new nepal, new voices: an anthology of short stories

Sunday, March 3:  New Nepal, New Voices is an anthology of short stories by Nepali writers writing in English.  The stories capture bits of life in Nepal, whether the writers are based in Kathmandu, California or China.  The editors, Sushma Joshi and Aji Baral put together this collection to show the writers’ “shared experience and relationship with Nepal.”

I enjoyed most of the stories in this collection, except for a few.  One of my favorites was “Law and Order” by Sushma Joshi.  The main character, Bishnu, had tried 6 months earlier to get into the British Gorka army, but despite spending three years in preparation, he had been rejected when he failed a final test where he was thrown from a horse.  Dejected, he ends up applying for the Police Force of Nepal, and gets accepted.  However, it’s a difficult existence with low pay and small food rations and he finds himself continually hungry.  He spends all his time longingly looking out the window of his Police Headquarters cell at the house next door’s bountiful garden.  In addition to the garden, the house is also occupied by several beautiful young women.  Bishnu and his three roommates focus all their attention on the food growing in that garden and the beautiful girls.  Finally, he makes up his mind that he will scale the wall and raid his neighbor’s garden.  The house has a dog in residence and the gate around the house is embedded with broken glass to keep out intruders.  None of this deters him because he’s so hungry and he has to look at, and long for, that garden every day.

He manages to scale the wall and fills a plastic bag full of vegetables from the garden.  On his expedition, he cuts his hands on the embedded glass and sits on a spike on the gate, drawing blood from his private parts but luckily not causing permanent damage.  On this night, the dog happens to be locked up; however that doesn’t keep the dog’s loud barks from terrifying him.  When he gets back to the cell safely with all his bounty, one of his roommates tells Bishnu he missed seeing one of the girls taking off her clothes one piece at a time, as if she knew they were watching.  Bishnu thinks the roommates are just jealous because of his exciting adventure.

Over the next several days, he shares his plunder with his roommates in delicious meals.  Then, when all the vegetables are gone, he realizes he will have to go back to looking at that garden and dreaming about it.  He tells his roommate: “J.B., I realize it now. The hunger of your stomach you can always satisfy with cauliflower and a tomato, but what about the hunger of your mind?”

His roommate responds: “Only an idiot would try to satisfy the hunger of his mind.”

As Bishnu drops off to sleep, he becomes aware that “his mind would always be roving over unreachable landscapes of desire, leaping from luscious fruits to beautiful breasts…. and there was nothing he could do to satisfy them all.  They would always remain half dreamt, half imagined, half seen, half felt.”   He wonders if sleep is the only place where desires of the mind can be satisfied.   “Or perhaps, he thought confusedly just before he fell into a deep sleep, his mind was the only place where women could mutate to the fullness of a fruit, and the pungent ripeness of summer juices, and move from human to plant and back again with no discernible boundaries, and all of this was just as real as the long, mournful howling of that damned dog outside.”

I love the way Susha Joshi explores the nature of desire and ties together Bishnu’s dreams of women and of fruit.  This kind of story is why I love to read wonderfully imagined fiction.  We all can relate to the experience of having unfulfilled desires and when a wonderfully creative writer like Joshi uses his imagination and his talent with words to create such a character as Bishnu, we can’t help but feel a sadness for our own frustrated yearnings and desires.

In another story, “The Face of Carolynn Flint” by Prawin Adhikari, an expat Nepali living in California has an affair with an older woman named Carolynn who is continually reinventing her face through plastic surgery.  The story of this affair, which is very superficial, is intertwined with the story of Heather, a girl who the narrator truly loved and who had beautiful eyes: “Her eyes did change colours constantly: sometimes the paleness of a late summer sky, and sometimes the blue-green of bits of glass found on the beach, but nevertheless, something glassy and oceanic about them remained.”  The only reason he gets involved with Carolynn is because her eyes remind the narrator of Heather.

In the end, both relationships come to an end, and the narrator says: “If I had to say what I have learned from life so far, I wouldn’t be able to write a single word of truth: I’d likely ramble on and on, but never manage to say anything of substance.  I don’t think I have learned anything about people, much less about women, or love.  I still remember how hard it was to say goodbye to Carolynn, the woman of a thousand faces, the woman I never loved, and I remember how easily everything ended with Heather, whom I did love, with however much of it I could muster.”

Sadly, I think I might have to say the same thing.  We want so desperately to learn lessons from our life experiences, to carry away some  knowledge from our pain and sorrow and heartbreak.  Yet.  It’s often difficult to say exactly what we did learn, if anything.  Many times we think we’ve learned something, and then we continue to repeat the same patterns, the same mistakes.  All we can hope is that we can take away a small grain of wisdom from each experience, even if a minuscule one, and that it will make some difference in our lives.

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weekly photo challenge: forward

Saturday, February 23:  This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is FORWARD.

In a new post specifically created for this challenge, share a picture that says FORWARD to you.

Perhaps it’s a path you yourself have taken, the building where you’re starting a great new job, or the curve of your partner’s pregnant belly. It could be an image that shows a physical move, or something that evokes a major life change.

Here are some pictures of a 15 km hike I took in January from Nagarkot to Changu Narayan outside the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal.  Twice during this walk, I came across women walking forward carrying burdens of tree branches larger than they were. I couldn’t even see their faces, just their feet moving, moving, moving.  Forward. I actually tried to run to get ahead of them and take front view pictures, but I couldn’t catch them!  I’m sure they couldn’t wait to release their burdens.

these women were moving forward so fast, I was running to keep up with them!

these women were moving forward so fast, I was running to keep up with them!

another group of ladies further down the path, walking forward with loads that look a little different from the first ladies' loads.

another group of ladies further down the path, walking forward with loads that look a little different from the first ladies’ loads.

The views were beautiful.  My legs were aching, but I kept moving forward down the path, until we reached our destination of Changu Narayan.

moving FORWARD down the path to Changu Narayan

moving FORWARD down the path to Changu Narayan

continuing to move FORWARD down the path

continuing to move FORWARD down the path

I’ll post more on this hike in the coming weeks. 🙂

 

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arresting god in kathmandu

Monday, January 28:  Arresting God in Kathmandu is an insightful book of short stories by Kathmandu native Samrat Upadhyay, who has lived in the United States since he was 21.  Having traveled to Nepal in January of 2013, I was captivated by his portrayal of the ordinary lives of Nepalis and their search for spiritual solutions to their problems.

In the first story, “The Good Shopkeeper,”  Pramod loses his prestigious job at a finance company, and after soothing his wife Radhika’s despair, he makes the rounds of the Pashupatinath Temple to pray for Lord Shiva’s blessing.  He finds himself having to ingratiate himself to a distant cousin of his wife’s, only to be put off time and time again.  As they go through their life savings to pay the next two months’ rent, they become increasingly desperate.   In Pramod’s aimlessness, he begins an affair with a housemaid.  Finally, with no prospects in sight, he tells his wife they should start a shop.  He tells her, “I will have to grow a mustache.”  He then imagines himself as such an important shopkeeper that if the distant cousin came in, he would pretend he wasn’t there.  And, if the housemaid came, “he would seat her on a stool, and perhaps Radhika would make tea for her.  This last thought appealed to him tremendously.”

I can imagine this story and its setting: pilgrims circling the Pashupatinath Temple; the struggle to make ends meet which is so evident everywhere in Nepal; the pipe dreams of Nepalis who have no easy solution to their employment and financial woes.   I love reading a book like this after I travel to a place, and recognizing the deep truth of the stories.

In the story, “Deepak Misra’s Secretary,” Deepak makes the mistake of kissing his “unattractive secretary” Bandana-ji when he hears his ex-wife Jill is back in Kathmandu. He had gotten involved with this Cleveland native after he met her at a party:

Deepak had found her charming, although she was like many of the Nepal-crazy foreigners he knew, people who lived in the country in a romantic haze, love-struck by the mountain beauty and simple charms of the people, but grossly naive about their suffering.

Deepak hopes to renew his relationship with Jill, but finds she has no interest in him. Slowly, he develops an attraction for Bandana-ji, but he denies this attraction, still thinking of his ex-wife.   Finally he asks his secretary to submit her resignation.  She leaves, but Deepak cannot get her, or the sensation of bliss he felt with her, out of his mind.

Having lived abroad for the last three years, I know of these love-struck foreigners, who see only the beauty and fascinating parts of a culture, ignoring the problems and struggles of the locals, or the troublesome aspects of the culture.

There are many more wonderful stories in this collection, stories in which the author explores the effects of modernization on love and family.  Husbands and wives bound together by arranged marriages are driven elsewhere by a strong desire for connection.  Constrained by family and society, people find themselves propelled to transcend their difficult circumstances and escape into a world that is diametrically opposed to the one in which they live.

travel theme: walls

Saturday, January 26:  Ailsa’s travel theme for this week is Walls (See Where’s my backpack?).

Here are some walls from South Asia.

a wall in Bhaktapur, Nepal

a wall in Bhaktapur, Nepal

a wall around a garden of mustard in Bhaktapur, Nepal.

a wall around a garden of mustard in Bhaktapur, Nepal.

a wall in Bhaktapur, Nepal with letters from Nepal's Devanāgarī alphabet

a wall in Bhaktapur, Nepal with letters from Nepal’s Devanāgarī alphabet

inside the Amber Fort outside of Jaipur, India

inside the Amber Fort outside of Jaipur, India

walls in the Amber Fort near Jaipur, India

walls in the Amber Fort near Jaipur, India

last day in kathmandu

Thursday, January 24:  On this, my last day in Kathmandu, I decide I will just wander around the streets of Thamel and do some shopping, have a nice lunch, check out the bookstore, take pictures, and top the day off with a traditional dinner and entertainment.

First I start with a meditative moment in the courtyard of Kathmandu Guest House.

the meditative Buddha in the courtyard of Kathmandu Guest House

the meditative Buddha in the courtyard of Kathmandu Guest House

As I walk out to the street from Kathmandu Guest House, I meet this kind young man who wants me to hire his rickshaw for a little tour.  I tell him I will meet him here in about two hours.

My rickshaw driver

My rickshaw driver

I can do a lot of damage shopping for 2 hours.  I buy a couple of beautiful necklaces, two yak wool blankets, a paper lantern, a colorful embroidered bag, and a bunch of books including Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda (which the Indian guy I met last night highly recommended to me), The Guru of Love, Royal Ghosts and Arresting God in Kathmandu, all by Samrat Upadhyay, and a Buddhist Chanting CD.  Luckily I bought that backpack in Pokhara so I can carry all this loot home. 🙂

I do some more wandering around before the designated meeting time for the rickshaw tour.  This is what I see.

Ohm.

Ohm.

Streets of Thamel

Streets of Thamel

Colorful shops in Thamel

Colorful shops in Thamel

Balloons anyone?

Balloons anyone?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

colorful yarns

colorful yarns

old wood carvings

old wood carvings

busy streets

busy streets

paper lanterns

paper lanterns

Finally I meet my rickshaw driver and he takes me outside of Thamel to where the real Nepalis live and work.  Thamel is quite “done up” compared to the rest of Kathmandu because it’s a tourist area.  The rest of Kathmandu is more chaotic and quite a bit more ratty.

colorful rickshaw

colorful rickshaw

a little temple hidden away

a little temple hidden away

a lady and her bedding

a lady and her bedding

colorful bedding and doors

colorful bedding and doors

hangin' out waiting for a fare

hangin’ out waiting for a fare

Ohm.

Ohm.

the red monkey god

the red monkey god

another hidden temple with bright yellow doors

another hidden temple with bright yellow doors

temple

temple

me in the rickshaw

me in the rickshaw

fruits for sale

fruits for sale

a temple with guard dogs

a temple with guard dogs

After our little tour, I grab a lunch of momos and fresh banana juice at The Roadhouse Cafe.

Ohm.

Ohm.

Momos for lunch

Momos for lunch

my lunch spot

my lunch spot

Finally I go back to my room and take a rest for a bit.  I have now started reading Arresting God in Kathmandu, a book of short stories by Nepali writer Samrat Upadhyay.  This is more appropriate for Nepal than the other book I’ve been occupied with this entire trip, What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt.   I finished this book yesterday evening.

another colorful rickshaw

another colorful rickshaw

I decide to go out to Thamel House, an old townhouse with a covered patio garden that serves traditional Nepali and Newari food.  I order the full course vegetarian set.  The fixed price meal includes the following:

ENTRY:
Alu Tareko (Potato fried and prepared in traditional way)
Momo (steamed dumpling with minced vegetables)
Suruwa (soup ~ typical Nepali soup)

MAIN COURSE:
Sada Bhuja (plain boiled Basmati rice)
Kalo Dal (lentil prepared in iron pot with heated purified butter, garnished with herbs)
Mis Mas Tarkari (seasonal mixed vegetables cooked in local style)
Alu Tama Bodi (fermented bamboo shoot, beans & potato unique flavored and sourly in taste)
Paneer ko Tarkari (cottage cheese cooked in a special way)
Chyau ko Tarkari (mushroom curry cooked in a traditional way)
Saag (Seasonal fresh green leaves boiled and sautéed with spices)

DESSERT
Shikarni (Thick yogurt whipped and mixed with dry nuts and cinnamon powder)

Traditional Nepali food

Traditional Nepali food

While I savor each and every morsel of this delectable meal, I watch some Nepali ladies do a song and dance routine.

Entertainment at Thamel House Restaurant

Entertainment at Thamel House Restaurant

Finally, I return to Kathmandu Guest House where I pack up my things for an early flight tomorrow back to Muscat.  Goodbye, Nepal.  I don’t know when, or if, I’ll see you again. 🙂

good night and farewell to Thamel

good night and farewell to Kathmandu

changu narayan & return to kathmandu

Wednesday, January 23:  At the end of our 4 hour hike, we finally reach the ancient pilgrimage site of Changu Narayan in Kathmandu Valley.   All morning I have been wearing a new pair of hiking shoes that I haven’t quite broken in, and my feet are killing me!  I am happy to see Changu Narayan because it means I will be able to sit in the car for the drive back to Kathmandu.

We take a main street along the top of the ridge to the temple.  Souvenir shops are plentiful and colorful.

colorful souvenir shops along the street to Changu Narayan

colorful souvenir shops along the street to Changu Narayan

Changu Narayan is one of seven World Heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley; it’s been listed by UNESCO since 1979. This beautiful painted temple is where Lord Vishnu is worshiped by Hindus as Narayan and by Buddhists as Hari Hari Hari Vahan Lokeshwor.

The temple sits in a quiet square of rest houses and pilgrims’ shelters.  According to Lonely Planet Nepal, it is the valley’s oldest Vaishnava site, with a documented history going back to the 5th century A.D.   The temple is said to have been reconstructed in 1700.   The temple has some fine repousse work and carved painted struts supporting the roof.  Most of the statues in the courtyard are related to Lord Vishnu.

the temple of Changu Narayan

the temple of Changu Narayan

the incarnations of Vishnu on the struts to the temple

the incarnations of Vishnu on the struts to the temple

a smaller temple in the courtyard

my guide, Prakash Bhattarai of Gurka Encounters, in front of a smaller temple in the courtyard

incarnations of Vishnu

incarnations of Vishnu

The four entrances to Changu Narayan Temple are guarded by life-size pairs of animals such as lions, sarabhas, griffins and elephants on each side of the entrances.  The ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu and the other idols are carved in the struts supporting the roof.

griffins guard the entrances to the temple

griffins guard the entrances to the temple

closer up to the struts with the 10 incarnations of Vishnu

closer up to the struts with the 10 incarnations of Vishnu

the struts of Changu Narayan

the struts of Changu Narayan

We don’t stay very long at this temple, despite its beauty.   I’m tired and hungry and ready to return to Kathmandu for one more day of exploration.  My guide Prakesh, our driver Raju and I ride back through Bhaktapur and then through Kathmandu’s chaotic traffic mishmash of motorbikes, rickshaws, and honking trucks with flowers in their windshields.

Back at Kathmandu Guest House, I eat a late lunch of Egg Chow Mein, which I polish off in its entirety because I’m famished after that long hike from Nagarkot to Changu Narayan!  When I check into my room, though it’s a nice room with a balcony, I find it doesn’t have a bathtub.  I have been looking forward to a long hot soak, so I ask for a change of rooms.   I enjoy the hot bath, put on my pajamas and continue reading my novel, What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt.  I don’t get up again until I finish the book.   After, I get dressed to go out, but the novel’s disturbing story about a sociopath boy, Mark, and his murderous friend, Teddy Giles weighs heavy on me.

I head for dinner at New Orleans Cafe, where I sit next to a warm fire and drink an Everest Beer.  Because of eating that huge plate of Egg Chow Mein for a late lunch, I’m not very hungry, so I order a “small plate” of mashed potatoes.  The plate is actually huge and heaped with mashed potatoes and mushroom gravy.  It’s delicious and filling, especially as, again, I eat every bite.

a warm fire at New Orleans Cafe

a warm fire at New Orleans Cafe

While enjoying my beer after demolishing my “small plate,” some live traditional music begins on stage and a stocky Indian guy named Jay Krishna, who is sitting at an adjacent table, asks if he can join me.  He’s wearing a red fleece jacket and a wool hat pulled down to his eyebrows.  A software engineer doing some work in Nepal, he returns to Bangalore tomorrow.

Everest Beer at New Orleans Cafe

Everest Beer at New Orleans Cafe

Even though he’s Hindu, he believes in Jesus too, especially based on arguments in a book he highly recommends,  Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahanoa Yogananda.  We talk and talk, and he tells me I should buy this book tomorrow in the bookstore across the street.  When he tells me he’s from Bangalore,  I tell him about my trip to India and about the small-framed 25-old-Indian guy Tao, who I met on Facebook, and who took the train all the way from Bangalore to Delhi to meet me.  I laugh and say I couldn’t understand why a guy that young and small could have been attracted to me.  Jay says, “Why not?  I find you attractive.”  I thank him and change the subject.

warmth

warmth

He buys himself a beer but says he can’t buy me one; I tell him I can’t buy him one either.  As I prepare to leave, he tells me he’d like to spend more time with me, but as he’s leaving Kathmandu tomorrow and I’m leaving on Friday morning, and as I’m incredibly tired, I say I don’t really have the energy.  I say goodnight and head back to Kathmandu Guest House, where, exhausted, I fall asleep.

a hike from nagarkot to changu narayan

Wednesday, January 23:  After breakfast and a shower at Hotel View Point, I meet my guide for the day, Prakash Bhattarai of Gurka Encounters.  We begin our hike from Nagarkot, at 1950 meters, at 9 a.m.

Beginning our hike: terraced hills

Beginning our hike: terraced hills

"God is at home.  It's we who have gone out for a walk." ~ Meister Eckhart

“God is at home. It’s we who have gone out for a walk.” ~ Meister Eckhart

Nepali schoolchildren

Nepali schoolchildren

We first walk downhill for a couple of hours to Tellkot, passing terraces planted with mustard and wheat.  Some terraces are simply brown dirt where farmers will plant potatoes and millet in the warmer seasons.

terraces

terraces

terraces and the Himalayas

terraces and the Himalayas

more terraced hills

more terraced hills

terraces & greenhouses

terraces & greenhouses

At some points along the route, we can see views of the Himalayas, snow-capped like some apparition, with the terraced Central Hills in the foreground.  There is a bit of haze in the air, so the view isn’t perfect, but it’s beautiful nonetheless.

view of the Himalayas

view of the Himalayas

the snow-capped Himalayas

the snow-capped Himalayas

the Himalayas rise like an apparition over the Central Hills

the Himalayas rise like an apparition over the Central Hills

We walk through the front yards of colorful painted houses with Nepalis squatting on their front stoops, doors open, cleanly swept dirt floors inside.  These homes seem surprisingly tidy, swept clean both inside and out.  Goats and cows are tied to posts, dogs are barking, and chickens and roosters are crowing.  The air is crisp and cool — a perfect day for hiking.

goats and washline

goats and clothes on the wash line

livestock, terraces and the Himalayas

livestock, terraces and the Himalayas

goats & mountains

goats & mountains

"The home should be the treasure chest of living." ~ Le Corbusier

“The home should be the treasure chest of living.” ~ Le Corbusier

cock-a-doodle-doo!

cock-a-doodle-doo!

farmyard animals

farmyard animals

"Home is where the heart is." ~ Pliny the Elder

“Home is where the heart is.” ~ Pliny the Elder

better homes & gardens

better homes & gardens

I have a small pack, the size of a purse, and a larger backpack holding my overnight stuff.  Lucky for me, Prakash offers to carry it for me through the whole hike.  I should have insisted on carrying it myself; if I ever want to do the Camino de Santiago, I’m going to have to get used to carrying my own stuff!  Admittedly, it’s quite pleasant for me not to have to carry my pack.  🙂  I determine to tip him well for his hard work, which I do when we return to Kathmandu.

the Central Hills and Himalayas of Nepal

the Central Hills and Himalayas of Nepal

hills & mountains

hills & mountains

It’s lovely walking in companionable silence with Prakesh.   I so enjoy a walk out in nature without having someone constantly chattering.  We pass one small Hindu temple that seems quite off the beaten track.

a little Hindu temple in the hills

a little Hindu temple in the hills

haystacks and hills

haystacks and hills

hill country

hill country

more terraces

more terraces

"Be grateful for the home you have, knowing at this moment, all you have is all you need." ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

“Be grateful for the home you have, knowing at this moment, all you have is all you need.” ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

At the end of our hike, around 1:00, we can see Changu Narayan, an ancient temple complex, perched on a 1541 meter ridge ahead of us.  Our destination is in sight!  Prakash tells me we’ve walked about 15 km, although Rough Guide to Nepal says this hike, all the way to Bhaktapur, is about 10 km.

me with my destination, Changu Narayan, on the hilltop behind

me with my destination, Changu Narayan, on the hilltop behind

Changu Narayan on the hilltop ahead

Changu Narayan on the hilltop ahead

fields of mustard with Changu Narayan on the hill in the background

fields of mustard with Changu Narayan on the hill in the background

my last views of Kathmandu Valley before we get to the temple

my last views of Kathmandu Valley before we get to the temple

This was one of my favorite days in Nepal, close on the heels of my lovely lake walk in Pokhara.

More on Changu Narayan to follow….

sunrise in nagarkot

Wednesday, January 23:   Someone is pounding on my door and yelling,  “Sunrise!  Sunrise!”  Although I had no intention of getting up at sunrise this morning, I am now wide awake in my dark icy room.  I know I won’t be able to go back to sleep since I’m suddenly feeling the cold in my bones, so I figure I may as well get up and see what all the fuss is about.  The way I see it is that I already saw sunrise over the Annapurna Range in Pokhara, and then I saw sunset over the Langtang Range here last night.  It’s my vacation, after all, and I would really just love to sleep.

But, I drag myself out of bed, grabbing all the warm clothes I can find, and climb to the top tower of Hotel View Point with the scores of Chinese.  I find myself jostling with them for the perfect view of the Himalayas.  I am pleasantly surprised that the mountains are not draped in clouds as they were last night, so we have a clear view of the snow-covered peaks.

Here’s what I can see when I can push my way in front of the hordes of Chinese.

Sunrise at Nagarkot

Sunrise at Nagarkot

sunrise on the Langtang Range

sunrise on the Langtang Range

sunrise!

sunrise!

Langtang sunrise

Langtang sunrise

early risers on a lower platform

early risers on a lower platform

sunlight on the mountaintops

sunlight on the mountaintops

getting brighter

getting brighter

breakfast time!

breakfast time!

the mountains in full daylight  :-)

the mountains in full daylight 🙂

the hotel and the mountains

the hotel and the mountains

Hotel View Point

Hotel View Point

Terrace on Hotel View Point

Terrace on Hotel View Point

the balcony outside of my room

the balcony outside of my room

After breakfast, I pack up my backpack and head out for a 10 km hike down to Changu Narayan. 🙂

arrival in nagarkot & sunset views of the langtang range

Tuesday, January 22: After our time in Bhaktapur, we drive up winding mountain roads for about an hour until we reach Hotel View Point in Nagarkot (Hotel Viewpoint).  As we drive up, I can see undulating hills indented with terraces.  Many of the terraces are brown or bare because it’s winter, but some are covered in yellow-flowering mustard.  I am enamored by these terraces, which are so all-encompassing that they cover nearly every slope in the valley.

the view during the drive up to Nagarkot

the view during the drive up to Nagarkot

Nagarkot is not really much of a village.  The primary reason for its existence is the views it offers of the Himalayas, most notably the panorama of the Langtang Range.  The standard activity is this: enjoying the sunset and the sunrise over the mountains.

a map of the Langtang Range found on the hotel balcony

a map of the Langtang Range found on the hotel balcony

According to Wikipedia, Langtang Lirung is the highest peak of the Langtang Himal, which is a subrange of the Nepalese Himalayas, southwest of the Eight-thousander Shisha Pangma.  Though not high by the standards of major Himalayan peaks, Langtang Lirung is notable for its large vertical relief above local terrain. For example, it rises 5500m above the Trisuli Gandaki to the west in only 16 km. It has a large South Face which long resisted climbing attempts. The list of the world’s highest 100 mountains puts it at number 99 (Wikipedia: Langtang Lirung).

Hotel View Point and the Langtang Range

Hotel View Point and the Langtang Range

the Langtang Range from the hotel

the Langtang Range from the hotel

a view from the balcony of the hotel to the gardens below

a view from the balcony of the hotel to the gardens below

Hotel View Point balconies

Hotel View Point balconies

When I arrive at the hotel, since I didn’t eat lunch in Bhaktapur, I have a wonderful lunch of Nepalese Vegetarian food: basmati rice, black lentils, vegetable curry, spinach green curry, pickle, papad (some kind of mushroom curry?), salad and curd.  I top this amazing lunch off with a banana lassi.

Nepali vegetarian food

Nepali vegetarian food

After lunch, since it’s still a while before sunset, I take a walk down into the village, where I see some interesting little shops and cafes.

Chill out

Chill out

Chill Out Restaurant and Nepali writing on the blackboard

Chill Out Restaurant and Nepali writing on the blackboard

funky business in town

funky business in town

I also see, coming out of a wooded area, several women with huge bundles of sticks on their backs.  They are being propelled forward at high-speed down the mountain by their heavy burdens.  I try to run to catch up and pass them, so I can take a picture of them from the front, but I can’t catch them, they are moving so fast.  So all I get is a rear view of their bundles and their rapidly moving feet.

Ladies carrying bundles of wood

Ladies carrying bundles of wood

scurry, scurry

scurry, scurry

I pass one shop that sells those droop-bottom pantaloons, or whatever you call them, that all the Western hippies wear in Nepal.  It always looks to me like they’re carrying a load in their britches.

pantaloons with droopy crotches

pantaloons with droopy crotches

After my walk, I treat myself to an Everest beer on the terrace and then I get cozy in my room for a while before dinner, where I continue reading What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt.  The book is so good now, I can hardly put it down; I read it every chance I get.

an Everest beer before sunset

an Everest beer before sunset

the Langtang Range view enjoyed with an Everest beer

the Langtang Range view enjoyed with an Everest beer

my room at Hotel View Point

my room at Hotel View Point

Finally, when I think it’s about time for the sun to go down, I climb to Hotel View Point’s highest tower, accompanied by about 25 Chinese tourists.  I am the only non-Asian person in sight.  All the Chinese are wrangling for the best view with their fancy cameras.  We all take pictures and I position myself at different spots around the hotel balconies, of which there are many, and take various shots, some of which are posted here.  It’s freezing cold!!

Sunset

Sunset

sunset at Nagarkot

sunset at Nagarkot

sunset at Nagarkot, looking away from the Langtang Range

sunset at Nagarkot, looking away from the Langtang Range

sunset over the Langtang Range

sunset over the Langtang Range

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

the sun sets over the Himalayas with Nagarkot in the foreground

Sunset amidst the trees

Sunset amidst the trees

the sun sets over the Langtang Range

the sun sets over the Langtang Range

After the sun goes down, a buffet dinner is served in the chilly dining room.  I eat small pieces of fried chicken, lukewarm spinach, cold steamed cauliflower, broccoli and carrots, noodle soup in brass bowls (the only warm thing!), and some limp oily French fries.  Believe me, it’s not even worth taking a picture of this meal.

the dining room at Hotel View Point

the dining room at Hotel View Point

By the time dinner is over, I’m so tired of listening to the Chinese, and I’m so cold, that I go to my room and burrow under as many blankets as I can pile on the bed from the cupboards in the room.  Brrrrr.   I plan to pass on sunrise in the morning because I already saw the amazing sunrise in Pokhara and one is just fine by me, thank you very much.

Looking out over the hotel grounds to the Himalayas

Looking out over the hotel grounds to the Himalayas

bhaktapur: potter’s square

Tuesday, January 22:  At the Potter’s Square, or Kumale Tol, we find potters giving shape and size to lumps of clay.   They make earthenware ranging from such household goods as pots, jars, stovepipes and disposable yogurt pots to cheap souvenirs such as animals and birds. As pottery in Bhaktapur is a family job, we can see entire families contributing to the work.  Because this square caters to tourists, the potters have the incentive to continue to work with traditional methods, using hand-powered wheels or forming clay by hand.

a shop selling pottery made at Potter's Square

a shop selling pottery made at Potter’s Square

families working at Potter's Square

families working at Potter’s Square

Pottery at Potter's Square

Pottery at Potter’s Square

Potter's Square

Potter’s Square

Potter's Square in Bhaktapur

Potter’s Square in Bhaktapur

a potter using the traditional hand-powered wheel

a potter using the traditional hand-powered wheel