Monday, 5 October 2009

Do Kathmandu

I arrived back in crazy Kathmandu yesterday from peaceful and tranquil Bhutan. Druk air (The only airline that flys to Bhutan) is an experience in itself, and the flight across the Himalaya where you can see Everest is really something. Upon arrival in Kathmandu however all calm is dispelled with the traffic, people, and mish mash of colours, smells, dirt and bumpy roads. The amount of cars, mopeds, bikes, motorbikes, minivans with people hanging out the sides, bikes with 2 kids and mum and dad, all beeping and swerving is quite a blast when coming in from Paro. Its also a lot hotter here in Kathmandu than in the Kingdom of the Dragon. Anyway, we arrive at the airport and have our passports collected by Sunil our Nepali tour guide to sort the Tibet visa out. Then we head back to Dwarika's hotel to dump stuff and get sorted.
Dwarikas is the crazy posh hotel made with bits of old buildings in an Indiana Jones style.
We were due a "free afternoon" yesterday but decided to all go to Bhaktapur with a guide instead. Bhaktapur is a world heritage site and i'm very glad we had a guide, not only to explain but because the place is like a maze and it would have been easy to get lost. Everywhere here seems so full of bustle and people and colour. You have to dodge motobikes and bikes laden with bananas or unknown items in baskets on your way through the streets whilst also taking in the amazing carvings and architecture. The mixture of Hinduism and Buddhism is very interesting to me, and i bought an (expensive) book at the Peacock book shop that had been totally hand made and hand printed about Nepali Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism.
There is a lot of dust everywhere, but some of the colourful dust in the temples is this Tika powder paint that's all over the statues. I'm trying to learn the different Hindu Gods and their manifestations. I've read the Mahabarata, and some of the Gita and i remember the stories of Rama and Sita and Hanuman, but it's all very confusing. Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and all their manifestations... And the "spiritual consorts"... all covered in red powder and topped with bits of grass from the festival last week. Not to mention the animal blood you find in some places from where male animals have been offered as they represent demons. (They're eaten afterwards, its just their blood that's offered)
Last night we went out to Ramdoodles which is the place where all the trekkers go before going up Everest, and its covered in these big cardboard feet signed by different expeditions. I ate a tuna and sweetcorn pizza, which was a highlight, as i've been living off of rice and vegetables for quite a while now, and it was nice to have something i'm more used to (even though i don't actually eat pizza at home!)
On the subject of food, i should mention that there's not many people on my trip who haven't had some kind of dodgy tummy, and i am no exception. Although, it hasn't really been a hinderance so far, and i'm just taking it easy. I haven't eaten any meat really since i go here, as i'm hoping to do a Kora (have i spelt this right?) in Tibet, and i want to be "pure".
Talking of purity, i didn't finish telling you about Tiger's nest in Bhutan, It was truly magnificent, i think i mentioned that, and we took poneys half the way up, but from that point you have to get to the top of the mountain, its really quite steep, but a lot of it is steps and no problem. Along the way i saw a small lady coming out of this hole in the cliff, and i was informed that if you managed to get through the hole in the cave/cliff there you were absolved of all sin. As i have rather a hoard of sin, i thought i would try it, and i came through no problem (apart from Mum's hiking boots that got a bit stuck) I just kinda launched myself head first through this crack in the cliff from the cave behind. Peter (one of the chaps on this adventure, who used to be a banker) and i decided i should go into the cave again and pop out at the right time to scare all the rest of the slow-coach party on their way down the hill. Which i did, whilst doing my best tiger impression to shock and appaul. Win.
I should also mention the 16yr old monk i made friends with at Tigers Nest. I asked him if he was good at meditating and he said no. I said i was total crap and we had a laugh. He was very interested in London and my life. He's been a monk for 11yrs and posted at Tigers nest for 2months. He has to get up at 3am and he goes to bed at 6pm. I wish i could remember his name. Dammit. He was very sweet and when i left Tigers nest and was on the side of the mountain facing the monastery, he was outside waving at me.

Anyway, back to Kathmandu. Today we went to the Monkey temple (Swayambhunath) and Bodnath. Both of which are world heritage sites. There are really lots of monkeys at Swayambhunath, but i didn't spend a lot of time looking at the Stupa as i went into the Buddhist temple and lit a candle for poor Uncle Brain who passed away a week ago (who used to guest on my show and was the bassist in 3 inches of blood) and then i met a monk called Jigme who was interested to why i like Manjushri. I got nervous and couldn't explain why i thought Manjushri is so interesting (Manjushri, slayer of ignorance). Anyway, he sat me down and started teaching me, but then our group leader showed up and i had to go. Jigme has my email address, so i hope we'll stay in contact.
Bodnath is a bigger Stupa than Swayambhunath, and its where a lot of the Tibetan refugees live. There are a lot of Tibetan ladies and gents doing laps clockwise round the Stupa, and even some Tibetans doing full prostrations in front of the Buddha's all seeing eyes. I visited a Thangka painting school and got taught about singing bowls, and spun lots of prayer wheels, with good reason, and i need to go and find out if my lighting butter lamps and spinning prayer wheels worked now.
So i'll write again soon.

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