Bodhnath at night
Well to say the least, today was a laid-back, easy day. We started off by heading out for breakfast to the Himalayan Java restaurant that served us the best coffee that we have had since we left home. Real, brewed coffee - none of this instant, Nescafe shit that tastes like muddy water. We thoroughly enjoyed this and hung out for a while before heading back to the Kantipur Temple House to have a relaxing afternoon resting (Cindy isn’t feeling well), downloading photos and writing this enthralling blog. There is no TV at the hotel so we managed to get a lot written.
Razzu called us at the hotel and said that one of the companies potentially has a group of English people heading for Tibet and Everest Base Camp.
Every tourist joint in Thamel has a “jeep tour” to Tibet, but it is tougher to find one that isn’t a large group of people and that also visit’s the Tibetan side of Everest where the views, even at this time of year, should be great (since the Monsoon doesn’t cross the Himalayas or the Tibetan Plateau). Going with this group would bring down the cost of the trip quite a bit and may work for us. At this point, it is not clear whether or not they are currently in Kathmandu or when we can meet them but it has us intrigued. It seems that all the problems in Nepal since the Royal massacre back in 2001 have shifted a lot of tourism to other locales such as Laddakh in India and thus, it may be becoming over-touristed - we have heard this several times. That plus the fact that China whittles away at what is left of traditional Tibet day by day, makes us think that maybe now is the time to visit Tibet (before it is gone…) We ended up walking up to his office and talking about various Tibet options with him that afternoon.
Hopefully, the English group is going to meet on Sunday with the other travel agent who is wary of sharing too much information with Razzu lest he take away their business. It is all very up in the air and we aren’t sure what is going to happen. We would love to just go privately with him on his itinerary (which is a bit different than the one the English group is planning) but it sounds like a lot more money and he doesn’t seem interested in leaving Kathmandu at the moment.
Prayer Wheel at Bodhnath
Because of what Razzu told us about the full moon, we decided to go to Bodhnath tonight to see the full moon ceremonies. We have attached some pictures but, as they are hand-held and without tripod, many are out of focus. We still felt it was worthwhile to upload them to show what a crazy event it was. We took a taxi after dinner and walked up to the large, white Stupa as best as we could.
It was absolutely packed with locals, mostly younger ones, walking clockwise around the huge Stupa, many prostrating themselves on the ground as they walked. Everyone was lighting butter lamps and chanting. It is supposed to be good luck to walk around the Stupa 108 times (this is a very large Stupa and it probably took 8 or 10 minutes to walk the circumference given all the human traffic). We made it twice, pausing in between to take some of the pictures. A couple were timed exposures hoping to show the mass of crowds walking by. Hopefully we will go back in the day time and upload some daytime shots. Bodhnath is quite impressive and anyone who has been to our house has probably seen a framed picture we have of it from my visit in 1984. We headed back to the hotel after a bit without much in the way of plans tomorrow. Apparently there is going to be a strike tomorrow which should effectively shut down the city so we might just be hanging out.
All things considered, with not knowing what is up with Tibet and the strike, we may just stay in Kathmandu until Monday - Cindy is not complaining…
Butter Candles at Bodhnath
Well Cindy is officially sick, we are not sure if it is a sinus headache from the pollution in Kathmandu or a cold but we went to the pharmacy and bought some supplies after a crappy breakfast at one of the places mentioned in the Lonely Planet which seems to sometimes be the kiss of death for a hotel or restaurant. It seems that often, as soon as many can brag that LP mentioned them, the service and quality goes down. Obviously this is not always the case as we are still thrilled with the accommodations and staff at the Kantipur Temple Hotel which is another LP midrange favorite.
Monk with prayer beads at Bodhnath
After hanging around the room and doing internet stuff, we tried the local Utse Restaurant for a Tibetan lunch of Thukpa (noodle soup), Momos (steamed or fried dumplings) and Thongba (fermented millet drink) which was quite tasty. Today is the strike and right as we were leaving the restaurant, a crowd of young kids, paid by the Maoists to incite trouble, came parading down the street. All of the shops and restaurants immediately started pulling down the storm shutters since these brilliant little shits will throw rocks through the windows if you are open on a strike day. We found out later that they are paid $20 or so (a lot of money here) to participate in these “actions”. The Utse slammed shut the storm windows and told us to wait. After a bit, they said it was ok to go out the back way making sure to avoid any young, rowdy locals.
Bodhnath Timed Exposure
Razzu called and we ended up meeting he and his shy thirteen year old son Kevin around the corner at a local restaurant, actually the place we had dinner last night that it ends up his friend owns. He said that there was no word yet from the English group but that he spoke with another of his peers and they too were planning a Tibet tour, this time with just a single couple. This tour was a bit cheaper but he said that it might be crowded as they would probably only use one jeep for the four tourists plus a guide and driver. He said that, if we were to do a private tour with the more “budget” oriented accommodations (regarding accommodations, we were told not to expect much in Tibet, budget or otherwise) it would end up being about the same cost at going with the English group.
In addition, the company that supposedly has the English group potentially going can’t locate a four wheel drive jeep in Tibet which is not a great sign. At this point, we figure we will wait and see what becomes of this other potential group of unknown nationality or age but are considering going on our own and going on Razzu’s itinerary which flies into, rather than out of Lhasa and just head out to Pokhara or wherever on Monday. Hope this wasn’t all just a sales job, but we don’t think so and considering we had a great time with Karma in Sikkim, we feel pretty good about Razzu too.
Bodhnath Timed Exposure