Archive for the ‘Nepal’ Category

Gaaahh!!!

May 19, 2011

I’m laughing while writing this, but It was really not funny while it happened. So, I wake up in time and arrive at the airport in Kathmandu, check in and go and wait in the departure hall. There’s 5 small gates and I go to the first one and on the handwritten paper (yes, hand-written, not a electronic board) I see that this is the right gate for the Delhi flight. Good! I sit down and me and a girl are chatting happily and talking and she tells me that she was supposed to fly yesterday but all fights to Delhi was cancelled and everyone from yesterday was put on this flight. Nothing weird about that. To make things clear: people who had booked with other airlines was all flying with this extra flight to Delhi. I only booked my  ticket 2 days ago and guessed they had a extra seat on this spare flight. At the last check, just before bordering the flight, the security man looks at my ticket and says “not this flight, go to gate 4”. What?? I start to panic. I go to the right gate, but too late. My flight took off 5 minutes earlier. I ask why they didn’t ask for me on the speakers. Well, they didn’t have any speakers, so they went around and asked for a Mr Abbas. They assumed I was a man and asked a few men if they were Mr Abbas. Great! So I had missed my flight and we’re discussing whose fault it is. I’m trying to tell them it’s booths fault. I was at the wrong gate but they knew I was checked in and I didn’t think they had sincerely tried to find me. Kathmandus Int dept are not big. There’s one cafe, one toilet, one big room and three smaller ones, like the size of my living room, gaaaahhh! Can they please put me on the flight I accidentally was about to border? Nope, they could not do that, even though there was seats left on this very special “extra flight”. I would have to fly tomorrow. But they could not issue a new ticket, I had to go into the city to do that cause NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON AT THE AIRPORT HAD THE AUTHORITY TO CHANGE A TICKET!!!! I was going nuts. And the fee to change the ticket was almost the price of the ticket. So with a new room for the night and taxi and everything it would even be more. I was so frustrated. Someone mentioned a direct flight to Bangkok later the same day, but to book it at the airport was gonna coast $700 and to book it from the travel agency 3 minutes walk from the airport would coast me $300, which did not make sense. There’s no internet on the whole airport, no wifi (no kidding) so couldn’t check flights. I walk over to the travel agency and ask about this ticket. I also borrow a PC from waaayyyy before Internet had been introduced to the world and this flight did not exist when I searched for it. So weird. I would just have to trust this guy. I bought the ticket and everything went fine after that. But what a day!!

Advertisements

In Kathmandu

May 16, 2011

I took the domestic flight for the first time here. First I had to answer questions from half of the departure hall in Pokhara about my origin. It was so weird, I looked so Nepali, how could it be possible if I wasn’t? Why did I look Nepali when in fact I’m not? Very strange. Conclusion: I must have been Nepali in My previous life. The ladies seemed very satisfied with that. It was a hmm very interesting ride. I got a sea-sick feeling. It was like the plane was sailing through the sky. It was such a weird feeling. The plane only took 10 passengers and I honestly thought we were gonna crash the whole way. I was more chocked than relived when we finally landed.

Ok, so it’s my 4th time in Kathmandu since end february and I’m not even fond of the city. It’s nothing wrong with it, but I just have a hard time breathing when I’m here, all the pollution and all the people and cars and traffic and everything is just so overwhelming and can be really stressful after the calm and fresh nature air of Pokhara. I had one last daal bat in a small tibetan family run restaurant and just wandered around on the busy streets for hours. It’s all the same after a while. Small shops that all sell the same things.

Had some Nepali street food. Puffed chili rice.

Bye bye Pokhara

May 16, 2011

It feels so strange that I’m leaving Pokhara after three months here. Three months of eating daal bat (almost) every day. I love Pokhara. There’s too many good things here to not completely fall in love with the place. I decided to take a proper fare-well of it and I woke up early and had a walk along the beautiful Fewa lake, even more beautiful really early in the morning. I sat in a cafe with my friend Nicole and drank chai for hours (she runs Sapana Nepal,check it out at sapananepal.blogspot.com), I’ve been cruising around on a motor-bike, got high on a roof-top (oops, did I just write that), passed by my ladies at the woman center to say bye and just run up and down the streets of Pokhara running errands. My friend Paul managed to get me a really cheap fly ticket to Kathmandu so I’m gonna fly there for the first time. I normally do the 8 hpurs bus-ride but I’m honestly so fed up with it and besides, there are strikes all over town and there’s a pretty big chance the bus drivers will join in with the strike too.

Had one last roti and tarkari, home made by Dev’s mom….

…and a last supper with Devika and her boyfriend Hamilton. He’s a really cool guy too!! We were actually more people on the dinner. Three couples and then me. That’s when I realized that I’m that odd single girl or something..

My 10 day vipassana course experience

May 13, 2011

I arrived at the Dhamma Vipassana center in Pokhara on a sunday afternoon.  My friend Paul dropped me off after a long pep-talk in the car. Paul is a ex monk and have done 18.000 hours of vipassana. Compared to that my hundred something hours ahead of me seemed like a piece of cake. I saw a gathering of different people hanging around in the area. My first thought was that this didn’t match my picture of people on a serious hard-core meditation course. There was a mix of travelers, back-packers and a few nepali. The whole atmosphere was very hippeified.  I had a chat with one of the “servants” as they call themselves. He went through all the rules with me, and boy there were some strict rules you had to follow. Actually, the daily time schedule would be enough to make any sane person run away. The intense days would be starting from 04 in the morning to end at 21 in the evening. One hour breakfast, two for lunch and one in the late afternoon for a tea-break. Three breaks in the 17 hour long day. The healthy vegetarian lunch was served promptly at 11 and dinner didn’t exist. That’s 20 hours between the lunch and the breakfast the day after man. I’m a veteran in the field of cleanses and detoxes but this would be bloody hard. The servants gives me a small tote to put my valuable belongings and has soon been confiscating my mobile, camera, book, money and credit card.  Another look at me and he pointed at my wrist and said “these might be distracting for other students, I will have to take them too”. He smiled at me and my skillfully layered mix of tibetan and indian bracelets. My necklaces had to go to. I immediately felt naked. If I had any drugs with me, he would happily look after them till the course was over. He wished me good luck. I did too.

I followed the french female servant that showed me to my room. As soon as I realized I had not brought any toilet paper with me and there was none here panic a raised. This was really alarming. I was ready to leave this place straight away. As if she could read my mind, she asks me if theres anything special I would like to have, something I might have forget to bring. I told her I wished to have a toilet roll. She found this funny but was gonna see what she could do. She handed me a roll a few hours later. I was so relived. So grateful. I could survive peeing with no paper but I was not familiar to, and had no intentions of learning the asian technique of doing a number two and use my precious left hand to clean of the dirty work. I was gonna guard this roll with my life.

There’s two houses: one for the newbies who was all foreigners except one non-english speaking nepali. In that house the rooms were big and there was six sleeping in each room.  The house with the older students who had been practicing vipassana for a long time had only very tiny rooms with two small beds in each room. There was mostly asians in that house and that’s were I ended up. Well, I do like like them so not very surprised to end up there. I could here them before I got to my room: chatting giggling girls. I was met by my taiwan room-mate Estrella and her entourage of a japanese, a korean and Nepali all over the room. I was warmly welcomed and joined their loudly discussion. I love when that happens: you meet someone and a few minutes later you’re all engaged in lively talks and it’s like you a old friend of yours. There was two hour to the dinner and after that we would have our first evening meditation and also the start of the course. No food was allowed so we had to finnish whatever we had brought with us. Everyone shared what they had and we were sitting there happily snacking our fruits and cookies. The last luxury before it all begun.

The absolutely most important rules to follow is to promise to stay away from killing, stealing, lying, take any drugs and strictly stay to the noble silence policy. That meant, after dinner and for 10 full days promise not to speak to anyone except the teachers and assistant teachers if I had too. I could not make any contact with any of my fellow meditators, neither by words or by signaling, pointing. We shall not even look at each other.

The first dinner consists of grayish sweet rice accompanied by spicy alu dam, a indian dish consisting of boiled crushed spicy potatoes. You stand in a row and the “servants” pour the food into your mini bowl that you hold in front of them. It felt like a summer camp for girls. A punishment for all the bad girls that have been mis-behaving. There was a paper thin bamboo wall between us and the men so we couldn’t see each other but we could hear. They sounded very excited too. We had a one hour introduction meeting, and then our first meditation took place in the hall.  The course had begun and from now on there would be 10 full days of serious meditation to look forward to.

Day 1:

The bell rings and I wake up in a pitch dark room not realizing were I am. I’m lying straight in my sleeping bag on my 1 meter wide brits (barely a bed), and I’m so so tired, it’s impossible to get up. I drag my jelly legs to the bathroom, wash my teeth and face and walk up to the hall. I found my place and manage to get through the 2 hours meditation before breakfast that are served at 6.30. I’m starving and I eat a big portion of grey rice porridge and a small bowl of bean soup. This was gonna be the breakfast for the rest f the week. Different types of rice and sometimes switching from black bean soup to white bean soup. I manage to get through the whole day and after lunch the sun is up and I take a cold bucket-shower and rest for a while. The day feels very long but manageable. I try to follow the instructions. We have to sit with a clear mind (not day-dreaming or thinking) but only observe our breathing.

Day 2:

Before coming here, I was warned about day 2 and day 6. Day 2 is one of the “hell” days for most students. It’s the day you just want to get up and run away. I have a cold and after the week in Kathmandu my lungs are in a very weak stage. They have collapsed again and the more asthma medicine I take, the faster my heart beat gets and my hands are shaking. I’m coughing like crazy and I know I’m disturbing everyone else, but I can’t help it. I’m afraid the teacher is gonna send me home and ask me to come back when I feel better. Or maybe I’m even hoping he’s gonna send me home. At least I wont have to explain to everyone why I bailed out. You can feel the smell of suffering all over the room. Everyone is changing positions all the time, trying to make it comfortable and bearable. Everyone except the girls on the front row, the girl in white in particular. She sits in the same crossed leg pose for all these hours and she doesn’t move once except for when we get up to leave the room. Just like a statue, she sits there, dressed in white, like a holy angel. When she walks she always looks down on the ground, never looking at anyone and always in a slow pace, very zombie like. On the other side of the room, in the male area, there’s a male copy of her dressed in white sitting as still as her. Day two was the day of hunger and I’m craving all kinds of food. I could kill to get a veggie burger and chocolate and peanut butter. In the short breaks between the sessions, me and some of the girls is lying in the grass outside the med hall. The sun is shining and it’s getting really hot the hours after lunch, Sometimes we’re sitting on the bench underneath the hut and look out at the amazing view of the lake and himalayas. It’s so beautiful.

Day 3:

The day starts ok and the difficulties from yesterday seem gone. The meditation goes fine and I manage to focus. The days are filled with hour after hour of meditation. I tried to follow the instructions and observe my breath. I’m supposed to feel a sensation underneath the tip of my nose. Quiet mind, clear mind, just observe the breath. It would be very easy, except for the voices in my head. I’m having conversations with myself constantly. It’s hard to concentrate. I’m thinking of the future, the past.

Day 4: It’s gets tough. This is the day when we really get introduced to real vipassana. Three hours during the day, in the morning, after lunch and in the evening, we are not supposed to move during med. It sounds easier than it is, to just sit with straight back, crossed legs and eyes closed for an entire hour without moving, trying to quiet your noisy tummy screaming after food. Two cold bucket showers helps me through the day. The heat in the afternoon is unbearable. My mosquito bites are itching, I’m tired and I just want to go home now.

Day 5:

I have gone through the story of my life in my head. It was very long and it took my about 14 hours to write it. Theres no mirror anywhere so I have no idea how I look like, just that I must look completely mad. My new style is spelled cave-women. I see a small mirror peeking out of Estrellas necessary. I just can’t resist. I grab it. I’m met by a face filled with small pimples and spots. I just want to scream. Just like when I detox loads of toxins are coming out through the skin. It finally starts raining.  The air gets fresher. I’m so happy.

Day 6: I miss human contact so much. I just want to talk to someone, touch someone. I want a hug. I want a huge veggie burger. The whole day I’m day-dreaming. It goes very quickly. Day 6 that was supposed to be one of those challenging days was in fact a easy match for me. I realize I might be comfort eating. I eat so much breakfast everyday. Huge portion of rice porridge and bean soup. When it’s time for lunch I’m not exactly starving.  Still eat a huge portion of dal bat. My mind seem to think I’m gonna die of starvation unless I stuff myself. I can’t keep my eyes close. I look over to the male area to my left. The cute french guy is smiling at me. Except…. he’s not french. He’s not cute. And he’s not smiling at me. It’s just my imagination playing with me.

Day 7:

The highlight of the day was the small slice of watermelon that we got. Everyone looked like they had landed on claude nine. You could feel the happiness in the air. Pure happiness. I’m trying to follow the instructions but get so distracted by all these voices in my head. I hear Goenkas voice ” Scan through your body, throughly and intensively, find the sensations, observe the sensations. To get rid of misery, you need to observe the sensation, the feeling without reacting to it. Just observe it objectively. See reality as it really is. Work diligently, diligently and consistently. Be happy”.

Day 8:

I hear chanting in my head, it’s always the same one: “om nama shivaja”. I see Devika in front of me swinging her head and shaking her hair while she’s singing. And then I see my sister too. She’s joining in. She’s wearing a very colorful chanting.  I can’t stop laughing, but I do it very quietly. Who knew med could be so funny. Some of the girls don’t eat. Or they eat, but like two rice-grains a day. Trying to challenge Buddha maybe. The lunch is always Daal baht (rice, dal and curried veggies) and some curd. Food is really delicious. I look at the girl in white, and her white boyfriend across the room in the same fluffy white outfit. They both look middle eastern. I imagine them on a pilgrimage and that they have walked here all the way from Mecca. Or maybe they were riding on a Camel? No, that was the boy in The Alchemist. Ok, try and concentrate.

Day 9:

The assistant teacher wants to talk to me after the early morning med. “Iman, you can not wear sexy leg pants” she says with a serious face expression. I look up at her, and then I start laughing. “This is not sexy pants” I say and point at  the white spots on my leggings caused by my last hand-washing with my Ayurvedic shampoo since I forgot washing powder at home. They are simply hideous. I wouldn’t show myself in public wearing this awful old leggings, they were even loose in the knees. You get the picture. But she insists “if the men see sexy leg pants they not able to meditate, they only see sexy legs”. Gosh, they might see sexy legs, but she couldn’t seriously be referring to my un-shaved leggings wearing legs, could she?. If she wants to see sexy, I could give her a guided tour through my underwear drawer and all my Victoria Secrets lingerie. I smiled at the idea but a few minutes later I’m back wearing my wide yoga trousers. She gives me a big smile and a thumb up. Later that day, I broke one of the golden rules of vipassana. I had to go to the toilet in the middle of med. I found one of the girls sitting outside, head bent down but I could see she was sobbing. I’m not sure if I should approach her or not. I know it’s strictly against our rules and I really should stick to them and I have so far. But my heart tells me to go there. So I walk over and just stands next to her to let her know I’m there with her. She looks up at me and I put my hand on her shoulder for a minute or so. Then I bend down close to her face and whisper “do you want a hug?” She answers yes. We hug for a long time. Very hard and very intense. The sobbing goes over to crying. I can feel her relieving, feel that she’s letting go of very heavy stuff. Afterwards we go back in together. She’s sitting behind me but I can feel her the rest of the day.

Day 10:

After the morning med, the moment that we all have been waiting for has arrived. We’re free to start talking again. Everyone looks very anxious. When we come out of the hall that morning, we just look at each other with big smiles and we start laughing and we’re just so happy. All of us just start talking immediately. We’re still not allowed to touch each other. We just want to hug. Throw ourselves in each others arms and just feel another human persons body. But we can’t. We’re talking like crazy till the bell rings and we all have to go back to med. But it feels so much easier now. The atmosphere is so cheerful. I’ve never been happier about human contact, about talking and laughing. It’s time for lunch and one of the girls tells me she’s been putting together a story about me during those long hours in the med hall. She’s been sitting straight behind me everyday and observing me .She got my swedish background from the text on my asthma medicine that I keep next to my med pillow. Her story was that I was half swedish half Indian but I grew up in Dubai and was currently living in NYC. She had glimpsed a few of the tattoos on my body. She thought I was having a secret love affair with a tattooist who was using my body as a object of art. She also told me that my african dress with the very low neckline which showed off my gigantic back tattoo had been so sexy she was totally distracted from med.

All the ladies had been in huge pain all week, but I can honestly say that I was neither suffering from back or knee pain. My biggest problem was the long hours of endless sitting, it made me so restless. The worst of all was the weather conditions. Chilly beautiful mornings that got sunny around breakfast time but so hot and humid between 13-17 which made those hours almost impossible for me to concentrate. It felt like I was melting away. After the hot humid hours, the monsoon rain came. More humidity. The evenings got chilly and the last hour or two was always very cold.

I found it very funny that I was sharing a room with a Taiwan woman who used to work in with fashion business, I was having a lady next to me that used to be a fashion producer from UK, everything from photography to Vogue and behind me I had a organic fashion designer. Estrellas theory is that the teacher knew all our professional background and have placed us together by purpose.

Last dinner before Vipassana

May 12, 2011

My last dinner before going to Vipassana and also Satchikos last night in Pokhara before heading back to Tokyo. We all went to a Korean resturant.

Messy!!

April 29, 2011

Messy!!! Me?? Nahhh!!! Dunno what you talkin bout. (picture taken in my horrible room in Bakhtapur)

Bakhtapur

April 29, 2011

Bakhtapur is an ancient town that used to be the capital of Nepal. I spent a few days there to escape the dirty, polluted streets of Kathmandu where I have been stuck the last days waiting for my Indian Visa. Which by the way, finally arrived today. First thing I did was buying a ticket back to Pokhara.

Momos, a tibetan dish. Steamed mini-pirogi filled with either veggies of buffalo meat

My new tattoo

April 28, 2011

14 painful hours and two long days with my tattoo man Hari…

..but it was worth it, for I got my dream-tattoo. Lotus-flowers and a tibetan mandala and a circle around it all.

Tourist vs. Backpacker vs. World-Traveller

April 28, 2011

When you’re traveling, you really start to notice the difference between the different type of travelers and you’re also starting to identify the types. The three main categories for people who like to visit other countries other than their own is (according to me) seeing a new place from a tourist, a back-packer or a travelers point of view. Here’s how you can identify the different types. Which type are you? You can also be a bi-type, a mix of two different ones. But most of you will only see yourself in one of the types.

The Tourist:

The tourist can be in any age group and can appear in any kind of shape. It can be a young couple, a family, mature or very young people. They choose a place to visit very carefully and it has to have a meaning for them to go there,  like something special in the place that the person wants to see. Before arriving at the destination, the tourist have a very clear, structured plan of what he or she wants to see and do in the city, village, country. The tourist look up everything in advance. He/ she makes sure they know the best place to stay according to their budget and they always have a well-structured list with names of places, addresses, restaurants, etc. They really want to make sure not to miss anything important at the sight and they like to be well-informed about the very old sight they have been queuing for hours to get in to. The tourist loves Lonely Planet and follows it like a bible. Always travels with suit-case and makes sure to bring home a souvenir from all the places visited. The tourist loves to try out local food but is very careful not to do so in a un-safe place where the locals would go for example (spec when visiting un-developed countries). Would never get in touch with something as dangerous as Street-food. Prefers to have a safe meal in the hotels restaurant or behind the protected walls of a resort. The travel-agency is always to a very huge help and the tourist appreciate the very convenience service and help they get from them and of course from the hotel concierge. The Tourist always have a decent to high budget, after all, they have been planning the trip for months and also saved up for it. The tourist likes to buy t-shirts with the name of the country or city visited on it. They mostly get around by taxi or tourist-bus. They have the latest camera. They make sure to protect their head from the sun. They have all the vaccinations recommended. They tip well. They always survive : ) (except for in Babel).

The Backpacker:

Apart from the very obvious, a big back-pack, you can recognize the back-packers in many other ways. Age is normally early twenties but can also differ and be older. It’s very common that the person just graduated from school and wants to explore the world or find himself before starting his career back home. Most of them choose destinations where they will surely meet other back-packers. It’s safe that way. Because most of them are traveling alone, and they want to meet people from their own hemisphere so what makes it easier than going to a place where people go to to meet people. In such places, they can meet other back-packers and they can continue to travel together. They feel very brave cause they are traveling alone, but alone is never alone. Since the back-packers are out for months in a row, they can miss home and the western standards very much. Asia are the favorite continent for back-packers. That’s why back-packer hot-spots like Goa, several islands in Thailand (Kho San Road in Bangkok), Bali, Australia just to name a few in Asia always makes sure to present the back-packers with what they really want: everything that they miss from home. They go to restaurants where most of them have pizza, hamburgers, coca cola and beer. They can stay in very cheap guest houses with western styled toilets and many bars and clubs with western music and kiosks with everything from tampons, to chocolate and cheese and imported beauty products and not to forget the endless internet and “international calls” cafe’s where you can sit for hours and Skype with your long-time partner back home or convince your parents that you will survive. Back-packers are often on a very low budget and they are trying to make the money last as long as possible. Some of them choose to work along the way to make up for what they spent on imported german beer on the beach in Phuket. The most common stop for that would be Australia where you can make around 18 bucks an hour (free accommodation) by working on a farm. Back-packer heaven!!!  Just like the Tourist, the Back-Packers loves his Lonely Planet as well. But it’s used in a different way of course. With LP you can find out where the cheapest room in a guest-house is and also locate your fellow travel mates (they’re all looking for the cheapest place too). The back-packers uniform (at least in Asia) are always baggy indian trousers (hammer style), dread locks (off course) and a colorful cross-over bag bought in a flea market.

The world-Traveller:

The world-traveller is the most serious kind of traveller. He or she might start their big dream of traveling the world when very young or their might be older and tired of career and western civilization. They wake up one morning and decide to give up their previous life and leave everything behind to live their dream.  And dreamers they are. My experience is that they can be very philosophical, they are mostly well-educated (by life, not Uni), they are very artistic and if you would happen to see them with a camera, it’s probably gonna look like a old toy camera. Sometimes, it’s hard to guess where they are from originally, cause their accent are influenced by so many other accents and you can see by their worn out old hat that they’ve been around for a while. Three things that signifies the world traveller:

1. You have to travel the world. With the world, I mean all of it. All the continents. You have a rough plan or idea of which countries you want to see, but you don’t have a list or order or specific plan of where your going, how long your gonna stay there and you might just only have a slight idea of where to go next. But just maybe. Anyhow, no matter what your plan might be, as a world-traveller you’ll surely not gonna follow it, open for changes as you are.

2. You give up the most important things in your life back home. If you even know what back-home is. It’s very common that the world-traveller did not have a steady base even before starting to travel. He certainly don’t have a job to go back to  and the thought of owning or renting an apartment could certainly keep this traveller on the road forever.

3.  You don’t know how long you’re gonna travel. You might travel for a year (which is a minimum to able to call yourself a world-traveller) or you might go on for many years. Or like this family I run into: he and she was traveling, they met along the way, they traveled together and they got their kids along the way. They never stopped traveling and they are now continuing to do it with their kids (which by the way seem to enjoy it a lot).

The world traveller is trying to avoid back-packer and tourist places and rather go to local places, hang-outs and restaurants. He/ she gets to know the local people in the village very quickly and is adjusting to the countries culture in a few days. Always stays in the cheapest accommodation and you can see by their outfit that they haven’t been home for a long time. Some of them walks bare-foot : ) The world-traveller don’t follow books or LP for the travels. He/ she relies on picking up and sharing information with other travelers they meet along the way. Of course, they always get the help from local people and are not afraid to ask around till they find what they want. They prefer to stay in a place for a little longer to really get into the culture. Some of them might be having some kind of free-lancing job to be able to travel, or they work with the locals or even volunteer work every now and then to share their knowledge with the locals. Travelers are in general not very afraid even though they run in to difficulties very often. They mostly travel by train and bus or any other local transportation, only by flight when they really have to. They are most probably vegetarians or vegans and very green and environment conscious. The men is always with a beard and the female travelers always seem to have long hair. Stress is something they only read about in books. They seem to have all the time in the world and they love to have long conversations about life, love, happiness and traveling in cafes over a few cups of chai. Last but not least, the traveler is accepting the new place as it is and is not trying to change it. He/ she realize the difference between west and east and continues to travels because the love for the difference, the curiosity for new places and their love for bucket-showers.

Motorbiking

April 27, 2011

I’m learning how to ride a motor-bike and it’s so much fun. Not as difficult as I thought it would be. Such a nice feeling: the speed, the wind, the road and the magnificent view of the Himalayas. It’s Ok to be jealous : )