I arrived into Pokhara at 5:30 am by way of the night bus, I was unable to see the magnificent beauty of this town at that moment. As I was waiting to be checked in early several trekkers were getting ready to head out onto the Annapurna mountain range for several days to several weeks. I climbed the stairs of the hostel I was staying in and unloaded my gear, at that moment the sun was rising so I stepped out onto the balcony to see Phewa lake surrounding mountain range. I then realized that I had traveled to a gem hidden within the granite outcropping of the Himalayas. This place exudes calm and serenity which is a far cry from the capital of Kathmandu. There are lakeside restaurants, yoga studios, and quaint cafes where travelers can unload their stories of trekking the surrounding trails. The city is built around the lake and a clean beautiful lake it is. Spending the day renting a boat with or without a local to paddle you around is a great way to spend the afternoon. My group opted for a foot pedal boat and crossed the lake to where one of the rivers enter the lake. We swam and looked for the waterfall but gave up as this time of year there is not much flow from the river. We stopped by a lakeside restaurant and re supplied our caches of beer, cider, and crisps. After that we paddled near the middle of the lake and rested while listening to music, it was a rough way to spend a hot sunny afternoon. The next day was spent paragliding over jungle and the lake, although I got a little motion sickness it did not detract from the beauty of the experience. The opportunities here are endless from the fore mentioned activities to hiking to the World Peace Pagoda to trekking and many more. I plan to return to this area for more trekking, site seeing, and just relaxing..
After two full days of travel through three airports and time zones I finally arrived in Kathmandu, Nepal. It was a shock to say the least. Flying in you realize that the city covers about 20 miles square and for a population of 1.4 million it is an expansive area. Although it is dubbed the largest city in Nepal it was still a shock to me. The city is rebuilding much of the infrastructure so the streets are torn to shreds and there is dust that permeates the city. Much like Thailand the laws of the road are just a suggestion but here there are no road lines or lanes. Mopeds rule the road and if you want to see anything besides the area you are staying in it’s a good idea to rent a bike and learn to drive like the locals do. Local buses are cheap and cover all of the city but there is the issue of a lot of transfers and the potential of getting on the wrong connection.
If you want a calm relaxing day I suggest the Garden of Dreams which has high walls that keep the dust out. Tranquility is in abundance here, flowing fountains and ponds of lotus flowers will remove the chaotic mind you acquire outside the walls. Take a book and a snack and relax on the small terraced amphitheater with cushions for added comfort. Climbing the steps of Swayambhunath Stupa also known to travelers as the Monkey Temple for the obvious reasons, as hundreds of Assamese monkeys climb around he steps and Stupa. It is a tough hike up the steep steps but well worth it over the back entrance that the taxi drivers will take you to which has far less stairs. There is also Boudhanath also known as the Great Boudha Stupa which felt more like a tourist marketplace to this traveler, which you have to pay to get into. Although the Stupa does have cultural significance to the Buddhist and Hindi people because it houses the remains of one of the 29 named Boudhas in Theravada Buddhism. It was also a pilgrimage site for the people of Tibet when they fled from the invasion of China, many decided to live around the Stupa.
Even with infrastructure changes and chaos of the city it is a place you can find good people to spend time with at a cafe sitting around drinking tea and chatting about travel experiences. It is the hub of Nepal and definitely represents that well as you move around the city. Everyone should visit this city once in their life but maybe just for a couple days.
I realized today as I was being chased through the national preserve in Ao Nang by monkeys that I am ready to look toward my future. This has been a constant struggle for me, it has also brought me much mental anguish. It was the main topic of discussion for most of the two years I was in therapy after my daughter passed. It consumed me as I was a planner before that, constantly conjuring up goals and making plans to see them through. They did not always come to fruition but there were always schemes in place and things to do that kept my mind and body busy. After the the rug was pulled from under my feet and the path I had put in 6 years of effort for was shrouded it was if I was lost in the jungle at night. Scared, anxious, and unsure barely scratches the surface of what I felt like at that moment and for at least a year after. The only things I was able to decide on was to travel, it had always been a life goal and luckily still was. I started small with a visit to Los Angeles to visit some dear friends of mine who had always supported me. I played tourist and went out with them and their friends. I saw that they had surrounded themselves with loving and foundational people. I then went to New York City by myself and saw what treasures the Big Apple held in store and fell in love. Standing atop the Empire State Building I came to a realization that although we believe ourselves to be individuals the human race is more like single called organisms that can only thrive when together. We feed off each other good, bad or indifferent and cannot survive without one another. Then came Thailand trip one for an entire month which fed me spiritually and also gave me a goal when I returned to the states. To do everything I can to get back on the road. My planning spirit came back in full force and with vengeance. I wrote and saved and researched until the day came to leave. This is most likely what prompted my current mindset of finding more major goals. I am ready to pick up my machete and hack through the jungle until I find a road that suits me.
In the first few days of my travels I have come to understand that I can live without. Without food, sleep, shower, or an extended plan (No, really as I am writing this I haven’t eaten in 17+ hours). I don’t know whether this emerged from my childhood and the way I was raised or the tragedies I have endured. I look at this ability as a gift much like the other existential gifts I have received due to life’s process. Although these “gifts” come about from difficulties in my life I cannot give them back as I cannot change the things that caused them to emerge. Life can work two ways which is all dependent on your persepective, the world can break you down or build you up. Being immersed in a Buddhist culture helps to remind me of this everyday. The Buddha taught of Dukkah which is roughly and I mean very roughly translated to “suffering”. As the Buddha lived 26 centuries ago the translation seems unsatisfactory. As far as I understand it Dukkah represents suffering and/or pain, impermanence, and a conditioned state. All of which in my opinion can be represented by the concept of impermenance, as everything in this life will eventually change. The only thing that can be controlled is ones own outlook on these ideas. Just as pain, suffering, change, and conditioned states come into our lives a gentle breeze can set them floating away, if we let them go. As I write these words I also admit that I am still learning to live them. I am still learning to live without my daughter. My mother, step mother, grandparents, and best friend I have become accustomed to their nonexistence. They are gifts that reside in my psyche, holding onto their personalities in my head. I often converse with them and ask for guidance. The hope is that I can keep them alive in me and try to remember what they might have said to me, what wisdom might have come from them. This is the thing which life cannot be lived without, love. Although they are forever gone and the others are on another side of the world I feel their love as I hope they do mine. This is what keeps me alive and inspired. It is what gives me the courage to, pack up and run away.