Sunday, April 12, 2015

Nepal Part 1 - Kathmandu

Mega long break - cos I've been busy with frivolous and not-so-frivolous things, but have been commandeered by some people to update my blog.

So after I went to Sikkim last year, I was super enthu about visiting more of the Himalayan countries. Managed to coordinate leave (nearly couldn't due to logistic issues but in the end can! win!) Went to Nepal for a non-hard core semi-trekking trip.

We could see the Himalayan mountain range from the plane window - little did we know we weren't going to see it for the next 5 days after due to bad weather!

Staying in Kathmandu must have been the most stressful part of the trip.
The fragile valley has been subjected to rapid urbanisation, and there's quite a big issue with pollution and the traffic here is really impossible. Think tiny windy roads which are not meant to accommodate huge tour buses - it's a recipe for a massive jam every day. The roads are really dusty (not sure why, because they aren't dirt roads) and when we had to wash our clothes (more about that later) the water would turn brown. I don't want to think how my lungs look like...

I was really happy to go over to Pokhara, which is really more laid back and relaxed, and most importantly (for me at least), not polluted so I can breathe lots of fresh air.
If you look past the dust (which irritated my eyes to no end) as well as the traffic (and block out the noise too), Kathmandu can be really fascinating.
Multiple modern buildings juxtaposed against temples and shrines, and the narrow roads zig-zagging all around them.
Ecofriendly leaf bowls in assorted sizes. They also have a dried version of these leaf bowls.

We also visited Durbar Square, which is located in front of the previous Royal Palace. The buildings here are built by Newari craftsmen and the intricate architecture is really amazing.
I cannot imagine the amount of time it takes to carve all the wooden screens and stone blocks (also I cannot imagine what it would be like having to clean each hole in the wooden screen everyday)
Inside the Kumari Ga, which is where the Virgin Goddess lives. Spent the time in Nepal reading lots of books (the bookstores here are amazing - extremely affordable print - I read more books here than I read in the last whole year...). I bought this book, which is a autobiography of Rashmila Shakya, one of the ex-Kumaris. It's a really easy and entertaining read, and explains the intricacies of being a Kumari, which was previously shrouded in mystery. 

The Nyatapola temple is a 5 storied pagoda. The statues on the staircase up are arranged according to strength - with man at eh bottom, followed by an elephant, gorilla etc It's a steep climb up, which wasn't made any easier as there were lots of tourists and some goats

Potter at the pottery square in Bhaktapur. This is a manually spun pottery wheel - the potter uses a stick to spin the wheel, and subsequently make his money bank.

Of course being touristy, my friend was very happy to try her hand at making a ash tray (after that she needed lots of wet wipes).
The finished product - a money bank, drying in the sun.
The multiple lines of pots/bowls lined in the sun to dry, before they are transferred to the oven. 
Lots of craftmen (and women)selling their ware
The open oven, where the pots are place in and covered with lots of straw and heated.

I can't remember which temple this was - saw so many until I was confused.
There's a portion of Durbar square that is overpopulated with its and lots of pigeons. I don't know why people keep feeding them - I'm sure that there would be an outbreak of some avian-bourne disease soon.
The other side of the pigeon-infested square
Strawberries - lots and lots of them. I didn't get a chance to buy them though cos we weren't going back to the hotel and I didn't want to drag them around the whole day.
We also visited the Bouddhanath Stupa which is one of the largest stupas in the world. The dome of the stupa has a lily pattern, and there are many multicolour prayer flags hanging from it, which makes for nice photos.