Following an exquisite day 1 in Nepal, the hotel called us for a 5:30am wake up call for what was to be another full day of experiences.
The reason for the early morning wake up call was because we had Buddha Air tickets for a flight to see the Himalaya range including Mt. Everest and the morning is the best time to see the mountains, if you can see them at all.
We woke up and looked out the window to see haze, clouds, and generally poor conditions for Mt. Everest viewing but got dressed and met up with our tour operator nonetheless. He seemed quiet and did not say much about the weather, which we interpreted as a bad sign, but he did tell us the flight was still on and thus we headed to the airport to await final instructions.
We trudged through the security at the domestic terminal in Kathmandu, which consisted of getting frisked at least two times and a thorough checking of our backpacks that had water and cameras in them.
After waiting for about 20 minutes, our Buddha Air flight 101 was called and we eagerly boarded the flight and got our cameras ready for what was to be an eye catching view. The plane was a small 20 seat plane, twin turbo prop, with some very able pilots. Everyone had window seats and even got to stick our heads into the cockpit and have the pilot point out the mountaintops. It was really fun to hear the pilot say “…and that one there that is Mt. Everest”…it just sends chills running through me.
The flight turned out spectacularly with good views and was problem free. So check that off the day’s list of activities and also check ‘Mt. Everest viewing’ off the bucket list.
The next stops were to Boudhanath Stupa, Pashupatinath, and the old city of Patan.
The Boudhanath Stupa was a great place to see some more prayer wheels and prayer flags and was really a local prayer area, as it was close to the center of town and was encircled by old buildings that house shops and restaurants.
We toured the Stupa, popped into a small Monastery, and then went shopping for some local Nepalese Art. We honed in on Thangkas, which are paintings on silk/cotton of various buddhist depictions. The most common are the wheel of life, the life of Buddha, and the Peace Mandala (a top down view of the temple/stupa) and all are used for prayers and meditation or to remind people of some story of Buddha. The paintings have intricate details and require a lot of man hours and a delicate hand to paint. We saw a school of painters that were working hard on their masterpieces and ended up buying a few ourselves. It was a good way to do some bargaining, appreciate the artistic skill of the craftsman, and to bring home a souvenir that will remind us of Nepal.
Once we had navigated the Thangka buying it was off to Pashupatinah Temple. The temple is in another old part of Kathmandu, that actually was removed from what is now Kathmandu but has since been taken over in the urban sprawl. The temple itself is located on the Bagmati River and is the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu established in the 5th century. It was interesting to see the old buildings surrounding the temple and the temple itself had some unique iconography on the outside (only hindus are allowed in the building and we are not hindu). Also, in the back of the building there were cremations taking place where the ashes would go into the Bagmati River and eventually join up with the Ganges river. We only saw some limited cremation rituals taking place but the wood pyres and cloth wrapping of the body was enough to make me understand the process and feel somewhat shocked by the openness of death at this place.
The first photo in this set is of a funeral pyre burning and one being setup while the second photo is a body preparing for cremation on the side of the river.
The next stop was to Patan City, which was a separate city from Kathmandu, and and old royal capital in Nepal before the urban are of Kathmandu overtook this city as well. However, Patan City still retains its own Durbar Square and old city area that we toured to see the royal palaces, the temples, and the alley areas that make up the old city.
That ended the touring for the day, but following this we had a very unique and local experience.
It is a long story how we ended up having this local experience, but suffice it to say that my grandfather, through a friend of his, had correspondence with a local Nepali in Kathmandu named Rajinder via letters. My grandfather provided us with the local phone number and the name of the hotel where Rajinder worked. This was as much as we knew, as the last correspondence was in 2003. <>Wally and Eve found out that the hotel has since closed down and thus we had little chance of finding Rajinder. They tried to call him with no response, but had our hotel leave a message on his phone in the local language. This led to Rajinder actually contacting our hotel and inviting us over for dinner. We gladly accepted and met up with Rajinder, his wife, his daughter, and his nephew for a local Nepalese dinner at their wonderful home.
The dinner consisted of dahl, chicken curry, green beans, some pickled tomatoes and some spinach. It was amazingly good and the curry chicken was simply some of the best of the trip. We also had the joy of trying some homemade rice wine that was strong but good stuff <>. It tasted kind of smoky with a slight burn afterwards and definitely could be used to heat people up during the cold Nepal winter.
Here is a picture of the whole group together, except the nephew who was taking the shot.
We were blown away by their hospitality to invite us into their home and serve us some local food. Their home was very nice, with a spectacular roof garden and well sized rooms. We even got to watch world cup together. What a wonderful bookend to a great day.