Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Himalayas

Is there a way to see the Himalayas in Nepal without going on arduous treks?  In other words, is there such a thing as Himalayas for sissies?

Of course there is.  Take the mountain flight.  The plane flies around the Himalayas, giving you the chance to take it all in.

But don't get too carried away taking photos.

Waiting for boarding.

We left the hotel at 6 in the morning to get to the airport.  The flight left at 6:30, on board what could probably be the smallest plane in the world (14-seater).

Seriously?  That's our plane?  No, really.  That's it?

Well hello there, Captain.  Can I get a high five?

At the initial stage of the flight I was like, okay, the sky is overcast.  We probably won't get to see a clear view of anything.  But then as the plane flew a bit higher, the clouds somehow disappeared and the majestic mountains came to view.

And then there was Everest.  Stunning.  Just stunning.

Okay, again.  This time with labels:


Nepal:  Sandwiched by India on three sides and China in the north, this landlocked gem is as culturally diverse as its physical landscape.


Dusty...uber chaotic...scheduled power outages (mostly from 8am to 6 pm, everyday)....streets laden with rubbish...scrawny, soft-eyed cows walking aimlessly about....is it a medieval time capsule?  A Holy land?  Tourist trap?  Paradise, or an environmental disaster?

It's all of the above.

And I love it.

Thamel is Kathmandu's travelers district.  Its unpaved (therefore dusty) narrow alleys are tightly packed with hotels, restaurants, souvenir shops, Thangka galleries, singing bowl shops, shops selling high-end trekking gear replicas, and other establishments selling pretty much anything and everything that can gather dust.

Singing bowls

Outisde Thamel one would finally experience the full impact of Kathmandu's hellish traffic jams and pollution (land, air, water).  The old city is still made up of wonderful old architecture, temples (stupa), holy cows (pun intended), holy men, more narrow streets, and of course a seemingly endless sea of people.

Oh, and goats.  Looong-legged goats.

Man, those goats are mighty tall.


     This is the plaza in front of the royal palace of the erstwhile Kingdom of Kathmandu.  It houses palaces, courtyards, and temples - including the Kumari Ghar.

The Royal Palace

Kumari Ghar - a building inside the Square that is home to the living goddess of Kathmandu.  Made of bricks with magnificent carvings on solid teak wood, the temple was built in 1757.  The living goddess (Kumari) is a young girl who is believed to be the incarnation of the demon-slaying Hindu goddess of Durga.

Tourists can only enter the courtyard and if lucky, the Kumari appears on the window.  In our case, we were at the courtyard just before noon and got a glimpse of the beautiful divine inhabitant.  Photographing the Kumari is strictly prohibited.

Courtyard of the Kumari house.

Detail carving of one of the teak wood pillars in the courtyard.
Durbar Square Market

Souvenirs for sale.
Nepali women selling local peaches and apricots.


     Believed to be the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu.  Cremations are done here everyday. 

Cremation ceremony

Holy cows!

Local woman transporting wood for cremation.

Onlookers.  Or they could be the Nepali doppelgangers of One Direction.
Vibrant colors of Gulal (powdered dye).


     Situated on top of a hill, it is more popularly known as the monkey temple due to loads of roving monkeys believed to guard the temple.


Worshipers throwing coins at the World Peace Pond before heading up the steps to the temple.
On our way up the stupa.  This monkey's like, "heeeyyyyy."
Syawambunath Temple

One of the shrines around the base of the stupa.

Beautiful old Nepali houses around the stupa.

Turning the prayer wheels.

Great view of Kathmandu atop the hill.


     One of the largest Buddhist stupas in the world, the largest in Nepal, and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet.


Tibetan refugees

Shops around the stupa.

Prayer flags