Wednesday, March 30, 2016

nepal: last bits

(One last one on Nepal, which surprisingly seems to be quite a popular bucket-list destination)

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That, I think, is what Nepal wants the world to know.

Yes, the earthquake which struck in April 2015 killed over 8,000 and injured over 21,000, but the fallout from the loss of tourist dollars is making it worse for people who are trying to rebuild their lives.

Our guides and tour agency owner took pains to emphasise repeatedly: Nepal is very safe, no earthquakes. Prince Harry visited Nepal at the same time we did, and the locals made much of his trip. It was a huge deal.

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Ratna our guide - always frowning and grave in demeanour as if there is nothing much in life to laugh about - made a personal appeal for us to send friends and family his way so he can earn more. His mountain abode was split in two during the earthquake and his wife, 15-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter now put up in a small, dark, temporary hovel with a tin roof and tin walls. He wants to re-build his home. They sustain themselves on his earnings as a trekking guide as well as his takings off a meager plot of land and six goats. The Nepal Government has not provided any support.

On trek, the effects of earthquake were not apparent. The Annapurna Base Camp circuit – which our trek was a part of – was largely untouched.

But parts of Kathmandu city itself was still in shambles, especially the old temples which are centuries old and which were not exactly built to standard.

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* Pieces of fallen wood, laid out like a huge puzzle to fit together in reconstruction which will take place God knows when

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* Parts of the fallen temple

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* Tarpaulin protecting the old wood

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* The rubble next to Choon is the remains of a huge temple, Kasthamandap, which collapsed completely.

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* Life goes on

Everywhere, Before and After photos attempt to fill in the tourist's imagination.

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* The top of the stupa is gone

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Still, the raw, authentic appeal of Nepal – even when one is not in the mountains – is apparent.

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* Phewa Lake, Pokhara

Kathmandu itself is chaotic. A maze of wires, possibly growing in number as telecommunications and all sorts of networks are created, criss-cross the city in a mindless manner, roads for stray monkeys which use the wires to safely traverse the city without getting run over by the horning streams of vehicles. The local people occasionally lean out of their windows to smack the monkeys on their butt. 

(On chaotic traffic, I was hit by a motorbike as I was trying to hobble my way across the road with my stick post-trek. The biker stopped just in time, but I was nearly knocked over)

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It is so dusty the first thing shopkeepers do every morning is to throw water on the ground outside their shops. Their wares are coated with dust, dust which the shopkeepers ineffectually try to get rid of by flicking long-tailed brushes. When I blow my nose on Day 2, the tissue is blackish. After my bath, dust worms gather on my comb when I comb my hair. Some people wear masks.

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* Dusty air makes for small, red suns

It is also an incredibly spiritual place, where Buddhists co-exist with Hindus, where everyone gathers for picnics for a day out in the local park to watch public cremations. What can I say? I found that very interesting and would have stayed to watch until the burning was complete, only my brothers were not too keen.

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* A body being prepared for cremation at Pashupatinath

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* Arranging the base of the pyre

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* One body per wooden platform. The remains, wood and bone, are all swept into the river which is ... dried up. It hasn't rained for months. Which begs the question of where the remains all go.

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* Someone wading in the same river

Nepal is a world away from countries with an endless panorama of MacDonalds and Starbucks Coffees and quaint cafes and upmarket shops, in which I sometimes struggle to find anything unique or different from Singapore.

I suppose that's why Nepal stays in my heart. (although honestly speaking, the locals probably wouldn't mind having a few big malls and fast food outlets around)

6 comments:

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing your Nepal posts, I really enjoyed this series. Just wanted to add too that Ive been a long time follower of this blog and really enjoy reading it because your entries strike me as real and there's a beauty in its simplicity (no heavily edited pictures, advertorials, etc). Please keep blogging :) thank you!

Eunice

Sher said...

Thanks, Eunice :)

Anonymous said...

I concur! Please keep on blogging. I was hanging on to every word on this post. I have to say your sentiments really resonated with me. I visited Pokhara 5 years ago, when I was 22, and left a part of my heart there.

And don't even get me started on Mongolia. I still remember stubbornly lying out there for hours in the cold, just admiring the gorgeous rash of stars high above. Till today I've yet to see a more amazing sunrise than the one in the grasslands. I wish I opted to stay for a longer period of time, like you did :)

Sher said...

you're 27! so young! see more b4 u settle down. nepal and mongolia were the only 2 'raw' places i managed to see. and my god, i hv the exact same memory in mongolia. the stars (and shooting stars, so many!) were incredible.

Min said...

Love to read your blog and I havent been to those places you've gone to. Now with two kids its quite tough to do so. I am "Satisfying my lust for adventure " through others' travels.

Sher said...

you can bring the kids... IF the husband is supportive. or u can go later in life...