Published: December 21st 2011December 21st 2011
For our last weeks in Nepal, to avoid any more high risks, we decided to put our bags in more or less safe places. First on our route was Lumbini. There are a few dangers that await travelers on the road. First is the bus that brings you from point A to point B. Without a vehicle, you are rather helpless here, you need wheels to move. Busses are old and creaky, and do not look like they will last long. It is quite normal that in a 6 hour journey, the driver will stop a couple of times by a road repair shop to pump a tire or tighten some screws. It seems that there is no technical control nor normes to follow for this type of transport. A lot of buses are private, as we learned from a proud bus manager. That means that they are trying to squeese the maximum money out of the maintained machine by crammimg as many people as possble in it. Only half the passengers are seated, the rest are standing. Another danger on the roads are the reckless drivers who want to drive their busses as if they were formula 1 drivers, passing
other busses, lorries, bikes, people and cows. Some manage, some not. And the last danger is the very road itself, narrow, sometime nonexistent. Given all that, the only way to stay on the road is to believe in a miracle and ask for protection from gods. By the driver seat there is always an insent fuming, ribbons and flowers hanging and images of Ganesh surveying the voyage. We were to join the silent prayers of our fellow passengers to hope for a successful arrival. With such an infrastructure and state of affairs in the business, busses run on time! It is magic. So does our bus magically arrive in Lumbini.
Lumbini is less known name than Chomolungma ( wiki this name if you do not knowwhat is it ) , whereas it does merit to be known. It is the place where Queen Mayadevi gave birth to Siddhartha Gautama, who as the Buddha Gautama founded the Buddhist tradition some 2500 years ago. We find a town full of monks, about 4000, we are told, they are gathered for a 14 day peace prayer. We have got an opportunity to observe the way of Buddhist monks just next door. Well,
they do listen their iPod, and surf Internet and have Facebook accounts. Some even smoke and drink, really living the golden middle way promoted by the Buddha. The town is in full development supported by the Buddhist communities and goverments from all over the world, surprisingly even by the communist party of Nepal. The same party makes us stay an extra day in Lumbini, as on our planned departure day, the communist party organizes a strike shutting down the public transport. It seems the monks have more praying to do before the world peace is achieved.
Since the Lumbini Development Zone was founded in 1978, Buddhist nations from around the world have constructed extravagant monasteries around the birthplace of the Buddha. Each reflects the unique interpretation of Buddhism of its home nation and together the monasteries create a fascinating map of world Buddhist philosophy. The monastic zone is vast, as the Buddhist world is, so we hired a couple of bicycles and went around. These monasteries, in a way reflect as well the might of their countries. The Tibetians are small and neat and well finalized. The Chineese one is the most impressive one, it looks like a palace
with gardens and galleries, and the entrance guarded by Confucian deities. The good thing for tourists, is that there is a lot of space to spend a quiet hour in the shadow. Not to be outdone, the government of South Korea is building a huge new Korean Buddhist Temple on the other side still on it's way since 7 years. And it looks like a prison. The Vietnameese one is exquisite, with cascades and immense stone water lilies, but still on its way to be completed. The only visitors are the beautiful gray cranes. The Cambodian looks like eternal construction site, will it ever be completed? Thai Wat is a gleaming white beauty made of marble.
Bhaktapur, our next destination, is one of the three main cities in the Kathmandu valley, and the best preserved one. Its royal square is another Unesco heritage site, and we thought Bhaktapur would be a good alternative to noisy Kathmandu. Our journey was again long, promised 7 hour bus drive from Lumbini turned out to be a 10 hour one. Leaving at 6 in the morning, we arrived to new bus park in Kathmandu just before the sunset. At it is the time
for last local buses to leave for their night destinations, we are just in time for the last one to Bhaktapur. Finally, by 6 in the evening, we arrive. All this to tell, that it was pitch dark when we disembark, with the sun going down at this longitude at 5 in the evening, and the electricity being cut at the same time, that was all but impossible to get an idea where we were. But the good fortune was with us, and after a couple of unfruitful attempts to get a direction, we got helped by a young lady called Rita, who brings us to our hotel and later during our stay we do meet her and her friends on a few occasions. Morning is wintry and gloomy but when the sun is out, one can appreciate the beauty of the place. We live just in front of the 5 store 15th centure temple, and from the roof of our hotel we can see the whole city. The city is a living history. At every turn there is a 500 year old terra-cotta window, or a blackened by the time temple, or an artistically carved door. One can wonder
around the city for days enjoying the feeling of being a part of the history. The people of Bhaktapur are proud of their city, they do want the city to be clean and comfortable, and they do respect us, tourists. A bit exgagerated saying that we heard a few time goes: 'Tourists are like gods for us'. We happend to visit this Newari city at the time of a full moon on the month of, when people prepare for the winter to come. Animals are sacrificed in the morning after the full moon, people wash themselves and put oil on their skin, kids are given sweets made of rice and honey. We watched these rituals, some of which are still savage for a westerner's eye. But, again we saw the authentic traditions of the people of Nepal. Here our time in Nepal was up, and we were happy we enjoyed our last city.
Not without some stressful time with Nepali Airline Company, never fly with them again ! They did cancel our original flight, the reason being low demand, and the second one, 2 days later, was belated by morning fog ... we finally left the Nepali ground, and
were given a goodbye gift. We were flying on the level of the highest mountains in the world, and they were just there, raising over the sea of clouds, open only to the eyes of those who can be higher than them. Our Nepal journey is over, next destination will be down under the globe, on the Australian continent.
There are more photos below