Friday, May 31, 2013

Final Day in Kathmandu - Monday, May 27, 2013

This morning is for relaxing, sleeping in, packing, etc.  We do not leave the hotel until 4:00pm for an evening flight to Doha, Qatar where we will stay with our daughter again, before an early morning flight tomorrow to Chicago.

Garden of Dreams

Morning Tea
However there are two more spots in Kathmandu we want to visit today.  After a leisurely breakfast Cal and I grabbed a cab for a short drive to ‘Garden of Dreams’.  We actually could have walked, but it was humid and hot.  “Garden of Dreams” is truly a garden of dreams.  It was an oasis!!  You walked through the doorway into another world.  One of quite, beautiful green manicured gardens, fountains, and lovely pavilions!  It was even cooler there.  It was a wonderful surprise and you were taken out of Kathmandu for the length of your visit. The guide book says “One of the most serene and beautiful enclaves in Kathmandu” – well stated!!

We decided that after a visit to the Thamel shopping area that we need to return for a light lunch and cup of tea.  Thamel is just a 2 minute walk, but is a million miles from Garden of Dreams.  Thamel is a bustling shopping district in the backstreets of Kathmandu, where you can buy anything and everything!  We were warned about ‘pirated goods’ from China.  Such as items labeled North Face and Columbia – likely they are not the ‘real thing’. Actually it didn’t take Cal and me long to have ‘our fill’ of the area.  Thank goodness it was not a busy time of the day, or it would have been a jostling mess.  In fact, the Garden of Dreams was pulling at us.  We returned to the hotel to ask the other members of our group if they would like to join us for lunch.  One of them decided to do so.  He too was ‘taken back’ by this beautiful area in an otherwise noisy, busy city.

Our visit to Nepal is over.  It has been an interesting time.  We do feel we have felt the culture especially in the smaller villages, meet very dedicated Rotarians who will do many more projects in their communities, felt the friendly warmth of the people we dealt with at our accommodations, and survived the chaotic driving!  


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Small Villages Surrounding Kathmandu - Sunday, May 26, 2013

The driver and guide we ready for another day with us!!  We drove to the village of Kirtipur just 5 km outside of Kathmandu.  It is a sleepy town at this point, but at one time it was the capital of the region. This village withstood attacks from other kingdoms but in 1768 suffered a crushing blow after being under siege.  So we saw the faded glory of the village – there are many temples, but what interested us the most was the daily village life that was in progress.  A lot of the wheat has been cut and they bring it into the village center to beat the grains from the heads and then winnow the chaff (all done by hand). After this the wheat is laid out to dry on tarps, made of rice bags sewn together.  Women stir/swirl the wheat with their hands and feet so that the wheat grain totally dries in the sun.
Countryside near Kirtipur

Day Care
Drying Wheat

Kirtipur Temple

We then drove to two other small medieval villages, Bungamatic and Khokana.

Bungamatic is a woodcarving village. There were wood carving shops everywhere.  The guide is a friend of one carver so we watched him at work as well as visited with him – his English was good. We walked through the back streets of the village where village life was happening. The temple square was very clean and once again there are lots of temples – by now they are all looking the same to us.

Today was the first we saw any sheep, plus there were lots of duck with ducklings and chickens with little chicks.  They are enjoying the grain that is left on the ground.  The older women sit near where the wheat is drying so they can chase the ducks and chickens away from their precious crop of wheat.  We saw some ducks have a great meal before they were chased away.   
Bungamati Street
Temple Square
Bath Time on the Square

Spreading the Wheat to Dry
Separating the Wheat from Chaff

Our Guide and Street
The village of Khokana was even smaller and sleepier.  But we loved these sleepy villages.  We were alone as tourist, no hawkers bothering us and we could simply observe the village life – it is living museum.  It is like a window back in time.  We saw women sitting in their doorways spinning wool, farmers putting the wheat straw into bundles and carry it to their sheds for use by the cattle.  Nothing is wasted. 
Kokana Street

City Fathers

Spinning Wool

We are finding the wood carvings on the temples interesting - the carved balconies and the carved fretwork screens. 

Our last stop of the day was Patan which is a suburb of Kathmandu, so we are back into the crowds!  Patan does have a beautiful Durbar Square (Palace square).  It has a fine collection of temples and palaces, except that we have seen enough!!  We walked on to see the tall 5 story temple, which was lovely.  The small temples are just one story tall, and there are a lot of 2 and 3 story temples.  We have seen several 4 story temples and now today we have seen the second 5 stories temple.
Paten Dubar Square Temples


Five Story Temple


Motorbikes of every size and color are everywhere.  We have seen as many as 5 persons on one bike – two parents and three children.  They go zipping around in these small streets.  A lot of persons are transported in this manner in Nepal. We do not know how accidents are avoided, but everyone seems to anticipate what the other driver will do. However the crazy motorcycle drivers are an annoyance. You have to be careful, as a pedestrian as you do not have the right-of-way. 

Finally, back to the hotel for a late lunch, refreshing shower and a nap! It seems every town or city is built on a hill. The temples and squares are located at the top, so we are climbing in every town, the streets are not even for walking and the roads are bumpy, so that after 5-6 hours you are hot, dusty, and tired.  These cities are not clean – dust, fumes, smog.  The issue of trash – trash is everywhere.  We would leave our empty water bottles and any other trash in the vehicle so we could dispose of it when we returned to the hotel.  However when we would be touring a village, the van driver would take the trash items and throw them along the road – it drove us crazy!  At one point when with the Rotarians, we stopped to buy snacks to eat in the car.  Later while driving down the road, trash was being thrown out of the windows, one piece at a time!  Unreal!  They need an “adopted a highway” program.  I must say that today we actually saw a trash wagon going down the street, and people were putting their trash on the wagon.  However the real question is, “Where did he dump it”?  They have more trash bins setting around than we saw in India, but that does not mean they are used!

Visiting the little villages this morning was another highlight of the week.  Tomorrow morning we have several areas to visit here in Kathmandu before returning to the hotel for a refreshing shower.  We need to check out of our hotel room by 12:00 noon.  We will have a late lunch and later in the afternoon go to the airport where we will board an evening flight back to Doha, Qatar, where we will spend the night with our daughter.    Our trip is almost over. 

When we return home we will post photos to support what has been written.  We were concerned before arriving that the internet would not be strong enough to post photos in a timely manner. So we will do it later.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Bhaktapur and Kathmandu - Saturday May 25, 2013

The wakeup call rang, Cal looked outside and saw there was a dense fog, so we went back to sleep.  Soon after 7:30 the fog did lift out of the valley and in fact for a brief few minutes we were able to see the tops of several mountain peaks.  We had a relaxing morning before leaving at 10:00 for the medieval city of Bhaktapur.

View from Resort Balcony - Notice Terracing

Rest Stop along the Road

Carrying Supplies

Carrying Manure to the Field
Cutting Wheat

Wheat Drying

Wheat on Street - Traffic completes the shelling

I really did not say anything about our drive up the mountain to Nagarkot.  From Kathmandu you drive east to Bhaktapur.  Beyond Bhaktapur the landscape starts to rise as you leave the Kathmandu Valley.  The last 15 km was simply climbing the mountain, with lots of switchbacks, ears popping, driving from one rural settlement to the next.  We were among the terraced fields, seeing the farmers working.  This area had lots of wheat that is in the process of being harvested.  Of course all of the work is done by hand. We saw them cutting the wheat, binding it in bundles, and carrying it by hand or on wagons to the shed. On our return drive down the mountain this morning, we again saw them cutting the wheat, but this time we also saw them beating the wheat heads off of the stalks – we saw only one machine, otherwise the beating was completely done by hand. Then the grain is laid out on large canvas tarps to finish drying in the sun.  We enjoy seeing this rural life. 

In Bhaktapur our driver dropped us a few blocks from the Durbar Square (Palace Square). We walked to the Durbar square, Pottery Square and Taumadhi Square.  We could have spent more time here, but we had an appointment with a guide in Kathmandu at 1:00.  Bhaktapur was very clean compared to Kathmandu. 
Entering Bhaktapur Dubar Square

Dubar Square Temple

Golden Gate

Pottery Square

Five Story Taumadhi Temple

Back at the Royal Singi Hotel, we had lunch and met a guide.  The rest of the afternoon was spent visiting the Durbar Square in Kathmandu, and the Monkey temple (as there are lots of monkeys living in the area).  By 5:30 we were dead tired, and hot.  We had seen lots of temples this afternoon.  The old (1500’s) buildings are beautifully carved from wood.

Kathmandu Dubar Square
White Palace

Dubar Square Temples

Four on a Cycle

Rick-Shaws - Want a Ride

Prayer Wheels at Monkey Temple Hill

Buddhist Temple - Eyes of Buddha

Kathmandu From Monkey Temple

Monkeys on Monkey Temple Hill

People Coming to the Temple

Native Nepal Dress with Apron

After relaxing in the hotel for 2 hours we began looking for a restaurant within walking distance.  We found Little Italy!  WOW! What a find! Pasta and Pizza!  

Tomorrow our guide and driver will be with us again.  We will be going outside the city of Kathmandu. We hope to avoid some of the city traffic and city masses.  I stated earlier that the masses were not in Nepal like in India, but today I am not sure that was correct.  However, today was Buddha’s 2557 Birthday, so there were some special things happening in Durbar Square.