After Lumbini, I headed over to Pokhara.
Taken from Wikipedia:
Pokhara Leknath (Nepali: पोखरा लेखनाथ) is a Metropolitan City and the largest city of Nepal in terms of area.It is located 200 kilometres (120 miles) west of the capital Kathmandu. Pokhara Lekhnath Metropolitan City has become the country’s largest metropolis. It occupies an area of 464.24 sq km– nine times larger than Kathmandu. The altitude varies from 827 metres (2,713 feet) in the southern part to 1,740 metres (5,710 feet) in the north. The Annapurna Range with three of the ten highest mountains in the world —Dhaulagiri, Annapurna and Manaslu – is within 15 – 35 miles of the valley. Due to its proximity to the Annapurna mountain range, the city is a base for trekkers undertaking the Annapurna Circuit through the Annapurna Conservation Area region of the Annapurna ranges in the Himalayas.
Pokhara Lekhnath is home to many Gurkha soldiers. It is the most expensive city in the country, with a cost-of-living index of 150,[clarification needed] and the most expensive place in Nepal after Namche Bazaar, in terms of population, and is often referred to as the tourism capital of Nepal.
As soon as I arrived in the Pokhara bus park, I went to pick up my massive backpack and was besieged a mixed group of taxi drivers and other men asking if I had a hotel room. It was a lot to process at once. Yes, I needed a room and taxi ride to that room, and I wanted it cheap. I managed to strike a deal for a room with a man there for $4 a night (its low seaon). He arranged the taxi ride to hotel, and after passing a long stretch of shops by the riverside, I arrived at a place that was way nicer than I anticipated. Delighted by my good fortune, I drop my bags on the bed and went across the street to French Creperie and there met 2 expat locals, Kara (USA) and Amanda (UK).
These two are amazing. Kara has such a good spirit and attitude towards life. She works at/ founded an organization that brings water filters to people living just outside Pokhara. Check out backpakingforbetty.org. Kara’s joy is infectious. She is a hot fireball.
Amanda was also really cool. I was fortunate enough to practice a massage session on her, which I hadn’t practiced since Rishikesh. I felt like we were able to do some deep tissue work. I love working deep. It is so rewarding to see how people are after releasing long held stress.
They took me to their favorite places in town. Its great to have local guides.
On my first day wandering the city, I walked over to the giant white Japanese Peace Pogoda which over looks Phewa lake and Pokara.
On my way up the Pagoda, I stopped by Devi falls, and was followed around by a homeless looking man who was telling me about the falls.
On the way back down from the Peace Pogoda, I bushwacked it to a main road that lead back to Pokhara. I took a mini van public transport bus packed with people down back to town.
The next day I headed over on a one day trek to the Austalian Base Camp to see some mountains.
To get there, I climbed 1.5 hours of stairs through a forest to a village, which I found out had vehicle access once I got there, then hiked another 1.5 hours to get to the Australian Base Camp.
The night before I left, an old Tibetan woman chatted me up by the lakeside. She told me about leaving Tibet with her mom when she was a child during the Chinese invasion and about the economic hardships of living in Nepal. She had a great sense of humor. She ended up selling me a mala for a lot more than I would have normally paid for one.
I felt humbled and very grateful for my fortunate circumstances leading me to my current life. The teachings on Transcedental Generosity come to mind.
“Transcendental generosity is generally misunderstood in the study of the Buddhist scriptures as meaning being kind to someone who is lower than you. Someone has this pain and suffering and you are in a superior position and can save them—which is a very simple-minded way of looking down on someone. But in the case of the bodhisattva, generosity is not so callous. It is something very strong and powerful; it is communication.
Communication must transcend irritation, otherwise it will be like trying to make a comfortable bed in a briar patch. The penetrating qualities of external color, energy, and light will come toward us, penetrating our attempts to communicate like a thorn pricking our skin. We will wish to subdue this intense irritation and our communication will be blocked.
Communication must be radiation and receiving and exchange. Whenever irritation is involved, then we are not able to see properly and fully and clearly the spacious quality of that which is coming toward us, that which is presenting itself as communication. The external world is immediately rejected by our irritation which says, “no, no, this irritates me, go away.” Such an attitude is the complete opposite of transcendental generosity.” -Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche (more here)
After Pokhara, I headed to Kathmandu.
Taken from Wikipedia:
Kathmandu (/ˌkætmænˈduː/; Nepali: काठमाडौं) is the capital city of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, the largest Himalayan state in Asia. It is the second largest metropolis in Nepal, with a population of 1.4 million in the city proper, and 2.5 million in its urban agglomeration across the Kathmandu Valley, which includes the towns of lalitpur Kiritipur, Madhyapur Thimi, and Bhatapur. Kathmandu is also the largest metropolis in the Himalayan hill region.
The city stands at an elevation of approximately 1,400 metres (4,600 feet) above sea level in the bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley of central Nepal.
The city was the royal capital of the Kingdom of Nepal and hosts palaces, mansions and gardens of the Nepalese aristocracy. It has been home to the headquarters of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) since 1985.
Kathmandu has been the center of Nepal’s history, art, culture and economy. It has a multiethnic population within a Hindu and Buddhist majority. Religious and cultural festivities form a major part of the lives of people residing in Kathmandu. Tourism is an important part of the economy as the city is the gateway to the Nepalese Himalayas.
In 2013, Kathmandu was ranked third among the top ten upcoming travel destinations in the world by TripAdvisor, and ranked first in Asia. Historic areas of Kathmandu were devastated by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 25 April 2015. Nepali is the most spoken language in the city, while English is understood by the city’s educated residents.
I stayed just north of Thamel, the tourist district. Thamel is like a labrinth of tall buildings with loads of restaurants and shops.
Here are some of sites around the city.
Swayambuhnath (monkey temple): Swayambhunatha Temple is a vivid example of an ancient religious pagoda style structure. It is situated at the top of a hill in the west of Kathmandu city. It is a Buddhist holy site. You can see most of Kathmandu Valley from here.
Swayambhu means self-created. It is believed that Swayambhunath was originated by itself. It is also known as Monkey temple as there are many monkeys living around the jungle of Swayambhunath.
Durbar Square: This is the historic old town. It was devastated during the earthquake 2 years ago. Foreigners are charged $10 to walk through. I turned away from the ticket counter having not purchased a ticket. A man approaches me and tells me to go around the corner and enter the square through an ally. I go around the corner and enter the ally as instructed. When I emerge from the ally, I am near the center of Durbar square. I look over and see a police walking straight toward me. I snapped a picture of my surroundings and quickly went back through the ally not turning back to see how far behind the cop was. That was exciting.
Boudhanath: Boudhanath is one of the biggest stupas in the world. It is a UNESCO world heritage site. Its hard to describe the vast spaciousness feel of being near this stupa
Besides being dirty, having traffic problems, and a big air and water quality issue, Kathmandu is not that bad.