On the Crossroads - Nepal between Maoists and Spirits

Zola By Zola, 8th Aug 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/3svyj2vj/
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Asia>Nepal>Kathmandu & Around

Visiting Nepal is not only fun, it's inspirational. Want to know why? Read on.

A year of change

My first visit to Nepal in 2007 was brief and unexpected, but maybe for that very rason, unforgettable. However, I think the Nepalese themselves will also remember that year for a long time. First, in January it snowed in Kathmandu for the first time in sixty years. This was quite a sensation, for although only 200 km from the foothills of the Himalayas, Kathmandu actually lies in the sub-tropical Terrai region.

Later that year, in July, landslides, triggered by torrential rains, brought disaster with worst floods in decades. And, as if that were not enough, the country was rocked by violent strikes and clashes between the Maoist supporters and the police, which resulted in the vote in December 2007 to abolish the monarchy.

For a country where times is said to stand still and where apparently nothing ever happens, that was quite a year.

Shopping local style

We found Nepal very cheap, even though foreigners are charged five to ten times more than the locals. Also, one is expected to haggle. At first, I found this embarassing, but after couple of days I started enjoying it. Don't take it too seriously, and it can be a lot of fun.

The first thing that happens when you enter a shop or approach a street vendor in a bazaar, is that you are offered a stool to sit on. I thought this was from mere kindness, but actually this is done because bargaining can take some time!

The highlight of our visit to Nepal was a flight over the Himalayas in a small chartered airplane. The clouds over Kathmandu were low and heavy. It was only six o'clock in the morning, but it was already hot and unpleasantly humid, and we wondered if we had chosen the right day for the flight. However, once the plane broke through the clouds and we were in the bright early morning sunshine, our mood immediatey changed.

As you fly next to each of the dozen or so peaks, you are taken over by a feeling of awe and wonder. I have never felt so "high", nor so close to the God. No wonder the Himalayas are believed to be the home of some of Hindu chief deities.

Everest looks different from all other peaks and you can see it from far away - not only because it is higher, but because it looks different. It stands alone, and you can see a mist around the top - probably from the winds which constantly blow there. It looked awesome, but also somehow frightening.

The Divine

Religion is a big thing in Nepal, but unlike in most of the modern world, it doesn't seem to matter very much what religion one follows: Hinduism, Buddhism or various shamanic traditions which are still practiced in remote mountainous regions. All these people have lived in harmony with each other for more than two thousand years.

Almost every form of religious expression is tolerated and no one feels threatened or excluded. Hundreds of prayer flags flutter on poles around stupas, men sit in the streets turning prayer wheels or fingering their beeds, butter lamps burn before small altars throughout the city, and in temples offerings of rice and fruit lie at the feet of local deities.

No matter how busy or noisy bazaars or squares are, a sense of calm and mysticism pervades. It gives one a feeling of constantly being in the vicinity of spirits.

Religion is a way of life here, but respect for others' beliefs is the norm. Religious tolerance found in Nepal puts the rest of the world to shame.

If we were only willing to listen and learn, we could be enlightened and inspired by these unbelieveably gentle and kind people. I know I was.

Tags

Everest, Haggling, Himalayas, Kathmandu, Maoist, Nepal

Meet the author

author avatar Zola
Nature-lover, free-lance consultant, environmental activist.
I have many interests, which include travel, health, Eastern philosophies, astrology.

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