Getting my heart and head together in Kathmandu, Nepal
We arrived in Kathmandu on a rainy day.
It is the monsoon season here…..the locals tell us it is the “slow season”…. and the majority of the tourism here is from India.
Usually in high season, this place is filled with mountain hikers and adventure travelers.
The weather had turned sunny a day after our arrival, and it stayed warm and sunny since.
We spent a few days getting to know the city.
The first thing we did was to shop for some really cool loose clothing.
Funky pants and cool jackets… It felt heavenly after 50 days in rural China to finally WANT to buy anything…
Most of what is sold in rural China is utilitarian or fake labels like Nike, D&G and Gucci, but there is no similarity to any of the original designs, only the names are apparent.
We located some great cafes and places to eat, where you can lull away an afternoon sprawled on cushions among travelers and backpackers from all over the world.
The Kathmandu valley is composed of a series of small cities that used to be independent kingdoms once.
It is an area filled with ancient buildings and well preserved palaces, some date back to the sixth century BC.
The streets are so interesting… There is so much to observe and absorb….
There are Tibetan neighborhoods, Hindu markets… There are long haired face painted Sadhus, river banks serving as cremation grounds and ancient temples and stupas.
We hired an air-conditioned car and an English speaking guide for the day.
It was nice to be sitting in a car that was fairly new.
Up until now, most of the taxis we took looked like the interior was eaten by a hungry cow or a mountain goat.
They keep it a secret and they do this advertise this fact, but when you buy a soft Pashmina cardigan or a pashmina scarf from Nepal…..that these Nepalese Pashmina products, are made from the hair of a mountain goat that loves to snack on all sort of crap, including car doors and seats….
I am joking of course….. but truly most of the taxis around town are pieces of metal crap (scraps?) with no left suspension and all torn interiors.
We saw an ancient religious complex with an old monastery and stupas, called “Swayambhunath Stupa”. (5th century BC)
It is also called the `Monkey Temple’ because of the many monkeys who live and mingle undisturbed on this hill.
The hill is filled with stupas built in Tibetan and Hindu architectures.
There are prayer flags bowing in the wind, and Hindu priests preforming prayers and rituals for people.
The air is filled with burning candles, fragrant incense, the scent of rotting mangos and monkey and cow’s shit.
It is told that this hill rose by itself, after the Buddha planted a lotus flower there.
We stopped in front of a green pond with a fountain…
Out guide gave me a coin and told me to throw it and to make a wish.
He added, that a person must ask for only ONE single sincere wish in his/her lifetime.
Only ONE wish and no more… And to keep on asking for it with sincerity and devotion.
I wondered to myself…
Only one wish?
During my life. I have already asked with outmost sincerity, for so much… And I keep on asking for MORE all the time…
I threw the coin and it bounced off the statue and plopped unceremoniously into the green murky waters.
We made our way to the old Kathmandu Durbar Square.
It was filled with amazing old palace buildings and temples.
Among them was a magnificent structure that was made entirely from the wood of one single tree.
They call it “Sal tree” or “Iron tree”.
It is said that the Buddha was born in Nepal under a Sal tree, and got enlightened later in India under a Banyan tree.
Sal trees can be found in Assam, Nepal, Bengal and on the bank of the Yamuna river.
Sal trees grow in North East and Central India up to 1700 meter elevation.
It is widely grown in the foothills of the Himalayas.
Sal is a large sub deciduous tree. It can reach 30 meter high. It has large leathery leaves and big red and yellowish flowers.
The sapwood is whitish in color, and it is commonly used in the indigenous cultures as a medicine to treat diarrhea, dysentery, as an ingredient of ointments for skin diseases and for ear troubles.
Some use it as an astringent and a detergent for cleaning.
The hard wood becomes dark brown to black in color with the passing years, which gives these old Nepalese buildings, their beautiful black tone.
We took a leisurely walk into an old neighborhood in Bhaktapur, where people live their lives as they did hundreds of years ago.
Some make their living from farming, raising chickens, ducks or goats, while others make and sell pottery, wool products, and an assortment of handmade crafts.
We saw women knitting in groups at the doorways to their houses.
They live with no running water.
When water is delivered to a village in a tank of 2000 liters, people line up down the alley with their plastic buckets and containers, waitings to fill them up by gravity, from the larger tank.
On this day, half naked old women washed their long hair and did laundry in plastic buckets.
It felt almost festive to walk the stone paved roads among the beautiful old buildings, with their intricate wooden carvings, sculptures and small temples.