Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Revisiting Nepal





I realised as I was showing friends my photos last night that I hadn't done justice to my trip to Nepal here. It was an amazing experience, one that made me realise how very lucky I was, how very lucky my kids were, to be born into a country of plenty. For Nepal is far from a country of plenty. I can understand how Sir Ed Hilary took the place that treated him so well into his heart.

The people are amazing, they have very little but are generous with what they have. Generous with their time, their conversations, their pride in their place, their willingness to show tourists what makes Nepal special. And there's plenty that does. We went on a day trip to a temple high in the foothills, up an interesting road. An interesting road in that it was interesting to see rural Nepal and how the people live outside of the city and interesting in that nerves of steel were required when looking over the perilous drop as we bumped up the rough, mostly single lane road. Thank goodness for a skillful driver and his 4wd.

On the way down we passed through Baktaphor, the place of a very famous durbar square and many ancient temples. We paid a tourist tax in the way up to the square, an excellent idea to enable further restorations in this poor country. The square and surrounds buzzed with commerce, as does most of this country. Everyone has something to sell. We ran the gauntlet and managed a yummy curry and coffee in a small restaurant as we were just about to expire from lack of food and drink.

I was too busy looking in Baktaphor to take the photos I wanted, also many places were over run with tourists (of course we didn't fall into that category!) so good shots were lost waiting for people to move. The one above is of an ancient temple, an amazing stepped temple with the usual elephants guarding the steps. It was easy to imagine the old times when this place was teeming with Nepali people worshipping.

We moved back into Kathmandu to the Boudhanath Stupa. This was amazing, very inspiring. It was later in the day yet there were still many people walking clockwise around the stupa and praying. Pray flags flutter from the top giving the stupa a maypole effect. We walked around for a while, realised that we couldn't go against the tide, kind of like wearing shoes into a wharenui, so wandered off into the back streets. We got a little lost, ended up heading back to the stupa and continuing around, not having found a loo like we needed to.

On one of the back streets we came across the carpet carrying men. They were keen to have their photos taken, we obliged. There was much conversation and laughing as they looked at the photos Kate and I took. Kate's are wonderful and can be found at her website along with lots of other fantastic photos.

More on the stupa courtesy of http://www.sacred-destinations.com/nepal/kathmandu-boudhanath-stupa

Boudhanath Stupa (or Bodnath Stupa) is the largest stupa in Nepal and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. It is the center of Tibetan culture in Kathmandu and rich in Buddhist symbolism. The stupa is located in the town of Boudha, on the eastern outskirts of Kathmandu.

Bodnath was probably built in the 14th century after the Mughal invasions; various interesting legends are told regarding the reasons for its construction. After the arrival of thousands of Tibetans following the 1959 Chinese invasion, the temple has become one of the most important centers of Tibetan Buddhism. Today it remains an important place of pilgrimage and meditation for Tibetan Buddhists and local Nepalis, as well as a popular tourist site.

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