Showing posts with label love. Show all posts
Showing posts with label love. Show all posts

Mar 26, 2018

Taking the High Road...Literally


Paving our little dirt road has truly begun here in Nepal. Trucks filled with building supplies have been arriving daily and a crew has been working dawn to dusk. Construction is going surprisingly quick even though most everything has to be done manually. Above you see a truck full of river rock being unloaded by the basketful.


These cone-shaped baskets are how most large loads are carried here in Nepal. You will often see porters going up and down the mountains carrying all sorts of things in these baskets like produce for markets, bricks, firewood, and even trekking gear for tourists. It's a very simple but brilliant design that leaves the arms free and alleviates pressure on the shoulders. Large and bulky items can easily be transported on the steep and narrow trails that crisscross the Himalayas connecting towns and villages using these conical baskets. The young woman in the above picture is using a shawl looped around the basket and across her forehead to carry it.


When it comes to hard, physical labor men and women work side by side in Nepal. These two ladies are digging a trench with pick and shovel for the drain on the new road. The woman on the left is about 3 months pregnant. She will work up until she gives birth and then only take one day off. The maintenance and clearing of trails in the mountains are considered women's work also.


Here they're placing a layer of river rock along the bottom of the drainage trench dug by the women. If you think that drainage trench looks a bit shallow you'll see how they've chosen to deal with that in the next few photos.


A layer of concrete is placed over the river rock in the drainage trench.  Once again the concrete is both mixed and transported by hand. No fancy concrete mixer. A simple slurry is mixed on the ground with shovels and carried by the bucketful to be smoothed over the river rock.


On top of the layer of concrete over the river rocks, two low parallel walls were built. These are to be the walls of a tiny canal that will drain the road. It is my understanding that the road will be built flush to the height of these walls. If you look to the left of the photo you can see how high the top of the drainage canal is compared to the land and houses bordering the road. It is a lot higher!


In fact, this is what it looks like through our front gate! The road is going to be a full 23 inches higher than the land our house and yard are on.


His Imperial Majesty the Baacha Khan demonstrates the alarming height of the future road. As you can see this means using our driveway will be impossible without some major modifications. I really hope this drain works to keep water away from our house during the Monsoon and that our yard doesn't become a drainage pond!


And then some folks were just delighted with the new drain! Little Mr. Raju jumped right in while his sisters looked on in amusement. Or disgust?


After two weeks of road building, the crew decided to have a celebration of sorts. Anytime you see an animal tethered by its front foreleg in a field it's fairly certain there's going to be some butchering. The man holding the ax will hit the water buffalo on the head with the back of it which will stun it. Then he will either deliver the final blow by severing the spinal cord with a chop to the back of the neck or by repeatedly striking it on the head until it falls to the ground. Then the animal's throat will be slit. Sometimes the initial bonk to the head does not entirely stun the animal as desired. I have seen times when an errant blow glances off of a buffalo's head which only enraged the animal. You do not want a horned beast that weighs a metric ton mad at you. Tying the animals front leg to a post will cause it to fall down if it tries to charge you or run away.  Hopefully.  About a year ago I heard horrific screams midday coming from this very field. I looked out the window to see a water buffalo with an ax hanging from his forehead making the most horrific sound I had ever heard. Water buffaloes make grunts and groans like Chewbacca when they call to each other, when distressed they make a screech that is bloodcurdling!


The buffalo was soon skinned and dismembered on a plastic tarp. Every part of the animal will be eaten or sold to the tanners. Water buffalo meat tastes like lean, good quality beef. It is not as fatty as beef nor does it have any of the gamey taste of goat (mutton), lamb, or venison. It can be a bit tough and requires marination making it great for kebabs. We rarely eat it because Kashmiris feel it is inferior to lamb. Although Kashmiris think goat (mutton) is inferior to sheep (lamb) also.


Butchering a large animal like this is usually only a once or twice a year event for most people in Nepal. Any meat that is not eaten in a few days will be salted, seasoned with timur (Szechuan peppercorns), and dried to make a sort of jerky.


And lastly, our beloved cat Tikka passed away. Tikka was Ms. Chinger's first daughter and they were very close. When Chinger died last October Tikka became very sad. Tikka was very shy and did not like to be touched by people but lavished her affections on her brother, Baacha Khan and her mom Chinger.


Poor Tikka had suffered many a mysterious feline virus these last few years but I think Chinger's death really affected her for the worse. I was not Tikka's favorite person as I was the one administering her medications. But when she wanted anything she had no hesitation to voice her requests to me. Tikka always wanted to be a mom and would even steal kittens from other mama cats and bring them home. We will miss you Tikka.

Any major construction going on your way? 
Have any of y'all in northern climes thawed out yet?

Ciao for now,
Bibi


Mar 5, 2018

March, the Month of Wind, Taxes and Flowers!


Yes, it's the blustery, balmy, and boisterous month of March here on this planet we call home! We started off with the festival of Holi last Friday. Yours truly did not participate in the festivities but as you can see in the above photo plenty of other firangis (foreigners) did! Holi is a movable feast that somehow always manages to usher in Spring!


Speaking of Spring and colors here are some gorgeously scarlet petunias just beginning to bloom in my garden. They're one of those new-fangled breeds that hold their trumpets upright and do not trail like old-fashioned petunias do. Not sure if that's truly an improvement

Speaking of things red and floral the Sheikh brought me 21 red roses for Valentine's day! I had completely forgotten it was Valentine's day! Flowers typically come prearranged like this in India and Nepal. Rarely do you see bouquets in cellophane sleeves like you do in western countries. It's kind of neat because you don't need a vase. Just place the foam brick of the arrangement in a bowl or dish of water.


Speaking of roses I didn't know that David Austin had a rose named after Kate Middleton! Apparently, the world-renowned rose grower from the Midlands brought out two new roses for the royal couple in 2011 also.  Where have I been? According to the David Austin website:

"Kate is beautiful at all stages as the long elegant buds with attractive, silvery magenta pink outer petals gradually open to wide blooms of up to four inches across. The David Austin Wedding Rose Kate has many magenta pink petals which give the overall impression of rich raspberry pink. As the roses age, the petals deepen in color, taking on hints of purple. The flowers are fully double with exquisitely waved outer petals. Over time golden yellow stamens are eventually revealed. The mature flowers are in the style of 18th and 19th century Gallicas, with some of the characters of both Charles de Mills and Tuscany Superb, which are generally considered amongst the most beautiful of all roses. The fragrance is a beautifully balanced, pure rose fragrance with what our fragrance expert, Robert Calkin, describes as having a “touch of after-rain freshness”. There are also subtle hints of raspberry, redcurrant, geranium, and bergamot. The fragrance varies in intensity as the flower ages." 

I wants me the preshusssss!


Speaking of things rosy and raspberry, I found this at our local departmental store. Yes, it is a can of air freshener named "Aromas of Kashmir." Air Wick is a British owned American brand trying to establish itself in India. This looks to be an attempt to appeal to Indian tastes with a line of home fragrance called "Scents of India." A paragraph on the back of the can promises "a unique and tender mix of roses and saffron fills your home with sweet and romantic moments." That sounded interesting enough for me to hand my $3 over for it! Upon spraying it I was a bit disappointed. The scent is vaguely recognizable as rose. There is something faintly warm and woodsy lingering in the fragrance that might be saffron I suppose. Mostly it's about fake raspberry with a lot of white musk. Actually, all the floral Air Wick scents had this flat raspberry note. C'mon Air Wick! This is India! We don't do twee raspberry here! We know what rich and sunny saffron should smell like and we love a velvety Taif or Damask rose!


Speaking of smelly things does anyone recall this fragrance from the swingin' seventies? Yes, it's Paco Rabanne pour Homme! This was an "old man" scent when I was a teen in the 80's. The sort of thing balding middle-aged men sporting top-stitched polyester leisure suits, white patent Gucci loafers, gold chains, and gradient aviator sunglasses would wear. A client gifted my husband a bottle of this at Christmas time. What an absolute classic! It has changed over the years. The oakmoss has been dialed down and the honey note seems to have all but disappeared. Laurel and sage still provide herbal greenness but a rather loud 70's style animalic musk still is the star of the show. It's a bit like a posh version of that other 70's hit Irish Spring deodorant soap. Fabulous performance with great longevity and tasteful sillage when applied with restraint. I love it!


More smelly things! This is Jeanne Arthes' Extreme Limite Energy which I found at our local departmental store for about $7USD. It's a passable dupe for the very $$$s Chanel Allure Homme Sport. Same citrus and ozone blast at the opening fading to vetiver with a base of white musk, slightly sweet amber, and tonka. It is missing the Chanel's black pepper note. Other than that adequate longevity and sillage for 6-8 hours even in South Asian Monsoon humidity and heat. A lovely light and brisk freshie for the men in your family when the summer heat kicks in. The bottle is positively hideous though.


Speaking of heat here's the ongoing battle in our neighborhood. This Mexican standoff of sorts is our very own HIM the Baacha Khan vs his arch nemesis the Djinn Cat. The initial contest involves long hours of sitting atop walls facing each other while growling and yowling. The wall should preferably be as close to a neighbor's window in order to be as thoroughly annoying as possible. Djinn Cat is an intact feral tomcat, HIM the Baacha Khan is decidedly not. This never ends well. So before things get too vicious and the neighbors get too miffed I usually squirt them with the hose forcing an immediate cease and desist on both sides. The bottom photo is HIM the Baacha Khan sulking away after Bibi put a watery kibosh on his caterwauling.


Sometimes these territorial kitty wars do escalate to fisticuffs and such was the case later that same day. The next day after the fight HIM the Baacha Khan developed a walnut-sized abscess over his left eye. I spent 20 minutes draining and debriding that mess on one very unhappy cat. This was followed by a 5-day course of antibiotics and our patient is now fit enough to fight again. You can see the scar in the photo over his left eye. Some possibly useful information: The Indian pressure cooker makes a great jugadi autoclave and dental floss makes for adequate kitty proof sutures.


Our newest member of the family is doing well too. Naughty Spotty has revealed himself to be quite the character! When the Sheikh (my husband) picked him out I thought he'd be quite shy. Spotty was hiding under a table at the adoption center when we first saw him and when we picked him up. I figured he'd be one of those sorts of cats that would hide under the sofa for a month or two before reluctantly engaging with his new owners. WAS I WRONG! Spotty has been all over this house like gangbusters. He loves people and greets everyone with sandpaper kisses and purrs. Unfortunately his new Aunty Tikka and Uncle Baacha Khan aren't thrilled with him. The hostilities have subsided from hisses and growls to complete indifference. This has not deterred Spotty from trying to engage his older housemates with adoring headbutts, tail pulling, and even flying leaps off of the bookcases on top of them. HIM the Baacha Khan refuses to eat in Spotty's presence, HARUMPH!


Our road is being paved. Civilization is coming to our door. Or at least a backhoe loader came and dug a four-foot trench along each side of our road. There's the neighborhood homeowners committee looking on gleefully at the arrival of the tractor. As you can see by the blue-roofed bus stop our road sits about 12-15 feet below the main road. On the left side of the road, there is a 150-bed clinic and hospital. There is a steep little frontage road that connects our road to that main road above by the bus stop. Unfortunately, drainage has been a problem in the past with water flooding down that steep frontage road directly into the hospital compound. That retaining wall and frontage road have been rebuilt three times in order to mend flood damage. I hope they take these drainage issues into consideration building the new road.


And here's the aforementioned backhoe loader just inches from our front gate. Now we have a four foot wide and two foot deep trench to jump across right out side our gate. No further work has been done since this tractor tore up the road last week. We're just renting so we have no say in the matter. Sigh.


I'll leave you with this photo of the notorious B.K. doing his best hoodlum pose. I hope he doesn't go the way of Tupac.

Not much else going on around here, anything happening your way?
Has Spring sprung where you're at or is it still miserably wintry?

Toodle pip!
Bibi


Jan 29, 2018

Our rendezvous in Kathmandu!


Yes, we are baack!!!! And we have a new baby! Allow me to introduce you to Spotty. The Cat Hotel where HIM the Baacha Khan stayed during our trip to Kathmandu is also associated with Catmandu Lovers. Catmandu Lovers is a private feline rescue organization that focuses on rehoming orphaned, injured, and abandoned cats. They also provide spay and neuter services along with pet care education. The Sheikh saw Spotty at the hotel and insisted we adopt him.


I'm not so sure about Spotty's name though. When I first saw him I immediately thought of Alfalfa from the Our Gang and Little Rascals series. For now he's still Spotty, or Spotticus Maximus as I call him. His Imperial Majesty the Baacha Khan's reactions to our new family member have ranged from decidedly chilly to completely indifferent. Harumph.


Here's a parting photo of Spotty and his fellow adoptees-to-be housed at the Cat Hotel. Look at all that adorableness waiting to be loved! Spotty was part of an abandoned litter brought to Catmandu Lovers, unfortunately his two siblings did not survive.


The Hotel Shanker where we always stay in Kathmandu is now fully restored to it's former glory! Originally built as a palace for Gen. Jit Shumsher Rana (brother of HH Sri Tin Maharaja Bhir Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana) in 1894 it was converted to a hotel in 1964. Unfortunately in the 2015 earthquakes the hotel was badly damaged. The pillared porticos and neoclassical decor of it's grand facade completely crumbled and had to be completely rebuilt. They did a beautiful job restoring it didn't they?


The entire foyer of the Hotel Shanker has been restored to it's nineteenth century grandeur too. Before the earthquakes the lobby suffered a tacky dropped ceiling, 70's burgundy shag carpeting, and walls lined with dark brown woodcarvings giving it a rather cave-like and dank feel. Someone wisely got rid of that dropped ceiling and dismal carpeting. Now the foyer (or lobby) is a 20 foot high light-filled hall of mirrors with gorgeous inlaid marble floors. That beautiful seven foot high antique mirror you see in the above photo was formerly hidden at the back of a dimly lit stairwell. Now it sits proudly adjacent to the front door! Fabulous crystal and blown glass chandeliers and sconces also adorn the newly restored entrance. (Photographing chandeliers accurately is near impossible.) The antique woodcarvings have been refinished, framed, and featured on the walls and archways. All that turn of the century opulence made me want to sing songs from "Hello Dolly" the entire time I was there- "Look at the old girl now fellas!!! Dolly don't ever go away again!!!"

 

This is what we came to Kathmandu for: a brand new ambulance for our district! Friday was India's Republic Day. We attended the festivities at the Indian embassy honoring the date on which the Constitution of India came into effect on the 26th of January in 1950. (Unfortunately my phone's camera was once again on the blink so I didn't get any photos.) Part of the celebration was the generous donation by the Indian government of a Tata Sumo 4WD ambulance to our district! We haven't ever had a proper ambulance solely for our side of town. Thank you to the people and government of India for your kind and thoughtful gift!


And then I spent a lazy day at the salon getting my biannual haircut, a manicure, and a pedicure. The hairdresser had this groovy tattoo. He must truly love hairdressing because I got a good haircut! 


As I was leaving the salon I noticed this new store nearby. With K-pop tunes blasting and Hangul writing on the store's sign - it must surely be South Korean?!? WRONG. The signage does look a bit like the Japanese fast fashion brands Uniqlo and Miniso. Apparently the Chinese do not take copyright nor trademark laws too seriously as evidenced by the diagram below:


As confusing as it sounds the new brand Ximivogue describes itself as "a Korea-based designer brand that is a fast fashion department franchised store, locates at Guangzhou International Finance Center." I'd surmise it's a Korean-inspired Chinese brand. The clientele seemed to be mostly local teenagers foraging amongst the budget-friendly offerings of trendy makeup, perfume, stuffed animals, costume jewelry, socks, coffee cups, t-shirts, key fobs, hair ornaments, and what-have-you. I think the closest thing we have in the US to this sort of "fast fashion" shop would be Claire's. The makeup looked a bit dodgy and the fragrances were the usual bland, powdery, light florals we Westerners usually associate with toilet paper and air fresheners.


Then I found the bath, body, and skincare aisle! Woohoo! I absolutely LOVE Japanese and South Korean skincare products. They're usually quite well designed, inexpensive, and chock full of good ingredients. I found an entire row of skincare masks including this one with hyaluronic acid. Note the curious labeling with English, Chinese, and Korean wording. Ingredients were only written in Chinese and the masks are made in China. All masks were sold in packs of three for a little under $4USD. I ended up buying this as well as a set of honey and aloe vera based masks. I passed on the masks containing snail snot and mysterious "fibrin tenderising" ingredients. Who wants their face "tenderised" and why? I tried one of these hyaluronic acid masks this morning and it was really nice- quite moisturizing, fit my face, did not sting nor cause any untoward reactions. Seriously, I've tried $10USD that were way worse than this. I was impressed! (Yes, those are Bibi's freshly pedicured feet in the background.)


After that I perused the shoe department and found these nifty gray garden clogs for $4USD. The ratty ED Hardy tattooed sneakers on the left are what I've been wearing in the garden here for the past 10 years. Quite an upgrade, eh? It ain't easy finding garden clogs in Nepal! These clogs have a proper removable insole too. I bought a pair of Crocs in India last year that fell apart in two weeks so I hope these fare better. Leeches might squiggle through those holes on the top of the clogs during the Monsoon though. Blecch.

That's it for this week! I've had several inquiries as to why I haven't posted any recipes lately. Truthfully, I've been a bit lazy and somewhat irritated by my camera developing numerous software glitches. Fixing the glitches requires shutting the camera down, emptying the caches, and restarting the phone. Tedious and sometimes you lose a few photos. I have my eye on the Iphone X though. I shall resume posting at least two recipes a month henceforth ;)

Bella Ciao!
Bibi

Jan 22, 2018

Technical Difficulties & Some Pretty Birds

"You are, and ever shall be, a perfect reflection of Spirit." - Paramahansa Yogananda 
Having a  few computer issues so my post will be a bit short this week. Above you see a Boreal rose-ringed parakeet (P. k. borealis) whom came to visit me one bright wintry morning. Although these parakeets are native to Nepal, Bhurma, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and northern India I'd never seen one here. They have the ability to mimic human speech and are also sold as pets. One of my fondest memories of these birds is when we were newlyweds and sitting  at a rooftop restaurant in Delhi's Khan market. It was a gray, cold, foggy, dreary January day and all of the sudden an enormous flock of these brilliant green parakeets drooped in out of the fog chattering and chirping. There must have been over a hundred of these 16-inch birds covering the huge trees around the market. Everything was covered with tropical green, squawking, shrieking, birds for about 15 minutes. Then off they flew again in a giant green cloud that disappeared into the dense fog of dusty old Delhi. Surreal. I'm not sure if this bird is a lone escapee from captivity or just briefly separated from his flock. He seemed happy and looks well fed and hydrated.

"You are, and ever shall be, a perfect reflection of Spirit." - Paramahansa Yogananda

I have no idea what sort of bird this is but thought he looked perfectly suited to his surroundings. (Can anyone out there in internet-land help me out indentifying this cutie?) A lot of birds from as far as Siberia and northern Europe overwinter or stop here for a bit on their journey southward. Nepal is certainly a birder's paradise with new species arriving every week it would seem. As it gets colder we also see some of the forest birds come down from the mountains. I know the names of all the birds in my native California but no red-winged blackbirds nor Steller's jays here. I think I tested the limits of the dedicated zoom lens on my Samsung Galaxy Zoom phone camera- this was about an hour before sundown and the bird was about 150ft away.


Anywho, the Sheikh has just informed me that we're off on another road trip this week AGAIN. So's I probably won't be back until February 5th! And Baacho the macho muchacho (aka HIMself) will be having a luxurious staycation at the Cat Hotel.

Happy trails to you, 
Bibi

Jan 15, 2018

Kathmandu: The Thamel

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Today I'm going to take you on a little tour of Kathmandu's famed tourist district: the Thamel. Pronounced "taah-mill" (rhymes with sawmill) the Thamel is a backpacker's ghetto, medieval time capsule, environmental disaster, ancient holy site, den of vice, and tourist trap all rolled into one. This amazing amalgam of sophistication and chaos is where most visitors to Nepal's capital begin their journey.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Here we are in the midst of the Thamel's labyrinth of tiny roads, dank alleyways, and mysterious hidden courtyards. Here you'll find bars, budget hotels, luxury hotels, hostels, cafes, bars, massage parlors, souvenir shops, book shops, restaurants, trekking guides, beggars, travel agents, head shops, fake trekking gear, hashish hawkers, sweatshops, holy shrines, money changers, Buddhist monasteries, ancient artisans, sleazy nightclubs, garish kitsch, priceless antiquities, splendid temples, and a working-class neighborhood. The Thamel has been the center of the tourist industry in Kathmandu for over four decades, starting in the hippie days when Westerners first came to Nepal seeking to "Turn on, tune in, drop out." Although the Thamel is often disdainfully referred to as a ghetto,  it is still the budget and pleasure tourists' preferred destination. From the sacred to the profane- the Thamel's got you covered!

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Above you see the traffic and mayhem typical in the Thamel during the peak tourist season. In October 2017 all motor vehicles were supposedly banned in the Thamel. Tourists, vendors, guides, travel writers, and Bibi have suggested banning vehicles from the Thamel for the last 10 years to make it more appealing to tourists. Obviously that ban didn't even last 6 months. I could barely walk this brisk January day in the Thamel without being bumped or pushed to the wall by taxis, motorcycles, and other pedestrians. Such is the lack of law enforcement in Nepal. (Actually in all of South Asia for that matter.) When I first came here about 15 years ago only bicycle rickshaws, holy cows, packs of stray dogs, and gangs of glue-huffing street children roamed the Thamel. Now there isn't even room for that!


This is an example of one of the crappy souvenir shops you'll find in the Thamel. Probably about half of these items are made in China. The incense sticks most likely come from India. The nylon Nepali flags and puppets look to be the only things made in Nepal at this establishment.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Outdoor temporary showroomss of wall hangings, brass statues, and colorful masks made for tourists are also a common sight in the Thamel. Buddha, Ganesh, sadhus, and the demonic-looking bhairabs seem to be the most popular masks. I rather like the lion at the bottom right and the grinning Tibetan-style skull at the bottom left. These masks are made of hand carved wood or a resin made from fish bones. Do not be surprised if on closer inspection you find the marking "Made in China" on many of the masks for sale in the Thamel.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

If you're looking for a souvenir that's uniquely Nepali I'd recommend a paubha. A paubha is a traditional religious painting made by local Newar artists. Paubhas depict deities, mandalas, or monuments and are used as a sort of portable shrine for meditation or for display during festivals. The Tibetan equivalent of a paubha is called a thangka. (You will hear the terms paubha and thangka used interchangeably here though.) Most paubhas portray Buddhist subjects, but a few have Hindu themes. In the above photo are two of my favorite themes: Green Tara on the left and White Tara on the right. Legend has it that both White Tara and Green Tara are born from the tears of Buddha. Green Tara offers succor and protection from all the unfortunate circumstances and myriad dangers one encounters through the cycles of rebirth called samsara. White Tara brings protection, assistance, and comfort to those tossed about in the oceans of suffering of the karmic cycles of samsara. Green Tara is holding a half-open lotus representing the night. White Tara holds a lotus in full bloom symbolizing the day. Green Tara embodies virtuous thoughts and activities while White Tara expresses calmness, serenity, and grace. Together, the Green and White Taras symbolize the limitless compassion of forces who labor day and night to relieve suffering. (We sell these in our shops and that's my best sales spiel.)

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,
Kamal Tuladhar
Here are some antique paubhas on display during the alms-giving Buddhist festival of Panjaran. In recent times traditional exhibitions such as this have become few due to fear of art thieves. The Newar artists who traditionally paint paubhas are of the Chitrakar caste. Their skills are famed throughout Asia. The paintings are done according to age-old rules, strict regulations, and specific dimensions handed down traditionally and artists cannot exercise their creativity. The paints are made from minerals and plants. The eyes of the deity are only painted when the rest of the painting has been completed, this is called "mikhā chāyekegu" (opening the eyes). Paubhas are still being painted today and I believe there are three schools of paubha painting in Kathmandu now. Paubhas are variously priced- you can buy a small poor quality one for about $10USD. You can buy a large, best quality paubha for about $1,000USD. Prices vary by artist, pigments, intricacy, subject, and size. They also can be easily rolled up to fit in a suitcase. I have never seen a real antique paubha for sale but hear they go for many thousands of dollars. Be aware that modern paubhas are often artificially "antiqued" by being hung in smoke rooms and rubbed with shoe polish.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,
Eventually in your meanderings of the Thamel you'll come to the old Kathmandu Durbar Square. A "durbar" is a royal palace. Before unification Nepal consisted of several tiny kingdoms which all had durbar squares filled with temples, idols, shrines, open courtyards, and water fountains. In the Kathmandu valley there were three kingdoms, each with their own durbar square. This is the most famous one called Kathmandu Durbar Square. The other two durbar squares are in Bhaktapur and the Patan. (You may have seen glimpses of the Bhaktapur Durbar Square in the 1993 movie Little Buddha.) All three durbar squares in the Kathmandu valley are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Here I am being surveilled by the female guard on duty at the Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square Conservation Programme kiosk. ("Hanuman" is a deity and "dhoka" means gate.)The guard quickly runs over to me and asks me to pay a 1,000NPR entrance fee. That's about $10USD. She did not stop nor ask any of the other fifty or so other people entering the square to pay any fees. I'm about a foot taller than the other people and fair skinned therefore I am singled out. Ten dollars is pretty steep considering my taxi fare from the hotel to the Thamel was only $3USD. As you can see from the sign persons from SAARC nations only have to pay 150NPR or about $1.50USD. This is the typical gouging of Westerners at government owned historical sites you'll see throughout Nepal and India. I ask her if I get a guide or pamphlet included with that exorbitant entrance fee, she looks at me bemused. Truth be told, there isn't even a public toilet in the complex (as evidenced by the stench). I was curious to see what damage had been done to the complex in the 2015 earthquakes and how the repairs were coming along- but I really don't feel like paying $10USD to walk through a construction site so I left.


Here's a peep over entrance gate at the post-earthquake repair work going on in the square from my distant vantage point. I'm certainly glad I didn't pay $10USD to view scaffolding, walk through sand piles, and risk a brick falling on my head. One of the reasons the reconstruction has been delayed is due to a bit of an argument. The question Nepalis had to ask themselves was whether the damaged buildings should be rebuilt exactly as they were or should they be rebuilt using modern materials and methods so they won't fall down in the next inevitable earthquake? It seems to being an ongoing debate and only resolved on a case by case basis. The delay in renovation has led to some interesting new archaeological surveys being completed. It seems some structures are much older than previously thought. I haven't seen any studies published yet confirming this. Supposedly National Geographic was part of these new excavations. A lot of mysteries abound in Nepal's historic sites. In 2013 a vast treasure trove was uncovered in Kathmandu Durbar Square containing bricks of silver, ancient idols, and jewelry.  I've never heard a peep about it ever again. If you'd like to read more about the continued mess and ongoing neglect of this historic royal square there's a great article here.


I'll bet this guy didn't pay an entrance fee! This is one of the sadhus or holy men you'll find charging for photos in the historic square. Typically these sadhus will approach tourists and daub a tilakh on their foreheads and then ask for money. Or they'll pose for a photo then demand cash. I've seen him here for the last ten years or so, he's one of the nicer regulars and not as pushy as some of the other touts can be.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

An old shrine with a peepal/bodhi/sacred fig tree growing through it sits right outside the durbar square boundaries.  I've never seen much written about it but I find it fascinating. Let's venture down the street to Indra Chowk and see what else is still standing.

This is the temple of Aakash Bhairav whom is also deemed the god of the sky. The temple is associated by legend with the first king of Nepal in 1500 BC  but was actually built by King Pratap Malla in the 17th century AD. Cars, trucks, and motorcycles whiz by within inches of this ancient temple spewing acidic exhaust and shaking the ground with their vibrations. This is one of my favorite temples because of the four metal beasts dynamically leaping off the front balcony. It's rectangular design with the open second story window and balcony is quite unique. The brass beasts are about six foot high and eight foot long and are often described as lions. However, if you look closely the two beasts on the right have beaks and helical horns while only the two on the left have snub noses like a lion would. Aakash Bhairav is said to be the deity responsible for the safety, strength, and protection of the nation and people of Nepal. Yes, as you can see the bottom floor of the sacred temple houses vendors selling cheap souvenirs, ice cream, and chips. The head or mask of Aakash Bhairav is located behind the large open window on the second floor. The temple’s proper entrance is on the right-hand side of the building and is guarded by two more brass lions. Non-Hindus are not allowed to enter the temple.

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If you are able to enter the Aakash Bhairav temple this is the amazing silver image you would see. The deity is depicted with fierce grin, a crown of human skulls, and and coiled serpents. The image sits atop a silver throne carried by lions. Idols of Ganesh and Kumari Devi are placed on either sides of the throne as auspicious signs. Images of Aakash Bhairav are also seen painted on Nepal Airline's planes. Aakash Bhairav is the deity to which the officials of Nepal's state-run airline sacrificed two goats in appeasement following technical problems with one of its Boeing 757 planes in 2007. 

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Strolling right along here's an ancient statue of Garuda forever gazing faithfully into Krishna Mandir. This carved stone statue is said to be one of the oldest in Kathmandu and dates to the 6th or 7th century. It simply amazes me that such a treasure should be left outside, unguarded, in a pile of rubble. I fear that someday it will disappear and become a wealthy person's garden ornament or doorstop. Welcome to the age of Kali where avarice and degeneracy reign supreme, eh?


Speaking of Kali, here she is! This is one of the temples of Nara Devi or Mahakali in Kathmandu. Whenever you see a temple built in a triple pagoda style you can be almost certain it is dedicated to a goddess. A beautiful example of the traditional architecture of the Newari artisans of the 15th century.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Two huge and vividly painted lions ferociously guard the entrance to the temple. If you look closely you can see the lions are male and female and anatomically correct in portrayal. Most temples in Nepal have a male and female lion guarding the entrance- although I have seen dogs and monkeys on occasion too. Looking closely you can see there is a gentleman dressed in brown below the bells at the temple door. These temples are all still in use as places of worship.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

A close up of the bronze lintel over the doorway where the gentleman in brown was standing in the previous photo. There's the goddess at the bottom center atop her throne of human skulls. We know she is the Mahakali because she is shown with ten arms rather than four. She is shown with a pantheon of Hindu deities in this beautiful bronze work. The detail is just amazing.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Here's a closer look at the center doorway right below the bronze lintel. In spite of her seemingly terrible form, Mahakali is often considered the kindest and most loving of all the Hindu goddesses. She is also regarded by her devotees as the mother of the universe. Yet because of her terrible form, she is also often seen as a great protector. Devotees often commission these metal sculptures and donate them to the temple seeking divine favor. The two smaller icons with the wire grate over them amidst the writing are most likely donations made of solid gold.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Looking into the temple door this is what you will see. The arm and red sweater to the left belong to the priest of the temple, I asked him if I could take a photo and he said yes but I could not come inside- only Hindus are allowed inside. I'm not sure when the horrid modern electric lights and tacky wall clock were installed in the temple. I don't recall them being there the last time I visited the temple 10 years ago. The image of the goddess Mahakali is in the center of the white carved triptych with the goddesses Saraswati and Lakshmi on either side. The white carved Tridevi (triple goddess) triptych is why this shrine is sometimes called the temple of the Seto Kali (White Kali). The bronze arching plaque over the triptych features a Ganesh which is obscured by marigold garlands. Candles are lit in veneration. You can have a puja (prayer ritual) done for a fee (online purchase is available). The heads of animal sacrifices are brought in as offerings especially during the Dashain festival. I  wonder who decided to put those very sanitary looking white ceramic tiles along the back wall?

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Continuing on next door to the temple here's a good example of traditional Newari wood carving. I'm wondering if this is some sort of place of learning or the priests' door to the temple. The wood used in these lintels, doorways, and window screens is called saal and is a particularly fine-grained native hardwood that is excellent for carving. The reason the metal grate is there over the arched carving over the door is to prevent theft. Thieves actually come in the night and saw off these beautiful ancient carved pieces to sell.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,
This 18th century temple is unusual not just because of it's black stone but because the temple is designed similarly to a Krishna temple but is in fact dedicated to Shiva.

Read more at: https://www.thelongestwayhome.com/travel-guides/nepal/kathmandu/kathmandu-city-heritage-walks.html
Copyright © www.thelongestwayhome.com

Instead of copying please consider buying one of my travel guides to Nepal. They are great value. Have much more content. Are easy to read and most importantly they help support my website and the original content that I write. Thank you!

Yet another beautiful old temple on a busy crossroads here in the Thamel. This 18th century building is unusual not only because it is entirely made of black stone- it's built like a typical Krishna temple yet it's dedicated to Shiva. The temple's gracious lines are quite the contrast with the ugly modern box tenement in back of it. It seems to being doing double duty in these modern times as a display for a shawl vendor's wares. At least there's a "no parking" sign in front of it! 

This 18th century temple is unusual not just because of it's black stone but because the temple is designed similarly to a Krishna temple but is in fact dedicated to Shiva.

Read more at: https://www.thelongestwayhome.com/travel-guides/nepal/kathmandu/kathmandu-city-heritage-walks.html
Copyright © www.thelongestwayhome.com

Instead of copying please consider buying one of my travel guides to Nepal. They are great value. Have much more content. Are easy to read and most importantly they help support my website and the original content that I write. Thank you!
This 18th century temple is unusual not just because of it's black stone but because the temple is designed similarly to a Krishna temple but is in fact dedicated to Shiva.

Read more at: https://www.thelongestwayhome.com/travel-guides/nepal/kathmandu/kathmandu-city-heritage-walks.html
Copyright © www.thelongestwayhome.com

Instead of copying please consider buying one of my travel guides to Nepal. They are great value. Have much more content. Are easy to read and most importantly they help support my website and the original content that I write. Thank you!
This 18th century temple is unusual not just because of it's black stone but because the temple is designed similarly to a Krishna temple but is in fact dedicated to Shiva.

Read more at: https://www.thelongestwayhome.com/travel-guides/nepal/kathmandu/kathmandu-city-heritage-walks.html
Copyright © www.thelongestwayhome.com

Instead of copying please consider buying one of my travel guides to Nepal. They are great value. Have much more content. Are easy to read and most importantly they help support my website and the original content that I write. Thank you!
life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,


Lastly, here's a sad little lion whom once guarded the entrance to an ancient city square. He's now reduced to neglect and ruin in a parking lot. His mate is to the right and looked equally miserable amongst the rubbish, orange peels, and ubiquitous dust. I guess I find it so sad because I come from a land where something even a hundred years old is a marvel. Here antiquities both spiritual and mundane are treated as ordinary and or ignored. Someone proudly carved this lion, painted him gloriously, and carefully placed him atop his egg and dart trimmed brick plinth long ago. Why are we not proud of him now?

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Meanwhile, in a modern shopping complex in Kathmandu- I guess this is what we'll be seeing more of here in Nepal. All hail the giant happy Chinese panda of consumerism! Chinese merchants were coming in by the droves and flooding markets with cheap goods before the 2015 earthquakes. Then they left after the disaster and Nepal was flooded with NGO's from all over the world. Now the NGO's are leaving and the Chinese are returning. The recent elections that put the Communist party back into power seems to be encouraging this influx. If development is what Nepalis want the Chinese are the ones most able and willing to do it.

That's all for today! Next time I'll show you some of the hidden gems in the private courtyards of the Thamel.
Calmly currying on,
Bibi
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