Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Walk Through Kathmandu

Transformation is an appropriate word to use today.  In fact if I am committed to living in the moment, then it is a word which applies every day of my life.  I had great passion to dive in and create this Blog three years ago, yet the rigid rules I gave myself made progress slow.  The plan was to retrace all the travels I had done in my life starting with my youth and move forward chronologically.  BORING!  I may have wonderful memories of the trips, but for many I do not have pictures.  Today we want to see through the writer's eyes, and pictures help us do this.  I have often said, my stories are always about human interaction.  If I am traveling, and have not engaged with others along the way I will know it by a sense of disconnection.

Fast forward to the present, the here and now.  It is the 26th of April, 2015 as I make this entry.  My mind is filled with images of destruction, and suffering caused by the devastating earthquake which occurred in Nepal this weekend.  I look at the news (something I rarely do for those who know me) and experience a sense of sorrow, and grief.  My first desire when seeing these images is to get on the next plane to go and help.  For now, this is not to be my way of providing assistance to this lovely nation nestled in the Himalayan Mountains, landlocked in a valley bordered by India, and China (Region of Tibet).

There is something I can do.  I can use this tiny space I have on the Internet to share with you the Nepal I know.  The Nepal I remember fondly.  Natural disasters, especially when they occur in the most vulnerable of places appear to boggle the mind, yet I have been amazed over the years as I witness the resiliency of the people I have met over the years who have told me their stories of what they did in such situations.  For many, acts of bravery, courage, and selflessness came naturally.  My current thoughts are focused on the Love I have for my fellow humans who are in need, and gratitude to the many who frequently offered assistance as I made my way across the region visiting the Kathmandu Valley.  Such memories continue to shine Light in my life.

I shall tell this story with an excerpt from my journal to Nepal which I visited in 2002.  The preparation for the journey was as endearing as the trip itself.  The destination was pre-planned as part of my one year  sabbatical from 2002-2003 when I circumnavigated the globe with a back-pack and an around-the-world airline ticket.  Kathmandu was a side trip, and one which I had booked as a separate flight arrangement from India.  Though this fact may be incidental, it played a major role in learning patience, perseverance, and learning about cultural norms.  To be more specific, I was in Hong Kong two months prior to setting off to India when I learned the flights I had booked to Nepal had not only been cancelled, but the route itself was no longer operating.  Furthermore, the ticket I had was not valid for use because the airline I booked did not work with other carriers providing alternative service.  I was given the option to take a voucher to India, and visit an Indian Airlines office in New Delhi where I might attempt to book new flights to Nepal.  This was not what I had planned.  Purchasing a ticket from Indian Airlines in 2002 with a "voucher" at a New Delhi City Ticket Office was not an equivalently simple experience as showing up at London's Heathrow and purchasing a last minute ticket to Paris.

I shall spare you the remainder of the New Delhi ticket purchase story, as fun as it was.  Should you be interested in learning more, have no worries.  I will write much more on India in later posts as it is a favorite destination of mine with three visits in the last ten years.  Moving on, the following text comes directly from my journal.  Reading it again today reminds me how fresh, and new everything appeared to me.  I can recall the clean, crisp air, the magnificence of the Himalayan skyline on the descent into Kathmandu, and the utter sense of feeling relaxed after five weeks in China, and the previous week in New Delhi.

"Returning to the Himalayas was a breath of fresh air after Delhi, both literally and metaphorically. I stayed in the tourist area of Kathmandu known as Thamel. This is a fantastic place to hang out for a few days. Lots of roof top restaurants, and shops selling so much stuff that I wanted to buy but resisted because I don't want to carry it for 6 months. The Nepalese have their share of touts, but nothing like India. They just want you to come into their shops which are very inviting. For sale are beautiful handmade Tibetan rugs, pillows, hats, and various other textiles. While in Kathmandu I visited the ancient area known as Durbar Square. The buildings and temples in this area are made of brick or stone, but what makes them so unique is the wooden inlaid windows and rooftops. All of them with minute intricate carving that has withstood time. There were just so many temples in this square it was mind boggling.






I very much enjoyed Kathmandu as it reminded me a lot of Tibet (without the Chinese influence). I also traveled to Bhaktapur which is also an ancient city that today acts like an open air museum. Walking around the city you encounter houses, temples and buildings all with these amazing wooden rooftops and window inlays. My final day trip in Nepal was to Boudhanath. This is a small village with one of the 40 largest Buddha stupas in the world. The Stupa was behind a gate separated from the busy street. The shops all around the stupa were playing Tibetan chanting music which added to the calmness and beauty of the area. It was difficult to leave Nepal after such a pleasant visit. I definitely would like to go back and have time to trek through the Annapurna mountains.




On a separate note, Indian Airlines turned out to be outstanding. They had the best in flight food I have had on an airplane. I learned that Taj Hotels does their catering. The security in Kathmandu was also like nothing I have ever experienced. After you check in, you go through the regular x-ray routine. Each and every hand bag is emptied and inspected. At the gate, you must go outside and identify your checked luggage before it is loaded on the plane. Just outside the aircraft at the foot of the stairs, all hand baggage is again emptied and inspected and you are body frisked. Wow!"

It is with pleasure I re-launch Transformations Through Travel today.  I look forward to publishing more content combining my passions for travel, people, multiculturalism, and writing.

I hope you enjoy your visit.  If there is a particular destination you would like for me to share my experiences, have a look at the archives for the Countries Visited Listing.  Let me know, and I will do my best to accommodate.

Best,

John




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