11 March, 2009

"Don't Forget Me"

This past week, we've been doing a whole lot of nothing, and really enjoying ourselves in the process. Shira and I have both buried ourselves in some great reading (Into Thin Air, Mr. Nice, A Fine Balance, Brooklyn Follies), and have eaten some really excellent pizza (four out of our last seven dinners), while sadly missing Indian food for every meal.

This past weekend we ventured to what we hoped would be Lumbini and then Tansen. Lumbini is the actual place that Gautama Siddhartha (Buddha) was born. And Tansen is a charming hill station, situated b/w our base here in Pokhara, and Lumbini. So from Pokhara, we boarded an early morning bus and drove for about 7-hours until we reached Butwal, a town still about 55 km north of Lumbini. When we asked why we were stopped there, we learned that there was a bus strike in progress, and that we wouldn't be able to bus further south to Lumbini because of it. We wondered why no one thought to tell us this earlier, or why none of the Nepalis really seemed surprised by this. We were told that the only way to get to Lumbini from where we were was a 2000 rupee rickshaw, so instead of that, we got right back on a different bus and headed back north, for about 2-hours to Tansen.

When we finally arrived, we couldn't yet see why our Lonely Planet guide gave Tansen such a warm write-up, but as we settled in, the charm of the place started to seep in. Tansen is nothing like Pokhara in that there's only one tourist restaurant there and less than a dozen hostels. The streets are so steep and narrow that cars are seldom seen. The architecture is simple but beautiful and medieval. While there for two days, we only saw two other white people! We took a nice 1-hour hike up to a ridge, past a Hindu temple just north of town, and there we saw for the first time, the snow-capped peaked of the Himalayas (we would have been able to see them by this time in Pokhara, but unfortunately, it hasn't rained here for over 6-months, so the air is dusty and thick).

That night for dinner, we decided to eat at the tiny and dank one-table establishment across from our hostel instead of going to the one tourist restaurant for the second night in a row. Literally every time we've forgone the touristy restaurant for the questionable looking, astoundingly cheap local place, we haven't been disappointed. The Tansanians ? embraced us with so much humor and hospitality that soon after sitting down to our plate of cold, yellow, potato curry and spicy hot pan-fried noodles, the men sitting at our table (the only one!) offered us home brewed Nepali wine (think gin + water), and began good-naturedly making fun of our accents.

And then a young mother, and her two daughters joined in on the fun, and soon after invited Shira to their one-room home a block away to take pictures. They eventually invited her to sleepover there but she graciously declined. Before we left our friends at the hangout to go to sleep, a young Nepali man who I had been talking to at our table gently spanked my butt and quietly said, "Don't forget me...And when you go back home don't tell everyone that people in Nepal are all sad and poor." As we left that night, after having had an experience we won't possibly forget, my perception of Nepalis as a poor and sad people couldn't have been further from what we've experienced so far.


Anonymous brian from nodebtworldtravel.com said...

Great accounts of your adventures! India and Nepal are two countries I have to get to on my next trip.

12:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another beautiful commentary written by one of the 21st centurys great authors.
Alayas a pleasure to read of your great experience.

2:36 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Now I won't forget that dude either!

6:11 PM  
Blogger Avery said...

Is that the Nepali way of saying "Atta boy?"

4:33 PM  
Blogger MHS said...

Isn't _A Fine Balance_ outstanding?

4:48 PM  

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