Thursday, October 8, 2009

Kathmandu Valley

We'd been in Hong Kong for 4 days, but it wasn't until we arrived in Nepal that we really felt our trip had begun. Kathmandu is full of contradictions. The streets are hectic, bumpy and unpaved, and full of honking motorcycles, water-bottle-tooting rickshaws and trapped taxis. But just off--and sometimes directly on--the main road are huge, holy stupas and stone carvings of deities. We enjoyed Kathmandu and our sweet but noisy guesthouse, but after two days, decided to escape to the relative tranquility of Tibetan-oriented Bodhnath.

It was raining when we got here, and the mud and puddles made the short trek to our guesthouse--the Lotus--difficult. But it was worth it. Our room looks out over a monastery catering to young Nepalese boys who spend their afternoons playing cricket (or, as Ali excitedly declared, "Look! They're playing baseball with paddles!") Unfortunately, as we learned very, very early this morning, they spend the beginning part of the day differently: We awoke at around 5 AM to loud chanting, which gradually turned into a cacophony of gong-wacking, trumpet blowing and general ruckus-making. After we survived the initial shock, it was actually quite beautiful.

Yesterday, before making the half hour commute to Bodhnath, we went to Swayambhunath (aka "Monkey Temple.") We climbed approximately 3,000 stairs to reach an enormous Tibetan prayer-flag filled universe, complete with wild macaques (large baboon-like monkeys) dangling from trees and swinging from temple roof to remple roof. There are ancient carvings jammed into every nook and cranny, and many Buddhist and Hindu devotees making offerings. It was a magical experience, but it was also quite wet. Fortunately, when we entered a nearby Tibetan tea-shop afterwards, we were greeted by 2 very cheerful, and very drunk Nepalese men, one of whom spoke excellent English. Their favorite game was "how much did you pay?" When we informed him that we had paid $1.25 for incense, he and his pal broke into gales of laughter (it should have cost 40 cents). As a gesture of goodwill, he insisted on buying us tea (20 cents per cup) and we traded emails before parting ways.

Ali felt a little funny in her stomach this morning after breakfast, but hopefully will recover soon. Generally, we have been eating really well--rice, lentils, vegetable curry and Tibetan noodle soup, as well as large pots of masala tea. We've also been taking things pretty easy so far and are finally starting to feel a little less disoriented as a result of the 12 hour time difference.

Ta ta for now. We'll post pictures soon.


Jeremy and Ali


luciajgraves said...

Can't wait for pictures of Monkey Temple and children playing baseball with paddles.

Anonymous said...

jeremy, did you carry ali up all 3000 stairs?? - julia

Cindy Pincus said...

Im glad you found such good company in the tea shop. It sounds like they've been playing their game for a while, and probably enjoying it since day one. Hope the disorientation is still fun!