Too Much Information

 

When teaching elementary classes, my first year in Korea I had a class of mostly boys that I loved. We spent most of the class time casually talking, them asking questions about American culture or just plain goofing off (aka teaching them American slang. I had one boy walk in class every day yelling ‘what’s up!’ and telling me that he was a lady’s man. I’m never going to win teacher of the year). It was always the highlight of my day. It was the type of classroom environment that every teacher wishes they could reproduce for every single class and one where the kids felt comfortable confiding in me.

One day that ‘comfort’ went a little further than I thought it would. One of my students came limping into class and when I asked what happened he turned bright red while the rest of the students clamored over who would get to play charades and attempt to tell me what happened. The lucky one chosen held up his finger proudly (as the affected students slumped into his seat even more) and made a cutting motion. He cut his finger? I asked, confused as to why he would be limping. ‘No no no! Teacher!’ all the boys yelled at once. ‘A part very important to a man!’ Cue the bright red face of the teacher.

When they saw my confusion they asked if the same thing happened in the states. I told them that yes, it was very common but it happens to babies. The conversation went on with the students supreme confusion and tinge of jealousy that in America they do the procedure while the boy is still an infant, not at the age of 13 like what is most common in Korea. Because from what I was told, they feel that in Korea it would be cruel to have a baby circumcised but is perfectly ok on a 13 year old boy when he understands why they are doing it. Personally, baby or 13 years old, I don’t think any boy is going to be thrilled about it, let alone ‘understand’ why they are getting it done.

What to do in Delhi

what to do in delhiWhat do we do? It’s the question that we all ask once we book our tickets to a new destination. Or heck, even a destination that we’ve been to umpteen million times. It’s always about what sites to see, where to eat, where to shop and who has the best coffee (let’s keep our priorities straight). So when we landed in Delhi we pulled up our list we made from Tripadvisor, blogs we’d read, and recommendations from friends. There is a ton to do in Delhi that can keep you busy for any amount of time you’re there and since we had a few days to kill between the other two cities we traveled to so we decided to hit the ground running. These were our favorite places that we visited to answer the question of ‘what to do in Delhi?’

Lodi Gardens. A large garden area that spreads over 90 acres. Includes several different tombs, gardens, ponds and the largest crows you’ve ever seen. Seriously though. As beautiful as the grounds were, I somewhat felt as if I were an involuntary extra on the set of The Birds. We spent a few hours one foggy morning wandering around the grounds, watching people go for a run, have engagement photo shoots and taking their dogs for a good romp. The only thing I can compare it to is New York City’s Central Park but with historical archeological tombs scattered throughout it. While it was a beautiful place while we were there that would be perfect for an afternoon picnic, I can only imagine how much more beautiful it is in spring when all the gardens are in bloom. lodi gardens lodi gardens lodi gardens lodi gardensHumayun’s Tomb. Yup, another tomb. There’s a lot of them in Delhi and most of them are worth the trek to go check out. Can you imagine being buried in a place like this!? I think America needs to rethink their whole graveyard system because this would be a whole lot better to go visit loved ones. If it’s too crowded to get the pictures that you want, try one of the other sides of the main tomb since it’s the same all the way around. The first picture is from the front but the second one is on one of the sides.
Humayun's tomb Humayun's tomb Humayun's tombLotus Temple. This one is quite a hike across the main part of the city and I’ll be honest that I have no idea the significance or what’s on the inside. The line was miles long (or seemed that way at least) to get inside so we just took our time wandering around the outside before heading back. If you have some extra time one day I would encourage making the trip out just to see it.
lotus templeHauz Khas. This is one place that we didn’t spend nearly enough time in. It’s a beautiful little village on the banks of a water reservoir filled to the brim with coffee shops, rooftop restaurants, vintage shops and upscale boutiques. We made the mistake of grabbing lunch right before going and instantly felt regret when we walked down the street and saw all of the amazing choices there were to choose from. I highly recommend grabbing a cup of Chai tea and strolling around the water before picking one of the rooftop restaurants that overlooks the water for a late lunch to watch the sunset. Then take your time wandering through the vintage shops in hopes of finding a Bond movie poster. We looked in a few of them in hopes of finding a poster from Octopussy which was filmed in the nearby Udaipur but had no such luck. hauz khas hauz khas

Monkey Temple in Kathmandu

monkey temple in kathmandu

One place I was a little apprehensive about going to was Monkey Temple, more formally known as Swayambhunath. I’m not a huge fan of monkeys to be honest. They’re beyond cute but in our travels we’ve come across one two many aggressive ones and seen one too many tourist get chased (which I’ll admit is secretly a little entertaining to watch, as long as it’s not us!). But while I’m not a huge fan of monkeys the monkeys here had more personality than I’ve seen before. They were running around playing with cd’s and my favorite was when one young monkey decided to make a nearby puppy his play-thing while he tugged on his tail and chased him around.

Monkey Temple is located at the top of a hill near the center of Kathmandu and offers incomparable views of the city below. On a clear day you can even see the Himalayas from the top. The main attraction is the giant white stupa in the center of the temple with prayer wheels, prayer flags and the infamous eyes of Nepal painted near the top. It actually got it’s name from an old legend that Majusri, the bodhisattva (an enlightened being) of wisdom and learning was raised on this hill. He grew his hair long, had lice and the lice then turned into all of the monkeys found on top of the hill. Hence, Monkey Temple. Makes you think twice about the cute little creatures doesn’t it?

monkey temple

monkey templeprayer wheelsmonkey templemonkey templemonkey temple

Fishtail Mountain-The Himalaya

fishtail mountainVery few things in life leave me awestruck any more. The only negative side effect that I have ever found with traveling a lot. I hope I am the only one who has ever felt this way but I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not alone. After traveling all across Asia, temples start to blur together and I had a similar feeling with cathedrals while traveling in Europe. That’s not to say each is not special and unique in its own way but after seeing quite a few, it becomes harder and harder to feel in ‘awe’ standing there. If only every time could be like the first time where you wanted to sit for hours, inspecting and memorizing every detail of it. I’ll be honest, I haven’t felt that ‘wow’ factor in quite some time. And I’m not talking about seeing something amazing, I’ve had plenty of that. I’m talking about seeing something so spectacular that it leaves you utterly speechless. The last time I felt that way was when we swam with giant whale sharks in the Philippines. And little did I know that the next time I would feel it would be during my first trip up close to the Himalayas. We arrived into Pokhara, a tiny lakeside town boasting impeccable views of the Himalayas, with excitement. We cheated a bit and opted for a motorbike instead of our hiking shoes to get to the top of Sarangkot and the peace stupa to take in the view of Fishtail Mountain also known as Machupuchare.

fishtail mountain peace stupa in nepalfishtail mountain hanggliders in nepal fishtail mountain fishtail mountainWe rented the motorbike early in the morning for a mere 800 Nepalese Rupees or about $8 USD to take us to two different lookout points. The first being the Peace Stupa lookout. Offering optimum views of both the lake and the towering mountains in the background. Not to mention a massive pearl white Buddhist Stupa conveniently and dramatically set on top of a mountain above the clouds. There was even an option to camp overnight at the top and watch the sunrise over the mountains. Mental notes for next time. We wanted to head over to the other look out at Sarangkot right away as we were told the views from there were even more mesmerizing. We had to wait however for the afternoon and wait until the clouds settled. However, I must say, with all of the clouds it looked as if the mountains started out of nowhere.

During dry season from October to May there are significantly more clouds around the mountains. In the early morning and late afternoon however, the clouds settle down into the valleys providing substantially better views. Around 2:30 in the afternoon we headed back out on the motorbike to once again climb above the clouds in search of the perfect view we had been looking for. And we were not disappointed. I felt as if we had been climbing for ages, along with what seemed like endless caravans of hopeful paragliders in pursuit of adrenaline rushing excitement of jumping off a mountain and swirling among the clouds. We spent the next few hours lazily watching people come and go, paragliders effortlessly swooping down towards the lake and an elderly couple working on their hillside farm. I couldn’t help but wonder if in the eyes of the farmer, the Himalayas were now like the many temples to me. Something that once brought about awe inspiring feelings but now are blended into his everyday life. Or if he wakes up every morning in awe of his irreplaceable view of the Himalayas out of his window every morning.

Things to Do in Kathmandu

 

things to do in kathmanduIt’s funny how you meet people on the road. When we first decided to go to Nepal, I immediately sent an email to Katie, knowing that she had lived there with her husband not long ago. Along with sending me two pages worth of recommendations (which were a serious lifesaver) she also put me in touch with her friend Jenna and husband Jon who were kind enough to play tour guide to Jeremy and I for our weekend in Kathmandu. By the end of it I was convinced they could open their own tour company. Here are just a few of the many things to do in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capitol city.

motorbike in nepal

The first stop was the Saturday Farmer’s Market held at 1905 restaurant in the Thamel area. A must go to spot if you’re in town over the weekend. With vendors selling everything from homemade bread, breakfast foods and pastries to jewelry and body goods. Grab yourself a dollar coffee and homemade pastry and sit up on the porch of the restaurant overlooking the market before perusing the other goods for sale. It’s a great way to spend an hour or two in the morning.

saturday farmers marker

The next stop was possibly one of my favorites from the trip. Jenna and her friend Emily took me to a used sari shop to look through pile upon pile of fabric. Pretty much my dream come true. Jeremy knows me too well because with just one look in the shop he turned to me and said ‘you’re going to be awhile aren’t you?’ Yes, yes I am. These girls were pros at sorting through the overabundance of silky material, finding the perfect candidate for scarves, headbands and pillows. At the end of my pillage, and of only about half of what the guy had in his shop, I settled on four saris all for the damage of about $8 USD. I’d be in real trouble if we lived there.

2nd hand sariis2nd hand sariis

Next up was the Durbar Square. A historical site, yes, but also a popular hang out with the locals. It’s also right next to the Kumari Ghar; a palace in the middle of the city where the Kumari child lives. This was my first time ever hearing about her existence. The Kumari is the tradition of Nepali Hindu’s and Buddhists worshipping young girls pre-puberty as the manifestations of the Hindu divine female energy. It is believed that the goddess, Taleju, occupies the young Kumari child’s body until the day she reaches puberty at which time the goddess vacates her body. If you visit the Kumari Ghar, you can see crowds of people waiting at the entrance in hopes the Kumari will appear at the window inside and they can catch a glimpse of her. One of the many things I love about Kathmandu is the history that’s around every corner.

durbar squaredurbar squaredurbar square

Our last stop in Kathmandu was the Garden of Dreams. A quiet oasis from the hectic city. First built in the early 1920’s it was just recently completed it’s renovation in 2010 with help front he Austrian government after lying dormant for many years. Now it’s a beautiful place to spend relaxing for an afternoon or grabbing a coffee or bite to eat and one of the two cafes on the grounds.

garden of dreams, kathmandu

There’s always something to do and see in Kathmandu and in our three days there I felt like we had only barely scratched the surface. Is there anything else that you would add to the list of things to do in Kathmandu?

Other things to do in Kathmandu:
+Monkey Temple-more on that next week…
+Pashupati Temple-one of the most significant Hindu temples, also where you can see many Sadhu or holy men
+Thamel Area shopping-seriously…bring an extra suitcase because you will want to fill it full with beads, scarves, blankets and more!
+Bhaktapur-a traditional town just 15 minutes outside of Kathmandu lets you look back in time, admire their pottery and enjoy their delicious yogurt that they are renowned for!