Monthly Archives: June 2015

Nepal: Drive to Memory Lane Part 3

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Holiday-ing Pokhara

#NotSOsolewandering #JustChillCheap

So ten days of silence, what to do? Time to take things slow and practice meditation, at least not ten hours of sitting. Where to? I know, touristy places are not my thing, but who can resist this trekking town? Nah, I mean just trying to trek again to get a closer look of the Himalayas. By this time, my Nepali Visa was about to expire. Hehehe, just another reason to visit Pokhara (this town has immigration office for visa extension, more relax place than the Kathmandu office). It was also a perfect getaway to wait for my Indian visa approval.

 

So Pokhara is just 8 hours away from Kathmandu in a winding and rough journey accompanied by scenic view of the countryside. Upon arrival at the bus station (tourist bus station is located near the airport and Fewa Lake, whereas the local buses only stop at the town center), there are auto rickshaws and a bus that goes farther to the mountainside that pass through Fewa Lake and the backpacker area. Or if you are up for an adventure, go for a walk, like we did.

View from Angel Hotel, 800meters from the tourist bus station.

View from Angel Hotel, 800meters from the tourist bus station.

The plan was to spend a weekend but we ended up staying for a week?! We did not even trek,lol! What happened? We just fell in love with Pokhara and each other, lol! We as in Me, Ville and Yan Ga. Yes we.

FEWA LAKE

Nothing beats the morning walk or sunset stroll in this place. Just bring your drink and sit down, watch people and time go by. No swimming allowed. But we were not contented, we decided to take a day to cross the other side to see the World Peace Pagoda. Which meant paddling our own boat and a little bit of trek.

Sunset at Fewa Lake. Not in the picture...San Mig Beer

Sunset at Fewa Lake. Not in the picture…San Mig Beer

Our Captain ready to take us to the otherside

Our Captain ready to take us to the other side

So we rented a boat around 500 Rupees for half-day use at the south side of the lake, which meant paddling all the way up for almost 20-30 minutes,normal speed. No problem, our captain took control, and we (the girls) just sat back and relaxed. Coming back though was not easy. It was another adventure. We were about to cross back when it started raining. I mean thunderstorm. The calm lake became a ferocious beast, with waves trying to devour us. Yan Ga, being a non swimmer, was agitated. The waves were bigger and stronger and I felt bad. I was starting to worry…about my GoPro, lol! Anyway, I had to step up and help Capt Ville to paddle, to use the waves to our advantage (thank you surfing and diving for this). It was not easy, every paddle came with a prayer. I mean, people can rescue us, but no way, there’s no way we were allowing the waves to beat us. Seated in the front, while Ville was at the back, I found myself pouring all the courage and strength to every paddle and shout “to the right, or now left, paddle hard.” It was exhilarating but, hey, we made it to the shore, just next to the original boat parking. Whew, that was close.Or not.

the Calmness before the storm

the Calmness before the storm

WORLD PEACE PAGODA

After 30 minutes of paddling, we parked at the foot of the hill where the short trek starts. It was a thirty minute steep climb passing through the forests and a cafe. The view was stunning in with its pure simplicity. But the walk was just not for me, hahaha! By this time, I have convinced my teammates that trekking was not for me.

Fewa Lake view half way to the World Peace Pagoda

Fewa Lake view half way to the World Peace Pagoda

We were just so unlucky that we came just before the thunderstorm. It was cloudy but the pagoda itself showed important facts about the life of Siddharta Gautama Buddha. A good place for a short meditation.

World Peace Pagoda View Point

World Peace Pagoda View Point

WORLD PEACE PAGODA

WORLD PEACE PAGODA

the cloudy trek to the pagoda

the cloudy trek to the pagoda

SARANGKOT

Okay fine, being a team player, I have decided to do a one day trek with Ville and Yan Ga. Just one day, no more. As advised by our hotel, this trail was the easiest, easier than the World Peace Pagoda and no chance to get lost. The reward of this trek was a view of the whole town with the Himalayas. So I had to go. I went.

Start of the trail, Fewa Lake

Start of the trail, Fewa Lake

End of Fewa Lake

End of Fewa Lake

The trail started at the Fewa lake going north. Just follow the lake and then ask around. Yeah, we just did what the hotel staff said. Until we met a Nepali who was running an orphanage and offered us ride to see his place and promised to give us the short cut direction to Sarangkot. We gave in, only because of the orphanage. We spent time playing with the kids as well as helping generate ideas for fund raising to support the education of the children.

View from the orphanage

View from the orphanage

A cute student at the orphanage

A cute student at the orphanage

the prabhat orphanage

the prabhat orphanage (if interested to help, please zoom the picture for the contact details. Donations are very much appreciated.

After a few hours, it was time to bid farewell to our friends. And started a “short” trek. But who said it was short? We ended up in local villages with only students spoke English. What a way to get lost in a hot afternoon with no lunch. We just walked towards wherever the locals told us to.

Walk to nowhere

Walk to nowhere (photo by: VK)

The trek included walking through the gates of the local villages, who helped us

The trek included walking through the gates of the local villages, who helped us. Photo by VK

Although it was a fun trail, I would say, it’s not for everyone. It was still a steep climb to 1592 meters high. Nonetheless, worth the pain. It was such a relief to see how simple the life of the villagers. They gave us drinking water and directions with a pure smile. It was almost late afternoon when we had a glimpse of the destination.

Almost there Photo by: VK

Almost there
Photo by: VK

It was yet again another unlucky day as the Himalayas were too shy for our cameras. The clouds were too much but then again the view of Nepal towns were enough to quench our thirsty eyes. No sunset view either. But we were still happy we made it alive and hungry.

Sarangkot View point

Sarangkot View point

Common you Himalayas come out!

Common you Himalayas come out!

Yan Ga with sincere happiness

Yan Ga with sincere happiness

And so after so much picture-taking and late lunch,we had to rush going back. By this time we were exhausted and decided to take a bus. Too late though, the last bus just left. What a luck! So we started walking going down and met another tourist. I was so curious about the trail back, so I asked him. Wow he answered with weird expression, 1.5 hours to reach where we were which was just 200 meters below the view-point (from Fewa Lake). Short cut it was. Because of this, I tried to convince my friends to trek down. Both declined and decided to hire a taxi instead (10USD). No way! It was then an old pick up truck passed by and I immediately flagged it to ask if we can hitch. The driver agreed as long as we pay 100 (1USD) rupees each and we will stay at the back of the truck. Both disagreed but I jumped in already, lol! Not bad for a one dollar bumpy and fast ride 🙂

Hold on tight!

Hold on tight!

So what happened to the other days we spent in Pokhara? Well, we just walked around the lake, relaxed and played. Yes to playing like kiddos. It was a shame that we were not able to see other beautiful places nearby. We just loved waking up to the cold breeze, ate and just chill. We were not bored at all. Sometimes we would walk to the end of the lake and ended up shopping lol. You know, hemp stuff!

at a nearby park

at a nearby park

kiddo

kiddo

okay we're just kids trying to be adults lol

okay we’re just kids trying to be adults lol

oh another playmate

oh another playmate

A week in this lovely place and we did not even do much because we were too busy being happy lol! In its simplest form. Sometimes, wandering is not about the journey nor the destination, it’s the moment. Every breathing moment may it be alone or with company.

Team Pokhara Photo by: VK

Team Pokhara
Photo by: VK

Nepal: Drive to Memory Lane Part 2

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Ten days of noble silence in Dhamma Kitti (Kirtipur)

Note: This article is based on personal experience and understanding of the retreat not meant to be used as reference.

Aside from the Himalayan dream as well as the opportunity to taste a life of being a local, one of the most important experience  that Nepal surprised me was the ten day meditation retreat. Meditation was not new to me, my first experience was last year in Koh Samui learning Anapana which was mind concentration through observing and following the breath that goes in and out of the nose. With full of eagerness and pride, I decided to sign up for a ten day noble silence meditation course in Nepal. I told myself, “common, it’s just additional three days and it will be easier than my previous experience.” To which I found myself in total shock just after three days.

So you might ask, what is meditation? Merriam-Webster defines it as the act or process of spending time in a quiet thought. For me, its the process of peeling my ego and learning how to deal with my mind in a calm and objective manner. This retreat taught a new technique which was called Vipassana and had a taped discussion of a great teacher, SN Goenka. Vipassana is an ancient meditation that can be traced back to the life of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha. The daily schedule included almost ten hours of sitting meditation, 2 meal breaks (breakfast and lunch) and an hour afternoon tea time. This sounded easy and so with confidence, I came to Kirtipur to savor it.

Daily Schedule for Ten Days Photo by: Carmen

Daily Schedule for Ten Days
Photo by: Carmen

Kathmandu View from Dhamma Kitti Vipassana Center Photo by: Julia

Kathmandu View from Dhamma Kitti Vipassana Center
Photo by: Julia

Three days of silence, waking up early and almost thirty hours of mostly sitting, I came back from the afternoon tea exhausted and in pain (severe headache for the past three days),made a decision to leave the retreat the following day. But as I was so ready to pack my bag, a beautiful disaster happened. On the third night while watching the taped discussion, something came inside my left eye and got stuck there. It was one of the most painful experience I had, or so I thought. Something small and invisible to the naked eye but my eyeball could feel it. Help came rushing from both meditators and volunteers. By morning, the management rushed me to a nearby hospital and was referred to a specialist as the ER doctor could not see anything as well. With so much fear and uncertainty, I left my life to the hands of the wonderful volunteers who brought me to an ophthalmologist. The doctor then scrapped out (from my eyeball) what seemed to be fibers from a caterpillar. How unlucky me. But that incident, allowed me to practice what the teacher has taught us for the previous sessions, equanimity. Observing body sensation as it happens, no reaction (by that time I stopped crying lol) just being aware that there was something inside my eyeball. And when the teacher visited me in my bed, he assured me it was impermanent.

Our Vow for Ten Days Photo by: Julia

Our Vow for Ten Days
Photo by: Julia

And so I returned to the meditation hall just before the technicalities of Vipassana was discussed, physically half blind but mentally ready. The breathing, focus and concentration continued. And so was my struggle, not in physical form but in a psycho battle. I was in constant war with my mind. How in the world was this possible? So many thoughts and things flowed out from somewhere. In every consultation with the teacher, there was only pain or sometimes no sensation. It was horrifying, seeing my evil egoistic self unfolding while scanning the body for sensations. There were also the good ones. Those that the mind lingered. It started to hold on to these tiny and auspicious wraith, and as these  went away, sadness came. It was the mind that controlled me. Yet there was an assurance that whatever I was facing, it was in fact impermanent. Life itself is impermanent. Anicca. Just like the hail storm on that day, it was so harsh and loud. I was amazed by it (first time ko eh) but as soon as it stopped, I also had to move and go back to the hall and sit.

Every single silent day, there was always a reason to be happy. The beautiful sunrise just after the early morning meditation. Or the sumptuous meals prepared by the volunteers. Be fascinated with our daily visitors, the birds and the monkeys strolling around the compound. Sometimes, during the five minute breaks, I found myself admiring the sky while humming, in silence of course,  my favorite Ed Sheeran or The Corrs songs. In some sitting sessions, laziness just killed me dozing off to dreamland and next time I knew, the session was over. The nightly course discussion was also simulating. The way Mr Goenka treated each session was very practical, addressing the issues of the meditators without even talking to us (taped discourse of his previous sessions)! It was as if he was also sitting with us and had the same dilemmas. It was such a relief, that whatever happened during our sitting sesh were in fact part of the practice. It just differed from each of us and “from moment to moment.”

Co-meditators during our last day Photo by Noa

Co-meditators during our last day
Photo by Noa

In that span of time, spending it in silence, made me appreciate the people around without the use of words and physical action. It was as if a bond was suddenly created. I had a discussion with a teacher and told him about my pain. When I came back to the room, there was a unopened bottle of Advil and another bottle of Ibuprofen capsules in my bed, hahahaha! Or when I was half blind, someone offered to wash my utensils and then someone lend me a headband so my eyes wont be irritated further with my hair. Co-meditators helped in providing and putting medical eye drops. And the moment the silence was lifted, all the different voices and accents emerged! Since then we never stopped talking, until this very day. Some of us even traveled with each other. Some went back home but we kept contact. Those short ten days converted strangers to sisters and brothers in this lifetime. And wherever this journey will take us, as we progress in our practice, we might find each other again, in the same road (hopefully not in silence).

Fanie and Annie (my roommies) in Agra after meditation retreat Photo by: Annie

Fanie and Annie (my roommies) in Agra after meditation retreat
Photo by: Annie

Carmen and Chiara (both my roommies lol) in Pokhara after the retreat Photo by: Carmen

Carmen and Chiara (both my roommies lol) in Pokhara after the retreat
Photo by: Carmen

Carmen, Chiara and Olga after the retreat in Boudha Photo by: Carmen

Carmen, Chiara and Olga after the retreat in Boudha
Photo by: Carmen

As my rumblings continue, the knowledge and understanding of my existence from this course will be my guiding light. Even the word love changed. It was far from what all the beautiful words a human can speak of. Love… one that is unconditional and one way. And with the love we have, compassion and kindness overflows extending it to all sentient beings.

For more information about Vipassana please visit http://www.dhamma.org