Friday, 9 December 2016

Visiting Lumbini – Birth Place of Siddhartha Buddha

The ride to Lumbini was an agonizing 8 hours journey, very slow and very windy. Although the scenery was amazing as the small bus climbed up and down the mountain pass after a while it gnaw on you.
Shack Huts for Lunch on the way to Lumbini
Lunch time and the bus stop in the middle of a pass, not even a town but they had some huts up and served as a restaurant. They serve Dhalbat …. Lovely but then I remembered the windy road and limited my consumption to manageable level.
 
Road from Pokhara to Lumbini

We pass by the town Bhairahawa which was the town near Sunauli the border crossing between India and Nepal. I took note of the place for I would be back a few days later to do that crossing. Lumbini was another 30km away …. A single street simple and very isolated, it was not bombarded with pilgrims as I expected it too.
Bhairahawa

Lumbini Town
The signs of an active tourist site was there, plenty of guesthouse, restaurant and a little trinket shops selling Buddha statue and charms. Still it was not as bustling touristy as I imagine. If you would to walk into one of the many scattered village around Nepal where barely any tourist visit then this street in Lumbini was just like that only they had Guesthouses and some restaurant for they had a trickle amount of tourist visiting once a while.

A walk into the Lumbini Garden
The birth place of Buddha was a UNESCO heritage site and a very large garden filled with temple and monastery was place in it. The actual town Lumbini was the street outside of this garden.
I checked in a guesthouse for 400 rupee a night, privet with a large bed to myself. Only issue is that you sleep whenever you can …. When there is power that is. Power cuts seems to be common for the 4 days I was there and one really need the fan to be working to sleep.
The only other tourist I could identify on the bus was a white couple and a group of three guys backpacking. The very next morning I could see them leaving Lumbini.

The Mahadevi temple was a new building built over the ancient temple site which dates backs to 3 or 4 B.C and one could visit with a donation of 200 rupee. Leave shoes outside and a guy would take care of it for you for 5 ruppee. Walking around one will notice all the Bodhi tree which was around the garden.


Manmade garden so not so sure if this was how it actually look like when Buddha was born. Inside the temple there is a marker stone which marks the precise spot where Buddha was born and above a very old and vague stone carving of Mahadevi, Buddha’s mother.
Mahadevi Temple - Lumbini

Did I feel anything ….. nope …. But it was still worth a visit in my opinion to just see the place.

The next day I decided to take the local bus and visit the ancient city of Kapalivastu. Ancient city was no more but Kapalivastu was still there and it was a small town with many narrow winding streets that one could easily get lost inside. Smack in the middle is an orange temple which is overcrowded, obviously very old since the structure looks nothing like the buildings around it and it protrudes out higher than any of them.

Kapalivastu Town

The ruin sites or archaeological sites of the ancient kingdom where Siddhartha grew up as a prince was scattered around Kapalivastu but the closest one was a 5km walk away and I had no idea which direction. After taking a super long bus ride and melting in the heat I decided just visiting the town and walking around for an hour was enough and I headed back to Lumbini to rest.
 

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Lazing in Pokhara

Pokhara was a tranquil place as one of the nepali local told me in Spanish as I await my bus in the morning going to Lumbini. I stayed there 3 nights and seen nothing of Pokhara other than going for Dhal Bat every lunch and Dinner. Best Dhal Bat in Pokhara claimed Stephano and it was the cheapest we have ever come across too at 150 ruppee.

Planned to walk around town …. Did not happen …. Plan to rent a motorbike and drive around … did not happen … plan to get a massage … did not happen so everyday in Pokhara was a lazy day.

Pokhara
 
Dhalbat
In part it was due to the monsoon season that was already in. Everyday like clockwork the rain pours from 4pm all the way till the next morning. This made for very condusive sleeping hence I always almost slept till 10 am before waking up and chilling and then it was lunch time or Dhalbat time as we have started to coin the term.
Few days later the bunch of people from Kathmandu Hostel turned up and checked in. It was time to leave I thought and time to resume my solo adventure. Next morning I left after breakfast and bid Duncan and Stephano best wishes on the 10 day no talking no sex no smoking no eye contact no alchohol no drugs meditation course. The VIPASSANA meditation course
Pokhara
 

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Kathmandu after the 2015 Earthquake

Kathmandu. A lot of the historical sites in Kathmandu now lay in ruins. I spend most of my days in Kathmandu just walking around the huge and congested city of Kathmandu. Pollution was unavoidable in the city and walking no more than 10 minutes and one will be covered in dust and ashes.

Most of the tourist never leave the heart of Thamel where one could find restaurants, tour agency, laundry, Hotels,
Thamel - Kathmandu
guesthouse and unlimited arts and craft for souvenir hunters to take home. I almost got suckered in to it as well and in a way I did not manage to make it past the second zone of Kathmandu which was walking distance in any direction within 2 hours.


If it were not for the search for the post office for my hunt of stamps collection I would have never seen some of the historical sites as well. They say you will see ruins now only. In a way it is true for I saw some historical sites that was in-
Intricate wooden structures all over Kathmandu- Nepal
complete, or in utter ruins and others was unsafe to enter but was being propped up and supported by poles till the money and time required to restore it to its former glory could kick in.


It will take years for the UNESCO heritage site to be rebuilt especially with the strictness of the UNESCO rules but for all other parts of Kathmandu they are recovering as fast as they can from the disaster.

It was not surprising that the Heritage places suffered the most damage. They were after all one of the oldest in town. Buildings are built top heavy here in Kathmandu like a reverse pyramid. This makes it more prone to collapse and damage during a big shake. Dunbar City was one of those sites that although cracked and tilted still holds a charm. Its one of those place that even if you don’t know about it, wondering into the ancient city will make one eyes and mind blown away even in a semi ruin state.
Dunbar City - Kathmandu Nepal


Ruin Tower of Dharahara
One plus side of visiting Nepal now I guess is that I walked in most of the historical site for free. Signboard stating 100 Rp for locals and 800 Rp for other country visitors are not enforce now and one could just stroll in and watch the ruins. I went to only three sites … the ruin tower Dharahara, Dunbar Square and monkey temple.
Dunbar Square I have already gave a glimpse of the beauty of ruin buildings being propped up despite its falling nature and Dharahara was a wrech. The totem pole tower is completely and utterly missing. Best to just demolish the rest to the ground or just leave it as it is.

Monkey temple was a long walk out of town. Nearly an hour since I got lost a bit. Kathmandu was a place you will get lost if you do not have a working GPS. Map won’t really cut it

since there are barely any street signs and even if there is it would be in Napalese language. Streets are conjoined by hidden passageway or passageway through someone’s house that forms a pedestrian street that motorbikes uses as well.

Monkey Temple - Kathmandu
There are no rules in Kathmandu as far as I can tell. Power, telecom, lights, roads, sewage, drainage, water, food … everything is a mash of chaos intricately bound together and harmonized.
View of Kathmandu From Monkey Temple