Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pokhara, Nepal

The last 2 days we've been in Pokhara, Nepal.  We're staying at Lakeside which is full of shops, restaurants and bars.

Here's Matt playing pool-

Today I went golfing at the Himalayan Golf Course.  I rented a scooter but had difficulty reading the map so it took me a long time to get there!  For $70, I got clubs, balls, green fees, tees, a ball boy and a caddie.  As I was about to tee off, the manager came running out and asked me to wait for a local who was coming to play.  It's an unimaginable course, one that I wouldn't play again, but am glad I had the experience.  It is said to be one of the top ten courses to play in the world for its uniqueness, I guess.  The 6th hole is an island hole built in a river.  It's supposed to be the only one of its kind in the world.

Here's my ball boy and caddie-

This is the view from Hole 3 tee-box.  14 of the holes are in the valley-

This is how, for the most part, they keep the fairways "mowed" -  sheep-

And goats-

Here's my partner teeing off-

There were numerous bridges crossing the river-

These workers were mowing the fairway-

These women gathered the cut grass on the green.  On the left, we're heading to the next green-

This shows the change in elevation.  Holes 1, 2, 3 and 18 are up on top, the rest are in the valley-

The weather has been great and the food even better.  It was filet mignon for supper tonight!  I tried to book a para-gliding flight for tomorrow but it was full.  Next time!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Kathmandu, Pokhara, Nepal

We're back in the truck on our way to Pokhara.  It's slow going because the traffic is horrendous.

These are our last views of Kathmandu-

A tuk-tuk - Kathmandu's form of public transportation-

This is very typical: shops on the first floor and homes/apartments above.  No pavement, often mud, lots of garbage, many motorcycles, animals, clothes drying....

Tne black barrel on top of the green house is a 1000 litre cistern-

Market day-

If I never see these trucks and hear their annoying horns, it will be too soon!  I'm not sure how the driver can even see out the windshield!

Shrines, temples and other places to worship are everywhere.  Here's one just on a random street corner-

It took 4 hours to go about 30 km this morning: traffic jams from cars/trucks breaking down.  They don't seem to know what to do when that happens, so traffic backs up for miles.  However, there are no shoulders on the roads so it does make it difficult.

Lunch was dahl baht tarkari which is lentil soup, rice and curried vegetables - potato, green leaves and chayote - a type of squash from South America.  We paid extra for masu - meat.  They usually come around offering seconds but today it was only for seconds of rice.  It is very quick and delicious.  To eat it like the Nepalese, you pour the soupy dahl on the rice, mix it into balls with your fingers, add a few vegetables and pickles and shovel it in to your mouth with your right hand!  I used my fork and spoon!

This is what we're driving beside-it's pretty scenic!

This looks like caulilflower or maybe cabbage just recently planted-

Goats being transported, probably to a butcher.  They just hang out on the roofs of buses-

This is a typical town street along the way-

My new t-shirt pretty much sums up Nepal-

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Kathmandu, Nepal

This morning while having breakfast, I heard what I thought was a Canadian accent.  Melanie is from Sherwood Park, AB!  We had a nice visit, then spent the day together visiting one of the coolest places I have ever been in my life - Pashupatinath Temple.

This is Nepal's most important Hindu temple and because I am not Hindu, nor from Tibet, Nepal or India, I could not go inside.  Here, Shiva is celebrated as the lord of the beasts.  This temple was constructed in 1696-

This is the 'behind' of Shiva's bull Nandi inside the temple-

Tika powder is a symbol of blessing from the gods, worn by both men and women.  It can be a small dot on the forehead, or full on color with yoghurt,  It represents the all knowing third eye and is also an energy point.  It's an acknowledgement of a divine presence and a sign of protection.  

The Bagmati River is very polluted but still extremely sacred.  Here, two kids were swimming in it, right beside where ashes, after the cremations, are swept into the river-

Cremation ghats are used for open air cremation. This is a fancy one because it is decorated with marigolds-

 Bodies are wrapped in shrouds and placed on stretchers along the river-

 then cremated on wooden pyres-

The wealth of the family determines the lavishness of the funeral.  This man might have been in the army, because before he was set alight, the Last Post was played by the soldiers you can see to the left of the photo-

These were the mourners.  A couple of prayers were said while more wood and grasses were placed below and on top of the corpse-

Once everything has burned, the ashes are swept into the river-

Here is another pyre of someone not as wealthy nor important.  There is no decoration-

It was a powerful place to contemplate death and mortality.  Amongst all of the hundreds of locals gathered for the celebrations, I only saw one woman crying.  They certainly see death a different way than we do.

This sounds like an interesting place to spend an hour or two!

This girl was having her future read-

Marigolds represent long life and are used in special ceremonies.  They are sold on the street-

From here we went to Durbar Square, a concentrated mass of temples-

The Jagannarayan Temple is dedicated to Vishnu (aka Narayan).  He played a role in the creation of the universe.  Vishnu has four arms holding a conch shell, a disc like weapon called a chakra, a stick like weapon called a gada and a lotus flower.  It was built in 1565 and is the oldest temple in the square.  The column in front has a brass statue of King Yoganarendra Malla (1684-1709) and his queens.  It was installed in 1700.  Above the king's head is a cobra and a small brass bird is above the cobra.  Legends say that as long as the bird stays on the column, the king can return to the palace.

There are also three smaller Vishnu temples built in the late 1500s.

This was lunch, and it was nasty.  It's a thin dumpling exterior with red bean paste inside.  It looks like an onion, which would have tasted better!

They have such a different variety of vegetables-

The streets back to Thamel selling everything imaginable!

I'm not sure, but I don't think this would pass code at home!  Maybe this is why there are frequent power outages???

Supper was chicken curry!  Tomorrow, we're off to Pokhara for 4 nights!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Kathmandu, Nepal

Kathmandu is sensory overload- so many sights, sounds, smells, colors.  It's crazy!

It was founded in the 12th century AD, during the Malla Dynasty at the conflux of the Rivers Bagmati and Vishnumati as part of the trade route to Tibet.  

Our day started bright and early with our flight to see Everest.  Here is an interesting suggestion box in the airport-

This is taken out of the cockpit windshield.  Sagarmatha, or Everest (8848 meters, 29028 feet) is the left bump of the two, slightly to the right of center.  This is the south face of Everest.  We went to the north face base camp in Tibet.

More of the Himalayan mountain range.  One third of the mountain range is in Nepal and 10 of the world's 14 highest mountains are also here.  The latitude is similar to Florida so there is vegetation to 3500 to 4000 meters.

The airplane we went up in -

From here, we went to Monkey Temple, formally known as Swayambhunath, a jumble of Buddhist and HIndu iconography.  This is the stupa at the eastern entrance-

Arriving at the top, this stupa is the center piece of the area. Notice  Buddha's eyes at the top.  The nose like squiggle below the eyes is the Nepali number 'one' or 'ek' which signifies unity.  The third eye signifies the insight of Buddha.  The white dome represents the earth and the thirteen tiered beehive structure on top symbolizes the thirteen stages one must pass through to reach nirvana.  

The rest of the area is a sculpture garden of religious monuments-

Of course, I can't forget the star attractions - a mother macaque and her baby-

Corinne enjoyed a healing bowl treatment -

Here are Corinne and Marianne with prayer flags and Kathmandu in the background-

For supper, it was back to the Everest Steak House and then to a few other bars, always searching for live music and finally to Sam's.  Today was a good day!

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