Pashnupatinath Temple


Monkey at Pashnupati Temple.  Don’t even ask…this guy’s not sharing his orange!

The first thing you see when you leave Kathmandu Airport is a “World Heritage Site” sign plastered several times along a rickety corrugated tin fence.  Behind it is an open area with garbage.  You wonder where the Unesco World Heritage site could possibly be in this ramshackle area and what kind of place it would be?  Its Pashnupatinath Temple, one of the most sacred sites in Nepal, attracting pilgrims from all over Nepal and India.  The temple complex straddles the Bagmati river which, until recently, people bathed in its very holy waters.  Unfortunately nowadays they are very dirty waters, and the bathing has stopped.  I’d heard terrible stories of a garbage-choked river, but now weekend clean up teams have been hard at work removing the trash, although the water remains very unclean.

Pashnupati is also a crematorium, and the bodies are burnt on the ghats alongside the river …..out in the open, for all to see.  The mourners gather by the burning pyres, the men shaving their heads as a sign of mourning.  Onlookers are on the other side of the river, at a respectable distance. There were very few westerners.  Just devotees visiting the temple, funeral parties, monkeys, and vendors selling devotional beads, garlands and gifts.  It was busy but not crowded, and we walked around largely undisturbed to look in amazement at the vast array of “life” (and death) going on around us.

Here are some snapshots from the overwhelming array of scenes going on all around:


Crossing the Bagmati



Funeral attendees beside the crematorium ghats


Amongst the crowd, a mourner shaves his head.  Right there on the ghat.


Preparing the wood for the funeral pyre


The body is brought in


the crematorium


In case you are wondering, I was far enough away that I didn’t feel like I was intruding, otherwise I could never have taken the photos. It was so strange and so real at the same time…everything being played out in the open.


Back on our side of the river, holy sandhu men sat…..


….and the cows and pigeons hung out in peace…


….most of the time!


In front of the Hindu temple.  (Non-Hindus not allowed.)


A whole lane of flower sellers lined the entrance to the temple.  Our first and last view in the Pashnupati complex.

Chitwan River Experience

Chitwan is about a five hour drive from Pokhara –on a good day– with no delays or divisions. We left on a good day. About an hour later than planned, after five hours of straight driving, we got into Chitwan around 1pm. It was a fascinating change of scene once we took the turnoff at Mugling and went up and over a mountain, descending into the flat, warmer terrain of Chitwan district.


Thatched roofs….


…mud houses….


…and wide open terrain that made me feel like I was in the wild, wild west about 100 years ago.

The temperature was a bit warmer and it felt like a different country.  And it was mustard seed season, with brilliant fields of yellow as far as the eye can see.


We settled in our hotel room and then headed down to a table next to the nearby river to watch the world go by.  I just loved the terrain.  From our hotel table we could watch everyday life and the river interact.  Everything was going on.  People walked or cycled from a nearby town to the main road, through the resort.  Others washed their clothes on the banks, children played in the water, and women collected river reeds which I guess were being harvested to make baskets.  With my binoculars I watched birds –  especially herons — hanging out on the river banks.


Crossing the simple bridge, going back to town


We also attracted the attention of some very cute local kids who came over to have their photos taken


Why is it that kids everywhere do the same pose for the camera?!

Later, we took a canoe trip out on the river. There were six of us in the canoe, with a guide and an pole-pushing oarsman, and it was the most unstable boat I have ever been in. The water wasn’t that deep…perhaps waist-height…and as we wobbled around in the dug out canoe, lurching at the slightest move, getting wet wasn’t really the concern. I wasn’t even really concerned about getting our cameras wet once I spotted what was on the banks of the river:




Alligators…now they were a concern! As the oarsman balanced himself at the back of our boat, he took small, gentle stabs at the water to direct us downstream. For our part, we tried to manage the water coming into the canoe from a very small leak, and all of us tried not to twitch or move suddenly, as any action seemed to escalate down the canoe and threaten us with capsizing.


Heading out in the canoe


Mmmmm…they look wobbly in that canoe. I wonder if I can be bothered?……


Precariously punting down the river. This ain’t Oxford!

The funny thing was that we felt protected inside the canoe. As though the alligators couldn’t have tipped us over if they wanted to. However, they did seem more interested in basking in the sunlight, and it was eerie how none of them moved. Not even a little bit….not even the blink of an eye.

Scary as it was, I loved being out there and seeing the peace, wildlife and danger of its banks. I especially liked our time at the hotel and how close we were to the water.  It may be a lot less enjoyable in the summer with humidity and bugs, but in December it was warm and clear and bug-free.  I look forward to returning.

A Last Look Around


I tried very hard to get us all away for Memorial Day weekend.  But there were just too many obstacles and in retrospect, although it was boring being stuck in the apartment, staying home really turned out to be the responsible thing to do.  But I wanted to take one more trip to see this country that is so much more than Manila, but so hard for us to schedule time to explore.  There’s so much I haven’t seen and wanted to:  Batanes, Bagio, Bohol… and the questions were:  With one more trip possibility left where would we go? Did we want to try to cross off from the wish list, or did we want to revisit something that we loved?  This question made me stop and think about all the wonderful opportunities that I’ve had over the past two years to explore the Philippines, but that recap really is a post for another day.  The bottom line is I wanted to be out in the Filipino countryside, away from the city, away from tourist traps and all the hyperbole surrounding them.  I really just wanted to go for a walk somewhere pretty.

Going for a walk in the Philippines isn’t always that easy.  In Manila I haven’t enjoyed walking city blocks.  The lights are out on every other corner, and even when they work the drivers pay no attention to pedestrian rights.  You take your life in your hands every time you cross the street, which is not very relaxing to say the least.

We’ve had amazing hiking adventures here…some of my best memories.  But its not easy… not really a simple walk in the countryside…. and has usually involved a guide. Its hard to be a female foreigner walking around in small rural villages.  I end up feeling either vulnerable or voyeuristic.  But there was one place that I remember feeling very comfortable walking around and we never got to explore nearly enough – a pretty coastal stretch on Negros, near Dumaguete, where I was a Hammock Potato six months ago.  Now that was real countryside and walking territory without obstacles or issues, with a beautiful view and peace and quiet.  So it was decided that our last look around would be the familiar – Dumaguete and its peaceful cliffs and a little hammock swinging for good measure.  Here are some sights of the Filipino countryside that I will really miss.  I doubt we will have a chance to see them again:

Filipino Countryside

Starting off along the low grassy cliffs

Past thorny footpaths that reminded us of Devon hedgerows

Past thorny footpaths that reminded us of Devon hedgerows

Through tall, sunburnt grasses mixed with fragrant sage-like, woody shrubs.

Through tall, sunburnt grasses mixed with fragrant sage-like, woody shrubs.

Past spiky "house plants" gone mad!

Past spiky “house plants” gone mad

With bursts of colour from brilliant Acaia-type trees

and bursts of colour from brilliant Acaia-type trees.

Pretty white bushes decorated the scene

Pretty white bushes decorated the scene

and made a tasty lunch for the tethered cows.

and made a tasty lunch for the tethered cows

Who take their post-lunch siesta in the same spot every day (those are cow craters).

who take their post-lunch siesta in the same spot every day (those are cow craters).

Trees with leaves like clouds frame the sky

Trees with leaves like clouds frame the sky

 and in the distance the mountains remind us that that this pastoral scene eventually meets the jungle

and in the distance the mountains remind us that that this pastoral scene eventually meets the jungle