Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Chitwan - Rhino's Tiger's anywhere???

Unable to see any Rhino's or Tigers, I was able to see some baby elephants and even some Crocodiles as well. This is the skull of an elephant. Massive.

Elephant bathing. Getting this bath, which is more like a rough massage everyday. Lucky elephant.
A cultural program where people in the audience had the choice of participating in the final dance. Obviously I had to join in on the fun.

Kathmandu - Celebrate Women!

High Five! When I first noticed this girl, she was about to shed a number of tears; these same tears traveled down my face when we departed. This was a festival where woman fast for two days and celebrate by dressing, mostly in red, and dancing until they pass out - literally. Well, some woman passed out waiting in the long lines from dehydration. Troopers they are.

I stayed with a friend who lived in Kathmandu (below) and his neighbors invited us over to celebrate. These two girls are all festive with their many bangles coating the little ones arm and dancing and smiles all night.Meet Hrikesh. I stayed with him at his place for my two weeks in Kathmandu. Maybe I'll see you in Colorado, Hrikesh. This day was an awaking of the yin and yang, the black and white, life and death. Here you see life. All the women in red, happy and dancing until the morning breaks. What you don't see is the latter of the two. The main celebration occurred along the burning ghats. The burning ghats is where Hindu funerals take place. We sat on the other side of the river while observing the colorful women in red as well as the man draped in while robe being dipped into the river for a pre-burning cleanse. He was then carried to the pyre where the flames were lit, and he returned to the earth. A celebration of life and a mourning of death in one sight allows for the deep investigation of purpose in life. If we simply die after life, is our purpose just to die? Is death really bad? If so, is our purpose in life bad or negative? Why is death typically associated with negativity. Can we not embrace death and allow for a positive association to manifest from our loved ones passing on? What can we truly learn from this? Life goes on, the investigation continues, then we die. Simple yet beautiful, right? Why not?
Prayer flags coating all the trees along a Buddhist shrine.
Gotta climb a tree whenever a tree is climbable.
Buddha with the statue painted with puja's or prayers.

Kathmandu - Apples and Honey at the Buddhist Monastery

Staying at a Buddhist Monastery for 5 days was a nice way to level out the craziness of the hectic Kathmandu street scene festivals and chicken be-headings. This is a unique and beautiful flower posing in front of a stupa at the Kopan Monastery. More stupa shots displaying the beauty and sereneness of the monastery.Some friends I met at the monastery. It was Rosh-Hashana, and I thought it would be nice to spend the new year at the monastery and get apples and honey, and share my culture with people from around the world. And it was delicious. Note the two in the front; they are bald.Huge slug living at the monastery. There were plenty of these slimy creatures to meditate on. These leafy looking backside is not only a thing of beauty, but also a thing of brilliance, allowing them to camouflage and survive. Although, at a Buddhist Monastery, with the precept of no killing of any creatures, it didn't seem as if anyone was out to get them.Remember the two in the picture? They were bald, and then they shaved my head. Now I am bald. Inspired by none other than Buddhist Monks. Thanks guys in maroon robes!Not balding, Bald! I figured I hasten up the process, and I haven't looked back ever since. Love the feeling.
Next up, death and more celebrations in Kathmandu, then Chitwan, then bye bye Nepal, hello again India.

Kathmandu - The Eyes of Truth Are Always Watching You!

This is Boudha and this is the Boudha Stupa. It is said to be the biggest stupa in Nepal, and it is big. This architectural masterpiece is a holy shrine for Buddhist where devotees walk around the shrine three times and spin the prayer wheels as it is said to be good luck and offer compassion to the world. The prayer wheels have "Om Mani Ped Me Hum" inscribed on the inside, kind of like a Mazuza with prayer scrolls on the inside. This is a mantra of compassion said by Tibetan Buddhists and others seeking universal solace. Walking around the shrine and spinning the prayer wheels generated a calm abiding within the mind. The ambiance of the surrounding areas along with the old Tibetan women with there prayer mala's or necklaces chanting, probably to themselves, the mantra of compassion offered a scene never to be forgotten.

Whenever there is a Hindu festival, you can always count on the Hindu's to be there, and boy, do they know how to party. Attending Lord Krishna's birthday at the Krishna temple was a mad-house. Krishna is said to be a reincarnation of the much beloved Lord Vishnu, one of the three main gods worshiped in the Hindu religion. Wow, there were sooo many people, and sooo much fun. I waiting in line for over a half hour waiting to enter the temple only to be told that only Hindu's could enter the temple. I was not giving in that easily, so I told them I was Hindu, showed them my Om necklace, and walked through the temple, then performed puja and received tikka thereafter. Oh, life, ha!Mother and child post puja, receiving tikka as well. So cute!
I walked around the city Patan, which is a neighboring town of Kathmandu, and entered a Buddhist temple during Lord Krishna's Birthday, where I found the guard to the gates of heaven - a tortoise.
More shots from Lord Krishna's birthday and tikka on the forehead. Lord Krishna is the god who plays the flute, and my understanding of Krishna is that he is the god of love and music. So, right on, they dance and spread the love!

To all you meat eaters, beware! I went to a temple for the goddess Mother Kali, where they still perform sacrifices. This is a before and after shot of a chicken, and the chicken and its head in the hands of a little boy. My next meal, many hereafter, have been vegetarian.

More Kathmandu to come, then to Chitwan National Forest.

Pokhara - Lost in the Rice Paddies

On the walk back to the hotel upon arriving in Pokhara, I noticed a baby monkey being played with by the locals. So, what else do you do when you see a 6 week old wild and potentially rabid monkey? Well, you go and play with it, too. Robyn, want a new pet?

The next day, I rented a bike to tour the city and the rural areas of Pokhara. At first, I came across a film production. It looked really interesting, then I started asking questions only to find out that these actors and actresses were the most famous in Nepal. Just watching them shoot a film brought me laughs. It was lightly raining out, and when they would shoot one scene with the actress running and jumping for joy upon the slick mountain, she would slip and fall over and over again.
I continued on my bike adventure. Pokhara has a giant lake next to it where one can go boating, hiking around some of the trails, or even biking around the lake. Well, I wanted to bike around the lake, and that's exactly what I did. Only I didn't end up back in Pokhara. I simply went up some rice paddies, and continued to go up more and more rice paddies until it was around 6pm and starting to get dark. I was far away from home. Luckily, some kids mucking about the paddies found me, and I was tired. Of course the kids wanted to take the bike for themselves to ride around. I said sure and let them ride around. I was too tired to worried about them fall because the brakes didn't work. One thing I've learned out here: never expect brakes to work on a bike. Thus far I'm 0-2 on working brakes on bikes.
Well, luckily the kids brought me to their small village home, fed me, and prepared a place for me to stay the night. The family is not well off at all. They would be considered poor by any western standard. But the family still welcomed me in and took care of me. Of course the next morning I left with little sleep and plenty of mosquito bites, but that's all part of it. Waking up bright and early by the kids pulling me out of bed was met by a sun rise lighting up some of the highest peaks in the world.
I finally made it back to Pokhara. I took a nap, then got back on the bike to further venture the city. I made it to where the more local/non-tourist area is situated. I visited a local Tibetan Camp and monastery. In Marpha, I befriended a Tibetan woman who told me one of her sons lived here. So, I went and had a small chat with him. Small because he spoke Tibetan, and I didn't. Nonetheless, it was really nice meeting him and getting to know his lifestyle. Basically, the monks wake up early, meditate, perform chanting, eat, meditate, study, and perform more chanting. What a life!