Master Plan of Lumbini

SYNOPSIS:  A trip to the birthplace of the Buddha with Vladimir from the Hidden Paradise in nearly unbearable heat.

I will spare you the details of the bumpy 8-hour bus ride that should have taken 5 hours, taking us from Pokhara to Lumbini.  That’s Nepal and its roads that are in desperate need of repair. It will likely be that way for a few more years, or even decades?  Vladimir from Serbia, who lives in Canada, whom I met at the Hidden Paradise, had been tossing up a few possible places for his next destination.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY


Ann and Laxman above Lake Fewa

SYNOPSIS:  Ann’s birthday celebrated in style at the Hidden Paradise in Pokhara. About the joys and the miseries of paragliding; my experience in particular.  What happens when I try to have fun.

It was a glorious day.  And it was Ann’s 50th birthday!  She had envisioned a day she would never forget; different from all others.  And her wish got off to a very good start, especially given the spotty wind and weather conditions of the previous days. 

Laxman and his younger brother are paragliding pilots specializing in tandem flights.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY


Hum, the babbling Boat Captain

SYNOPSIS:  A visit of the Shanti Peace Stupa, a UNESCO site.  About an underground waterfall in a cave, a boat ride and a hike. 

Beautifully located atop the mountains, overlooking Fewa Lake, and on a clear day sporting a full panorama of the Annapurna glaciers, the Shanti Peace Stupa has an interesting history.  It was conceived in 1947, built in 1973, only to be torn down and destroyed by the Nepalese government shortly thereafter.  So much for a world-peace effort!  A second attempt at building in 1992 proved more successful.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY


View across the Lake

SYNOPSIS:  About a three-day vacation in the mountains.  Keep scrolling down.  Photos are embedded.

Kathmandu needed a break; better, I needed a break from Kathmandu.  It’s just too dusty and hectic, and Nepal is full of wonderful things, many of which I have to miss.  Against the advice of all and any travel books, I chanced a flight with Buddha Air, a local airline.  Nepali airlines are notorious for flight cancellations and delays, but I figured that most likely, there are also a good number that fly as scheduled.  And who is in a hurry?VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY


Two Sadhus

SYNOPSIS:  About the Siva Temple Pashupatinath, a lively puja session of love and devotion, some religious “weirdos”, and the ghats, where Hindus cremate their dead.  A photo essay of the cremation ceremony (from start to finish) and the puja session (start to finish).  Keep scrolling down, images embedded.

The entrance fee to the Siva Temple Pashupatinath for foreigners was steep ($10; locals are free), and I had to think of Patam, who may not make as much as this in a whole day of work, but had to pay rent and feed his family nonetheless.  I was particularly disappointed, when I realized that despite this price, the two main temples on the grounds were off limit to foreigners!VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY


ET with Patam’s Daughter

SYNOPSIS:  About visiting the Swayambunath and the Bodnath (Boudhanath) and Patam’s Family.

If you know the movie The Little Buddha with Keanu Reeves, then you know exactly where I am:  at the Swayambunath, better known locally as the Monkey Temple.  On two consecutive days, I visited it and its bigger, but younger brother, the Bodnath Stupa.  These big-bellied, white mounds with their “big brother watching you” eyes, represent the quintessential Nepalese stupa types and can be found in miniature versions around the big ones, as well as in many neighborhood courtyards.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY


SYNOPSIS:  A visit to the Budhanilkantha Temple and a few scenes of daily life, cows, and dust from Kathmandu.

A bit off the beaten path on the northern outskirts of Kathmandu, there is a temple I learned about in graduate school called Budhanilkantha.  It has nothing to do with the Buddha but is rather the temple housing a large (16 feet) image of a reclining Vishnu.

Once again, I hired Bishwa.  He has his flaws but by now I have full confidence in his motorcycling skills.  Even on less frequented side roads, traffic in Nepal has its challenges.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY


Ringing the Bells

SYNOPSIS:  About a Saturday excursion – A day of blood-sacrifice to Kali. 

Everyone seemed to pray a lot today even if to different deities.  Road conditions were so treacherous that what should have taken us 40 minutes, took us an hour and a half.  Bishwa wiggled his way skillfully through a 5 km traffic backup and assured me that I was OK as we passed three accidents involving motorcycles…  I begged St. Christopher to hang in there! 

Everyone was heading to Dakshinkali, the local temple dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali.  Saturdays and Tuesdays are her days.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY


Bungamati Home

SYNOPSIS:  Excursion to Khokana and Bungamati; the village of the rain god, of traditional wood carvers, and of the fourth living goddess.  About earthquake damage and attitudes.

If Kathmandu is bad, the villages around the earthquake zone are even worse off.

Bishwa with his motorbike is a great option for me to be on the move.  He is a safe driver with a comfortable motorbike, and he knows his surroundings.  Nepal’s travel season is over and business for him and other tourist-dependent industries is down.  He got lucky he met me, and vice versa. 

Today, he drove me to Khokana and Bungamati, the home village of the rain god whose festival I witnessed yesterday.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY


Festival Scene

SYNOPSIS:  How to bring about the monsoon season.  A festival in Patan.

One of the many guides who approached me when I rumbled across the rubble-filled temple square with my luggage yesterday was Bishwa.  What distinguished him from the other guides was his sense of humor and the fact that he owns a motorbike.  I got his number.  Today when I heard about the Rato Machindranath Jatra, an annual festival performed in Patan, another nearby ancient capital city in the Kathmandu Valley, that number came in handy.  I had a ride.VIEW PHOTOS AND READ THE WHOLE STORY