Happy 2018! And, Happy Little Christmas, January 6! To commemorate this new year, I want to share words from around the worldfor Cheers! Well, words or phrases that mean Cheers, Happy New Year, or To Your Health, and only some from some of the parts of the world where Loren and I have visited, or words that we have learned or discovered from other travelers, and, mostly in my own form of phonetic spelling:
Agyshegette, Doormoi, Fe Sehetak, Geevehlee, Goang Shi Fah Tzai, Gong Hay Fat Choy, Na Zdrowie, Narok, Nastarovia, Nossa, Nostrovi, Prost, Salute, Sante, Sawl E Neu Mubabrak, Slainte, Stiniyamas… however you may say it, we send our Best Wishes!
We spent New Year’s Eve in Patan Durbar Square, the second historic Palace that we have seen of what was once Nepal’s three kingdoms. The first one we saw in Bhaktapur last week, and we hope to visit the third in Kathmandu before we leave Nepal. It is sad how, just as was true in Bhaktapur, Patan’s Durbar Square suffered a great amount of damage during the 2015 earthquake. The reconstruction is painstaking and ongoing.
We also celebrated a lovely New Year’s Eve! We visited a new friend and her husband who live in Patan. They are originally from the Netherlands, and we had met her with another “Dutchie” on our Poonhill trek. They served us a delicious dinner, and with lively conversations the evening simply slipped by! When Loren and I returned to our Thamel neighborhood by taxi it was just before midnight, and the streets were as “crazy” as our hotel owner had warned. We eventually and safely squeezed and pushed our way through the streets full of throngs of revelers… On New Year’s day Loren and I enjoyed another peaceful and leisurely dinner from the special holiday menu at the downstairs restaurant of our hotel, served by one of the always friendly and helpful waitstaff.
One travel book claimed that treks are the most popular activity in Nepal because of the “gasp-worthy views of the Himalayas.” Gasp-worthy is true to our experiences, and now we have had two more opportunities to gasp. Loren had told me while we were in Nargakot on our second trek, that with our hotel owner’s help his Christmas gift to me would be a helicopter ride to see Mount Everest up close. Wow! However, it did not seem possible as other than our generous hotel owner who would join us, there were no other people interested to share the cost. We were considering other options, maybe a shorter flight, so kept putting it off, until… This week, another couple who were also interested showed up, and voila! We took the “heli” ride on short notice.
It was a phenomenal time! Neither Loren nor I had ridden in a helicopter before, and, to see Everest this way was priceless. The pilot showed us that his thermometer read -40C as we neared the summit. Our trip included breakfast on the outdoor patio at nearby Hotel Everest View. There it is – the tallest mountain on the planet above sea level just above Loren in the photo, with the wind stirred clouds blowing off to her right. The pilot landed twice, so both Loren and I had an opportunity to sit in the front seat.
Not only did we share a most exciting experience together, we so enjoyed this other couple that we also had dinner together that evening. Loren and I have been so privileged to meet some very special people on our Journey. It is always wonderful when the connection is as strong as some have turned out to be.
Loren had also insisted that since we are so close, we must visit Bhutan before we leave this part of the world which we had arranged. Our flight from Kathmandu to Paro the next day afforded us an opportunity to see Mount Everest from yet another vantage point, and we are most grateful for this additional view via another mode of travel. Now, today is our second of seven days of visiting in Bhutan. We were welcomed by our friendly guide and driver with gifts of traditional white scarves. They are wearing the traditional knee high gho outfits for men. Women wear traditional full length kira skirts.
The Kingdom of Bhutan requires tourists to be guided, not to travel on their own. It is a landlocked country of 700,000 people in the Himalaya, bordered to the north by Tibet autonomous region of China, and, otherwise, surrounded by India. It is a country where 87% of the population practice Buddhism. We have already driven from Paro where the airport is, to the capital city, Thimpu, which has a population of 100,000. So far we have seen a 14th century iron chain link footbridge, and an impressive Memorial Chorten or Stupa; we have hiked up to two different monasteries – one where we had our recently purchased prayer flags blessed, and, seen the enormous, newly erected statue of Buddha.
It is much colder in Bhutan than in Kathmandu – as we were forewarned, and, this afternoon a chill wind kicked up and has increased in intensity as the day has worn on. We are so very grateful for the roof over our heads and for the heater in our hotel room.