A Travellerspoint blog

More in the city

Spoke a bit soon with that write-up of Kathmandu....

Lucky me, I managed to find the tourist ghetto a few hours after arriving, and it is definitely a Nepalese version of south Bali, complete with undesirable, cheesey western homestays and restaurants. Not as awful as Kuta (I don't think that's possible), mind you, but let's just say I've managed to slip in and out for ATM machines only, and have happily and comfortablely stuck to the chaotic streets of outdoor markets, wandering cows and goats, people, people and more people. Still, the rest of the city is completely exotic, undescribable and amazing. It's exactly the kind of place that you'd imagine it would be, and then surpasses all of it. Intriguinging, mysterious, ancient city of a culturally rich Asian empire. You can't even imagine, and its just wonderful.

The past few days I've been exploring the city, including a hike through the Tibetan outskirts of the city up to Swayambhunath, or the "Monkey Temple", a world heritage site and one of the largest Buddhist monasteries in the area, as well as the near-forty temples in the historic Durbar Square (over 300 in the valley alone). I'm guessing the reason that Wednesday's Royal Nepal flight was cancelled was due to the annual festival celebrating Kathmandu's own living goddess, Kumari, a several hundred year old tradition stemming from a legend linking the Nepalese king and his fascination with a young girl, and incarnate of the Hindu goddess of Kali. Candidates are selected from the four-year olds in the city and must meet 32 specific criteria, including matching horoscopes with the current king. To test the authenticity of their incarnation as Kali, they are brought to the sacred Kali/Durga temple in Durbar Square one evening to witness a sacrifice of 108 animals, then brought to an inner room within the temple and left by themselves, where the heads are strung about the room. At midnight, the priests move the skulls around, then do their best to terrify the candidate by donning masks, costumes and dancing around to "horrible" music, all to test if the girl will cry out in fear (imposter) or remain unmoved, thus prove she's the goddess incarnate. The living goddess retains her status, living in Durbar Square and parading each year around the city to offer blessing, until she menstruates. After which she returns home to live a "normal" life.

Curiously, compared to the Hindus in Bali, the Nepalese aren't as averse to worshipping and celebrating Kali and do so weekly at the many Kali temples in the area, including Dakshinkali temple, several kilometers from the city proper where a huge animal sacrifice is held on Saturday. CuriousERly, this is a big picnic spot.

People here are absolutely delightful and warm and friendly, most (at least in the city) speaking English. Already people have commented over and over how Nepalese I look (the Chacos are a dead give away, I am sure...). Trying to explain to them my ethnicity is a challenge. ("Native American Indian". "Oh you're from India!" "NO...NOT from India. The other kind. Like the tribes of people who were there before Europeans" "OH! You mean the Americans!" "NO. The native people" "OH. Do you speak Hindi?"). Turns out that 'red people' gets the message across.

I'm here for another day (Nepali primer early in the morning), then off to....?....

Posted by gwolf2328 06:04 Comments (0)

On the road

forty eight hours later, and lots of those logged in at airports or waiting or both, i'm in kathmandu.

the trip.

there are two ways of looking at the process of getting here. for a while, i used to quip that someTHING or FORCE was preventing me from getting to nepal...that is, though i'd intended to be here last october or even november, something compelled me to be in, and stay in, ubud. and when those plans were relaunched last march, the political uprising and uncertainty here stepped up to protest against me and my plans too. finally this past summer i re-decided, re-committed and revived those plans to travel to nepal, and wow haven't the last two days been a process....

our dear balinese friend Landung who brought me to the airport suggested a reinterpretation of my theory, that the cosmos was preventing me from getting to nepal, suggesting instead perhaps some forces, specifically the balinese gods, were trying to keep me in bali. i much prefer this version, and its endearing nature... :)

Tuesday, i was dealt a very mecury retrograde feel of a day..from the erratic cell phone connection with my parents in the US, to the water shutting off at the gym midshower (mandi with a cup of water from the sink. classy), to waiting at the wrong bank to pay a bill, to waiting in the wrong line, to having wrong funds at the end of said line, to finding two broken ATM machines, to finding out that labor day DELAYED my funds transfer (thanks again daniel), to the printer that broke while printing my flight itinerary, to the network connection that shutdown at the next place i tried to print it.....

anyways i finally made it to the airport and to kuala lumpur by midnight where (sorry mom, dad, i opted to leave this part of my itinerary out) i joined at least sixty other malaysians in the low cost carrier terminal waiting area to (rest? sleep?) wait for my eight am flight. i (lucked out?) and got a three-plastic-chair bench, negotiated my body around the protuding plastic edges and willed a few hours of (sleep?). along with sixty others. at five am, the bathroom shifts started and all of us (refreshed?) went off to check in for flights.

quick note about international check-ins so far: they all took five minutes tops. which means tuesday afternoon, and wednesday morning both, left me with a generous two hours of waiting to board. this just means, along with a bagful of cacao, i plowed through zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance (thanks julian).

three hours later i'm in bangkok and learn that royal nepal airlines (notorious for their debatable interpretation of travel service) has completely cancelled my flight for absolutely no reason except for something they call operation nepal. no mind that thai air and lufthanasa both left successfully earlier that morning. so instead of flying towards the mountains, i wait two hours (of course) for the group tour bus that hauls us across bangkok to some peculiar hotel in the middle of the city, through all its traffic and neon signs and traffic and glossy travel agencies and imitation fashion shopping and traffic. it had a very package-tour-style feel, complete with complimentary hotel room and meals at their trying-to-be-ritzy-restaurant. which, by the way, after sleeping on a plastic bench, i was completely and totally thankful for. last night i dined on the all glass walled restaurant on the 43rd floor, with incredible views of the city, which i finally found somewhat beautiful. that is, viewed from a candlelit table and not inside a tour bus.

this morning i was up at 530am, met the tour bus (completed with bright pink fringy curtains decorating the window tops...who needs those, by the way??) and arrived by 7am for my 1030am flight to (you guessed it) wait to board.

all that said...the flight into kathmandu was absolutely magnificent. never have i been at close to maximum altitude flying and seen mountain tops edge up through cloud cover. incredible.


to my complete and utter delight (again, sorry mom and dad) it is much much much MUCH less westernized than i'd anticipated. my trip to bangkok (and jakarta. and singapore) had me braced for a modern asian city and its imitation trendy shops and mcdonalds and high heels and such. asian city it is, perhaps modern from the kathmandu twenty years ago, but it's beautifully bizarrely unlike any place i have ever been. and i absolutely love it.

...walking out of my guesthouse, down the winding gravelly unpaved streets flanked by precariously towering buildings, past all the signs written in a script i can barely distinguish from curlicues, with stands of fried-something-delicious and beautiful women in gorgeous saris and horses and cows and dirt roads and motorcycles and crisp blue skies and surrounding mountains it is absolutely impossible, no matter how hard i try, to suppress a smile...its unreal and surreal and inspiring and beautiful...and i love it.....

more sometime soon,


Posted by gwolf2328 00:44 Archived in Nepal Comments (1)

In Bali

A brief email to let you all know that my days and nights in tropical Indonesia have come to an end for the moment...I’ve packed up, sorted out the work stuff and leave Ubud on Tuesday night to fly, via Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok, to Kathmandu....finally. It took me a year, but after all this time I will eventually land in Nepal.

Things are hectic and busy and overwhelming at the moment, with all the work and projects I’m wrapping up to hand over, as well as with the realization that I spent the last year in a village in central Bali. It feels like an eternity ago that I arrived on the boat from Java, and it’s odd (and slightly incomprehensible) to think that it was virtually exactly a year ago (September 1, 2005).

So now I’ll be back in travel mode (i.e. Writing mode), and although I haven’t figured out if I’m resurrecting that defunct webblog (did any really EVER read that thing, anyways?), somehow I’ll be forwarding you updates as to which part of the Himalayas I’m lost in.....

Lots of love and blessings from Bali,

Om, om, and all that jazz,


Posted by gwolf2328 00:41 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

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