Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Kathmandu and Everest flight

Getting Above the Clouds
Mt. Everest, Tallest Peak in the Background
Along with a few others in our group, we opted to include an excursion, a flight into the Himalayas to see Mount Everest. To catch the morning updrafts of air we needed to get started early. Wake up call was at 5 AM and we were at the airport a little after 6 AM. Now the waiting begins, because it is not just the warm air rising, we also need to have good visibility of the mountains. What good is a flight to see Mt. Everest if the mountain is covered or shrouded in clouds? The weather around Kathmandu, especially near the high ridges of these giant mountains, is finicky and unpredictable. We had to sit and wait until 9.30 AM but then, WOW! We flew above the clouds and alongside the ridge of Giants that form the highest peaks on earth. We could not fly too close because the thermal turmoil would have rocked the plane all over the place. But we had a terrific view of the grandeur of nature.
Mt. Everest, Tallest Peak in the Background
People inside the plane were hooting and hollering, taking pictures as fast as they could, albeit through the windows of the plane. At one point, the captain of the plane allowed each passenger, one at the time, to look at the mountains from inside the cockpit, to get the pilots view. It does make a big difference to see out of the huge cockpit windows. We clicked photos as quickly as possible within the limited time we had next to the pilot and since it was crowded in the cockpit, the pictures really don't do the experience justice. In reality the experience was much more exiting and awe inspiring. The whole flight took only about an hour but what a sight, what a wonder to

Bunganati Earthquake Damage
We met the rest of our group, after our Everest flight in the small village of Bunganati outside Kathmandu to continue with the scheduled tour for the rest of the day.

In 2015 an earthquake shook the region in and around Kathmandu destroying large portions of antiquity in Nepal. Temples, palaces, precious old houses, etc., crumbled into rubble. The damage was tremendous. Tourist attractions, rare views and vistas, heritage sites, were totally destroyed. With the limited resources Nepal has available, they tried to clean up and still preserve what was left after the shock-waves but…..their government is not that organized.
Bunganati Earthquake Damage

Add to the earthquake in 2015, the additional shock of the murder of their King in 2001 and then the abdication of the new King (2007), the change of the ruling system to “Democracy” (2008) and you can see the mess Nepal was and still is in today. Nepal is still trying to finalize their constitution. What a country!

And yet it is a beautiful county, the people are nice and friendly but it does take time to change from a feudal society to the 21st Century. The villages, the ones we saw all needed help. Men were idly watching us explore the sights, women stood about chatting among themselves. Trash was strewn about, rubble was still around but it seemed nobody was (is?) in charge.

Bunganati Earthquake Damage
All over the area I saw old bricks that were saved and stacked alongside the houses, roads or lots for future use. The next earthquake will just level them again. Why save them? Why keep on building with bricks in an earthquake zone? Education is needed.

Roads and highways were planned, even started, but then abandoned and left in disarray and unfinished. There is no money to finish those projects. The air is dense with smog and dust. I could feel it in my throat and I just got here. Can you image living your daily life in this hazardous soup?

Trying to Rebuild in Khokana
I think you get the idea; I do not want to go on and on pointing out the short comings of Nepal, especially Kathmandu. There are still amazing venues to visit, new impressions to collect. Nepal, Kathmandu is definitely worth a visit.

Krishna Mandir Temple, Patan Durbar Square
Beautiful Carvings in the Museum
After our Bunganati and Khokana village walks, seeing the old Hindu village center, a throwback to older times (1768), we stopped to see the famous Patan Durbar Royal Square, a unique UNESCO sight. The debate is on which of the 3 Royal Squares is the finest. All 3 Royal Durbar Squares in Nepal are UNESCO protected. Come and vote for yourself. We had a lovely lunch in the gardens of the  Museum.

55 Windows Run Along the Edge of the Balcony
Shortly after we returned to Kathmandu we visited the old Palace of 55 Windows. This Palace is full of artifacts left by their former kings. No photos allowed.

There are plenty of small niches, spots and streets left all over Nepal that show you what Nepal was like 50, 100 and many more years before. The layout of the Hindu towns, the temples and palaces at their center, the warriors living nearby, the merchants supplying their needs, workers bustling about, is unique in the world. Durbar Square is what these town centers are called. Kathmandu’s center is
The Golden Gate
probably one of the finest. Pagodas and Shikhara-style temples abound in the Kathmandu square. Golden effigies of kings perched atop stone monoliths, a profusion of wealth and religiousness. There are wooden carvings in every place, struts, lintels, uprights, tympanums, gateways and windows. Concepts like the Golden Gate, the Lion's Gate are not just words but are a very different way of looking at life. I have never seen this before and needed to just sit and take it all in. To study it in depth would take a lifetime. The names alone sounded strange to my ears: Bhupatindra Malla? (He was a King).
Beautiful Tympanum Over the Door of the Golden Gate

The whole afternoon was a mélange of new impressions; a bit overwhelming for my Western mind. There was nothing I could relate those new impressions to. Nepal’s history is unique.

I felt wiped out after all this newness, yet also felt that this was only a brief insight into a culture I know so little about. Kathmandu, Nepal is definitely worth another visit. I could not help but wonder how much more diversified India would be if Islam had not been brought to India by force with the brutality of the Afghans.

Nepal, one of the “old” Indian kingdoms that was never overrun by Islam.

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