Mt Everest and Kathmandu

4:30 am came awfully early as we rolled out of bed for an 0 dark thirty departure for Kathmandu airport and our flight over Mt Everest. Weather permitting, aptly named Buddha airlines runs 10 flights a day starting at 6:00 am. Ours was the first flight and is often referred to as a test flight: if it needs to turn back due to high cloud cover obscuring the Himalayan Range then no other flights leave the ground. The entire crew and all  passengers held their collective breaths as we entered the clouds at about 10,000 feet and then once we cleared the clouds at about 12,00 feet there they were : the glorious Himalayans and the crowning jewel Everest!!! The 45 minute flight did not last long enough but we did it!!!! Hope you enjoy the photos !!!!

Looking and hoping – success!!!!!

Mt Everett – highest peak on right

Flying is definitely better than the alternative….

Once back at the hotel, we grabbed a quick breakfast and headed out again for a full day. Stop one was Kathmandu Durbar Square , a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Kathmandu showcasing historical Hindu and Buddhist temples as well as the former royal palace. Damage from the earthquake in 2015 is quickly being repaired, although much needs to be done.

One of our first stops was Kumari’s Palace in the Humandhoka. Kumari, in Nepalese culture, is the title given to a young prepubescent girl who is selected to be the living goddess of Kathmandu Valley. Chosen based on strict criteria, she is believed to embody the divine feminine energy and serves as a symbol of protection and prosperity. The Kumari lives in the Kumari Ghar, a palace in Kathmandu Durbar Square, and makes occasional public appearances during festivals, often adorned in traditional attire with elaborate makeup. Her role is deeply rooted in religious and cultural traditions, and she is highly revered by both Hindus and Buddhists in Nepal.

Leaving the Heritage site we passed by Freak Street which was named after the Western hippies that flocked to Kathmandu in search of spiritual enlightenment, adventure, an alternative lifestyle and most importantly an inexpensive source of marijuana and hashish. The criminalization of pot in the early 1970’ spelled the end of freakstreet although some reminants from that time still wander around Kathmandu in the present day.

A 30 minute drive took us to the Boudhanath Stupa, one of the largest in Nepal and a vital center of Tibetan Buddhism in Kathmandu. It’s famous for its stunning mandala design and the peaceful ambiance created by pilgrims and prayer flags. A stupa is a sacred architectural structure found in various Buddhist traditions. It typically consists of a dome-shaped monument with a central spire, often adorned with various decorative elements. Stupas are important religious symbols and serve as places of worship and meditation for Buddhists.

Our final stop of the day was at the Thangka Painting School. Thangka paintings are intricate Tibetan Buddhist artworks on canvas or silk, featuring religious themes like deities and mandalas. They serve as religious icons and meditation aids due to their detailed precision, symbolism, and spiritual significance. Thangkas are scroll-like, often with specific color symbolism, and have been passed down through generations as a traditional art form.

The store we visited is supported by Intrepid and run by Buddhist monks who are committed to preserving this traditional method of painting in Nepal. The school was set up to encourage and train young artists of all faiths to carry on the ancient tradition. After a demonstration of artists at work and an excellent explanation of the art, Mary and several other members got into serious retail trouble at the store. I had fortunately left my credit card in the hotel safe. All good!!

After lunch at around 3 pm we were all definitely in need of a rest. A brief stop at the drive through town provided us with some late afternoon entertainment by the neighbourhood troop of monkeys. Whew – what a day. An awesome day – wow are we beat!

We leave Kathmandu and the next adventure tomorrow – stay tuned!!!!

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