A Travellerspoint blog

Buddha Jayanti festival

Bodhnath, Nepal

storm 32 °C
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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.

Buddha Jayanti festival

Buddha Jayanti festival

Buddha Jayanti festival

Buddha Jayanti festival

Buddha Jayanti festival

Buddha Jayanti festival

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!

Packed busses

Packed busses

On the luggage rack!

On the luggage rack!

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.

Buddha Jayanti festival

Buddha Jayanti festival

Buddha Jayanti festival

Buddha Jayanti festival

Buddha Jayanti festival

Buddha Jayanti festival

Buddha Jayanti festival

Buddha Jayanti festival

Buddha Jayanti festival

Buddha Jayanti festival

Buddha Jayanti festival

Buddha Jayanti festival

Buddha Jayanti

Buddha Jayanti

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!

P1010585.jpg

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.

Patan

Patan

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.

Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur

Water truk in Bhaktapur

Water truk in Bhaktapur

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….

Posted by skerrigan 06:09 Archived in Nepal Comments (9)

Nepal...

Chitwan national park, Pokhara and the Kathmandu vally

storm 38 °C
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I absolutely love Nepal!! This country is beautiful and magical. It is so lush in comparison to what I have seen in India, and it is cooler, making life more bearable, dropping from mid 50's in India to 30's-40's in Nepal (though I hear that there is currently a heat wave at home...I think late 20's sounds pretty chilly though!)

I spent much of last week in Chitwan national park, in the south of Nepal (also known as mosquito heaven). We were staying in a remote rural area, in a lodge with thatched roofs, open fires, and a pretty clean river to take a morning dip in. When walking around the surrounding villages, it really did feel as if I was stepping back in time, with mud hut houses, thatched roofs, and animals everywhere. People are completely self sufficient, and so welcoming. In India it really did feel like all people wanted was your money, or to con you out of your money, or to make you feel guilty, so you would give away your money. But here, people are just so happy to see you in their country; they want to practice their English and introduce their family and show their homes.

Kathmandu, by comparison is completely different again, it is very busy (but nowhere near the tempo of Delhi). It also feels much more westernized, there are distinct fashion trends, music, hair styles and hair dye. I think because of this western influence, white people are not stared at as much. I feel completely safe wondering around, so one follows or stares. Which I think actually translates to improving my confidence as a traveler.

The gap tour ended last Saturday, which was sad, as I had really grown close to one of the girls I was sharing a room with. I would completely recommend a tour for a country such as India, there is so much security in it, which makes you enjoy what you are seeing. Since the weekend I have been traveling with two of the tour members around the more rural areas in Nepal. We attempted a black run hike (we did not realise it was a black run at the time), it was pure hell!!! It was just non-stop steps, up and up and up, you reach a corner and it just continues up!! I felt like such a loser, there was me drenched in sweat in all my hiking gear, and the Sherpa women, walking in dressed and flip-flops, carrying heavy loads were over taking me!!! In the end we turned back- for a number of reasons:
We had walked only 3km in 2 1/2 hours, we were all running out of water, no tea houses or lodges were open as it was off season, a large black cloud was approaching, and we had seen several missing person signs on the way into the area of girls who had taken the same rout. Though after we returned we realised we had taken a wrong turn and scaled 1800m in 2 hours!

It definitely worked out for the best though, as we headed to a mountain village (obviously recommended by lonely planet) which had some excellent panoramic views of the area. The black cloud turned into my second experience of a monsoon rain (which lasted 7 hours) and had terrential rain and massive thunder storms!

Posted by skerrigan 06:42 Archived in Nepal Comments (1)

The Indian People

Poverty and the quality of life

sunny 47 °C
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I am now settling in to life in India, I must admit it does take some getting used to. After speaking with some other back packers it is now clear to see there is a distinction between an annoyance and danger in India. Being hassled around markets is obviously just an annoyance, but I was finding it very hard adjusting to being followed and constantly being stared at. I have however now come to the conclusion that this is also just an annoyance when in day light hours. There are simply not used to seeing white people, and especially a single female. Infact a couple of days ago I found my self staring at a black couple- simply because it is so unusual here. Now that this has clicked I am starting to love the people and their culture.

After joining the tour group on Saturday, we traveled very early morning to the train station to catch the train to Jaipore, (a city in the state of Ragestan, east of Delhi). Driving along at 4am I was astonished to see such quantities of people sleeping rough, especially tiny children huddled together under some stairs, which was heart breaking. The cycle-rickshaw drivers that I had been bartering with hours earlier were treating those vehicles not only as their job but also their homes. On the train we passed many slums on the outskirts of Delhi. I felt awful looking out onto so much poverty. Once you pass the horror of the frailness of the individuals, their living space and the fact that privacy is simply not a part of the slum dwellers lives; you start to see some amazing things.

There is a real sense of community, shops existed, selling food and drink, I could see what looked like a launderette, and a mettle work shop. Women were sweeping outside their houses at 5.30am, and washing the walls to make it look presentable. In the tightly packed slums, several religions co-exist, Hindu, Muslim, and Sheikh. People share and compromise and I feel the country is richer for it. I have been to visit several Palaces and Temples whilst I've been here, and the thing I have found most amazing is how each of them incorporates all religions in its decor; tiles will have the Arabic patterns, but images of Hindu gods with the sheikh vibrant colours.

If you compare material wealth with us back home, it is undeniable that we rank however. However compare the quality of life, how much people smile on the street, how people sing, joke or play with one another- the Indians trump us! I went to see a Bollywood film last night, at this AMAZING 1920's art deco cinema. It was so much fun, the cinema (about 3 times the size of one of our screens) was packed, and everyone clapped and cheered when different movie stars entered a scene and people laughed in hysterics rather than grumble to one another about someone behind making too much noise.

I'm falling in love with this country even more every day!

Posted by skerrigan 09:47 Archived in India Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

The Taj Mahal

At sunset

sunny 45 °C
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I have just returned from the Taj Mahal. It is breath taking, so beautiful, sad and romantic all at the same time. Built in the memory of the beautiful Arjumand Bano Begum, who won the heart of a Mughal prince. She was married at 21 to Emperor Jahangir’s third son Prince Khurram and stayed loyally by his side through good times and bad: in the luxurious royal palaces of Agra as well as the transient tents of war camps. Their tombs lie side by side in the main room.

It was so fully walking round, as many Indian families kept coming up to me and others that I am traveling with, and requesting that we be in a photo with them. I have had small children lumbered in my arms, I have done thumbs up with an elderly couple from Bombay (no one here calls in Mumbai by the way). If I had charged 10 Rps (about 6p) for every Indian family portrait I have been into day, I would be at least 50 pounds richer!

I do actually have one really nice photo when a group of older women who had traveled from Nepal invited my self and another girl to sit in their circle and share some snacks with them. They were so lovely, we couldn't understand each other, but one woman kept stroking my hair and skirt- which I will take as a complement.

I did start to question by the end of the day what these families will do with all the photos of strange sweaty white people?? I am still completely oblivious as to why they wished to have us in their photos...

Leaving the Taj Mahal was really hard, there was a pull to the building, it just looked so beautiful and peaceful. It was the same sensation as when you say bye to someone you know you will not see for a long time, just that pull to keep looking back to take one last glimpse.

Posted by skerrigan 09:33 Archived in India Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Wacky races in Delhi

First few days in Delhi

sunny 43 °C
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Oh my gosh, Delhi is an explosion of sensations!

The first thing that hits you is the heat, I arrived at 11am and it was already 37 degrees; with the past couple of days rising well up into the 40's. The next thing is the noise, everyone shouts, all cars, motor-bikes and auto-rickashaws honk their horns every two seconds, there is just a constant background noise of horns in this city. Everyone blasts the latest bollywood song out of their vehical, shop or house. The whole city appears to be a bit of a construction site, as it prepairs for the commonwealth games in Oct 2010, aiming to get much of the work completed before the summer monsoon. Then there are the mosques dotted all round the, which compete with one another for the loudest call to prayer. Followed by the smell, the spices of the street food, of animals on the roadside, of open latrines and pollution. Finally it's the sight of so much poverty juxterposed with the wealth of colour and jewellery. Compared to Slum Dog Millionaire, it doesn't actually look so bad, but there are a lot of temporary shacks up everywhere, children and disabled people begging. But then a second later you pass the women in their sari's full of colour- they are so beautiful.

Driving back to the hotel from the airport, well really racing back, competing in the final of Delhi Wacky races. With auto-rickashaws (india's answer to the tuk-tuk), cycle-rickashaws, motor-bikes, cars, buses and horse-drawn carts, racing along four vehicals wide in a two lane road, weaving in and out of lanes. I must say though that I have not (as of yet) witnessed one crash; saying that I've not yet seen a vehical free of scratches or dents.

Though I am pleased I've seen the city, I am eager for the tour to start. The city is very dirty, polluted and it feels unsafe. I have taken to paying for an auto-rickashaw to take me the distance of a five min walk, as I get followed and harrassed at every courner. There are no street signs here, and it is very easy to get lost- not the best idea when traveling as a loan western women. Even once I'm inside a 'tourist site' I get starred at, I have counted a total of eight white people in the entire time I've been here (excluding the plane). I am the only westerner at the hotel, only Chinese and Indian families are staying here, which I admit has made it kind of lonely.

Oh well, it's thrown me in at the deep end, which is always good, and I knew would be the case. Though it will be nice to have the security and company of a tour tomorrow.

xx

(P.S I'm annoyed at the election result!!! After working so hard in Hereford, I can't belive the Tory's got in. Oh well, could be worse, could have been a Tory out right win. It also means I'm able to miss the post-election squabbles)

Posted by skerrigan 18:27 Archived in India Tagged backpacking Comments (3)

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