Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

Boudhanath Stupa is slightly out of town so after Durbar Square my friend & I made our way to the busy bus station on the side of town. There were what seemed like hundreds of buses & little instruction as to their destination. We asked someone who seemed to hold a look of authority & he pointed us on to to a rickety bus. We perched in the front unsure of where we were going to end up. The journey was almost an hour long & god help whoever sat beside us as they were offered mints & encouraged to chat & answer our random questions. The people are good natured, smiley & helpful. We feel relaxed in their company & similar in traits. The bus abandoned us in the middle of a busy street & we looked at each other unsure of which direction to go in. Just as we were sighing at the prospect of guessing our next move & getting harassed by taxi drivers, the young boy who sitting beside us on the bus appeared & pointed us in the right direction. Thank you!

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Boudhanath Stupa dates back to the 14th Century & became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. It is the biggest stupa in Nepal & one of the largest ancient stupas in the world. It is believed the stupa entombs the remains of Kassapa Buddha & it is embellished with many buddhist symbols. It is the epicentre of tibetan culture in Nepal & is an important place of pilgrimage for Tibetan Buddhists as well as Nepalis.

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The area was extremely busy. We paid our entrance fee & joined the throng of tourists & locals walking clockwise along the prayer wheels. It is believed that if you circle the stupa even once you will be granted a chance to atone for your sins. There were so many people & beggers everywhere. Bodnath Stupa was also damaged extensively by the earthquake the previous year & men & women were working non stop to reconstruct the stupa & restore it to its previous glory.

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Starving we took a break & had some average pizza in a restaurant down a side alley. By this stage the claustrophobia had gotten too much for me. I went for a walk alone but I couldn’t handle the beggars & people with puppies & the crowds so instead of continuing around the temple I told my friend I would meet her at the entrance & fled seeking peace. Sorry, I’m a terrible tourist! Can’t I just wander around somewhere peaceful chatting to locals & sampling food? That’s all I want to do!

We took a taxi back to Thamel & haggled to less than half the price of the initial rip off offer. It felt better to get back to the manageable bustle of Thamel. I don’t think tourist sights are my jam. My friends are keen to visit another temple but I doubt I will join them. I certainly won’t join them for their trip to the monkey temple either! They are also going to to Pashupatinath Temple to witness the traditional burial & cremation ceremony. I am curious about this but morally I don’t feel right about rocking up with a DSL camera & a bag of popcorn while these people are experiencing life’s worst hardships. Some things are sacred & not appropriate ‘tourist sights’.

 

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Sight seeing in Kathmandu, Nepal

After scoping out the Thamel area of Kathmandu, it was time to discover the ‘tourist hotspots’. The combination of these words always cause a tightening in my chest. They conjure up images of hordes of people, beggers, people selling things agressively, pick pockets, tourist prices & being hoodwinked. I endeavour to find the balance between discovering a cuntry & avoiding the tourist production line of people queueing up in the same place to take a picture of the same thing just for the sake of it or because it’s a ‘tourist attraction’. I am trying to be a conscious traveller by visiting things that pique an interest within me, looking at the bigger picture instead of joining that queue to take a picture of that building I have no connection with. I am also trying to be kinder on myself & make sacrifices according to my wellbeing. If the climate is unbearable for me I’m not going to force myself through it for a cookie cutter experience. I have to consider my comfort & happiness. I have memories of places I have visited where I can just recall the misery I was in from the heat or exhaustion or forcing myself out in sickness. It’s not worth it for me. I don’t have a long to do list in each country. I want to discover what I encounter as my feet take me their unique path. I’m not here to see what every other tourist sees.

In saying that, I went with my Brazilian friend around some of the tourist sights in Kathmandu. As much as I want to avoid the main tourist sights, some I am interested in. In Kathmandu I have done such little research & some of the places are walking distance from my hostel – I’m not that stubborn (usually) that I will actively avoid somewhere I haven’t made my mind up on purely because it is popular with tourists.

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Our first encounter was two young girls asking for chocolate. I don’t like to encourage the begging culture. In supporting these young girls I feel like I would be leading them down a path of begging & teaching them improper values that this is a possible way to get by & they would spend their lives on the streets begging, not striving for more. My friend had chocolate in her bag & big heart & she couldn’t resist. She opened the chocolate & shared it between the shy girls. She asked the girls for hugs & the girls obliged. I felt uncomfortable about the situation & was eager to get going. What’s your opinion on this? In giving do you think you may be supporting their ‘trade’, or do you always give believing you’re doing the right thing? It’s a very heart wrenching topic to have the privilege of not experiencing, as of yet, from the other side.

As we walked towards Durbar Square we were approached by beggars frequently. Sadhus were blessing us then asking for a donation, disfigured people were pulling at our clothes & others on the side of the streets were calling out to us. I felt completely overwhelmed & suffocated. Who do you help? Who is genuine? What can you do? In the touristy areas this culture is common & it breaks my heart.

When we entered the square we were swamped with people offering to be guides, demanding entry fee, selling souvenirs & begging. If this is tourism I would rather wander the less busy streets alone. Eventually we cleared the crowd & went to pay at the official kiosk. Although we managed to disperse our crowd of money thirsty followers, they were still lurking nearby, catching our eye at every opportunity. I’m ready to go back to the hostel for respite already!

Delhi Belly in Hampi, India :(

I am not feeling great today. I feel so lethargic & nauseous. I don’t know if it was the heat or something I ate but I feel terrible. I ventured out in the morning but when the midday heat arrived I retreated back to my hut to snooze. All my friends have taken guides to explore the area on tuk tuks & will be swimming in a waterfall or visiting the monkey temple right now while I sweat it out in bed striving for rehydration.

It looks as though someone just dumped the massive pile of boulders behind the palm trees

 
I feel limited to what else I can do in Hampi due to my monkey phobia & extreme heat intolerance. I’m mildly defeated that it is my time to move on when all my friends are having such a great time. Sometimes I have an amazing ability to suck things up & get on with it but monkeys & heat are apparently deal breakers. I venture out with the greatest intentions but as soon as I see a monkey I freeze then retreat to a monkey free zone. It’s difficult because the monkeys are fecking everywhere & I really freak myself out with them.

I took the peaceful afternoon to ascertain a plan in my head & have decided to flee to the cooler climate in the north. It is such a shame because the south of India looks incredible & I had hoped to visit but I know that it is even hotter there & I will be miserable. India is so vast I knew from the outset that I wouldn’t be able to visit everywhere I wanted to go but accepting this as reality is a bit demoralising.

The monuments were incredible but I was limited in what I could see due to the lingering monkeys

In being forcibly confined I have by default become productive! I have booked a flight from Bangalore to Dehradun (Jolly Grant Airport), via Delhi, in 3 days time. I will visit Rishikesh where it will hopefully be cooler & have less monkeys?? A girl can dream! Tomorrow I will take a night bus from Hospet, near Hampi, to Bangalore & spend a couple of nights there. I have given myself the deadline of tomorrow afternoon to pull out of this sickness. Wish me luck!

India!!! I have arrived!!!

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I have arrived in India & I am so happy! I can’t believe I’m finally here! I am so excited to get out of the airport & take in the scenery, people, colours & (most importantly) the food!!!

It was always a foodie dream to come to India & I am eager & ready to taste some curries!

First to clear customs….

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I’m welcomed to India!!! *happy face*

Bangkok, Bangkok

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 Here I am back in Bangkok with a few days to enjoy the city before I fly home. I love Bangkok! The pollution chokes me & makes my lungs feel like a car exhaust every now & again, but apart from that & the intolerable heat it’s an awesome place. I love the street food, shopping, hustle & bustle & (embarrassingly) the public transport. I am a massive fan of the air conditioned sky train!

I stayed in the Lub D hostel near Siam Square. It was double what I had previously paid last time I stayed in Bangkok but the location was so central & it was a lovely hostel. I went to the hostel I stayed in last time & was gladly reunited with my make up bag after 3 eyebrow less weeks. It is now a delight to be able to put my make up on.

My typical day in Bangkok would begin with walking long & far to explore with an iced Thai coffee, 18b. I don’t really enjoy the western or Thai breakfasts on offer so I would hold out until I was hungry enough & it felt close enough to lunch time to get some street food usually Pad Thai, chicken & cashew/ginger/chilli, curry or something delicious. When it got to hot I would go to the cinema 100b/£2 or browse in the air conditioned shopping centres or go for a massage. From noon the heat wouldn’t really subside until the late evening when I would go for something to eat again & have a few beers. Perfect days!

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The street food in Thailand is incredibly delicious & incredibly cheap! The first few days I was in Thailand I was a bit apprehensive as it didn’t look very clean & I was afraid of getting sick, after a week this was the only food I would eat. The thought of going to a restaurant would disappoint me. You really can’t beat street food. If you go to Thailand, don’t be afraid, go for it! I didn’t get sick once. And it tastes so much better than the chain restaurants. I promise you. You can even go to the 7/11 & get some beers to enjoy with your meal. Meals are normally around 40-60b/£1. I am dreading going home & having to pay ten times this for mediocre food. If only we could have street food in Ireland!

Please somebody start this!

I’m not a touristy tourist, I much prefer to people watch & take in the country & culture from an organic perspective. I do sometimes & often regrettably get caught up in the tourist attractions. There is no doubt they are beautiful attractions, it’s the atmosphere & commercial aspect I dislike. I will endeavour to keep to the path less walked & be an undercover traveller with an eye for the special things & not the most visited, highly publicised sights.

The reclining Buddah

The reclining Buddah

I did however visit Khao San Road to celebrate my friends birthday. This was full of tourists but didn’t bother me at all as I was drinking, eating & celebrating my friends birthday. She even bought a bag of fried bugs as a snack. Unfortunately I was pressured into trying one & caved (*sigh* I’m so easily led). Fyi, don’t bother.

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Beer & a bug

Links

http://www.siamsquare.lubd.com