City Girls

By Jenna McCarthy

We woke up early today - 5:30 AM to be exact in order to catch our 7:30 AM flight from Pokhara to Kathmandu. We ended up eating a quick breakfast around 6:00 AM and leaving the hotel before 6:30 AM to ensure that we would make it on time.

We made it to Pokhara International Airport with plenty of time to spare, and the views from the airport were spectacular because the clear sky allowed us to perceive the snowy mountains in the city’s background.

Photo from Pokhara International Airport Security was a brief process - it only took a few minutes to get through and began as soon as you walked into the front entrance.

Our flight was delayed by 2 hours because Pokhara was foggy. Then, when Pokhara was clear, we had to wait for the wind to blow the smog out of the Kathmandu airport. I recall how so much of traveling is a big rush to wait around, but that is simply part of the process, and therefore, part of the fun! I stretch after days of not stretching and hiking for miles upon miles has made my entire body tight and sore. Some people play cards, others sleep, many read books or make friendship bracelets with multi-colored strings. We always find ways to entertain ourselves, which usually includes buying junk food to snack on while we wait for the weather to change (chocolate digestives are my snack of choice).

When the plane eventually took off around 9:30 AM, we saw amazing views of the Himalayas. We could also see views of the terrace farming, where the land on the side of the mountains has been carved out to make room for agriculture. Along our trek, we saw a lot of lettuce and cabbage being grown as well as tea and coffee. I really enjoyed this plane ride because as you looked down you could see the landscape very clearly, including the windy mountains road, yet as I looked out at eye-level, I saw the clouds, but if you looked up, you could see the peaks of the Himalayas emerge from above the clouds. 

When we got to Kathmandu, our tour guide for the day picked us up on a bus! We went straight to Bouddha Stupa where we ate lunch at a surrounding restaurant. After lunch, our tour guide taught us about Bouddha Stupa, and we walked around it in a clockwise direction. We learned how Buddhists pray with their mind, spirit, and body and believe there are 13 steps to reach Nirvana, an enlightened state. There was also parts of the stupor that symbolize protecting purity.

It is believed that Bouddha Stupa was found in the 5th century. The eyes represent the past and present, and the third eye is covered, representing the future. This particular stupa represents the god of wisdom, and the dome is solid (not hollow), representing the universe. He also told us a legend that a prince created the stupa (which is the 2nd biggest in the world and the 1st biggest in Nepal!).

*The story goes that there was a king that prioritized the well-being of the people. When there was a drought, he went to the gods to ask how to relieve his people from their suffering. The god told him to sacrifice a virtuous person in his kingdom. The king told his son, the prince, to go into the dark room and cut off the head of the person laying down. The prince followed his father’s directions only to realize that he had sacrificed his own father - the most virtuous person for volunteering to die for his people. Sure enough, it started to rain, yet the prince felt he had committed a sin. He built the stupa as a way to make himself right with the gods, and pigeons flying around the stupa represent peace.

I really enjoy learning about other religions, so I thought this part of the tour was awesome! I also learned that Buddha was born in Nepal! (another fun fact, which I did not realize)

Next, we went to Pashupatinath Temple which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here, we saw a cremation, which made some of us feel uncomfortable. However, our guides assured us that funerals in Nepal are public events and that tourists are welcome to observe. We saw one burning body, and four other bodies about to be burned. We stood on the other side of the river, but we heard the people’s loved ones chanting and throwing flowers onto the bodies. People also washed the dead people’s feet and face with water from the river. Marigolds were part of the ceremony as the sacred flower in Nepal and made me think about how we were greeted with them upon our arrival.

Our guide explained to us that those in Nepal mourn for 13 days and only eat 1 meal per day, however they are allowed to eat the fruit that others bring them during this period. Those in mourning wear white, and people get cremated by this particular river because it flows into the Ganjui, a sacred river in India. I think it changed the way that I think about death, but I won’t get into that here.

Lastly, we went to the monkey temple! Here, we also stopped for an art show after checking out the views of Kathmandu from the rooftop. The art show explained how mandalas are made with gold paint that reflects in the light and looks like stained glass when held up to it. We learned about their art school which includes different levels: students, semi-professionals, masters, grand-masters, and professionals. The more advanced one gets, the longer one spends on each painting because they get more detailed, and thus, more expensive. The art was so intricate, and I enjoyed analyzing its details.

When we got back to Manasul Hotel, we all agreed that it feels like so much has happened since we were last here. Our first night in Nepal feels like forever ago, but it was only 2 weeks ago! We get changed and decide to all go for a celebratory swim in the cold pool. It feels like an ice bath but is so refreshing. 

I took another hot shower before another buffet dinner. 

Jenna ("Dog with a Blog") McCarthy '23 

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