Chapter 6: It's Not All About Everest
November 26, 2018
From thirty degrees to a humid chill of eighteen degrees. We’d stepped into “winter”. It was recognizably colder than anywhere else we’d been in Asia, and were grateful for our long pants and sweaters.
Taking immigration seriously was difficult, as the young gentleman joked around and treated us like old friends rather than foreigners entering the country. He flashed us a gorgeous pearly smile, and waved us through accompanied by “have a wonderful stay in Nepal”. We weren’t sure if that was a test, and if we’d be accosted by Nepali authorities momentarily.
Acquired SIM cards. Be prepared to provide a passport sized photo in order to buy a SIM. This was the first country that we encountered this new regulation.
700 NPR - Nepali Rupees ($8.14 CAD) for what we thought would be a cheaper and shorter taxi ride; this was not the case: 1 km anywhere in Nepal means 10 minutes. Our guesthouse was located in the tourist mecca, Thamel. It was only 6 km away from the airport, but it was rush hour, and traffic in Kathmandu is next level. We had no idea what we were about to witness.
A chaotic order presented itself: swerving scooters, bumper to bumper vehicles, vehicles turning into the oncoming lane, and of course pedestrians crossing the street…ALL AT THE SAME TIME. Every building we passed was a different shape and colour, with or without cracks. Rubble crowded around the base of establishments, and dog upon dog roamed freely. At the outer edges of the streets, a palette of brown skin, epicanthic folds, and Indian features; eagerness to get to know this new culture bubbled up. Who are the people of Nepal? What is their history?
And so the adventure began.
Kathmandu is not built on a grid; the infrastructure is very “unstructured”. Finding our guesthouse was hilarious as we had to weave under buzzing electrical lines and around a few dark corners. For $10.00 CAD/night Mitra Garden Inn covered most of our needs. Most buildings in Nepal are made out of concrete, and are not heated… so we ended up sleeping in long pants and sometimes a sweater when it was extra chilly.
The first thing we did after settling in was indulge in a dinner of Chicken Biryani, the famous Nepali Momo, and milk tea.
Nepal Food Fact: You cannot go to Nepal without trying Momo (Nepali dumpling) and milk tea. The milk tea is sweet, creamy and delicious. It’s addicting.
After dinner, we trolled the streets and came across a man making roti. 10 NPR ($0.12 CAD) for a piece, so of course I indulged. The roti man wrapped up the piping hot doughy deliciousness in a piece of news paper, and it was the first of many I would enjoy during our stay in Nepal. Across the way, Ryley and I spotted an eye-catching poncho in a unique looking shop.
Local Women’s Handicrafts had everything you could ever want made locally, ethically, and out of the best materials. We were led upstairs to the second part of the store off the main strip. All of the merchandise was organized in a comfortable little room, with mirrors for trying on. I fell in love with this beautiful handmade poncho. There were so many stores in Thamel that offered ponchos or North Face jackets for cheap… but it wasn’t the same. Not only did I like this particular poncho, but by supporting this particular business we’d be donating to Nepali women and children’s education; ethical all the way around.
Cozy status: achieved.
We posted up in the middle of a concrete ‘round about, and took in our new environment. The disparity between locals was visible. This was my first sobering glance of true poverty, and the rose coloured lenses were yanked off of my face. The realization of my first world privilege brought a lump to my throat, as I watched two barefoot homeless children take long draws on a cigarette. This would be the first of many moments that were real, raw, and uncensored.
Kathmandu Fact: The pollution is nearly tangible. A foggy haze sits on top of the city at all times of the day, and can be overwhelming for anyone’s respiratory system. Many locals wear face masks, which help to stop the inhalation of excess dust and particles. If you’re spending any length of time in Kathmandu, I highly recommend buying yourself a mask to protect yourself. Both Ryley and I loved our masks, especially when travelling by bus. It was dry season, and the amount of dust that sits on the road that is kicked up every day is indescribable.
Around the corner, and into a crevice, a man with a very long boney finger invited us into a gleaming art shop. It was an aromatic assault of flowery incense with beautiful art pieces surrounding us, but one in particular caught our eye. Originally, we chose a Samsara painting (which depicts the concept of cyclical existence), but then we saw THE one: a red and gold Thangka [tan-ka] - a Tibetan scroll painting that depicts Buddhist motifs/Buddhist deities. It spoke so loudly to Ryley and I but we were not going to make an impulse buy, especially with a piece of art that was on the pricier end of our budget.
Nepal Shopping Fact: Thamel is a huge tourist trap, so before making any purchases shop around and see what the median price is for whatever item you’re interested in buying. Do not buy ANYTHING for full price. Always negotiate.
Ryley negotiated the price down to what we thought it was worth, and we agreed we’d be back in the morning. Sleeping on this decision was important to us because if we still loved it in the morning then it was meant to be. We did our research and asked how much similar pieces were in the area, age of the piece, and how to tell if it’s authentic. Based on this additional information, we would be able to negotiate the price even lower IF we decided to buy it in the morning.
November 27, 2018
Windy, serpentine alleys confronted our early morning brains.
Do one thing a day that scares you, right? Well, we decided to rent a scooter (1000 NPR - $11.63 CAD). Driving in Kathmandu was like something out of a video game. The rules of the road felt like an organized free-for-all. I navigated, while Ryley tried not to run anyone over or let us become road kill. You’ve never taken a right hand turn out of an alley onto a main road until you’ve done it on a scooter in Kathmandu. NO ONE has the right of way.
Next series of events:
Visit Swayambhunath Temple (Monkey Temple). The stupa sits on top of the hill, which overlooks the entirety of Kathmandu. There are quite a few intimidating stone stairs that lead up to the top, but nothing we hadn’t faced before. Families of Macaques roamed the area, and stole snacks from wandering tourists. Arriving at the top felt like entering a new world. People prayed, and circumnavigated the stupas. Everyone seemed to be entranced in the serenity of the unique environment.
**Did you know: on April 25, 2015 Nepal was hit by an earthquake that killed nearly 9,000 people and injured 22,000 people? I had heard about it, but didn’t know the extent to which it had affected the country. I felt ignorant. I had no idea how badly Nepal suffered from this natural disaster, and I was ashamed that my first world ears fell deaf to acknowledging what had happened. It doesn’t seem real when you’re 10,000 kms away from the disaster. Seeing the effects of what an earthquake can do to an already poor country nearly brought me to tears. Durbar square was a prime example of this.
Durbar Square: a square that sits in front of the old royal palace of the former Kathmandu Kingdom. A few buildings collapsed in the 2015 earthquake; the area is still recovering from the quake. Instead of paying a rip-off price entrance fee to see the square, we waited until the evening and took a rickshaw ride through the area.
Walk through an alley, and watch Ryley get a haircut in a literal hole in the wall.
We were so grateful to have had the scooter for the day, but were exhausted from the experience. Dinner was at a local restaurant, where we would make friends with the golden lab that “guarded” the entrance. Be wary when petting any animal, as you never know how it may react. I quietly knelt and presented the back of my hand for sniffs. Our new friend presented her paw to be shook, and showed me her happy ears. She rolled over on her back, and turned out to be the biggest baby.
Dogs in Nepal: 10/10.
The night wasn’t over yet…
The little cab was attached to our driver’s bike, and he navigated the streets with the skill of a rickshaw wizard. He spoke enough English to describe the areas we were travelling through, and gave us a local tour. The farther into the local areas we went, the more we could see the effects of the quake. We asked him about his family, and he explained that he was from the mountains (four hours away) but worked in Kathmandu to provide for them. His children would be doomed to labour type work as he was from a low caste.
Nepal Fact: The caste system still exists and thrives in Nepal. There are four main hierarchical social classes that people are born into. Depending which caste you are born into, dictates the lifestyle you are destined to live (education, lifestyle, future job, income, etc.)
For more information about the Nepali caste system click here.
Temples in dark creepy alleys, street milk tea, popcorn, and roasted corn nuts were all part of the itinerary and really complimented our hour long journey.
Next stop: back to buy the Thanjka. We still loved it, and were determined to leave the shop with it in hand, but not without another bout of negotiations.
Art owner status: achieved.
November 28, 2018 (Kathmandu - Dhading Besi)
The journey continues to Dhading Besi (two hours North of Kathmandu).
Nepal Local Bus Fact: If Google Maps says “2 hr 39 min”, allot an additional two and a half hours for the trip. Travelling north of Kathmandu means travelling along the uneven mountain side, full of twists and turns. Trust me, you WANT the bus driver to take an extra hour or two to get to your destination.
Our taxi driver took us to the “bus station” for 400 NPR ($4.65 CAD). Except, it wasn’t an actual station. It was a line up of giant buses ready to head to Dhading Besi. As soon as we stepped out of the taxi, we were bombarded by different drivers who wanted our business. These were not tourist buses, they were private buses which are not government run (local prices). Private bus owners are more inclined for business, and prices can be negotiated or surged at the owner’s will. It was an assault to the senses, as we were trying to keep ourselves together and not get ripped off at the same time. Our taxi driver helped us to find the correct bus, and bartered with the conductor for a local ticket price. This would be our first taste of learning to keep your head on a true swivel.
**Nepali buses are usually run by two people. One hails people onto the bus, while the other person pilots the vehicle. You pay the “hailer” not the actual driver. Do NOT allow your bags to be put on top or underneath the bus. We had been warned by a few locals about this. Always keep your luggage inside of the bus, as you have no control over your bags once they are out of reach. Even if it costs extra, negotiate and keep your bags with you at all times.
We had settled into the back of the bus, and were finally able to take a deep breath.
Where was my poncho?
I had it beside me in the taxi…and I definitely left it in there. This was a prime example of why, even in the midst of people yelling and trying to get your business, you must be calm and collected. I should have taken an extra moment to double check that I had EVERYTHING. Anger surged through my veins, because I hadn’t been diligent. It was a material item that I didn’t realize I had attached myself to. Double anger on my part. Why was I so attached to this item, and why was I not being smarter in that moment?
The bus roared to life, and we were on our way. Nepali music shouted through the speakers, and it changed the energy in the air.
Five hours later we arrived in Dhading Besi in the dark. By dark, I mean nighttime and also during a blackout. The entire town had lost power which we would learn happened quite frequently. The original reason we had wanted to travel to Dhading Besi, was because it was in a more rural area. I found a “pastoral farmstay” on Air BnB, in a very remote village five hours away from Dhading Besi, so we decided we’d head there instead of staying in town. We’d be travelling to Dada Gau the next day, which would take us even further into the country side. Finding accommodation took some looking, but we settled upon a reasonable place that offered dinner. This would be our first encounter with the famous Dal Bhat (the national dish of Nepal). Dal = lentil soup, Bhat = rice. It can be served with steamed spinach greens, pickled vegetables, and curried vegetables. It is the ultimate Nepali soul food, packed with fibre and delicious goodness.
Another black out to end the evening, but our inn was prepared with its own generator.
November 29, 2018 (Dhading Besi - Dada Gau)
And then there were three.
Background information: I was researching accommodation in Dhading Besi while we were staying in Kathmandu, and came across “Pastoral Farmstay with Ama & Bupa”.
Their son, Namaraj, runs the homestay through AirBnB for $13 CAD/night. This includes all of your meals and room. Ama (Mom) and Bupa (Dad) live on the side of a mountain overlooking a valley that a river runs through, and thirty minutes away from the closest village. We wanted to spend some time away from the hustle and bustle of the big city and immerse ourselves in Nepali culture. The family has seven grown children that live in the village nearby or in Kathmandu. Namaraj and his twin brother Gopaul take turns hosting the few guests that stay at their parents’ home every year. Gopaul met us in Dhading Besi, as he was coming from Kathmandu. He took us all the way to Kahari, the village the bus drives into. From there, we trekked thirty minutes in the dark to Ama and Bupa’s home. They relocated three years ago after they lost their home to the 2015 earthquake. Their new home is humbly constructed of tin and clay.
Our bus ride to Dada Gau was one for the books. Half way there, we stopped abruptly. Everyone got out of the bus (the buses are built like giant military vehicles - they have giant tires built to traverse treacherous terrain) and gawked at the giant hole in the ground. We had to wait for construction workers to fill it, in order to continue the journey (and no, I am not making this up). Everyone boarded the bus again and collectively we held our breath. The bus tried to navigate around the hole, which was mostly filled in. It kept leaning to the right, and I happened to be sitting on the right hand side of the bus in the window seat. I could see my life flash before my eyes. It took three tries, but finally, we found our way through; crisis averted.
Ama and Bupa greeted us warmly, and showed us to our room. No English would be shared between us, but it wouldn’t be needed. Body language and smiles spoke much louder than any words.
Earthen floors and wood burning fire filled our nostrils upon stepping foot into their humble home.
A dinner of omelette, dal, and rice, with pickled bamboo and steamed spinach. Ama would refill your plate as many times as it took to make sure you were full. We would NEVER be hungry.
Nepali Eating Ettiquette: Nepali people eat with their right hand. Spoons and forks exist, but the local way to eat your meal is by hand. You will sometimes be presented with a silver pitcher for hand cleaning, or there will be a nearby faucet for you to wash your hand. It’s a faux pas to use your left hand, as that is the hand you use for all hygienic purposes.
I decided that I should fully immerse myself and try eating with my hand.
1.) It’s messy.
2.) It’s instinctual, and beyond satisfying.
3.) I love eating with my hand.
November 30, 2019
8:30 A.M. - Breakfast consisted of sweetened black tea, and biscuits.
Ama and Bupa had been up since 5:30 AM, tending to their three buffalo (male, female, and baby), and goats. They ran a tight ship. Every hour of the day was used efficiently, and had purpose.
The mornings were quite brisk, and a bit of an assault to the senses. Staying bundled until mid day was a must.
Our goal for the day was to visit the primary school Gopaul attended when he was a child; it had been rebuilt after the earthquake. Many children walked uphill for over an hour just to get to class.
We headed to the school, and met the children and teachers. Everyone welcomed us with high fives and hugs, and the principle blessed us with a tikka on our foreheads. 300 children attended this particular primary school, and came from impoverished families. Knowing that there were only three teachers to all of the students was sobering. The teachers that taught there chose to be there. The government doesn’t provide much to schools in Nepal, other than the physical construction of the building. Everything else is privately funded. Canadian education is such a privilege, and really put into perspective how lucky I have been to receive primary, secondary, and later post-secondary education. This is a luxury to so many around the world.
Nepal Education Fact: As of 2015, 1.74 million people over the age of 15 are illiterate, or haven’t received a formal education.
Half of the children wore rubber shoes: some too small and others too big. A young girl had to carry her baby sister around for most of the day, as their mother and father had to work and could not take care of her. There’s no such thing as daycare in rural Nepal.
December 1, 2018
Waking up to rice terraces, that looked over a giant river was breathtaking. Buffalo roamed below, while farmers tended to their land. Ama laid out her millet to dry, as she would hand grind it later.
Ryley pulled out his fishing rod, which drew the attention of both Gopaul and Bupa. It was wonderful to watch the international interest of fishing be exchanged. Our trip to Dada Gau had left our clothes quite dusty, and needed a wash. A washing machine didn’t exist anywhere near, but the river did.
I can officially say that I have washed my clothes in a river, and it cleaned them just as a machine would…but it was three times the work.
Later on, I followed Ama around her tiny kitchen, and watched her make chicken curry. Our room was an attachment to the house, with a storage area for grains up stairs. Ama and Bupa’s living quarters were next door, with a propane stove, two beds (Gopaul’s and their’s), and a small television. Connected to their living quarters on the opposite side was another attachment which held a small clay stove, and a fire that Ama cooked on every evening. The propane stove was only used every so often, as the fuel is expensive to refill. The fire did the same job and was free. She moved with such efficiency; every spice had its own home. Measuring spoons were not employed, but simply taste and smell. A refrigerator is not an option so meat has to be cooked right away. They live off the land as there was an orange, papaya, banana, black pepper, and coffee tree on their property. A chilli bush grew outside, as well as lettuce and edible flowers.
We rely so greatly on super markets to fill our fridges. Watching a family with very little money live so fully, and happily was thought provoking.
I know so many people who have a fridge full of food that goes bad regularly. The access we have to things back home makes everything so much easier; therefore we are more prone to taking things for granted.
December 2, 2018
Our last full day in Dada Gau.
We would walk into the village to buy our bus ticket. Except we didn’t walk to a booth, or store, no. We walked to the bus driver’s house, and bought the ticket from his wife. Only in Nepal.
Gopaul had been such a great fixer throughout our entire encounter. Twenty-four years old, full-time Everest base camp trekking guide, married, and father to a two-month-old baby girl. He acted as though he was born for the responsibility. Gopaul had become our friend over the last few days, and we both admired his strength, incredible skill sets, and kindness.
No time for rest. Gopaul presented us with a kukri (a multipurpose knife with a rounded blade). He told us we would be cutting grass. We headed down the front of the property, and he demonstrated a swift motion to remove multiple pieces of long grass at once. He did it quickly, and with muscle memory finesse. Awkward at first, but we mastered the movement and shortly developed a rhythm.
Dinner came clucking at our door late that afternoon. Chicken is expensive, and a delicacy in rural areas. It costs money and time to raise a chicken. My surprise was taken over with fear and sadness. I had never seen a chicken be slaughtered.
Realism at its finest: I have eaten meat my whole life. In the first world, we can acquire this type of protein easily. It comes packaged, and without a face. Within the last five years, I’ve been combating my internal struggle with meat. I enjoy it, but I hate the death involved. Often vegetarianism is not because of ethical issues, but because of poverty or religion. So many questions have crossed my mind:
Can I still love animals and eat meat? Yes.
Can I eat meat, know where it came from (ethical raise and slaughter) and be grateful for it? Yes.
Will I be judged by others for having this opinion? Yes, most likely. But I have learned that the only person who can really judge me is myself.
We all said thank you to the chicken that was about to give its life for us. Gopaul quickly and ethically got the job done. He then continued to butcher the chicken, and used every last piece - minus the intestines and beak. He used the WHOLE animal.
Bupa had trekked over an hour to treat us to raksi with dinner. Raksi is a clear fermented alcoholic drink made from millet. A person in the village makes it at noon everyday, and it’s the kind of liquid you have to bring your own water bottle for. We were celebrating tonight. Ama put on a two hour spread, and we were full and warm by the time it was over.
Many thanks and a long goodbye later, we were off to bed.
December 3, 2018 (Dada Gau - Pokhara)
5:30 A.M. wake up call. Ama made sure to have tea and biscuits ready. Bless her.
Over the last few days, Ama and Bupa had treated us like their children. We will always remember them as our Nepali Mom and Dad.
Thirty minutes in the dark down the mountain and we found ourselves back at the bus driver’s house. There was no designated bus station, so in order to board the bus you would need a local helping hand. Many “thank-yous” and hugs to Gopaul. He made sure our bus driver knew where we needed to be dropped off, so we could transfer buses to Pokhara.
The “six” hour journey began.
Eight hours later, we arrived in Pokhara. I had booked us a place that was highly recommended on Agoda. We’d officially been in Nepal for one week, and hadn’t had a shower yet. #babywipelife
All we wanted was a hot shower, and a clean bed. Thirty minutes ticked by, and finally our room was ready…..except it wasn’t the room I had booked. At this point, I didn’t really care anymore. Fatigue, hunger, and frustration started to set in. Ryley turned on the shower, only to find out the water was ice cold. I marched down the stairs to ask the front desk what had happened to the hot water. Apparently, it was only available on the main level in the grotty public washroom.
*I acknowledge that this is a very first world problem, but bear with me.
Ryley decided he would try to take a shower in the public bathroom. Meanwhile, I tried to go to the bathroom and it all went to hell from there.
The toilet seat broke…in I went and my ass followed.
The toilet paper fell on the floor and got soaked from the leaking taps.
And then I dropped my phone on the wet concrete.
Then, there was Ryley knocking at the door. At this point I was in tears, because we all have moments of being overwhelmed… this was one of them. He took one look at me and said, “let’s get the hell out of here”.
Down the stairs we went, and demanded our money back. The Lake Boutique Hotel falsely advertises, and is a “hotel” to tread wary of if you’re looking for places to stay in Pokhara.
With adrenaline flowing through our veins, we started hunting for places down the street. Four stops later, and we found a hidden hotel just off the tourist strip. For 1000 NPR/night ($12.12 CAD), we had a large room, comfortable bed, hot water, and an ad value balcony.
Showers were in order, and grateful is a mere understatement for how we felt. The building was quiet, the owner was kind, and we had a full view of the lake. What more could we ask for.
We found dinner at a place, where we would become regulars. Authentic Nepali food for local prices. Music to our pockets and taste buds.
December 4, 2018
After a long rest, and a “heavy breakfast” (the actual name of the breakfast - a pot of milk coffee, banana muesli, curried potatoes, two eggs, and two pieces of whole grain toast) we were ready to take on the day. We would eat the same thing everyday during our stay in Pokhara, because it was so damn delicious.
We’d decided that we would stay in Pokhara for a week, because we loved the energy. Ryley took it upon himself to scope out a drop-in yoga class. We were practicing at the beginning of our trip, but stopped when we started moving between cities more frequently. Our bodies were sore, and we were in need of a good stretch. Tribikram Yoga would become our second home. Drop-in classes were $12.00 CAD, which included herbal tea before class, a two-hour practice (twenty minutes of meditation at the end of each practice), and a lovely vegetarian meal after class. What really made our practice was P.K. Almost a year ago, he opened Tribikram and has been working hard to provide an incredible experience for everyone who walks through his door. He wasn’t just a yoga instructor, but also a spiritual guide, councillor, and most importantly our friend. His wife ran the Ayurvedic massage, and cooked for drop-in guests, while he taught and organized retreats. They are a wonderful team, full of kindness and hospitality. After every practice, we would walk away smiling and feeling refreshed. Four out of our seven evenings spent in Pokhara, we found our way back to Tribikram.
December 5, 2018
Anytime there is an opportunity for Ryley to fish, he takes it.
Luckily, we were staying five minutes away from the lake. He had seen a few locals fishing the day before, and was inspired to do the same.
Late afternoon, Ryley came running up the stairs out of breath. I thought something bad had happened, until I noticed the ear to ear smile on his face…and he was covered in slime.
He had spent most of the afternoon with a young boy named Arjun. They fished all day, and caught nothing. They were about to call it quits, until the last cast… they reeled in a 7 lb Cat Fish! Ryley jumped in the water to drag the beast out, as they didn’t have a net handy. It almost escaped, but Ryley was able to bring it on land. Ryley was going to release the fish, but Arjun insisted they didn’t. It would be enough to feed his family for a few days. They bonded over an incredible fishing experience, that the two would never forget. Pure joy exuded from Ryley’s pores.
In Ryley’s words:
“Never be afraid to give it one more shot. Joy can come from the simplest of things”.
December 6, 2018
There seems to be a theme with renting a motorbike/scooter in almost every country we visit.
We spoiled ourselves and rented a dirt bike for 3000 NPR ($36.50 CAD), which is way more than we would normally spend on a bike. But, dirt biking up the side of a mountain did sound tantalizing, and we’d be able to explore much easier this way.
First stop: the Pokhara Bat Caves. We had no idea what to expect, but were hoping to see a ton of bats…which we did. We hired a local guide for 300 NPR ($3.64 CAD). At first we were apprehensive about paying someone to show us something that we could see on our own…but it turned out to be the best $3.64 ever spent. Our guide held an electric cave torch, and showed us through. He explained that there were over 80,000 bats in this cave, and he was not exaggerating. Where he really came in handy, was telling us bat facts, and getting us through the obnoxious line to the exit. We had to wiggle our way past nearly fifty people, to fit through a tiny hole that only one person could go in at a time. This was definitely not safe, but our guide made us his number one priority. Our tour was only fifteen minutes long, but it was exhilarating.
Second stop: head up the side of a random mountain, with uneven and rocky terrain. We ended up in a local town called Armala, with a population of just under 5,000 people. An empty courtyard at the bottom of a giant path of stairs welcomed us, but we decided to sit down and enjoy this newly discovered area. An older Nepali woman, carrying a bagful of grains on her head, greeted us warmly. She didn’t speak a word of English, but we were able to understand her hand motions. She invited us for lunch, but we weren’t sure where. Of course we followed her anyways. A small rectangular home sat in the beaming afternoon sun. An old man with charcoal skin snoozed away, unbothered by our crackly footsteps. The Himalayas perched in the background, peaking out from underneath the clouds. This was her home. This was her husband. And she was about to feed us.
We would learn that her husband was unwell, but that didn’t stop him from making us tea and conversing through hand motions. They smiled and watched us devour the Dal Bhat, and topped up our plates three times. After lunch, we all sat in silence and enjoyed the warmth of midday. We learned that all of their six children lived in larger cities, which made us question how many came back to visit. We basked in each others company, held hands and thanked them graciously, and proceeded to head back down the mountain. The purity of our mountain side meet was unforgettable.
Third stop: off to the World Peace Pagoda. It was built in 1973 by Buddhist monks from the Japanese Nipponzan Myohoji organization. Unfortunately, it has become more of a tourist destination than a spiritual place. It felt overrun with loud, obnoxious, people. There is a sign that says “SILENCE BEYOND THIS POINT”, and people really struggled to follow the sign’s instructions. It’s my own fault for having any sort of expectations, but I truly thought it would be a much more sacred place than it turned out to be.
Our day had been jam packed with activities, and unexpected experiences. From 8:30 A.M. - 8:00 P.M. Not a single hour of the day had been wasted.
December 7 - 9, 2018
Two more evenings packed with yoga. P.K. insisted that we stop by for tea on Sunday afternoon. He extended such hospitality to us, and treated us like old friends. He opened our mind to letting more love in, and also challenging yourself in every aspect of your life.
Side note: we found out that P.K. was a Cricket fanatic, so we had him explain the rules…which led into him showing us a twenty minute Cricket highlight reel. For the record, Cricket is way more interesting than baseball.
Off to Kathmandu in the morning, as we would be heading to India on the 11th.
Nepal Airport Fact: There is only one international airport in Nepal, and it happens to be in Kathmandu. You can fly within Nepal, as there are many local airports but the cheapest way to travel is by local bus.
But not without stopping into a peculiar bar. Every night we heard this booming techno-like music, and couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. Ryley found the source, and of course we had to check it out. Imagine: rave-granola-hippy-wanderlust-fusion. The music put people into a dancing-trance-like-state. It was confusing to watch, but also fascinating. We’d never heard or seen anything quite like it. I stood and observed, while Ryley broke it down on the dance floor. That’s all I am going to say about that.
We treated Pokhara as a place to renew and revitalize ourselves. Finding balance between adventure and restoration is vital whilst on a lengthy trip. It’s too easy to burn yourself out, and you have to remember to take care of yourself while travelling.
December 10, 2018
Eight hours back to Kathmandu.
By now we had bussing down to a science. It wasn’t nearly as intimidating as it was when we first arrived in Nepal. The familiar buzz and congestion of Thamel engulfed us with a polluted hug.
Evening came quickly, and I realized that I had accidentally booked a twenty-one hour layover in New Delhi.
*If the flight is super cheap, make sure you double check to see if there is an ungodly layover hiding in the price.
It was out of our control at this point, and we decided to embrace it rather than be frustrated by it.
December 11, 2018
It was time to leave, and Ryley and I really didn’t want to. Nepal was the first country that we felt emotionally, physically, and spiritually connected to. We knew that we would be back. We had to come back.
Off to India to face uncharted and exciting territory.
Liv Review: I have never felt so compelled to want to go back to a country that I haven’t even left yet. Nepal stole my heart in so many ways, and I am beyond grateful to have been able to visit such a beautiful place. It wasn’t the breathtaking Himalayas, or trekking, or even Dal Bhat (even though this particular dish played a large role); it was the people. The Nepali people are the most kind-hearted, and genuine people I have ever met. They embrace life in a way that you have to see for yourself. It cannot be explained. I was presented with many sobering situations and experiences, but nevertheless felt so at home. Most people are willing to help you with no price tag attached. Nepali people want to help you, and make you feel comfortable. They truly are the hosts with the most. If you have the chance, go to Nepal. Go with an open mind and heart. I left with a sense of peace, and true admiration for the most enchanting people I have ever met. This is where the real adventure truly began.
“Ama’s Story”, filmed and edited by Ryley.