Thursday, June 23, 2016

NEPAL

After 6 weeks of somewhat major refinishing to pretty up Sea Turtle, we stood back to admire her new do. That was when out of the corner of our eye we noticed a red blemish. It was on the calendar though, and it was on June 22nd, marking a deadline. Want to make 3 months of rainy season move fast? Put a dot on the calendar 3 months away!

The date marked our Thai Visa expiry. It required a "Visa run". So, where to go? We could either make a quick 1-day run to a border and return, or make it a more worthwhile venture. For the latter, we revisited our land travel bucket list and chose Nepal, hoping to beat the monsoon season for that area.

Checking online flight options, we splurged and went for "cattle class". It would be Phuket to Kathmandu via Kuala Lumpur for an 8-day adventure into the bosoms of the Himalayas.

Upon evening arrival, our pre-booked hotel (De Hotel Veda) had a cab waiting and whooshed us off through the frenetic traffic as Bob Seager's song rang through my head "...K-K-K-K-K, Katmandu, I think it's really where I'm going to, If I ever get out of here, I'm goin' to Katmandu..."

The effusive greeting by our hotel host, complete with the bow and head wiggle, had us wondering if we were in the remake of the movie "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel". With his help, we planned our next day for sites of Kathmandu.

Second day in Nepal: After a delicious early morning breakfast, our pre-arranged car and driver had us off to our first stop, the Monkey Temple, perched on a ridge on the hillside slopes overlooking the spiralling valley of the City of Kathmandu.

The site invited us up about 100 steps to the top and to a motley jumble of ancient buildings and shrines with their wafting incense, craft and souvenier vendors chorusing "Come, just look", and of course, scavenging monkeys, all under the ubiquitous prayer flags fluttering in the breeze.

Curios for the curious

Temple architecture

Here we saw the first up-close effects of the aggressive earthquake that rocked the area a little over a year ago. One of the old temple buildings had broken up and looked as if you took the bottom brick out, the whole thing would probably complete a total collapse.

Quake's result

The following 2 stops were very similar and both set in the mayhem of Kathmandu. They were ancient royal palace centers with their nucleus being the old royal brick buildings with intricately carved wood facets set amidst distinctly Buddhist or Hindu temples scattered around.

Royal city in Kathmandu

At 1 building, our guide ushered us into a dingy courtyard where we witnessed the spectacle of the living child goddess Kumari, where after being called, she was, in all seriousness, quietly presented for viewing for a few moments in an upper window. No pictures allowed - following was copied from our guidebook.

Child goddess

The status of Kumari is similar to the Dali Llama. Devout believers chose her at a young age through test rituals that, to them, showed she was a living goddess and from then on till the time of puberty, she would live a life almost exclusively within the residence tended to by devout caregivers at her beck and call. She could only leave for festivals, rituals, etc. at which time her feet would never touch the ground. A unique kind of "You're grounded!" After her term, she would return to her real family and normal life and remain totally celibate for the rest of her life.

It was here at these old royal sites that the most obvious and most severe earthquake damage was evident. The Buddhist pagodas fared the worst. Some had completely collapsed in utter ruins, the debris long since removed.

Our first days saw no sign of the monsoons. So far so good!

No comments: