Archive for the ‘Nepal’ Category

  • Conclusion of Nepal

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    We didn’t know much about Nepal when we realised that winter in the mountains is cold and we should start our visit to the world from the top before it got colder. We arrived to the country looking for mountains and first thing we found was plain tropical jungle landscapes. We had the idea of a smiling and friendly Nepali and our first contact is with a guy who tries to manipulate us at his convenience. The tranquillity that we had imagined was substituted by noisy traffic, pollution and dusty streets. The advantages of a small country disappear with the long hours spent in packed buses. In short, a two months visa, which seemed not to be enough when we first arrived, was in the end longer than we needed to visit the country.

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    In the meantime we have got the most out of Nepal. They have got the most out of us, as well. We have enjoyed the country and the people and hope they enjoyed us as much as we did. We have played with children, talked to adults and respected the elder. We have seen many different cultures and traditions and got amazed by all of them. We have got soaked in colours and wild nature. There were celebrations and sadness. There were honest people and cheaters. Unfortunately the bad things forced us to leave the country searching for the peace that we only found in the mountains. Well, even if this post sounds a bit negative, travelling is such a great experience, that it’s worth to know its bad side in order to appreciate it all. Nepal is great! You have to climb its mountains, discover its jungle and trek all its paths. Learn its cultures and origins. Bargain in its shops, ask people, answer them. You have to live their lives and learn to see things like they do… And these all is what we did, we decided to keep all the lovely things we have seen and leave the bad ones there, where they belong.

  • The living Goddess

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    Another thing which may surprise backpackers while travelling in Nepal is to find out about the existence of a living Goddess, the Kumari Devi, a little girl living in the Kumari Bahal in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square.
    One legend explains how a paedophile king of the Malla’s dynasty maintained sexual relationships with a girl. As a result she died and the king inaugurated as a penitence the practice to venerate a little girl as a living Goddess. This girl is chosen from a Newar silver or goldsmiths caste and has to fulfil several requirements such as age, eyes colour, voice sound, horoscope… Her reign finishes with her first period and the process to find the new Kumari starts again.

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    Note that it is not allowed to take pictures of the Kumari without a special permit, so we borrowed this pic from the net.

  • Incarnations, Manifestations, Forms and Vehicles

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    While travelling in Nepal, backpackers will realise how complex Hinduist and Buddhist religions are. Nepal has a complete mastery of gods, goddesses, bodhisattvas, buddhas, deities’ incarnations and manifestations, all them worshiped through statues, images, paintings and symbols. There is a slightly difference between incarnations, manifestations and forms. Vishnu has 10 incarnations in total, Narsingha (the lion man), Krishna (the cowman) and Buddha among others. Shiva is the God with a thousand names, although they are mere manifestations (the way he shows himself) and not incarnations. Each God also has a related animal or vehicle (vahana), in which he rides, as well as a consort with different skills and features. You can recognise the God by identifying his vehicle or the symbols he holds in his hands, but it will take you a while to understand this dense mythology.

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  • Mystic Nepal

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    One of the most interesting things about Nepal is the mixture of different cultures in such a small country area. You can find Newars, Rais and Limbus all around Kathmandu Valley, Gurungs, Bahuns and Magars in Pokhara and its surroundings, Thakalis, Tamangs, Sherpas and Tibetans in the middle high mountains, and Tharus all along the Terai Valley. Apart from all those different ethnic groups, Hinduists, Buddists, Islamists and some kinds of Chamanism live all together in complete harmony.

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    Religion is one of the most important aspects en the nepali life. Hinduism and Buddhism have combined perfectly in Nepal in a complex blend and this is even more evident in Kathmandu, where tibetan buddhists and nepali hinduists usually pray in the same temples. It is wonderful to be admiring a buddist temple, turn round and see people doing puja to their hinduist god, all within a few meters distance. You get surprised when late at night, in the middle of a extreme quietness and darkness, some voices shout unintelligible words asking to the spirits to stop torturing their relatives with an strange illness. One can breathe mystic everywhere and the most unexpected places could become a temple or sacred place. The vibes involve you and your soul is transported to a higher level of consciousness being in contact with this gorgeous nature. This must be how Siddhartha Gautama, Lord Buddha, must have found the enlightenment, by mere contemplation of his natural surrounding. One feel closer to truth in Nepal and the right way is just one step beyond, at everyone’s reach.

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  • Patan

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    Patan is also known as the city of beauty (Lalitpur) and it might be because of the huge amount of stupas and “bahals” (interior courtyards) spread out all over the city. Its Durbar Square has an even higher amount of ancient buildings than Kathmandu’s or Bhaktapur’s (the third city in importance in Kathmandu’s Valley) and it’s an amazing place to visit and discover the greatness of the Newar architecture (XIV to XVIII century). Much more interesting for us, after having visited already the very similar Durbar Square in Kathmandu, was the nice walking tour planned by the Tourism Authorities of the city, which we did independently and which takes you through narrow streets, “bahals” (courtyards), “hitis” (water tanks) and tuns (pools), providing an image of the communal way of life in Newar villages. Patan is only a short bus ride from Kathmandu’s bus stand (around 7 Rupees) and can be visited in a day out excursion from the capital. There are some hotels and restaurants around Durbar Square, although they are a bit more expensive than the ones in Thamel or Freak Street, so we would recommend to stay in Kathmandu rather than here.

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  • God of the tooth pain

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    In one of the streets of Kathmandu’s old town, north from Durbar Square, there is a piece of wood with thousands of coins nailed to it, which are offerings to the God of the tooth pain. This is the most bizarre God that we have found so far and we suggest all the backpackers to go and find it, it’s worthy! The name of the square is Bangemudha, which means “kinky wood”.

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  • Kathmandu surroundings

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    Pashupatinath Temple, Bodhnath, Swayambhunath Stupa and Patan (all of them declared Wolrd Heritage sites by the Unesco) are other interesting things to visit in Kathmandu and are a good example to confirm the healthy cohabitation of the major religions in the country: Hinduism and Buddhism. There are also some bizarre things to see in Kathmandu, like the “God of the tooth pain”, a formless wooden block completely covered in nails and coins, which might help anybody by just nailing a coin to its image. Or the possibility of seeing a “living Goddess” coming out of her window to bless the crowd.

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  • Trash piles in the streets

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    After many days of festival, Kathmandu streets become filthy and full of rubbish. The waste rots after long hours under the sun and is very smelly. There are no bins or garbage containers in Nepal and the waste collection system is almost non existent. The number of cows eating the rubbish is also not enough to get rid it. It was after 1 week when we started to see people cleaning some of the streets. As we discussed with some other backpackers, it is weird to see how Nepali people are used to live among the garbage and filth without even caring the smell and sanitary conditions, something that may discomfort some travellers.

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  • Nepal’s New Year

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    Our arrival in Kathmandu coincided with one of the biggest festivals around the country: Deepawali. We were surprised about the amount of people gathering all around the city, the firecrackers noise and the light decorations in the streets. It was the second day of the Tihar, which happens always on the new moon of October-November and which means the end of the year for the Newar community in Kathmandu’s Valley. So, without having planned it, we found ourselves involved on the celebration of the beginning of year 1128. Nepal festivities and festivals are marked by the moon calendar and happen during new or full moon periods. The official new year in the country starts on the 14th of April and its calendar is 57 years ahead ours, so while we live in 2008, they do it in 2065. At the end of the day, we just didn’t know in which year we were living and decided not to worry about the number, we are just travelling around Asia and time is not something to worry about!!

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  • Kathmandu

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    Kathmandu is not only the capital city of the kingdom, but the biggest and most chaotic city by far. Its narrow streets in the old town are bustled with motorbikes, taxis, cycle-rickshaws, people rambling along the road and street pedlars. Kathmandu’s history is very rich and you just need to wander around to get involved by the magic and mystery of its past. This is the city of temples and mystic, the place to admire Buddhism and Hinduism at the same time and a real paradise for backpackers, which offers everything they may need during their trip: joy, fun, shopping and cheap accommodation.
    The north part of the city center is called Thamel, an area full of budget hotels and lodges, which concentrates almost the whole leisure spots of the city: music bars and clubs, cinema, restaurants, shops and internet points (very much needed to update this travel blog after being isolated in the mountains). Everything can be founded here and this is why most of the young travelers prefer to stay there.

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    Other options for accommodation (the one we chose due to its relative quietness) is Freak Street, a small area south of Durbar Square, where backpackers used to settle down during the hippy decade. There are some cheap hotels with good standards and it is just a few steps from Kathmandu’s most amazing tourist point: the Durbar Square. We enjoyed the great choice of meals and restaurants (which was most welcome after so many days eating the same food during our trek in the mountains) and the long walks to several of the main attractions of the city, while the short way we did every time from our hotel to the Thamel area was always too loud, too crowded and too unpleasant for us. Travellers should be ready to stand this hassle all over Nepal, specially in Kathmandu, unfortunately we couldn’t get used to it and it got to our nerves more than once…

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    Getting lost in the old town’s small streets is one of the best things to do in Kathmandu and the best way to find hidden treasures, which seem not to be as appreciated by locals as they are by tourists: while groups of Japanese visitors flash with their cameras the slim figure of a rare standing Buddha, two local woman use the same image to tie a rope and hang their washing. The magnificence of the city can be summarized in the Durbar Square, a complex consisting on 3 vaguely joined squares full of temples and palaces (“Durbar” means palace and here is where kings used to have their residence), where you can spend your time easily and don’t realise at all.

     

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