This week we wish our family and friends who celebrate, a very Healthy and Happy New Year! We learned here in Nepal that our 2017 is actually their year 2074…
Loren and I started our week in Bhaktapur, about an hour away from Kathmandu by car. We walked around Durbar Square, appreciating the incredibly intricate detailed hand carvings on the wood at so many of the temples, and, mourning the need for ongoing rebuilding from the destruction that occurred in the 2015 earthquake. For example, stairs to some of the temples remain, but the temples are completely gone.
At dinner in our hotel’s restaurant we tasted our first Juju Dhau, a traditional sweetened yogurt that is famous in Bhaktapur. I should also mention that our favorite dishes in Nepal have been, for Loren, vegetable Thuppa which is a noodle soup, and, for me, vegetable Momo, which are dumplings, or, Loren likes to call them Nepali ravioli. We have also both enjoyed vegetable Pakouda, a deep fried delight, and Papad Masala which is papadam with veggies peanuts and a light sauce sprinkled on top, a bit like nachos. I also appreciate vegetable Dal Bhat – rice with lentils, and sometimes served with a piece of papadam, pickle sauce, Nepali spinach, and curried vegetables. Over dinner on this particular night, we met an interesting Italian man, and enjoyed conversations with him at dinner and over breakfast. This first photo is a morning view from our hotel rooftop.
With our newest friend from Lombardia, we visited the “Peacock window,” walked to the river where cremations are done, visited the museum, and, saw the “55 Window Royal Palace.” There were none happening this day, however, we did witness a ceremonial – what we surmise was an offering – of a cock, that included methodical decorating of a shrine before and after the beheading. We also saw the before and after – again we assume to be an offering – of two goats, which was accompanied afterwards by a lengthy musical tribute by about a dozen men sitting in a circle playing horns. We bade our friend farewell after lunch together, then Loren and I returned to Kathmandu by taxi.
This week included Christmas. The Nepali were honoring their tourists, with lights and special offers. We first enjoyed celebrating with FaceTime visits with Loren’s Mom and Sister, and, with my Brother, Sister-in-law and one of our Nieces.
We then had a light dinner on Christmas Eve in the restaurant downstairs from our hotel, and returned there on Christmas at 2pm for a most leisurely dinner, which included sparkling wine, appetizer, main course, desert, cognac and coffee. We thoroughly enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere of the quiet restaurant… for nearly 6 hours!
Santa brought us each a massage and we watched a video of Little Buddha which our Italian friend who we met in Bhaktapur had suggested we see.
One other memorable experience for us this week was in visiting Pashupatinath with our New Zealand friend from our hotel. We went by taxi to this, Nepal’s holiest Hindu site that is devoted to Shiva. It is located on the banks of the Bagmati River. One writeup suggests that it is “always abuzz with pilgrims and sadhus (Hindu holy men), a place of somber worship, as it is also the city’s most important cremation ground.” It too is a World Heritage site. Here we respectfully witnessed some cremations, and, we saw the body of one deceased elderly man being prepared, which included a ritualistic foot bath.
I also want to mention how impressed we have been with the hardworking people we have met, including many who are young adults – in our hotel, the restaurants we have frequented, and elsewhere, and always with a greeting, smile and generosity of spirit. It is so touching and endearing! At the same time we have been dismayed to observe some abject illness, disease – some seeming worthy of medical care or hospitalization, and extreme poverty, that we have come across in parts of Nepal. Certain memories of Lumbini, Bhaktapur, and Pashupatinath stand out as examples. How I wish the turning of the western year could bring a turning of fortune for all these people! We are consoled with the notion that at the very least our tourist dollars are helping in some small way.