Suitcase and World: October 2007

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Meet the Gang.

At a roadhouse restaurant on the road from Lhasa to Gyantse. From left to right. Claire, Margaret, Jo, Bec, and Barry.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Kathmandu. Getting from Point A to Point B.

On my first full day in Kathmandu, I hired a driver and car to chauffeur me around. It was a very comfortable way to move around and considering the distances that I had to travel, probably what made the most sense to do given my itinerary for the day.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Kathmandu. The Serene Boudhanath.

I went to visit Boudhanath stupa twice and I loved it both times - my refuge from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Back to Nepal. Zhangmu to Dhulikhel to Kathmandu.

This was the day we would be leaving China and entering back into Nepal. It was also the first time I've ever crossed a country border on foot!

I woke up well rested despite the fact that the bed I was sleeping on was a straw mattress - lots of things poking up at me all night long and that Margaret, Claire and I had stayed up late - chatting and giggling the night away. We all met up at the breakfast table and soon enough, we had to get our backpacks and get going for the day.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Rongphu to Zhangmu.

It was early morning at Rongphu Monastery. Baikuntha's alarm clock went off at 7:30am. Barry braved the freezing cold to watch sunrise over Mt. Everest. I had had a difficult night sleeping and I was toasty warm in my sleeping bag (with two blankets piled on top) - no way I was going to join Barry. Within the hour, we all had to get out of bed - just a few minutes to brush our teeth and grab a cup of altitude sickness tea. We quickly packed up and piled back into the LandCruisers for the day's ride.

One Yak Towns. Sakya and Lao Tinggri.

Tibetan village nestled into the foothills of a mountain.

Okay, there are some pretty remote places in Tibet. We passed by a lot of little villages and hamlets on our drive towards Kathmandu. Some had signposts announcing their names. Others were just made up of clusters of homes - no name, no entry road. Towns got a lot smaller once we left Gyantse. Here are my recollections and photos of two that we visited.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Offroading in Tibet.

On the road from Lhasa to Gyantse.
Our return from Lhasa back to Kathmandu was going to be an overland journey. Though I knew it was going to be a long trip, I was still excited at the thought of driving across the Tibetan plateau and then cutting through Himalayan mountain passes to reach Nepal.

Everest, Baby!

Can you remember where you were and what you were doing on October 14th at 1pm? I can. I was in the Mt. Qomolangma (pronounced "Cho mo lahng ma") National Nature Preserve standing and looking at the great Himalaya Range of mountains.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Tibet. Shigatse.

We left Gyantse after lunch and headed down the road to Shigatse.

We arrived in Shigatse in early afternoon and had the rest of the day to explore the town. Baikuntha had told us that Shigatse was primarily a "Chinese" town so as we entered it, we were prepared to see China and not Tibet. I must admit, that was a bit disappointing.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Tibet. Gyantse.

Welcome to Gyantse, Tibet, China! Gyantse is the third largest city in Tibet and was our first destination after Lhasa. We arrived the night before - after a long 10 hour ride.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tibet. Lhasa to Gyantse.

Me and the accidental yak :-)

It's October 11th. Today we finally left on our road trip through Tibet. It would take two drivers and two Toyota LandCruisers to carry us on our road trip.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Tibet. Ganden Monastery.

It's the morning of October 10th and I'm feeling much better after having spent yesterday afternoon in bed fending off the flu. I missed the tour to Sera Monastery so I'm excited about this morning's trip to Ganden Monastery. The trip to Ganden is not included in our itinerary but everyone elected to go so Baikuntha arranged for a car and driver to take us there and back.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Lhasa. Drepung Monastery.

After having met Gung Chu, a Tibetan monk studying at Gomang College in Drepung Monastery, I was really interested in seeing where he spends his days.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Lhasa. The Potala Palace.

A simple red wooden door beckons you inside the Potala Palace, the former Winter Palace of the Dalai Lamas.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Me and the Monk.

Chanting monks, Ganden Monastery.

Okay, I admit it. My image of what a Tibetan Buddhist monk would be like was stamped into my brain courtesy of the Lonely Planet guidebook and the dozens of images that I had seen on the web. I imagined their dress to be extremely modest and behavior to be pious and contemplative -reflections of the self sacrifices they had willingly accepted in order to achieve their ultimate goal of enlightenment. So you can imagine how disappointed I was when I came across this pair, with backpack and sneakers, walking the kora in Barkhor Square.

Lhasa. The Jokhang Monastery and Barkhor Square.

Sightseeing on the first day in Lhasa began with a visit to the Jokhang Monastery. On the way, we walked through some of the sidestreets surrounding Barkhor Square. The streets were packed with locals - some to do their daily marketing and others on their way to join the pilgrim circuit that circumvents Barkhor Square.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Tibet and Lhasa. First Views.

Our group arrived by air from Kathmandu yesterday afternoon. It was an uneventful flight except that we got to see Mt. Everest and Yamdrok Tso (Turquoise) Lake as we flew over the Himalayas. We would get to see both up close in the days to come.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Nepal. Street scenes.

As much as I enjoy seeing the major heritage sites in and around Kathmandu, I also love just wandering the backstreets to see how people live their day to day lives. Here are some the images that I capture as I walked the backstreets of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur and at Boudhanath and Swayambunath stupas.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Kathmandu. Cruising around in a rickshaw and Swayambunath stupa.

Meet Ramachandra, my driver for the day. 42 years old, father of 4, grandfather of one and rickshaw driver for the past 15 years. Physically smaller than me all the way around, this man must have legs of steel to have been able to haul me around Kathmandu for several hours!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Nepal. Visions of Beauty.

Wow! What a great first day I had in Nepal!

Today, was a feast for the eyes. I took so many photos that I exhausted nearly 3 camera batteries so I'm only going to post up a few snapshots for now to try and give you a sense of what I saw - will post up more when I get home.

Kathmandu. Historic Bhaktapur.

From Patan, my next destination was Bhaktapur.

Bhaktapur, literally meaning "The Town of Devotees," is believed to have existed from the early ninth century AD. The town is laid out in the shape of a conch shell, area covers four square miles and is divided into twenty-four toles or sections.

Kathmandu. The Lovely Patan.

Also known as Lalitpur, Patan is the second largest city in the Kathmandu Valley and I fell in love with it the moment I stepped foot in its Durbar Square. In fact, I loved it so much I went there twice.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

India. Lasting Impressions.

Today is Mahatma Ghandi's birthday which is celebrated as a national holiday. It's also my last day in India.

It's been an incredible 5 days in India! There's not a whole lot you can learn about a country in such a short time but I'm glad I had the opportunity to experience what I did. I still have a lot of photos and text to post up - especially of all the sites I visited but I will leave that task for when I get home. For this posting, I wanted to share a few images and thoughts of my short time in India.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Agra. Sikandra.

Sikandra is the burial place of the Mughal Emperor Akbar. It was built by Akbar himself during this lifetime.

It's bright and early on October 1st and I'm well rested and ready to go!