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April 19, 2009

On my flight from Taipei to Bangkok I sat next to an old monk dressed in bright orange robes. He ordered the chicken meal and drank a coke with it. Then he bought two cartons of cigarettes and Shisedo sunscreen from the duty free cart. It was a fitting end to my stay in Taipei, a city of contrasts - cigarette-buying monks, vibrant temples among crumbling gray tenements, green mountains beckoning above speeding cars and smoggy air. But nothing could prepare me for Kathmandu, in all its slumdog splendor. Words cannot describe this place, but I will try until I can figure out how to upload my pictures. It is the epitome of a third world city - motorcycles and cars honking & weaving through narrow, unpaved lanes, kids & oxen, roaming the streets. And people, people everywhere. I met up with my trekking group - 5 women & one man, all from Australia except for one New Zealander. We walked through the city last night & enjoyed a nice dinner at a cafe on the street.

This morning I was awakened by a cacophany of birds, monkeys, and dogs screeching and howling. I walked around the shops in Thamel (Kathmandu) & bought a pair of rain pants & a jacket - both North Face Gortex for 3500 rupees - about $40 for both. Score! Then we went to two temples - first a hindu one then a buddhist one. At the Hindu temple we watched people burning dead bodies by the river and kids rummaging in the dirty water for coins thrown in with the ashes. There were gurus all painted up and monkeys everywhere. The stench of the burning was sickening. The Buddhist temple was a little more tame. I circumambulated and spun the prayer wheels then got blessed by a monk. I am now back in the city & the power is scheduled to go off in 5 minutes. Tomorrow we begin trekking.

Tags: kathmandu, nepal, travel

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