Monday, December 25, 2017

Namo Buddha

A Tibetan friend in Kathmandu highly recommended Jaeho visit Namo Buddha when she had been asked. Actually, Jaeho has been there in 2002 and remembers his fantastic round-trip hike that starts at Dhulikhel. In the morning, Jaeho went to Ratna bus park to take the bus to Dhulikhel located about 30 km southeast of Kathmandu. Dhulikhel is a small town as the administrative center of Kavre district and sits at an altitude of around 1550 meters above sea level. Dhulikhel is also the famous viewpoint, offering tourists a panoramic view of snow-covered Himalayas.
There are many holy Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Nepal, as Nepal is a birthplace of Buddha. For the Buddhists, Namo Buddha(1750 m), one of the most visited holy places together with Swyambhunath and Boudhanath in Kathmandu, is located south of Dhulikhel. The hiking trail to Namo Buddha starts climbing the stone steps through the dense forest in southeastern Dhulikhel and reaching the hilltop of Dhulikhel. And it goes up and down hills to Namo Buddha passing through the villages and crossing roads. It is about 2.5 hours hike from Dhulikhel. It had been the first hiking for Jaeho since he arrived in Nepal last October. 
The trail from Dhulikhel gave a peaceful and breathtaking view of the Himalayas. The hikers also enjoy the beautiful scenery of hills, forests and typical local villages along the superb trail all the way. It was bright, sunny day but the snow-covered  Himalayas was hidden behind the clouds.
According to a Buddhist legend, Buddha was Prince Mahasattva in his previous lifethe youngest son of king Maharatta. The prince offered his body to a hungry tigress at Namo Buddha, which makes this site a holy place. The Stupa at Namo Buddha is believed to keep the remains of Prince Mahasattva. 

Buddha was said to visit this village after his enlightenment. He made clear that he was the reincarnation of Prince Mahasattva. Buddha renamed this village as Namo Buddha which literally means 'Homage to Buddha'. 

Tibetan monastic communities around the stupa have been most likely to grow and prosper, compared to 15 years ago, and Namo Buddha has become a holy destination for Buddhists as well as tourists.   
It was really amazing for Jaeho to be able to find at least one villager and ask him or her for directions, immediately every time he almost got lost. They were so warm and friendly. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Taemin's Move

Taemin 태민 is one of the finest Kpop dancers and singers. In this song, he reveals his own talent and musical identity so well. His song and choregraphy are flowing smoothly like a river.
[The English lyrics are shown on this site.]

Monday, December 18, 2017

Asan Tole

The traditional market is one of the best places to feel the local authentic atmosphere in everywhere. Surrounded by traditional and modern merchant buildings, Asan Tole असन टोल is located in the medieval marketplace in the central Kathmandu, which is just the most popular square where tourists can get a glimpse of the true daily life of Nepalese people. Asan means "Just There" and Tole a street or square.
Asan Tole is one of the old, busiest markets, crowded with shoppers and sellers from early morning to night every day. It is also a major gathering place for the commercial and religious activitiesThe crossroads for six streets that radiate from Asan Tole, the open-air market, are lined with many shops selling all kinds of household goods, rice, fruits, vegetables, dried fishes, cassette tapes, clothing, incense, shoes, and spices including saffron, cardamom, and many masala spices. 

The three-story Annapurna Temple in the southeast corner of Asan Tole is dedicated to the goddess of abundance or food grains. Annapurna is represented by a big silver jar called Kalash inside the temple instead of an image of Annapurna. In the north across the square from this temple is a two-story temple dedicated to Ganesh, an elephant-headed god.
The earthquake in 2015 unexceptionally struck Asan Tole, causing some old building regrettably to collapse. The above sketch was done from the east side of the square in 2002. This can be compared to the photo on the right taken in 2017. The white tent-roofed building right in the middle of the photo was damaged then and only the ground floor now remains. 

Friday, December 08, 2017

Kirtipur

Kirtipur कीर्तिपुर is the ancient Newari settlement which lies in the southwest of Kathmandu valley. Uniquely located on the long hilltop ridge where visitors can see the panoramic view of Kathmandu. Two famous Hindu mandirs(temple) are centered along the long hilltop. Uma Maheshwar sits on the higher hill to the north, while Bagh Bhairav(Photo) stands in the middle of Kirtipur. Despite the earthquake in 2015, fortunately, these two survived intact. As you wander around the town, you will find a number of amazing medieval buildings dotted along its backstreets. Besides, the community of Kirtipur is proud of its abundant historical and cultural heritage. Nonetheless, Kirtipur has been ignored by tourists for long and is one of the least visited place in the valley. 
Historically, Kirtipur had been considered as an impregnable fortress enjoying a strategic, geographical advantage until the army under Prithvi Narayan Shah, King of Gorkha kingdom and later the first King of unified Nepal, launched its first attack on this fortress in 1757 and finally captured it leaving heavy casualties and damage in 1768. The final victory in the battle to capture Kirtipur marked Shah's major turning point in his efforts to take the whole Kathmandu Valley. The photo on the left shows Uma Maheshwar mandir, a distant view from the lower street, and on the right some Hindu temple on the way to Bagh Bhairav Mandir.
Kirtipur people hanged the seized weapons like Kukuri knives and shields on the third story exterior walls of Bagh Bhairav Mandir and celebrated the victory after beating off Gorkha army at the first battle. The rusty weapons could be still seen there as it used to be. The sketch was done in Jan. 2004.
On this visit, Jaeho was there together with his Nepali friend from Dhanusa district. He drove his motorcycle almost all day to meet Jaeho and got to Thamel safely the day before our visit to Kirtipur. After looking around Bagh Bhairav mandir, we dropped by the tourist information center. The center was ready to answer any questions about the history of Kirtipur. Asked about the spot where Gorkha army launched its final attack to take the besieged fortress. Bahiri Gaon whose current location is near Kirtipur Bus stop as shown in the photo was the attacking point. 

Monday, December 04, 2017

Chinese Noodle

After over a dozen years, the most unusual scenes in Thamel streets were many signboards with Chinese characters and swarms of Chinese tourists. Chinese money has rushed into Nepal in the process of recovery and reconstruction since the devastating earthquake struck Nepal in 2015. Chinese have been said to purchase the damaged or collapsed buildings in the commercial areas at a high price and rebuild new buildings whose purposes are accommodation, restaurant, and lease. 
Jaeho came across a Chinese restaurant in one of the backstreets in Thamel. Found Braised Buff Noodle(红烧牛肉面) appeared on the menu, not Braised Beef one. Beef should be used in this famous Chinese noodle, but it was replaced by water buffalo meat. Understood that beef is strictly prohibited among Hindus in Nepal. The taste was beyond expectations.