Friday, September 04, 2009

Nepal Trek 2009 - May 21, Kathmandu

Ah, Kathmandu - what a chaotic place. We had one and a half days after returning from our trek to decompress and get organized for our return back home. Megan and I decided that we needed to attend to our hands, so we went to a salon near the New Orleans Cafe to get manicures.

We look pretty happy about having the opportunity to get some much needed TLC for our nails. My hands were a wreck. The weird thing about this visit is that there was no power in Thamel at the time. The salon was on the second floor and the stairway leading up to it was pitch black. The only light in the place was from the window facing an alley - enough to see by, but it cast a gloomy pall over the salon.

One bright spot was provided by this adorable little girl - dressed in a shirt and no pants. I think her name is Alicia, but I can't recall for sure. She was pretty interested in my camera - especially after I showed her picture to her.

Much, much, much better. This manicure involved a hand and arm massage and a lot of scrubbing of grime out from the nail bed and under the nails.

Late morning saw us back on the bus for a trip over to Boudhanath Stupa.

I took some photos from the bus -

is that "bus photography" rather than street photography? I felt like such a voyeur on these bus rides, my nose pressed to the window so I could snoop into the shops. You see little vignettes of interactions in bits and pieces - flash - what was that?

We couldn't get close to Boudhanath because the street was under construction. We parked and then walked several blocks to the entrance. The traffic was all jammed up, trying to navigate through the blockage. I was interested in the skeins of wool on the back of this motorbike.

Paving the street is quite entertaining, apparently. I've never seen so many people crowd in to see asphalt being laid down.

Street photography - this guy might have been taking a break from construction.

Married Sherpa women on their way back from visiting the stupa? Each of them are carrying prayer beads. You can tell they are married from the aprons they are wearing.

Ummmh, there's a trash problem in Kathmandu?

I loved the colors in this little vignette.

I think he's contemplating an empty bag of chips.

We had lunch at a restaurant that was to give us a wonderful view of the stupa from the patio. Unfortunately, the weather was stormy and so we had to move indoors.

Fanta - the drink of choice for us trekkers.

Boudhanath stupa

Sonam, practicing his photography skills.

The eyes of Buddha

A Sherpa matron, making the circuit. You complete a kora (I have no idea how to spell this word) in a clockwise direction.

After lunch, we walked to a monastery before returning to visit the stupa. The streets and alleys were lined with beggars. This woman's cataracts were so bad that I'm sure she was able to only see light and shadow.

Vegetable and merchandise sellers lined the streets as well.

I think business was slow for this woman.

I hadn't seen this type of head gear until this day. Maybe she was using a cloth as a rain hat.

Plastic bucket, anyone?

The local barber was set up on a corner.

Another of the myriad beggars in the area.

I think these boys are happy to be out of school for the day.

Maybe these young men were also out of school for the day, or, perhaps they were on an errand for the monastery.

I don't remember the name of this monastery, but it's very close to Boudhanath stupa.

I think they were late to something.

I was curious as to where they were running to, and they had ducked into one of the rooms.

There was a lot of chanting and music coming from here. I wish I could have peeked in to see what was happening.

We did a tour of the grounds and then went inside the temple. We couldn't take photos inside, but it was very similar to the monastery at Tengboche. I posted pictures of that visit.

The old monk in the background was our keeper while we visited the temple. He was very sweet and he laughed a lot.

On the walk back to the stupa I poked around in the stalls where craftsmen were at work making things from metal.

There isn't much light, and they are working in timeless craft traditions. This was my favorite photo of the day.

Hammering the design is meticulous work. I would have liked to watch this for a long time, but we were on a schedule and I was already far behind the others at this point.

There was such a wide variety of fruits and vegetables for sale - mostly in plastic bags. I don't have room on the blog to post all the pics of interesting plants, but I'll try to provide a link to my Facebook or Flickr albums when I put together an index of the postings for this trip.

Ginger root

A variety of peppers - everything is spicy!

This group of children spontaneously posed for me when they saw my camera.

Our next stop was at a Tanka painting studio. These paintings represent an overhead view of stupas, monasteries and temples in Nepal. There is an incredible amount of symbolism that goes into each painting and there is a long apprenticeship from student to master painter.

It doesn't look like a comfortable way to work, but, then, I have westerner's knees.

I enjoyed watching the artists paint. They have such amazing skills with the brush and also for concentration in the midst of throngs of tourists.

Myriad prayer flags - just not the same as up in the high alpine, but so relevant to the sacredness of this place.

Worshipers were meditating and prostrating all around the stupa.

I would like to have known the significance of the stones - a meditation aid, perhaps?

Contemplation of a prayer book.

Some very photogenic monks.

Warding off of evil spirits at the entrance to a shop.

Tourist shop with cheap prayer flags that don't hold their color in sunlight.

Walking the circuit around the stupa.

This was a happy street vender - roasted corn, anyone?

Managing a heavy load on the sidewalk.

Sideline action.

Like father, like son.

Our celebration dinner was at Rum Doodle.

If you summit Everest, you eat here for free. We just signed a Yeti print and hung it on the wall.

This was a bittersweet evening - a celebration of all we had accomplished, but we were sad it was ending. I made some life-long friends on this trip, but we knew it would never be the same as what we had experienced together in Nepal. It was a lovely penultimate evening together. The next day we would be dispersing different directions - some staying, some leaving for the airport early, most of us late in the evening. We still had one more workshop scheduled, but it was clear that it was time to look ahead to returning home.

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