09 Apr - 19 Apr 2015 Bhaktapur

Bisket Jatra in Bhaktapur
Matt: Plunging head-first into traditional Newari culture, watching many boisterous chariot movements and ecstatic processions, and celebrating the upcoming Nepali New Year 2072 in good company with plenty of spicy Newari food, smooth chhaang and strong raksi.

“Tradition becomes our security, and when the mind is secure it is in decay.”
(Jiddu Krishnamurti)

Matt: Making myself at home in my friend Ravi's cosy homestay +9779841791469, socialising with his welcoming parents and siblings Rajan, Raziv and Neeru, enjoying tremendously their genuine Newari hospitality and learning about the distinctive culture, language and traditions (…many thanks for the excellent, lovingly distilled moonshine aka aylā aka raksi), meeting up with many old friends in Bhaktapur and getting used again to the familiar taste of Nepali beer: (i) 650-ml bottles of Everest Premium Lager Beer (c. 5 % alc./vol.) for NPR 170.- or US$ 1.70 per cold bottle from K.G. Supermarket and (ii) 650-ml bottles of Nepal Ice Strong Beer (c. 7 % alc./vol.) for NPR 175.- or US$ 1.75 per cold bottle from a friendly small corner shop nearby.

“The older I grow, the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.” 
(H.L. Mencken)

Matt: Celebrating the start of the Nepali New Year 2072 with the Bisket Jatra Festival, held annually on the advent of spring in the Nepali month of Baisakh: (i) excited crowds drag mighty, tottering chariots through the winding backstreets of  Bhaktapur, pausing for a quick tug-of-war and a brawl with the riot police, (ii) a huge 25m-high wooden pole aka lingam is erected in a stone base shaped like a yoni (Siggy Freud says Hello) and, as night falls the following day, the pole is pulled down in another violent tug-of-war, and (iii) a substantial number of innocent animals (e.g. buffalos, ewes, chicken) are brutally sacrificed in the town's many Bhairav and Bhadrakali shrines and eaten afterwards by the agitated Hindu devotees.

“Immorality sanctified by tradition is still immorality.”
(Bernard E. Rollin)

Matt: Meeting traditional mask makers in Thimi (minibus from Bhaktapur: c. 5 km, ¼ hour, NPR 20.- per person) who provide Bhaktapur's Dashain dancers and tourists with the spirits of the Navadurga, which literally means Nine Forms of Goddess Durga, and constitute, according to Hindu mythology, the manifestation of Parvati in nine different forms: Śailaputrī, Brahmachāriṇī, Chandraghaṇṭā, Kuṣhmāṇḍā, Skandamātā, Kārtyāyanī, Kālarātrī, Mahāgaurī and Siddhidātrī.

"The human face is, after all, nothing more or less than a mask." 
(Agatha Christie)


Matt: Going on errands during a day trip to Kathmandu, thus taking a local bus from Bhaktapur's distinctive but unmarked bus stop for Bag-Bazaar-bound public buses to Kathmandu's hidden Bhaktapur Bus Park (c. 25 km, ¾ hours, NPR 25.- or US$ 0.25 per person), and (i) buying a 15-day visa extension for NPR 2,984.70 or US$ 30.- from the relaxed Department of Immigration (requirements: on-line application form, one passport photo, NPR 2,984.70 in cash; visa extension being issued hasslefree and within one hour), (ii) registering my planned independent trek to the Annapurna Sanctuary at Kathmandu's well-oiled Tourist Service Centre by obtaining a compulsory Green Trekking Information Management System (T.I.M.S.) Card for the stiff rip-off of NPR 2,000.- or US$ 20.- (requirements: application form, copy of passport, two photos), and (iii) paying the compulsory national-park fee of NPR 2,000.- or US$ 20.- for the Annapurna Conservation Area, also at Kathmandu's money-gobbling Tourist Service Centre.
"I hated the maze of bureaucracy with a passion, but I've found the best way to deal with it is to smile and act stupid. That way, no one gets confused.”
(Kim Harrison)

Matt: Hugging my Newari friends, taking a local bus from Bhaktapur's unmarked bus stop for Gongabu-bound public buses to Kathmandu's large and hectic Gongabu bus terminal (c. 30 km, 1 ¼ hours, NPR 35.- or US$ 0.35 per person), thereafter a local bus with Prithwi Rajmarga Bus Sanchalak Samiti from Kathmandu's Gongabu bus terminal straight to Pokhara's dirty (old) city bus park near Prithivi Chowk (c. 210 km, 7 ¼ hours, NPR 410.- or US$ 4.10 per person) and meeting up here with the courtesy driver from my next guest house, the charming and recommendable New Summit Guest House +97761461421, located in one of the quieter parts of Pokhara's Lakeside district, the springboard to the Annapurna region and one of the worst tourist ghettoes I have ever been to: bland Western food, overpriced curio shops, spoiled locals...
Wer viel reist und sich laengere Zeit in unterschiedlichen Laendern und Kulturen aufhaelt, kann das Neujahrsfest gleich mehrere Male im Jahr feiern! Wieso? Ganz einfach: Die Menschen benutzen verschiedene Kalender, so dass das jeweilige neue Jahr in der Welt an ganz verschiedenen Tagen beginnt und entsprechend gefeiert wird.
Das Chinesische Neujahrsfest (Beginn des Jahres des Feuer-Affen am 08 Feb 2016 CE) und das Juedische Neujahrsfest (naechstes Rosch ha-Schana am 15 Sep 2015 CE) sind nur zwei Beispiele von vielen anderen, die es neben dem weltweit verbreiteten Gregorianischen Solarkalender (naechstes Neujahr am 01 Jan 2016 CE) ausserdem noch gibt.
Meine Newari-Freunde in Nepal hatten mich zum Neujahrsfest fuer das Nepalesische Jahr 2072 (Bisket Jatra am ersten Tag des Baisakh-Monats, am 12 Apr 2015 CE) nach Bhaktapur eingeladen. Dort haben wir dann zehn Tage lang sehr ausgiebig und bis in die Nacht hinein gefeiert, getrunken und gegessen. Grosse hoelzerne Wagen wurden mit langen Tauen durch die mittelalterlichen Gassen gezogen, ein 25 m hoher Holzmast zum Hochklettern wurde errichtet, lebhafte Umzuege und Prozessionen mit Musik versperrten die Strassen, die Leute bewarfen sich mit rotem Farbpulver und die Familien, in traditioneller Kleidung, trafen sich zu einem Festessen in ihren haeufig doch recht baufaelligen Haeusern. Leider wurden in sinnloser Weise in den Tempeln auch viele Tiere rituell getoetet und danach aufgefressen. - Wann und wie feiert Ihr Euer naechstes Neujahrsfest? From Nepal, with Love!

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01 Apr - 09 Apr 2015 Delhi

Indian Epilogue in Paharganj 
Matt: Wrapping up my recent travels to India, the world's biggest democrazy, a South Asian mishmash composed of dirt, spice, mind, snot, ignorance, karma, pollution, bliss, swamp, nukes, discrimination and egos, and exploring the 17th-century CE maze of decaying Old Delhi, the congested and most frenetic heart of the subcontinent's sprawling capital.

“Once through this ruined city did I pass
I espied a lonely bird on a bough and asked
‘What knowest thou of this wilderness?’
It replied: I can sum it up in two words: Alas, Alas!
(Khushwant Singh)

Matt: Checking in at the highly recommendable budget hotel Smyle Inn +911123584076 in Paharganj (see also our previous stays there: [1], [2]), setting up camp for the final week of my just finished 5-month tour of Incredible India (from the filthy Cow Belt [1], [2], [3], [4], [5] via liberal Goa [1], [2] to colourful Rajasthan [1], [2], [3], [4]), meeting up with old and new friends, catching up on tons of overdue admin work (emails, travel blog and on-line photo albums) and preparing my upcoming second trip to Nepal which has eight of the world's ten tallest mountains, including the highest point on Earth, Mount Everest.

Matt: Practising instant rapport-building skills, both verbally and non-verbally, in Old Delhi and having fascinating encounters with real people in the neighbourhood of Shah Jahan's great 17th-century CE mosque, the Jama Masjid, a wonderful piece of Mughal pomp which attracts all sorts of big-hearted Indians: devotees, sadhus, hawkers, dealers, buyers, addicts, beggars, cripples, crooks and oddballs; thank you, friends.

“A portrait is not a likeness. The moment an emotion or fact is transformed into a photograph it is no longer a fact but an opinion. There is no such thing as inaccuracy in a photograph. All photographs are accurate. None of them is the truth…”
(Richard Avedon)

Matt: Watching people in Paharganj from the safety of my magic hood and distinguishing, amongst many other tribal identities, (i) hard-working momo vendors from Nepal, (ii) beautiful slant-eyed hookers from Assam, (iii) corpulent fake sadhus from Madhya Pradesh, (iv) clever flying-carpet merchants from Kashmir, (v) sinewy cycle-rickshaw coolies from Bihar, (vi) perky young wannabe Old Asia Hands from Israel, (vii) big-bearded and turbaned gentle giants from Punjab, (viii) heavily-armed photo tourists in camouflage outfit from Red China, (ix) lathi-swinging cops in cheapish and unironed uniforms from Delhi and (x) dust-mask protected pilgrim women from Sri Lanka, in the press of thousands upon thousands of exotic characters in Delhi's crowded streets.

"The face is a picture of the mind with the eyes as its interpreter.”
(Marcus Tullius Cicero)

"Delhi was full of riches and horrors: it was a labyrinth, a city of palaces, an open gutter, filtered light through a filigree lattice, a landscape of domes, an anarchy, a press of people, a choke of fumes, a whiff of spices."
(William Dalrymple)

Matt: Breaking camp, saying my good-byes to Delhi, India's official capital of pollution (regardless of Agra's bragging rights), riding the smooth, speedy and almost space-age Airport Express Link from its New Delhi Subway Station to Terminal 3 of Delhi’s modern Indira Gandhi International Airport (c. 20 km, ½ hour, INR 100.- per person), flying uneventfully with the Indian budget carrier IndiGo Airlines ("Go, IndiGo"; quite famous for one of its flight captains, a Ms. Parminder Kaur Gulati, who used forged papers to obtain an air transport pilot license, after failing the test as many as seven times, and landed nose-first at Goa International Airport, damaging the landing gear and putting the aircraft at risk of disintegration) in a clean Airbus A 320-200 from Delhi back to to Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport for INR 4,331.- or US$ 70.- per person, one way and all inclusive, booked with MakeMyTrip on the internet in November 2014, changing in mid-air my watch from India Standard Time (GMT/UTC + 5:30 hours) to the peculiar Nepali Time (GMT/UTC + 5:45 hours), buying an extendable 30-day single-entry tourist visa on arrival for Nepal (requirements: application form, one photo, US$ 40.- in cash) from the airport's friendly immigration guys, a straightforward and painless process without any hassle, and taking thereafter a local bus from the bus stop near Kathmandu's airport straight to medieval Bhaktapur (c. 30 km, ¾ hours, NPR 20.- per person).

Die letzte Woche meiner Indienreise habe ich in der Riesenstadt Delhi verbracht. Hier leben viele Millionen Menschen auf engstem Raum unter sehr schlimmen Umweltverhaeltnissen: Luft und Wasser sind extrem schmutzig, zum Atmen und Trinken kaum mehr geeignet, und der Erdboden ist meistens zubetoniert oder voellig vermuellt, so dass Pflanzen kaum noch wachsen. Von Natur kann schon lange nicht mehr die Rede sein…
Es liegt in der Verantwortung eines jeden einzelnen, unsere Umwelt zu erhalten: "Es gibt nichts Gutes, ausser man tut es…" (Erich Kaestner). Und es gibt viel zu tun. - Was, ganz konkret, tut Ihr auf Eurer Farm in Ontario, um (i) die Luft und das Wasser sauber und frisch zu halten, (ii) den Boden gesund und natuerlich zu erhalten und (iii) die Artenvielfalt der Tiere und Pflanzen zu behueten?
From India, with Love!

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