“Why do you always have to go to some jungle doggy weird country? What are you going to do there for 17 days girl? Counting rocks?”
“Daddy, counting mountains indeed.”
I started preparing this note 3 days before my departure from Nepal and to be honest, I couldn’t wait to leave the country. It was not that terrible, yet my heart resisted the love for this land. Part of the reason could be traced back to the strikes from 21st to 28th May, mainly in Kathmandu and some other politically sensitive towns across the country. They just need a constitution!
The nature of Nepal oozes the mightiness of the so-called “roof of the world”, the gorgeousness of summer lush all over the valleys and hasn’t said yet, the unpredictability. I was in Nepal late May early June, which was the pre-monsoon season, so the big question of whether I was lucky enough, as I often as a lovely traveller, to sight any mountain. It’s all up to him, up in the air. We, Alex and I, drove all the way up to Nagarkot praying that from that 2000m altitude and with a very bright sky, we’d see a bit of Everest. Well, our advice is you have to be very very focused and quiet *they call it CALM in kungfu!* to see it!. Besides that 2000Rps effort, I did see some mountains.
Leaving the boring Chitwan with all its elephants, tigers, rhinos, deers, peacocks, kingfishers and crocodiles, after a couple of attempts, driving through a fierce forest rain, we made it to the other side of the mountains. The sky was clear and blue and that’s when I first sighted a snow-capped mountain. It was a little blurred and not so breath taking but hey, I saw it! Travel mood was back but Kathmandu was just like a death city, the look of which was exactly what I always saw on tv about some cities that had just undergone major bombings. It was empty, quiet and doubtful. And well, that’s why I took that ripped-off taxi ride back to my hotel.
Our fail attempt with Nargakot and the Himalayas quite let me down. Just as the café boy told me on the first day in Kathmandu “yeah, it’s very cloudy and it rains like everyday. The season is coming. We sell lots of coffee these days”. After Alex left for Tibet, I caught a bus to Pokhara hoping to see the famous Annapurnas. I saw something on the way that I thought were Everest and Nuptse. But everyone said that was impossible so whatever, they were beautiful!
After 3 days ambushing in Pokhara, doing nothing but reading and watching movie, a bit of paddling and cycling, I sighted the vigorous range with its renowned Fishtail peak, scaled at over 7000m above sea level. I had seen so many photos of the whole Pokhara Valley leaning to the Annapurnas, layering Phewa Lake, roads, houses, hills, etc. but seeing them all by my own eyes, terrific! It made me feel like people there, they just walked and then disappeared forever into the mystery of all the holy mountains.
That’s about mountains. Nepal has another name “the Land of Conflicts”. Different people of different religions and belief are finding their places in that country. You can see a lot of chaitya (small stupa) with symbols of both Buddha and Hindu gods/goddesses. The Maoist and the Hindu have tensely reaches some peace agreement in 2008 after the decision to demolish the monarchy and painful loss of 13,000 people in the nonsense riot in 2006. The King of Nepal, he worshipped Kumari the Living Goddess, a young girl with 36 particular characteristics chosen from some goldsmith and silversmith clans. But the thing is Nepal, every Durbar Square will have one Living Goddess living in her bahal (2-story newar house built around a courtyard). The most famous one is of course the one in Kathmandu Durbar Square that I have got the chance to see her after half an hour sending request and waiting. That girl is 6 years old, from a Buddhist family yet living in a Hindu house and being a Hindu goddess. How harmonic it is!
It’s very funny when I saw Srijana’s ID. She was born in 2046! Yes, they use Buddhist calendar in Nepal.
I did learn a lot about Hindu religion in Nepal, starting from my visit to Pashupatinath, the Hindu “mecca”. Hindu people are cremated when they die. The only people that get buried to the ground are holy men/women who are believed that have devoted all their souls to others. You can choose to be holy person once you find your master and commit to live a holy life. That’s pretty abstract! Next to the main temple in Pashupatinath, the side that’s adjacent to the river is a dying house. Peole are brought there when they are very weak as the death must be cremated within a day. After that people wrap the bodies in yellow cloth, bring them down to the river, wash their faces with holy water from the temple… One more thing, women when they die, their spirits are much stronger than that of men; hence it took longer to cremate women’s bodies.
Interesting? Sort of haha. But all time favourite site is still Boudhanath, the biggest stupa with it famous Buddha eyes. It’s huge!
It’s a mistake not to mention the presence of kama sutra in every single aspect of life in Nepal. Little bronze toys I bought for Andy, tiny kama sutra books, the whole section in any book stores… and of course the many carvings on the external facades of any Hindu temples, especially Shiva temple due to the story of Kali, Shiva’s devil consort.
I was really impressed with Nepalese architecture, most of which were Newar, a very similar form of Tibetan houses. They are all famous for the gorgeous wood carving facades, both external and internal. A very typical example is the Kumari Bahal in Kathmandu Durbar Square. The porch and windows were all brought into great details with typical Nepalese features. Another similar architectural icon is the 50-window palace in Bhaktapur Durbar Square. It was such a pity that I did not had the chance to enter that complex. To make up for it, Alex and I did climb up to Nyatapola Madir, the tallest in Nepal, standing 30m from the ground. In Bhaktapur, you can also sight the amazing peacock windows in Natatraya Square. Patan Durbar Square is quite similar and taking my lesson of paying 15$ for the entrance to Bhaktapur Durbar Square, I walked around and entered the Patan one from a small path instead of using the main entrance. Only two things to be noticed is the abc temple and the “Abode nine thousand Buddhas” terracotta temple not so far from the main square. No wonder Lily, a Californian girl I met while queuing for the visa, said her aunt, after 30 years in Nepal, wanted to build a Nepalese house in the States!
Another thing to be impressed is the school uniforms. Every single school here provides uniforms to its pupils as well as school buses. You can see colorful European style uniforms overwhelming all the streets and old van full of kids honking everywhere in the morning. And kids there go to school everyday, including Sunday!
I really don’t have a lot of travel tips for you all this time for some reasons- 1) My tips would be so outdated when you finally make up your mind to go there; 2) I went to Nepal solely for a holiday, which exactly meant I might, at some point, do nothing at all, except for reading, sleeping, eating and watching movies; 3) I don’t think I will get back there anytime soon and Nepal, frankly, has been pretty disappointed.
But well, I still have to give thought about the people I have met there. Some were really nice. Some were not so. Some were just jerks!
I gave Nepalese girls a hard 10 for their beauty, kindness and sweetness. Nasreen and Srijana are two great friends of mine, helping me out with lots of stuff and trust me, it is really fun talking to and hanging out with a Nepalese girl. Nasreen is an MBA student and she owns a shop near Chetrapati. I met her when I was looking for a local tailor to make my kuta salwar. She took me to her relatives and I got my whole set made in 2 days. Amazing! Srijana is an English teacher and an actress. She is gorgeous. I saw her falling asleep on the bus up to Kirtipur. She took me to her house, treated me with cold Sprite *if you ever know how specious it was under the 38C hotness! * and lychees and showed me around her village. She also let me try buffalo momos, Nepalese rice wine and pura nari, some popping stuffed with curry potatoes… She told me to go back there for her wedding and I should go with my husband. That is actually difficult!
We, by that I mean me and a couple of friends, did get some not so good experience with Nepalese guys. What do you think about a tour guide who repeatedly asked you out for a walk at night along the river? What do you think about a guy who volunteered to show you around Pashupatinath and accidentally touched you some times? What do you think of a taxi driver who said, “Well if you go to my hotel, then we can be good friend”? And what do you think about a hotel manager who tried his luck on every female solo travelers and acted rudely when he knew that we found out what he was doing? I may sound really harsh on them but hello, we are also not some ATM machines and did we look like we needed some local flings? “Cowboys” are everywhere now you know it! I was not in good mood in Nepal so I just say it out loud that those kinds of experience just left a really bad taste in my mouth. Show us some dignity!
Andy told me I was awesome after 2 lemon ice tea and my stories from Korea to Burma to Nepal. The truth is I can make friend everywhere I go :D. I met captain Oskar from Lund in Chitwan. He has spent 2 years sailing from Canada to Sydney and he was making his last destination before heading home for his birthday, which was accidentally Sweden National Day. I met Lamont, an IT guy from US Embassy in Kathmandu who does have created a very nice “Lamont special” *It’s a cocktail*. I met Swee and Sunjoo in Pokhara where we shared a dorm and suffered the worst hotel manager in the world. Swee is from Malaysia, just did Everest Base Camp. She is a professional traveller and she hates Singapore. Sunjoo is a Korean movie-maker but believe me she is nothing Korean, including her love for piercings and her “2 cigarettes per day. Only 2!”! I went out with Melanie, Freddy, Nard and Rachel in Pokhara. We went to watch a silent Champion League Final, yes silent because we couldn’t find the way to connect the TV to the speaker. It was funny! I met Manoz, a singer. And to my surprise, on my last night in Kathmandu and also at Lamont’s farewell party, I was introduced to a Lonely Planet blogger, Daniel the Lucifer. He did talk me into that kind of career and it sounded so free and so great!
Now you know everything, tell me your summer stories.