Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Kathmandu Valley’s UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Upon arrival at Kathamandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport, I immediately noticed those posters highlighting Nepal’s richness in culture and biodiversity.  It prides itself for having four UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which includes the six monuments in Kathmandu Valley that we visited: three historical palaces (Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur Durbar Squares), Hindu temple (Pashupatinath) and two Buddhist stupas (Swayambunath and Boudhanath).

Kathmandu Durbar Square

During our stay in Kathmandu we’d walk to the Durbar Square from our hotel and watch people go about with their daily lives.  It is a public place where tourists, touts, locals and expats perched on temple steps idle away the day; where the vibrant colors of marigolds, peppers and oranges spread out for sale on the pavements stand out against muted tones of the temples; and where cars and power lines look incongruous amid the square’s medieval look.  


When I first saw a photo of Swayambunath and read that it “has been a place of pilgrimage and prayer for at least 2000 years and is now a totemic symbol of Nepal” that “throbs with activity as peasants from the nearby rice fields, pilgrims who have ventured from far afield, yellow-robed monks spinning copper prayer wheels, and camera-clad tourists snapping photos explore the many buildings and statues around the stupa,” I knew I had to go there.

The golden shrine of Swayambunath, which sits on a solitary hill in the western edge of Kathmandu, afforded us a spectacular view of Kathmandu Valley:

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

We almost did not enter the site for fear that it would be no different from Kathmandu Durbar Square, but I’m happy that we did. According to the leaflet given to us at the gate, “the cultural capital of Nepal, Bhaktapur’s history goes back to the early 8th century.”  To be in a place that old is simply overwhelming.  

Patan Durbar Square

Worn out from gazing at historic buildings that all looked the same after several days, we had to pass up on Patan Durbar Square.  After taking a few photos of the palace square, we proceeded to explore the surrounding area, instead.  Walking without any direction, we ended up in the local market where I was able to buy spices that are priced four times less than those sold in Thamel.  Exploring the market gave us an authentic view of today’s Patan, not something frozen in time.

We went to Pashupatinath to witness a cremation, and what I saw left me awed and humbled:


The great stupa of Boudhanath is the largest stupa in Nepal and dates back to the 14th century.  They say that “in the past, when the trade routes to central and western Tibet were fully open, traders, pilgrims and travelers sought blessing at the stupa for safe passage over the mountain passes and gave thanksgiving to it upon arrival in the Kathmandu Valley.” While turning the prayer wheels, I realized that we were doing the same thing.

This is my 1000th post.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Under the Weather

Friday, February 22, 2013

My body has not ached this much since we did the 18-km climb to Triund in Dharamsala last October. With throat swollen, eyes and nose runny and joints and muscles painful, I should be in bed right now, but there are simply too many things to finish today. And the weather agrees with the state I’m in, too: the rain’s been pounding down mercilessly, and my body feels as leaden as the skies.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

sorting out what I believed

Thursday, February 21, 2013

...I started to reexamine my assumptions, and recalled the values my mother and grandparents had taught me.  In this slow, fitful process of sorting out what I believed, I began silently registering the point in dorm-room conversations when my college friends and I stopped thinking and slipped into cant: the point at which the denunciations of capitalism or American imperialism came too easily, and the freedom from constraints of monogamy or religion was proclaimed without fully understanding the value of such constraints, and the role of victim was too readily embraced as a means of shedding responsibility, or asserting entitlement, or claiming moral superiority over those not so victimized.

~ Barrack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, 2006

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

In the past couple of weeks

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I am ashamed of myself.  How could I have neglected this space for this long? Being preoccupied with work is not valid reason. It is just plain laziness.

In the past couple of weeks, I have:
  • Devoured past seasons of Project Runway and Netflix’s House of Cards.  Against my better judgment, I find the two shows unreasonably addictive.
  • Been dream-planning for a trek on the Camino de Santiago. Our limited vacation time will not permit us to finish the entire 780 kms so we plan to walk only the first hundred kilometers starting from St John Pied de Port in southwestern France then across the Pyrenees to Spain and all the way to Pamplona.
  • Been very busy managing three divisions since the restructuring.  Most of my time is spent in attending meetings and sending emails to ensure the timely delivery of projects.
  • Read Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road and Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, both of which I really liked.  I am now reading Pres. Obama’s The Audacity of Hope.
  • Received the most fabulous Valentine’s gift ever: language classes for Mandarin, Japanese, Spanish or French.  I wanted to attend the classes for Spanish but they are scheduled on weekdays, so I’d probably go for Japanese instead.  Studying on my own is fine, but it would be great to finally have actual people to converse with.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The hopeless emptiness

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Now you’ve said it. The hopeless emptiness. Hell, plenty of people are on to the emptiness part; out where I used to work, on the Coast, that’s all we ever talked about. We’d sit around talking about emptiness all night. Nobody ever said ‘hopeless,’ though; that’s where we’d chicken out. Because maybe it does take a certain amount of guts to see the emptiness, but it takes a whole hell of a lot more to see the hopelessness. And I guess when you do see the hopelessness, that’s when there’s nothing to do but take off. If you can.

~ Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road, 1961
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