Wednesday, 23 November 2011

monks and monasterys

Weds 23rd
Back in Pokhara
Tibetan refugee camp and monastery
Wow! and interesting day taking in lots of different places.  We got back from Sarangot, had some breakfast (Tibetan bread drizzled with honey is our new addiction) then hired bikes to get us about for the day.  Bikes were 250 rupees for the whole day so didn't bother haggling the price.  We cycled the dusty roads along an obstacle course of pot holes to old town Pokhara where I naively expected  to find quaint traditional streets a bit like Kathmandu old town but after cycling around trying to find it we realised we'd already seen it.  There's not much in the way of attractions and landmarks but its still interesting to see local life away from the tourist trappings of Lakeside.
I ate some dodgy food from a little fly infested cafe near the bus station, a samosa and some lukewarm chickpea curry, its a miracle I'm still alive to write this!  The meal cost 30 rupees so for 24 pence i could afford to eat there everyday for the rest of my life and never work again although this calculation is made much easier by my significantly reduced life expectancy.  Becci wisely didn't fancy anything and went hungry all day.
Next we cycled on to a Tibetan monastery, it was a uphill all the way and quite difficult riding with a bike that only has high gears which randomly change when riding over bumps.  On the upside we both have a bell on our bike which keeps us amused all the way there, tring! tring!  We reached what we thought was the monastery we were looking for, it wasn't but turned out to be a good find.  As we reach the gates a young student monk in red robes lets us through and then guides us round the monastery's school.  There's no other tourists here whatsoever so we feel lucky to see all the genuine goings on behind the scenes,
we look around the classrooms, the library, tv room (strictly used weekends only!), the kitchens and then the newly built temple.  The temple itself looks complete from the outside while the inside is busy with monks decorating the walls and celing with insanely detailed hand painted murals.  There's a huge gold Buddha at the end of the chanting hall currently behind a curtain of plastic sheeting.  We ask the monk boy lots of questions, he says his family are from Mustang, a 3 day trek into the mountains and since his father sent him here he will maybe only see them once a year, although he is only 9 its like talking to an adult, he seems very intelligent and philosophical.  Afterwards Bec and me discuss the rights and wrongs of packing your child off to a monastery, our conclusion was inconclusive but then we never do agree.  We head off up the road to the Tibetan settlement and the Jangchub Choeling Gompa Monastery.  Before going in we spontaneously decide take a walk up the road and find a little farm village where they are busy making hay bales with hay spread all over the road.  We have become the town attraction as we guide our bikes through all the hay, everyone we pass calls "Namaste!" and children are running out of their homes shouting "Hallo" and giggling, clearly tourists rarely come this way.  We stop at the top of the road for a drink outside a little shop, the shopkeeper comes out to sit with us and chat, she wants us to stay at her house tonight and cook for us.  It feels like we are from the future and have gone back in time 200 years, it feels strange but nice.
Back down the road we reach the monastery just in timefor the afternoon prayer chanting.  We are able to go inside with a small handful of other tourists and sit at the sides while they chant.  As they chant their mantras two big booming drums are beaten and every few minutes long horns are sounded and bells are rung, the chanting goes louder then softer, faster then slower.  There are other goings on which are hard to fathom, its an unusual but very fascinating experience.
Having flogged ourselves in the hot sun cycling up here its now downhill all the way back to Lakeside, wwwwweeeeeeeeee!!! No need to pedal as we bomb down the hills and somehow roll into Lakeside without getting lost.  Found a place called the Asian Tea house down an alley off the main strip which must be the last place in Lakeside that has resisted inflating their prices for the tourists, we fill up on pokoras, fried momos and spring rolls, all very tasty and very cheap.  Couple of beers at the Rice Bowl then back to pack our bags for Kathmandu in the morning.

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