Du-ing Things In The World’s 7th Most Polluted City | Kathmandu
I’d heard of “Kathmandu,” of course, but only vaguely knew where it was and never thought I’d visit. Nestled in a valley between Himalayan peaks, the city is shrouded in a trapped polluted haze. Temples of varying religions abound, as Hindus and Buddhists live in alleged harmony. Streets bustle unexpectedly with people and vendors peddling produce, scenes of modernity set amidst ancient, earthquake-damaged red brick temples and secret courtyards. The city even has its own Living Goodness, the Kumari, a heavily made-up child that looks down on people from a temple in Durbar Square, her reign terminated if she suffers even the tiniest of scratches.
Birthplace of Buddha | Lumbini
Accessible by a grueling 11-hour bus ride through nausea-inducing mountain passes, Lumbini is visited by tourists and pilgrims alike. (But mostly the latter). It’s possible to explore the dozens of stupas, monasteries and temples, plus a sacred Bodhi tree, by bike. I entertained myself by playing a game of “guess which country the temple is from.” The main event is the Maya Devi Temple, where the Buddha himself was born. It’s a UNESCO site (!), you cannot wear shoes inside, of course, nor can you bring in plastic bottles.
Lockdown on the Lake | Pokhara
Located on a beautiful lake surrounded by the Annapurna mountain range, Pokhara is where many treks originate. Uber-touristy in a comforting kind of way, it boasts open-air cafes, thousands of shops selling souvenirs and bootleg North Face gear, plus an International Mountain Museum and World Peace Pagoda.
Amazing Activity | Singing Bowl Meditation
Admittedly skeptical of “the energy” and related things, when I saw a sign for free singing bowl classes, I decided when in Nepal and went inside. After attending both a chakra alignment morning meditation and relaxing afternoon sound bath, I must admit…the singing bowls actually work! I became obsessed and attended daily in both Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Excellent Event | Holi Festival
Holi is a Hindu festival, sometimes known as the Festival of Colors. Most popular in India, it celebrates the “victory of good over evil.” People gather and throw brightly-colored powders, coating everything in sight. Young children enjoy assaulting adults with icy-cold water balloons, and smearing tourists’ faces in unsanitary neon color dye with filthy hands.
Outstanding Oddity | Toothache Tree
Nestled in a busy courtyard in downtown Kathmandu, people suffering from dental ailments visit the “Toothache Tree” and nail coins to it as offerings to Vaishya Dev, the Newar god of the toothache. If this doesn’t work though, there is good news! The streets adjacent to the tree are lined with opportunistic dentists and orthodontists ready to provide slightly more legitimate care.
Lovely Landscape | Annapurna Mountain Range
Many people come to trek the Annapurnas (Alert! This is different than Mount Everest), but given it’s cold and I don’t have gear, trekking wasn’t on my agenda. It’s still possible to enjoy the view, though, by hiking to the Peace Pagoda or Sarangkot View Tower. Lazy people take taxis partway up, but I found the 3+ hour hikes enjoyable. I also found they cost zero dollars.
Delicious Dining | Momos & Thukpa
Before arriving I’d not heard of Momos, a variety of dumplings, but found them abundant and delicious. I also discovered Thukpa, a super soup with noodles and vegetables, or meat if you prefer. I do not prefer.
Stellar Style | YAK YAK YAK YAK YAK YAK
I’m not really supposed to buy things, but it’s not possible to resist a $2.00 yak t-shirt. Especially given the thousands of tourist shops in Thamel, Kathmandu with similarly cute goods. The shirt pairs well with my versatile headband/air pollution mask, which these days has also become a coronavirus mask.
From the Camera
From the Notebook
The flap flap flap of the prayer flags – white, red, yellow, green, blue and sometimes orange – blowing in the breeze.
Dusty streets, courtyards thick with pigeons, crumbling buildings supported by stilts… youths milling about in denim, their sunglasses speckled with dirt.
The watchful third eye of the Buddha looking down on me. On everyone. From the rusty-lemonade-yellow stained stupa.
A tinny bell generally reserved for religious rituals, now announcing fresh produce on the streets.
[LUMBINI] Biking through the complex of temples so slowly, three children passed me. On foot.
I stood alone and ate crackers behind the bus. Meanwhile, other passengers bought mass quantities of corn from a road stall, bringing large corn bags back on the bus. [IN TRANSIT]