love it when things are translated into English.

People Watching

I could sit and watch people at Boudha Temple all day long. Its fascinating to see them walk by and often makes you wonder what their story is. Here are a few of my favorites:

Old Friends


Sri Lankan monk on a pilgrimage, looking for donations


I would love to hear her story


One of my favorite photos


2 Ladies of Tibet, the striped apron is moved to the front after they are married

Kapan Gumba Monastery

After finding my singing bowl and walking around Boudha a few times we got back on the bike and headed into what could be called the “suburbs”. Beautiful big houses out this way. Buddha used to come camping out here when he was growing up, before the city spread this far. He wanted to take me to Kapan Gumba a Tibetan Monastery, apparently quite beautiful. Unfortunately it was closed for the month due to a workshop on Buddhism for foreigners. As we were walking to the gate I heard a South African accent. Turns out the woman was not only from SA but from Durban, my area. You never know who you are going to meet where. We felt the connection instantly and chatted for a while before the bells called her in to more class.

That afternoon, we went to four different cinemas in search of a movie Buddha wanted to watch, but they were either full or had already started. So in the end we just headed back to relax and to play with my singing bowl.

 
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Posted by on May 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Pokhara cont.

13th November 2011

Shake and Wake

At precisely 5.19am I was awoken suddenly by the earth moving, I swear I only had 1 drink last night. But no it had nothing to with that, as a few seconds later I got a text from Buddha asking if I felt the quake. Turns out it was a 5.0 earthquake that lasted 3sec and was felt all through Nepal. Thinking about the “construction”, to put it lightly, of the buildings in Nepal I fear anything stronger may just collapse the entire nation.

But that thought only lasted a few minutes as I rolled over and went back to sleep. After finally emerging and discovering that there was still no hot water I decided to check out and look for a new place. As I only had to be out by noon, I decided to pop down to Laksmi’s and have some tea and see if I had clean laundry, she had also suggested I move to a place just round the corner as her husband knew the owner.

I really like the Nepali tea, black or milk. It was great to sit and talk with Laksmi, and learn about her life. I showed her some photos of my travels and she was shocked to see the one of me teaching at a zoo holding a snake. My laundry wasn’t ready and wouldn’t be for a couple of hours but she called her husband to come and take me to the Nepal Guesthouse round the corner. While we waited we looked at the shirt I had bought the day before as I wanted an adjustment, but then we noticed it had some fading. Laksmi was very embarressed and offered to exchange it for any of the other shirts, I found a nice long sleeve black tunic style.

When Lamsal, her husband, showed up he took me to meet the owner of the hotel, it was literally 3min from their shop and home. Usually they would charge $15 for a room with a bathroom and tv (including the movie channel!!!). But for me, being friends with the family, they would charge me $10. Sounded good to me and I went to collect my stuff and check out of Hotel Miracle. When it came to pay the not surprising miracle was that they wanted to charge me $15 , but I insisted that I had been quoted $10, so I was able to check out at that price (even if they did use a high exchange rate). Settling in my new place my first step was to have a hot shower. Oh joyous joy of joys. Only fellow travelers who have missed a good shower for over a week will truly understand the sheer pleasure of hot water running through your hair and being able to suds up without the fear of it changing it frigid ice water. The wifi was still weak but I decided I may as well find a restaurant to work in anyway.

Exploring Pokhara

Jens was coming over to meet me so we could walk around Pokhara a bit and then later we were both invited to Laksmi’s for dinner, traditional dal-baht. While I waited I indulged in a Nepali delicacy, Mo’Mo’s. They are like dumplings or potstickers and are filled with veggies, chicken and or buffalo. Yup you heard me right, due to the large population of Hindu’s, cow is not on the menu, however the “tame” buffalo are free game and rather yummy. The waiter did warn me about the sauce, but having had it before I dug in without fear.
Note to Self, Believe the waiter. This was not the same sauce as I had already tasted and I nearly choked as a fire ball singed my esophagus and might have even gone up into my nasal cavity… Just as Jens walked round the corner.

The it was off to explore. There were so many things to see and buy and well I normally hate the very idea of shopping, give me a market where I can bargain and I am in Heaven. We stopped in at a local jewelry store and ended up sitting there for almost an hour having a fascinating conversation with the owner about stones, and semi precious rocks, and old jewelry vs new. It was truly interesting and it wasn’t as if he was trying to sell us stuff (although I am sure he would have loved it if we bought something, preferable the more expensive stuff. Something that was a surprise was that people found fossilized red coral in the mountains, indicating that the himalayas had at one point been under water. The mountains in Nepal and Tibet are a virtual treasure trove of goodies when it comes to stones and gems. As our shop owner told us in frustration, it is a great source of income for the country if only the government did something to control and organize the mining of this resource. As we left I purchased a small bracelet, known as a dragon bracelet. It has carving on the outside and an etched dragon for protection on the inside, made of tin silver. I bargained him down to 650 (about $8), but in the end he gave it to me for 600. A very nice guy and a shop I would return to in the future.

Tin silver bracelet with "Ohm" sign


etched dragon

Coffee Break

As I was almost out of cash we decided to head back, as the rain started we turned up an alley in search of a coffee shop. We found a small place run by two women. They were very sweet and the coffee was rather good. We sat and chatted with them and watched them weave.

Coffee Shop Weavers

We were lucky to find the place because barely 2 sips into our coffee the heavens opened. It was rather impressive actually and there were times when we worried the wind might take the roof off or the rain come through. Finally it stopped enough to pop out, Jens headed to his hotel on the North side and I headed to mine, planning to meet up for dinner at Laksmi’s. I spent the rest of the afternoon catching up with my diary and watching movies.

An hour or so before dinner time I headed over and helped Gaurab with his home work. He was so excited to have my help and to show me his science project, a well like contraption.

Gaurab and me with his project

Laksmi and Lamsal have another lad who essentially lives with him. I never got his name correct, for the life of me I just couldn’t say it right. At a young age he lost his mother and his father beat him so badly that he broke his arm and he hid in the forest. Laksmi and Lamsal took him on as a shop boy. He is 12 (1 yr older than Gaurab), and spends his days working in the butcher with Lamsal, he comes home for lunch then relieves Lamsal, the same routine for dinner. They can’t afford to send him to school, and he definately has that street wise kid attitude, much to the annoyance of Gaurab. I took a shine to him and could tell he was very bright. Even though he spoke almost no English and my Nepali was non existent we still managed to get a decent amount of communication, most of it teasing each other. A great kid and I take my hat off to Lamsal and Laksmi for caring for him.

Together they taught me a game that reminded me of pool. The difference being that it was on a board and you used your fingers to flick the tokens at each other. Rather painful until you get the hang of it. Just as each of them beat me thoroughly, Jens walked in and so he had a go too.

game time


Jens takes on Gaurab

Finally it was dinner time and I must say it is some of the best food I have ever tasted. Dal Baht also known as Thakali is rice with a soup and various pickles or curries. I had tried it before but it was always too hot. Laksmi is an expert cook and I couldn’t stop eating, it was so yummy. Tasting even better because we were using our hands.

A very good evening, now time for a good night sleep and hoping the sun will come out tomorrow…… 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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