Monday, 28 September 2009

Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu, Everest and arrival in Bhutan

*n.b. Before reading this you must understand that there should have been a blog from Kathmandu yesterday, and although i wrote it, i could not send it because o2 doesn't seem to have any service here in the Himalayas, so my good plans of keeping my online diary and letting you know about my travels have already reached a large impediment. I will post the first blog at a later date when i have coverage.

So here i am sitting in the hotel in Paro, Bhutan typing this blog from the hotel computer behind reception where i've made friends with the 3 girls who would on the desk. One of them is called Nobru and is 23 and married with a son who is 1 year old. One of the girls is my age. She has 2 children. The girls are asking why my family isn't with me. I have explained i have no children, so i think they mean you Mum and Dad!
I have gone from very hot this morning in Kathmandu to rainy cool and alpine here this evening in Paro. But let me tell you about my day.
Our hotel in Kathmandu, Dwarikas, was very "premium" and constituted from pieces of older buildings and temples. Its really quite enchanting, but maybe 20mins out of the centre of Kathmandu, that i have yet to visit.
It was however rather near the river where the Nepalese conduct funeral rites by the Pashupatinath Temple.
So nearly all the group left Kathmandu for Bhutan at about 6am this morning, apart from 3 of us who were booked on a later flight. This may seem very odd, but The Royal Bhutan Druk air (I keep wanting to call it Drudkh air) do as they please. They are the only airline that fly to Bhutan, and you will fly when they say you will fly. So Tessa, Jayne and i flew out from Kathmandu this afternoon, which enabled us to have a bit of a sleep in, which was much needed, and to visit the Pashupatinath temple this morning.
The sun was really scorching this morning as we walked out of our hotel past ramshackle buildings and hoards of electric/communication cables stringing along the streets, cows, kids, beeping mopeds and buses with people hanging off the sides. It took us a little while to find our way, but it wasn't far and we made it down to the river where the bodies are burnt. It costs money to get in for tourists. I assume they tell who are tourists by looking at the colour of skin. We were accosted by a few people wanting to guide us before we got there, then once were paid of a ticket we kinda picked up a chap named Krisna who had been working there for 25 years (i assume he must have started there pretty young) who talked us through everything, Hinduism, Shiva, Kali, Sacrifice, Burning bodies, His personal social/political views, how many monkeys there are in Kathmandu (2000), Gurus, Sidhus etc. Pashupatinath was bigger than we expected and we didn't have all the time in the world, as you have to be at the airport 3 hours early for flights to Bhutan, by order of Drudkh air. Sorry, Druk air.
Monkey run wild, bodies are burnt, (i saw just the toes left) important people get burnt to the left of the bridge, more ordinary people to the right, but everyone can reach Nirvana if they have a funeral pyre at Pashupatinath. Its such a well desired end that there are several old people's homes in the complex, one of them run by the nuns of Mother Theresa. We went to meet some of the old people, bless 'em. I said Namaste and got some toothless grins, but mainly i dont think they noticed us at all until we made a somewhat compulsory donation.
Because it was a Monday, it was sacrifice day apparently, but we arrived too late to see the duck/chicken (not dog, monkey, or cow - if you eat/kill one of them you'll be reborn a women!! No!!!) being killed, we only saw it's pooled blood.
It was a festival day today in Kathmandu too, celebrating overcoming demons. Everyone had a tiki, and i didn't realise this until later that this was to make you lucky in love. I didn't get one. Ugh! Fail!
Anyway, after wandering round the temple with our guide Krisna and watching some bodies burn, and some kids and mothers bathe in the river opposite the bodies as the ashes fell into the water, we had to get back to the hotel to meet our lift to the airport. It was really pretty hot, and i was sweaty and tired. When we got to the airport Drudkh air was not ready to check us in yet, so we waited around for a while. I tried to get reception on my blackberry from the airport WIFI (wifey) no luck.
Anyway, after more forms, more paperwork and multiple frisking and bag searches, and a delay of about an hour during which i dropped off to sleep we were off! To Bhutan!
We managed to get a window seat on the right hand side of the plane, and not only were we afforded a fantastic view of Kathmandu as we flew away, but magnificent view of Everest! Awesome! Its almost level with the plane as you fly past peeking above the clouds. Everest! The highest mountain in the world! Quite spectaculour! And i've seen the top!
Then landing in Bhutan, only a 50 minute flight, but what a flight. Coming into Bhutan (Paro) airport is jaw dropping. You wind inbetween mountains all green and forested with the odd red and white house or temple dotted into the landscape and then you land at what looks like a temple. The airport is infact designed like a temple, and the immigration is like an altar! Not to mention the chap that goes round measuring your temperature to see if you have swine flu and whether you're allowed in or not. Everyone (working) wears national dress in Bhutan. Men in tunics to the knee and knee high socks, and women in long straight skirts and jackets. I've never been anywhere like it in my life. Its straight out of a studio Ghibli movie. Really enchanting. So now i've just had dinner and found a computer, and i'm going to go and crash out. We go to the capital Thimphu tomorrow and i want to get rid of a bit of jetlag and be on top form for choosing my national dress and finding out more about this amazing, isolated place.
So i hope i'll be able to find another computer soon.
Tashi delek!

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