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Nepal. Gods and Men at the Feet of Himalaya – Episode 1

29 August 2012 Nepal, travel stories 2 comments

Sights of Nepal: a sadhu in Kathmandu

Everest, Sherpa people, the beautiful crazy people that wrestle the eight-thousand-ers, victories and tragedies, mountains dressed in eternal snow and beyond, the mysterious Tibet…What can be more to visit in Nepal ? What the hell can one do there if he is not a climber to go and conquer the eight-thousand-ers? I also thought that Nepal meant only Himalaya before I started reading more about this fascinating nation. And only then have I found out that it is an extremely diverse and interesting country that is really worth visiting also by those who have no abilities to climb the eight-thousand-ers. Therefore I jumped on one plane’s wing and off I went to the mysterious kingdom, to Kathmandu…

Once arrived in Kathmandu back in 2003, I see through the window of the airplane tens of desperate faces, smiling and waving their hands as they would have greeted a great star. I look around to convince myself, that I did not travel together with Michael Jackson or Brad Pitt. No, this is just the local way to attract clients in taxis to then take them to a hotel – not necessary a bad one, but from which they will eventually receive a considerable commission. Usually, if you reserved a room in even the most humble barrack, a driver will be there to wait you on the house. I jumped in the car, nothing special so far, but once arrived in the old city center, it looks that I have reached another world, a town from a century long gone, through which not a lot of cars pass – there is no place!, but only pedestrians, cows, bicyclists, rickshaws, or in the best case motorcyclists. If you come directly from Europe or America, you will have a shock – the crowd will overwhelm you, the city will seem supported by a huge invisible hand in order not to collapse, the cows on the streets – just like our stray dogs, will amuse you. However, if you come from Delhi as it was my case, this is the Shangri La, the place where the silence will buzz in your years, the city will look immaculate and the fuss will give you a sensation of comfort. Nepal, as India, is not for the ones too pretentious, but in exchange, has so many experiences to offer…

North of the city centre, lies Thamel, an area exclusively destined for tourists – here you will find only hotels, guest houses, restaurants, exchange houses, internet cafés, supermarkets, bars, libraries with old and new Lonely Planet guides, souvenir shops and an extremely cosmopolite atmosphere. Kathmandu belonged to the old “hippy trail” of the 1960s that connected the discos from Teheran, the Chicken Street of Kabul and the Freak Street of Kathmandu with the Khao San Road of Bangkok. If the discos from Teheran transformed in rave parties in private houses and Chicken Street is not too popular with the tourists in these days, Freak Street itself moved a bit up north, in Thamel. After a week of India, Kathmandu became for me the Promised Land – here I was able to eat beef grills (impossible to find in India, with the exception of Mumbai and the Christian states of Kerala and Goa) and also proper European food that actually tasted like European food! The wurst from Kahtmandu definitely rivaled the ones from the Munich beer houses while the tiramisu from Kathmandu Guest House is the most delicious I have ever eaten – Italy, no offense!

But let us have a stroll through Kathmandu. First of all, the magnet that attracts is the central square, the Durbar square. When I have entered it for the first time, just after the sunset, it was a magical moment. Everywhere, just like in fairy tales, pagodas appeared, Hindu temples of a certain Chinese inspiration, just enough to remind one that here we find ourselves at the confluence between two gigantic civilizations – Indian and Chinese. If you let yourself picked up by some of the local guides that stroll around the market, and the guy is really documented, you will surely have stuff to find out …the temples have multi-floor roofs, supported by decorated struts – most of them sculptured with sexual scenes, some true perversions, that make the poor monkey-king Hanuman to cover his face in shame. And not only him…also the goddess of thunder is a shy virgin which,  if she had seen these images, she would have been intimidated and would not thunder strike the temple. This is supposed to be the motive for the presence of the porn sculptures on the temple…One of the motives you will hear.

Towards the southern part of the square, Kumari Chowk, I reach the palace in which the alive goddess lives – Kumari, a golden cage for a child – goddess. Kumari represents the reincarnation of the goddess Durga and is in fact a girl that has not reached yet her first menstruation. Kumari is adored by the whole city and just like to a goddess, she gets any of her wishes turned into reality, but she cannot leave her palace more than only a few times an year, with the occasion of some festivals when she is transported throughout the whole city in a sedan chair, as the goddess Kumari can never touch the land. Sometimes she can appear at your window, having her eyes loaded with make-up and jewels and it is said that she can answer any unsaid questions just by looking at you. It is strictly forbidden to take a picture of Kumari, so the only possibility to keep your memories is to buy the postcards from the streets.

The choice of Kumari resembles with the Tibetan custom of finding high lama reincarnations. Although a Hindu goddess, Kumari is usually chosen from a Buddhist community of goldsmiths named Shakya. Girls between three and five years old are checked by elder people with experience and must have 32 physical attributes in order to be perfect – a body like a banyan tree or cow eyelashes. The candidates that correspond are locked at night in a temple in Durbar Square (which is actually locked all the rest of the time and nobody dares to enter) and are put between freshly cut heads of bulls and where men with demon masks scream in a dark room. The girl that is not afraid by this sui-generis demons, that recognizes various objects of the ex Kumari and whose horoscope is considered auspicious is recognized as the new living goddess – Kumari. At the first menstrual bleeding, the spirit of the goddess Durga leaves the body of the living goddess and she becomes again an ordinary person…not quite ordinary because she will receive a pension from the government, but will have massive problems of integration in the society – the motives variate from the fact the she does not have a proper education up to the widespread belief that one that will marry an ex Kumari will die quickly, basically everything concurs to an unhappy life for the adored living goddess.

How can you get there

There are quite a lot of airlines who fly to Kathmandu, making it cheaper to reach by plane. The low costs Fly Dubai and Air Arabia can connect Europe to Kathmandu via Dubai / Sharjah, while all Indian low cost airlines also fly to Kathmandu. Most of the Gulf flagship airlines also transport you there in style. And the great news – Air Asia X started low-cost Kuala Lumpur – Kathmandu flights earlier this year !

Nepal Visa

The Nepal visa is issued directly at the local airport for 20 dollars.

When to go

Spring or Autumn. In summer it is extremely hot (over 40 degrees Celsius) and the monsoon blows which leads to violent rains in all Nepal. In winter it is very cold – at night around 0 degrees Celsius with temperatures going up to 10-12 degrees in daytime. Unfortunately, many restaurants are open air (roof – top), so that you will eat just like in the photo below – with all the furs on you!

What do you eat

In the Thamel tourist neighborhood you will find dozens of restaurants with delicious dishes including European ones. One of the best tiramisu I have ever eaten was served in Kathmandu.

Where to sleep in Kathmandu

Thamel (and not only) is packed with guesthouses at reasonable prices. I have stayed at International Guest House – I totally agree, it has a name that does not inspire, but the conditions are very good and the rooms are very artistic (wood, thangka on the walls, etc.). I have paid back then 10 dollars plus 1 dollar for the heater, now, I see that the prices are between 24 and 44 dollars with discount possibilities. When I will return to Nepal (because I will !!!), I will again accommodate here . Do check their website.

Shopping

Again, Thamel is the perfect place. You can buy t-shirts with “Free Tibet” or bed linens or the famous yakets – jackets made of yak wool – extremely warm! Also, everywhere, you find books at extremely friendly prices. Come with your hand in your pocket because you will have to buy baggage and rucksacks here for shopping…and where else in the world will you be able to buy a Louis Vuitton backpack???

You don’t believe me that it is cold in December? It’s kind of like this that I ate an exceptional stake, though

Pictures of Kathmandu, Nepal:

Nepal food: lunch in Kathmandu

Durbar Square

Sights of Nepal: Nepali temple in Durbar Square

Durbar Square

Things to do in Nepal: take a picture with a sadhu

With the Sadhu on service

Sights of Nepal: Erotic sculptures

Erotic sculptures – yet pretty sado-maso

What to see in Nepal: Erotic sculptures on temples

Erotic sculptures on temples

Sights of Nepal: Erotic sculptures on temples

Erotic sculptures on temples – here, how the unfaithful women are tortured

Sights of Nepal: Durbar Square

Durbar Square

Things to do in Nepal: visit Durbar Square

Durbar Square

Things to do in Nepal: take pictures in Durbar Square

Durbar Square

Sights of Nepal: a sadhu in Durbar Square

“Sadhu” reading the paper

Nepal Art: the paintings of Thangkha

Thangkha, the traditional Himalayan painting

 

Până acum există "2 comentarii" la acest articol:

  1. Thank you very much for really nice Nepal Historical picture with informative information, Hope to read your another article again. Plz keep writing and share with us as well.

  2. Trek Nepal says:

    What a great experience ! Amazing writing style and superb pictures.

    Many thanks !!

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