18.05.2010 - 01.06.2010 32 °C
After reading in the Bible (Lonely Planet) that I was in the right place at the right time for the full moon, I headed to Bodhnath for the Buddha Jayanti Festival which celebrates the birth of Buddha (not quite Thailand’s full moon parties!) The small town of Bodhnath is a Buddhist sanctuary, home to hundreds of Tibetan refugee monks. The center piece of this town is an enormous stupa, which glares down with its watchful eyes on the thousands of pilgrim’s.
My self and Carlein, a Dutch girl I had met on the India tour, headed to Kathmandu bus station to find ourselves with the same ‘excellent idea’ as every other tourist and Nepali Buddhist in town. Busses were packed full with people, so we were forced to make the journey on top of the bus on the luggage racks! It is safe to say that I feared for my life on more than one occasion in that 30 min journey, by the end I looked like Bridget Jones, when she looses her head scarf while traveling in an open top car!
After figuring out we needed to take a left at the stupa to get to our hotel, we were met with thousands of pilgrims circulating the stupa anti-clockwise. The only option was to be swept around the enormous stupa with the hundreds of pilgrims until we reached our hotel. The sight was absolutely mesmerizing; walking around were followers of every race, nationality and age. It was really clear to see the spread of Buddhism along the old silk trade rout between China, Tibet, Nepal, India and Thailand. Carlien and I just sat for hours absorbing the unique spectacle and atmosphere. There were hundreds of monks dressed in their maroon and orange robes sitting in rows, rhythmically chanting their mantras.
The evening however was not so enjoyable, dog packs roamed and fought in the street, a huge monsoon storm erupted and I woke with excruciating itching on my feet. In the morning I discovered 9 mosquito bites on one foot and 5 on the other!
My final days in Nepal have been full of wondering the streets of Patan and Bhaktapur, towns in the Kathmandu Valley towards the Tibetan boarder. In Patan I was able to view the strange ‘Rato Machhendranth festival’, where a crudely carved tall piece of painted wood (a statue of sorts) is moved by chariot across the town. The Machhendrath is considered to have powers over rain, to plea for generous monsoon rains. Though in my opinion this chariot looks as if it houses many street boys between its wheels and could kill quite a few if it fell.
I fell in love with the town of Bhaktapur, a small rural town, nessled in the Kathmandu valley with the most amazing square; full of Hindu and Buddhist Temples that look distinctly Chinese with their tiered roofs. With no other tourists in sight, it was nice just to wonder the streets and witness normal life- with no trekking shops or touts. It’s probably quite easy to get blind sighted by the charm of the town and not recognize the relative poverty the citizens were living in. It only had electricity for 3 hours a day 7-8am and 8-10pm. There is also a water shortage in many parts of Nepal. In Bhaktapur I saw women crowded around a huge water truck to collect water, the truck only comes for 2 hours every other day.
All in all, I am absolutely smitten with the country. Its people, scenery and culture just kept surprising me day on day.
Now for Sri Lanka….