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Sunday, March 7, 2010

Nepal What a Wonderful Place

Sorry I have had any updates in awhile, but because of the power and the slow internet it is really tough to get access.  Also, I have been quite busy visiting various places and have been exhausted.

Let me first say that Nepal is nothing like India.  The people are all very friendly and not trying to rip you off.  There are some annoying hawkers, but if you tell them "No" 2 or 3 times they leave you alone.  Also, it is not as crowded and although you have to watch the motorbikes it is a lot more pleasant place to walk around.  The only real problem is that the power is off a lot, which is not usually a problem unless it is scheduled to be off during the evening hours and you want to take a shower.  However, most of the hotels have generators. Also, the internet is extremely slow and depending on where the server is located may not be working, which isn’t a problem unless you need to send an email, book a plane ticket or are writing a blog.

Nepal is a very diverse country, and I have only seen a little bit of what Nepal has to offer.  There is of course the mountains, but they also have rivers and nature preserves where you can see tigers, rhinos and other animals, not to mention all the historical and religious buildings (there are a lot). I urge you, if you have the chance, to visit this amazing place and the amazing people who live here.

I arrived in Lumbini on the evening of  Feb. 25 after crossing the India/Nepal border at Sunali.  It was a pretty easy process since I already had my Nepali visa and just involved some stamps checking me out of India and into Nepal.  I exchanged the few Indian Rupees I had for some Nepali Rupees and got a taxi to Lumbini about 25 kms away.

The next day I visited the site where Buddha was born and the many temples that are scattered around Lumbini.  These temples are massive and most are currently under construction.  They are planning a massive center.

Day 18 - Saturday, Feb. 27
From Lumbini I flew to Kathmandu.  Initially I was going to visit some other cities around the area and then I was just going to go from Lumbini to Pokhara  (but there is no bus to Pokara), so instead of taking the 10 hour bus from Lumbini to Kathmandu I decided to take the 30 minute flight, not only is it shorter, but you get a good view of the Himalayans.

I arrived in Kathmandu and was picked up by Rajendra Sapkota (Raj) a business partner of the hotel owner of where I stayed in Lumbini.  Raj, who owns his own Trekking and Expedition business got me a good deal on a hotel in Kathmandu and helped book my ticket to Bangkok.  

Day 19 - Sunday, Feb. 28
The next day was Holi, also known as the festival of colors, is held on the full-moon day in the month of Falgun.  During Holi people spray water and colored powder or a combined colored water around as a reminder of the cooling monsoon days that are about to come.  It seems that foreigners get special attention.  So I ventured out to see what was going on and to see how long it took before someone sprayed me with water.  It took awhile before I was doused with water and then a guy came up to me and put all kinds of colors on me.  Since I don’t have any really old clothes I made a hasty retreat back to the hotel (after my initiation) because once you get colored you are bigger target for more people.  Some people were just covered.  After cleaning up I watched the craziness from the rooftop.  It was a lot of good fun though and most people asked before they put color on you (not the water though).  

He are some more pictures.

While watching from the roof of the hotel I met a girl from Holland who with some street kids in Pokhara in a program that tries to get them ready for school.  Unfortunately the kids can only be in the program for 6 months and she said that many of the kids can’t even write their name (we are talking 11 and 12 aged kids) and that it is very rewarding to teach a kid to write their own name. 

Day 20 -  Monday, March 1
The following day I  met with the Shishir Dhakal, the guy I was supposed to do the 13 day trek to Gosikunda lake, to discuss what we could do instead.  

After our discussion he and I went to pick up the package that my wife sent me and I got to see the bureaucracy of Nepal in action.  First you need to go the Cargo center at the airport (even though she sent it FedEx).  After you show you paper work and sign some stuff you are allowed in the compound (which they charge you for parking).  Once inside you show the paperwork to a guy who writes it in a book and you sign your name, then you bring it to another guy who reviews it and you pay the tax (in this case .17 a lot cheaper than the $50 he thought) and sign your name again and then you bring that to another place where they write it in a book and you sign your name a gain, then you wait for them to bring out the package which they open and inspect to see if there is anything that shouldn’t be in there or not what you said was in there, than you go to another guy so he can write it in a book and you sign your name once again, then you bring it to another place and finally another place to get the slip to show on your way out of the compound, and once you are outside of the compound you need to show the paperwork again, pay some more and then finally leave.  In total, it took about 2 hours to retrieve the package. 

I can not say enough about Shishir, he is a great guy and very honest and runs a top notch company.  As I said I was supposed to go on this 13 day trek, but since my knees were bothering me and I didn’t want to get halfway into the trek and need to be airlifted out I decide to do some other things included a Mountain Flight to see Everest and some small trekking, along with 5 days of seeing everything there is to see in the Kathmandu Valley.  He also took me out to a “Welcome Dinner” to taste some real Nepalese food.  It was very good.  During dinner I found that his company is only a  year old, although he has worked in the business for over 15 years.  It must be very hard to establish a business because there are tons of companies advertising trekking and tourist services.  However, if you are looking for an honest, good company that takes pride in what it does and fantastic service you can do any better than Ambition Himalaya.  Shishir, not only took me to get my package, took me to dinner, met me every morning before I was supposed to be picked-up to go on a tour, accompany on the trekking portion of the tour, but offer to take me to the airport to catch my flight to Bangkok for free.  I cannot recommend him and his company enough.  He offers lots of tours and you can contact him at or or visit the website at

Day 21 - Tuesday, March 2,
My first day of touring of Kathmandu.  First we went to Durbar Square.  Durbar Square, a world heritage site, is a complex of beautiful temples and shrines, both Hindu and Buddhist.  Most of them were built around the 12th and 18th centuries.  It is here that the kings of Nepal are crowned.  It is also where the Kumari or living goddess living goddess live.  She is considered to be an incarnation of the goddess Taleju.  The Kumari is usually chosen when she is 3-7 years old and holds her place as the Kumari until her first menstruation. The new Kumari was just chosen last year.

When we arrived at the Square a young kid came up to me to try and sell me something. I told him I wasn’t interested, but we got to talking and he asked me the normal things: “Where I’m from?, What’s my name? etc. but then he asked me how many languages I spoke and I said just English.  He said you are kidding and I said no.  So I asked him how many languages he spoke and he said 12. He was around 12 and he spoke 12 languages.  

Most of the temples had beautiful woodcarvings and many of which included some pretty erotic scenes.  There are a couple of different speculations of why these erotic images are thee, but no one knows for sure.

Next we went to Swayambhu Mahachaitya or Monkey Temple, also a world heritage site and sits high on top of a mountain (some 300 plus steps). It is believed that the stupa is over 2000 year’s old and consists of four main parts that represent air, heat, earth, and water.

Next we went to Budhaikantha temple which has an amazing 5 meter long image of Vishnu as Narayan which was created in the 7th or 8th century.  What is amazing is that carving is from one piece of stone.  It is perhaps the most impressive, if not most important, Vishnu shrine in Nepal.  The image shows a sleeping Vishnu image (because Vishnu is supposed to sleep through the four monsoon months and big festival is held in November when Vishnu is supposed to awaken from his annual sleep), which lies in a small sunken pond enclosure that foreigners are not allowed to enter.  

Finally, we went to Pashupati temple, which is one of the holiest temples in the world and worshipped by both Hindus and Buddhists.  It is also on the riverbanks of the Bagmati, which is a holy river and like in Varanasi it is a place where people are cremated and their ashes are put in to the river.  When we were there we basically saw all the stages of life: we saw the living, we saw someone near death being brought to the hospital that is on site, we saw a dead body wrapped with its feet in the water for cleansing, and we saw a body being cremated.  The impermanence of life.

Day 22 - Wednesday, March 3

I had to wake up at 5:00 am today to get to the airport for the Mountain Flight that was supposed to go off at 6:30.  I don’t think the flight left until around 8:00.  However, I am lucky because the past two days there were no flights because of the visibility.  Once we took off we had some good views and although at first Mt. Everest had a little bit of clouds around her peak they moved off to the side and we got to see her in all her glory.

After the flight and some breakfast, we visited some more temples including Bajrayogini temple in Shankhu, which is high up on a hill.

We also visited Boudhanath, another world heritage site, home to one of the world’s largest stupas and home to many Tibetan refugees.

Finally, we visited Kopan Monastery, a Tibetan monastery where they offer courses.  They were getting ready from a highly regarded lama from India.  It seemed to be a very peaceful place.


Day 23 - Thursday, March 4

Today we visited Patna, Bhaktapur, and then went on to Nagarkot where I stayed overnight to see the sunset and the sunrise over the Himalayans (if the are no clouds).  Nagarkot is a very peaceful place and is probably like being in the Swiss Mountains of a ski lodge in California.  

Day 24 - Friday, March 5

I got to see the sunrise today and a beautiful view of the Himalayans.  It was very nice, but  I wish my wife was here with me to have someone to share it with. I can’t remember the last time I watched the sunrise.

After breakfast we went on our trek/hike down to Changu Narayan.  It took us around 3.5 hours.  It wasn’t too bad until one part that we had to climb a huge hill about half-way through.  I saw lots of neat stuff along the way, including some people making a type of liquor and a wedding procession.  A dog also became our faithful leader after I gave it some love by petting its head. When we were done with the hike we visited another temple in Changu Narayan.

Day 25 - Saturday, March 6

Today we visited Gadhimai Temple in Bariyapur where animal sacrifices take place every Tuesday and Saturday, Daksinali, Pharping, Bungmati for its famous Ganesh temple and the ancient cities of Kirtipur and Chobar.


I can’t say enough about how great and knowledgeable the tour guide was.  I learned a lot from him.  He is a Buddhist and teaches the drum and cymbols and has visited Europe a couple of times on a musical tour.  It was also great because, being a Buddhist, he knew a lot of the customs and symbols.    Buddhism in Nepal s very different from the forms I have read about and is very close to Hinduism.  They believe in a lot of the same gods and there are more of an emphasis on rituals than on meditation. They also have animal sacrifices, although some people only sacrifice coconuts instead of animals. 

Day 26 - Sunday, March 7

Today I took it easy.  I woke up late had a late breakfast than I went and sold some books I had read, bought my only souvenir for my niece and booked my ticket home.  Also was invited to dinner by one of the owners of the hotel.

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