Saturday, April 2, 2011

Lifting the Veil

Leaving the Buddha Hotel surprisingly well rested the next morning, we trucked our duffels and day packs to our original hotel Manang at 6:30AM for breakfast and to store our luggage their until our room was ready. As part of our Annapurna trek, a private half day tour of Kathmandu was to begin at 8:30AM. We left our gear at the front desk and headed down stairs to the nice breakfast buffet which included yogurt, fruit, eggs cooked to order, pastry, toast, grilled tomatoes, and “Rosty” potatoes. Coffee and juice provided to wash down the meal. The dining room was nice with a lovely adjoining courtyard that is part of the hotel’s restaurant called the Thamal Base Camp.

Monkeys actually tour the visitors through the temple
After finishing breakfast we returned to the front desk and they explained our room wouldn’t be ready until about nine or maybe 8:30AM. As promised they delivered our room just about the time our trekking guide Sherpa Dawa and our city tour guide Tulsi were waiting for us in the lobby. Our new room was better than the Buddha but as we discovered after checking other hotels, basically all rooms are roughly the same…only the building fascia and lobby are different.

Singing bowl guru, Shree listens to our bowl we purchased

View of Patan Darbar Square from our restaurant rooftop
After the formal introductions to our city guide, Sherpa Dawa left us in the capable hands of Tulsi and his driver. It is important to note, driving and talking simultaneously is very dangerous in the Kathmandu traffic thus the need for a separate driver and guide. We sped as fast as one can move through the congested winding streets off to visit a couple temples such as the “Monkey Temple” where Shree a shop owner demonstrated the healing arts of singing bowls. He told us the story of being in Colorado to perform and lecture on bowls at the same time Barack Obama was stumping for the presidency, during the Democratic Convention. Someone from the presidential party had an incurable headache contacted him for treatment and within minutes of his treatment the headache disappeared. On top of that Chelsea Clinton stopped by his shop and he presented a bowl for the president. Little to say I'm a sucker for a good story especially when it was well presented, so we purchased a beautiful looking and sounding bowl to keep up with the Clintons and Obamas. Then we returned to our taxi to take us to Patan for a fascinating walking tour through the dark winding streets of the oldest part of Kathmandu and the home of the ancient palace, royal residences and the Patan Museum.  We ducked in and out of small openings that lead into private courtyards adorned with ornate woodwork all the while Mr. Tulsi explained in detail of each area we explored. He kept our interest all the time we followed like students to each classroom.

Typical Nepal Dahl Batt meal with Mr. Tulsi
Through the course of conversation with Mr. Tulsi, we discovered he was a school principal and it certainly showed with his complete knowledge of the history and understanding of the current sociological interactions of the Nepalese. Midday we stopped for Nepali lunch, sitting outside on top of the restaurant to enjoy the magnificent view of Kathmandu and the historical royal residences in Patan Darbar Square. After lunch was a quick view of a couple buildings and then we met up with our driver and returned to our new room for nap time and to get ready for the beginning of our six day trek through the mountains and villages of Annapurna mountain range.

By now we’ve come to understand a bit of the ebb and flow of the traffic in Kathmandu, what to expect or not expect in dealing with your expectations of nearly everything, and I began for the first time shedding the shroud of comparisons of my lifestyle at home. I felt the veil which we live in the US had been lifted and can understand, when to accept the current situation, or how to confront or press an issue. I can kick back and enjoy the ride.

BLOG PLUS FEATURE: How to walk the streets in Nepal. First, sacred cows trump all. There is an understood hierarchy regarding the use of the streets especially in Kathmandu. When a vehicle sounds their horn behind you, make a modest attempt to move to the side….remember there are few actual sidewalks and those are mainly used for extended display of merchandise, motorcycle parking, or to provide services such as tailoring or shoe repair…DO NOT radically move because this can be read as an irrational maneuver by the approaching driver. The same also goes for the approaching vehicle though this can be much more frightening…again make a solemn attempt and they will go past you, very closely yes but these drivers are way more professional then the likes I’ve ever experienced, especially the motorcycle riders. Crossing the road is really tricky. The newbie to Kathmandu could stand for hours waiting for an opening or pause in traffic so you must show your intentions and bravely with intention cross the road, again DO NOT hesitate or you’ll run the risk of being a messy hood ornament on a TATA diesel truck or tied up into the spokes of a bicycle rickshaw. This same instruction  for crossing the road is useful in Thailand as well.

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