Thank you Gandhi’s Birthday (a national holiday in India) for giving us a 3 day weekend to travel to Nepal — a mere 90 minute flight from New Delhi. Why haven’t we been here before now? As I asked the family how they would describe Nepal, the response was, “It’s India, but it’s not India.”
Ok, so we didn’t actually climb with our feet to Mt. Everest but we climbed VERY high in Buddha Air’s “Flight to Mt. Everest Experience” and let’s just say it was an experience of a lifetime. Saturday morning at 5:00 am we left our hotel to head to the small, Kathmandu domestic airport that everyone goes through to hike to Everest Base Camp or further. Sitting in that airport and watching the excitement of different groups heading out on hiking excursions planted a desire for Tyler to get back here and at least do a day hike in this beautiful part of the world.
Boarding our small aircraft. There were about 20 of us on the airplane with everyone having a window seat. Some of our children were still wanting to be in bed so taking off in the airplane almost put them back to sleep. Flights over Everest are done for only a couple of hours each morning starting at 6:30am.
There are over 20 mountain peaks in the mountain range that are any where from 20,660 feet (Chugimago that is pictured in this shot) to the big Mt. Everest. They gave us a map of the mountain range that we could follow as we took the 50 minute plane flight. Each person on the flight got to visit the cockpit area and let’s just say those pilots definitely have the best view on the plane.
Saturday felt like the day that must have been more than one day for sure. After the Everest flight we headed back to get in church clothes to visit our church in Kathmandu. The earthquake in May damaged their building they were meeting in so they currently meet in a hotel conference room. Saturday instead of Sunday is their day of worship because in Nepal, Saturday is the only day off. Yes, Sunday morning, we saw kids heading off to school in their school uniforms. Following church we headed out to visit some of the holiest sites to Buddhists.
The Monkey Temple is the common name for this Unesco World Heritage Site of Swayambhunath. One climbs hundreds of stairs to get to the top and experience an incredible mixture of both Hindu and Buddhist temples and worship taking place. The history of this site dates back 2000 years. According to legend the Kathmandu Valley was once a lake and this hill rose spontaneously from the waters, hence the name that means “self-arisen.”
The Great Boudha Stupa — Stupa of Enlightenment — was just a short walk from our hotel and we visited it both Friday and Saturday. It was definitely fun to sit and people watch and feel the energy of the place.
Buddhist people believe the relics of the third Buddha of Bhadrakalpa was enshrined in the dome of this stupa. It was undergoing some restoration and repair work so we saw a lot of scaffolding. This Stupa is another world heritage site by Unesco. It is a major destination for pilgrims from the Himalayas and the center of a thriving town of monasteries. Many stories and legends surround the history of this stupa and it is considered a “wish, granting jewel.” All those who receive blessings from it will receive empowerment from all the Buddhas of the ten directions. It is know as “The Stupa that Answers All Prayers.”
This is as close as we could get to the Stupa, just inside the gate where we entered a room where there was a huge prayer bell that one walks around three times and of course leave a donation to invest in the power of this precious jewel.
So as we sat Saturday night on a bench and watched people making their rounds around the Stupa, we observed a few things. Prayer bells line the stupa and as they walk around the stupa in a clockwise direction, they will move the prayer bells as they are praying. They also walk with prayer beads in hand and we noticed that women wear an apron. I inquired about this and was told that the colorful apron is a sign that the woman is married.
We were there during a fuel crisis. Many people asked us if there were signs of it. Yes there were but it didn’t affect us too much. Taxi prices were much higher than normal as they are limited on the amount of fuel they can obtain. Streets were lined with buses waiting to get fuel at some point.
The best souvenir of the trip — memories of this great experience for sure. Along with those, a yak bell, leather yak backpack and a singing bowl accompanied us back to New Delhi.