Where to begin? Since arriving in Kathmandu, Nepal yesterday afternoon, all of my senses – especially sight, sound, and smell – have been continuously in overdrive. Yet I am quite relaxed, serene and peaceful. Ironically, the arrival at Kathmandu was a bit chaotic due to a confusing Visa application process, which took just about everyone – who did not already have a visa – at least an hour to complete. However, it didn’t bother me, nor did it seem to irritate anyone else.
Multiple lines for photo, currency exchange, ATM, Visa application approval were the order of the day at Kathmandu International Airport. Quite comic actually, as I initially got in the wrong line (for people already having a visa),; then later getting in the correct line, but not having the correct currency, i.e., they do not want Nepalese currency . . . but rather, American U.S. dollars or Euros, thank you very much. Consequently, I had to go back to the ATM machine and get a few more Nepalese rupees so I would be able to exchange them at the currency window for U.S. greenbacks ($25) to pay off the Nepal immigration official, but still have sufficient rupees to take a taxi to my hotel. Confused? You should have seen me and others at the airport. Ha. Regardless, as I said earlier I was serene and peaceful and kept saying the Serenity prayer while I waited patiently or chatted with fellow travelers. Tick tock, tick tock . . .
After immigration, the real thrills came – riding in a Nepalese taxi through the streets of Kathmandu. If I had hair, I would describe it as “hair raising.” Imagine the scariest Disney World ride you have ever been on, then multiply that experience by a factor of at least 10. Presto! You are in a Kathmandu taxi. Yikes! A white knuckle ride if ever there was one. The half hour ride to my hotel included: multiple instances of “playing chicken” with oncoming motorcycles and cars (only avoiding trucks – which are the “Kings of the road”); missing people, dogs and cattle by mere inches (yes, cows are in the downtown area; and, hitting potholes every second for the “shaken, not stirred” effect. Bangkok traffic is child’s play compared to what I experienced yesterday.
Nevertheless, I arrived at my beautiful (and relatively inexpensive) Shambaling hotel safe and sound. No sooner had I arrived and checked in, but met this wonderful engaging German couple, Dr. Manfred Woebcke, and his wife, Birgit, who have together, authored many travel books, including an Amazon bestseller on Dubai (published in 2008). They offered to assist me in finding a local ATM machine, as well as showing me a little bit of the area. Since my room was still being prepared, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to wander around a bit and get the lay of the land.
We walked approximately a kilometer and came upon Boudhanath Temple, a World Heritage Site. I was awestruck by what I saw. Boudhanath stupa is “. . . a jewel point in the center of a natural mandala, a store of energy.” This site is one of the most important places of pilgrimage for Buddhists. The Stupa is commonly known as Boudha or Boudhanath, meaning Lord of Wisdom. According to what I have read about the site, it is a “protective, purifactory and wish granting stupa.” Because of its antiquity, its origins are beyond the recall of folk memory. I promised myself that I would return the next day (today) to explore this site in more detail. I took these photos of the site and surrounding area:
I have only included one photo of my visit to Pashupatinath Temple in this post, i.e., the one where I am with the Yogi. Tomorrow, I will complete Part II of this post, with the emphasis on my visit to Pashupatinath. I will probably include a few unrelated photos I didn’t include today, as well as photos l will have taken tomorrow (unless my cold – yes, I think I came down with one late today – gets worse). Finally, I want to thank Sanjay, the Shambaling hotel manager who was quite helpful in suggesting places to go and things to do. His knowledge of the area is excellent. Thank you Sanjay!
Until then, enjoy your day . . .