Everywhere we went in this expedition across Asia, we felt quite welcome!
Our five weeks in Asia started in Kathmandu
We are lucky enough to be able to refer to this as our return to Kathmandu. Dear readers, you really need to be able to look beyond the obvious and not be distracted by the oblivious to enjoy this city. I will not belabor my love for Kathmandu, I explained it all in this post. In a city this old, in a country without a functional national government, nothing much changes so my two year old post is not outdated. We came here because we know a excellent guide/travel coordinator named Shankar Pandy. (You can contact him using the link.) He showed us a great time in 2010 and urged us to return so we could see Tibet and Bhutan. But whatever you do, do not ask Mr.Pandy to carry a cabbage!
This time we stayed at the Kathmandu Guest House. Kathmandu has a plethora of places to stay from hostels to luxury. The KGH covers the entire range. Back in the day, when Kathmandu was a target destination for hippies in Volkswagen vans driving the silk road from Europe, the KGH was the hotel to stay in.
This is the garden of the KGH. This is where Cat Stevens wrote Peace Train. To this day it is a quiet spot used by people to read, do Tai Chi, meditate, or in my case just sit and wonder what it must have been like back then.
The KGH has a walk of fame, kinda like Hollywood Blvd, but at least in Hollywood they can spell.
Even the not so famous can get immortalized at the KGH.
When “the Beetles” stayed here in 1971 or so, the KGH was pure hostel with shared bathrooms. Consequently this is what I call Lennon’s Loo. No, he did not autograph it.But if you feel the need to drop a load where Lennon did, go to Kathmandu!
Our last visit to Kathmandu was highlighted by a visit to the Buddhist crematorium on the main river through town. You can always catch a cremation live and in person. No reservation needed or admission fee charged. We decided to see it again. Not only is it sacred and solemn, it is also great theater! It takes place on the Pashantinah Temple which is on the Bagmati river, a tributary to the sacred Ganges.
There are always Holy Men sitting around, getting stoned, and adding atmosphere to the place where the cremations take place. This is the same guy I had my photo taken with two years ago, I think maybe his beard grew another inch.
The ceremony starts with the delivery of the body wrapped in cotton or silk, depending on the treasure of the earthly family. Here it is adorned with flowers in season at the time. preferably Marigolds.
In the last act of the family for the deceased, they carry the now flower decorated corpse to the pyre. Only males take part in this.
Now the pros take over. The wood used to burn the body is sandlewood. It is layered with dampened straw to make the fire burn longer. Once the fire is started by the eldest son, a professional takes over. He uses sugar, butter and coconuts to help the fire keep going.
After the body is cremated to ash, a small urn is filed with the ashes and taken home for a thirteen day celebration, then the urn is put into the river. In this photo the pro is scraping the rest of the body into the Bagnati river. Every thing has a price and the prices are posted on a board. Wood, straw, the services of the pro, the flowers, all must be bought by the family.
We did not do much else in Kathmandu, we were anxious to get to Bhutan. Read the next post to see one of the traveler’s gems, the Kingdom of Bhutan.
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