Wednesday, October 24, 2012

2012 Asian Adventure - Kathmandu (Part Two)

Day Nineteen

When we landed in Nepal a couple days earlier our guide suggested an add on to our trip.  He suggested hiring a plane to fly us around Mount Everest assuming the weather would cooperate.  I've flown in similar sightseeing trips around mount McKinley and the Hawaiian Big Island and had found the experience only mildly satisfying.  We thought about it and we decided to opt out of the plane ride.  I think we made the right decision since we would end up seeing Everest three times out of the window of our commercial flights.

After turning down the Everest option, we started our day at Bodhnath, the largest stupa in Nepal and venerated by both the Nepalese and Tibetan Buddhists.  The stupa is by far the largest we've seen on our travels.  We circumambulated the stupa along with the other visitors and monks.  We stopped at shops in the square surrounding the stupa.  We bought  a  thangka (an intricately painted wall hanging - we'd seen them being painted in Lhasa) and the Wife found some scarves to buy.

Bodhnath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Next was the Pashupatinath Temple on the Bagmati river.  The temple, the holiest temple dedicated to lord Shiva is interesting but non-Hindu are not allowed to go inside so it was a little of a let down ... but I understand that not everyone enjoys tourists visiting their places of worship.  There were times when the closest a non-Hindu could come to the temple was on the other side of the river.  The rules are more relaxed now but there are still places only the devout can enter.

A worshiper at the Pashupatinath Temple. 
We walked around the temple area and ended on a bridge over the Bagmati river.  Along the shore of the river were crematory platforms.  After bodies were burned their ashes were poured into the river.  To the Wife's and my dismay there was a body being cremated as we watched.  The idea of breathing in some dead person was a little unsettling.

Cremation platforms along the Bagmati River.
Back in the car and we actually left the city and went to the town of Bhadgaon (or Bhaktapur).  We actually saw some countryside this time.  It was only about fifteen minutes worth but it was something.  In Bhaktapur we saw more history and temples.  I have to admit, while the temples were gorgeous and interesting, the few minutes where we could see rice paddies and people working in the field were more interesting to me this day.

Bhaktapur Durbar Square.
We were done in the early afternoon and once again we had it all to ourselves.  After having lunch at our favorite cafe/restaurant we split up, the Wife going back to the hotel while I walked a few blocks to take pictures of a small temple.  The temple is only open once a year so I could not go in but it was in an interesting setting surrounded by water.

Rani Pokhari, open only once a year.
On the way back I took pictures of graffiti and slogans painted on walls.  As I walked everyone asked where I was from.  This had happened several times over the last few days and, frankly, I was getting tired of it.  A guy asked me while I was walking and I answered a bit curtly.  Before I know it he was handing me over to a guy selling tours.  I turned them down telling them I was already on a tour and walked away.  I hate the hard sale and Kathmandu had a lot of that.  On the way back to the hotel I stopped at an ice cream store and had some tasty ice cream.  That fixed everything.

Day Twenty - Happy Anniversary!

Our final full day in Nepal, which was on our fifteenth wedding anniversary, was a free day - a result of all the trip rearranging that we had to do before the trip.   The day before we discussed our options with our guide and we settled on a drive up into the foothills of the Himalayan mountain to get a good view of the Kathmandu valley and the surrounding mountains.

Terraced Fields.
They picked us up and we truly left the city this time driving passed rural areas on the way to a vacation area popular with the Kathmandu people.  Now, while I was hoping for sweeping vistas, I knew that driving up here during the monsoon season wasn't conducive to vistas in general.  We'd had better than expected weather in China and in Nepal the weather was even better with only a few light showers in the afternoon and evening.  I really hoped we would be lucky today.  We did not run into rain but we did have to contend with the ever present overcast. Oh yeah, and we were driving up in the mountains ... into the overcast.  By the time we reached our final destination we had only limited visibility.  We got out of the car and walked up a short trail to the top of a hill to see clouds and haze ... and kids asking us where we were from ... sigh.

Green Terraces.
We returned to the car and we drove down a bit.  The guide asked if we wanted to walk and we said yes.  Our car dropped us at dirt farm road and we headed down the road walking through farmsteads with some views of clouded valleys and terraced farm fields.  It was a nice walk, maybe two kilometers (1.25 miles).  The car was waiting for us at the other end of the road/trail and we returned to the hotel.

Early on our guide had asked about trekking.  I'd been concerned about the altitude and the weather.  I told the Wife I wasn't interested and she went with that.  After our little mini-trek I regret my decision.  By that third day in Kathmandu we were both acclimatized and a more 'authentic' day trek in the Himalayas would have been not only doable but I think I would have enjoyed it.  Not sure if the Wife would have enjoyed it though - more about this when I post about the Tiger's Nest.  Our drive and mini-trek might have been the appropriate compromise.

Pictures from days nineteen and twenty (07/10 - 07/11/2012) can be found in my 2012-07 Nepal Google Photos album.

Our 2012 Asian Adventure continues ...

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