Posts Tagged ‘Thamel’

Jeevan or Jivan means life in Nepali language. The Nepali way of life was what I sort of experienced while I was there. I say sort of because my 8 days stay in Nepal were not enough to actually experience everything that this country offers – a country that is in a middle of two powerful nations, China and India.

I encountered “Jeevan” on a cold Wednesday night. I decided to go to Thamel, a tourist centre in Kathmandu City which is composed of narrow streets that houses small shops, to book my bus ticket and buy warm clothes for my trip to Pokhara the next day. After booking my bus ticket, I went to grab some snack at Illy Cafe. My supposedly short snack stop turned out to be an interesting conversation with two Israelis who got excited when they learned I am from Philippines. We ended up discussing areas of interests that they can visit. Good thing I worked in Philippine tourism so my knowledge and experiences came in handy. It was already dark when our conversation ended. We said our goodbyes in the hopes that we may see each other again. After paying the bill, I went off to buy items on my list.

Souvenir Shop in Thamel. I went here thrice because I really liked their craftsmanship and I already became friends with the vendors. They even offered me some beer and a nice chit chat. I bought a fine KHUKURI, a carved Nepali knife similar to a machete. Khukuri is a symbolic weapon of the Nepali Army and of the Gurkha regiments. I chose a 1 foot-long khukuri engraved with the word Nepal and decorated by gold plated Nepali coins, inscriptions and army symbols.

After sometime, I decided to walk from Thamel to Durbar Square. Street lamps are not that popular in Nepal so you have to get accustomed to dark streets and alleyways. It is due to the fact that power outage is very common, an average of 10 hours a day (and might increase). Nepal mainly uses hydroelectricity and the blackouts are caused by the falling generation of the hydro power plants due to the  slow melting of ice and political and economic issues that I will not discuss here.

Back to Jeevan, I was walking in the dark streets trying to figure out the way to Durbar Square. I made a wrong turn and asked directions from the old man walking beside me. He smiled and said that he will take me there himself. I replied that I didn’t want to impose especially during festival time wherein they should spend it with their family. He insisted and lead me the way. Despite his happy disposition, I didn’t let my guard down when I realised we were not walking on the main road but on dark alleys. I gave some distance between the two of us and when we passed by a store, I discreetly asked the vendor if this way will also lead us to Durbar Square. The vendor replied “yes!” which gave me some assurance only to look up and see that the old man saw and realised what I just did. He came to me and asked me my name. I said, “My name is Cha”. He said “Cha is like a daughter. So, treat me like a father. Cha is a guest and during festival time, gods and guests are the same. So do not worry, you can trust me”. What he said totally changed the atmosphere and I let him lead the way through narrow dark alleys. Just to be clear, I am a believer that  most of the time, strangers turn out to be a good conversationalists and guides (so don’t believe in  the saying “Don’t talk to strangers”) BUT one must always be street smart and cautious especially for ladies travelling alone at night time.

The evening turned out to be a good one because I ended up having a local guide explain to me the significance of Durbar Square and the different buildings/temples that made up this area. Durbar Square holds the palaces of the Malla and Shah kings who ruled over the city. It is also surrounded with various temples that houses different gods. The old man painstakingly explained to me which god the statue is, what this god does, and the animals that protect each god and temple. He also explained the different palaces, structures and carvings. I wasn’t able to remember most of it as we went from various temples, buildings and palaces. I wanted to go back to Durbar Square early in the morning to have better photographs without the crowd and with proper lighting but sadly I wasn’t able to do so. In one of the temples, he told me to say a prayer and sound the big bell at the entrance. He later explained, “When you sound the bell, you are hoping for God to hear your prayers. The bell will help you with that. The sound is symbolical in bringing your prayers to heaven.”

Meet JEEVAN. Jeevan is the name of the old man who lead me through dark alleyways, explained the religious and historical significance of the temples and buildings, lent me his mobile phone so I can call my friend to pick me up and waited with me until he arrived. 🙂 I hope we can meet more Jeevans along the way.

Jeevan is not just the name of the old man but also a word that stayed with me. Jeevan is life and the fullness of life in its different forms is what I encountered in this country and what I look forward to experience in the next countries that I will set foot on.

More stories to follow. Below are some snapshots of Kathmandu.

View of Kathmandu from the plane. Kathmandu VALLEY is actually composed of 3 districts: Kathmandu City (the capital), Lalitpur and Bakthapur. Kathmandu is named after “Kasthamandap”, a three-storey temple in Durbar Square that is made entirely of wood without nails/irons from ONE SINGLE TREE. Just imagine how massive the tree that was used to build this temple.

Rooftop View. Nepali homes are usually just 2 to 4 storeys high and have a rooftop. Those higher buildings that you see here are usually office spaces. An American, who married a Nepali, that I met during my bungy trip said that because of the power outage, people would usually use the rooftop during winter time to get enough sunlight, hang out for a chat, enjoy a meal, drink or play cards.

Potato fields at Nagarkot Village. Nagarkot is part of Kathmandu Valley and is famous to tourists because of the Club Himalaya Resort that gives a good view of the Himalaya Mountain Range. We rented a car so it was easier for us to ask the driver to stop if we see places/views of interest and this was one of them. The farmers were very accommodating and they even let us try hacking the soil in preparation for planting. They only asked us for some chocolates in return. 🙂