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Published: June 29th 2013
Following our trip to Chitwan, we ended up back in Kathmandu. The next morning we caught a bus to Bhaktapur, once the capital of Nepal, on the outskirts of Kathmandu. The Durbar Square includes many ancient temples running along cobblestone streets, which are free of traffic, surrounding the beautiful Palace of 55 Windows, built in the early 15th
century and home of the king until the late 18th
century. It now houses the National Gallery. Not far from the palace, and perhaps sharing the status of the chief site of Bhaktapur, is the Golden Gate, which acts as the entrance to the Hindu-restricted Taleju Temple, dedicated to the goddess Taleju Bhawani.
We headed to Pokhara the next day. There isn’t much to do in the town except fatten oneself up before and after the Annapurna Circuit. Gear for your trek can be bought there, but the same wariness in purchasing gear should be applied as that in Kathmandu – it will not be the best quality. There are restaurants galore, including a few steakhouses and - I say this as a Chicagoan, ie, pizza snob - not bad pizzerias serving pizza with yak cheese (I think that most
people find that they like yak cheese).
Our first day was spent extending our visa at the immigration office (you can extend your visa there and in Kathmandu) and walking around town in the Lakeside district. We enjoyed a short boat ride on Phewa Lake, which is famous for reflections of the Annapurna Himalayan Range in its waters. We had cloudy weather, so there were no reflections, but the boat ride took us to Tal Bahari Temple found on a small island near the shore. Once a month, the Pokhrelis sacrifice a goat to the Bahari near the shore for auspicious rainfall. We observed the ritual occurring when we’d exited the boat – it was a bloody scene when the goat’s throat is cut, then a fetid one when its burned. We took a seat on the curb following some pictures of the ritual when an old Tibetan woman walked up to us to sell us some bracelets made from yak bone. Admittedly, I have a slight a weakness for old women and children selling me things, and I’ll usually buy something. She was no different; I bought the bracelet for approximately $2, then asked her about
As a young child, with only her mother to raise her after her father had been killed by the Chinese, she was one of the 80,000 Tibetan refugees to leave Tibet about 50 years ago after the Chinese military infiltrated the country. After a short time in Kathmandu, her mother found work in Pokhara, but couldn’t afford to send her to school. When her mother fell ill, she worked odd jobs to support her until her mother died when she was in her twenties. She thought about moving to India, where she could possibly make more money, but had heard many stories of Tibetans not being treated well there, so she decided to seek a life in Pokhara. She explained that she’d never found that life and, with no education and no prospects of education, she’d lived in poverty most of her life – alone. If she sold three bracelets a day, she could eat; otherwise, she counted on the support of tourists. She despised begging, but explained that sometimes it was either that or hunger. She wholeheartedly thanked me for buying the bracelet (after trying to sell me another one, which I didn’t hold
against her), allowing her some dignity in work, and wished us well in our travels.
The next day we rented a motorbike and drove around town. It was fun driving on the left side of the road; it wasn’t as tricky to become accustomed to as I’d initially imagined. We visited Devi Falls - which us unfortunately dried up this time of year - then drove to the World Peace Pagoda: built by Japanese Buddhist monk Nichidatsu Fujii as a monument to world peace, it is an endeavor to provide all races a symbol of peace for which to strive. He, or the organization he’d established, has supervised the building of many peace pagodas around the world, including Hiroshima, Nagasaki, London, San Francisco, and even Grafton, NY. High up on a hill, which is reached on a very rocky road to be riding with a 125-cc motorbike, the steps of the Pagoda provided great views of the lake and the town itself, and is ornate with several large golden Buddha sculptures in various poses donated by Buddhist organizations from various countries.
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