Where it all Began – Kurukshetra

On our way north, our train stopped for a few minutes in Kurukshetra. Perhaps, you don’t immediately recognize the name, but you should. What seems to be a rather unspectacular rural Indian town at first glance is actually the birthplace of the entire universe. As if that weren’t enough, it is the place where good triumphed over evil. Now, that’s a claim to fame.

It appears that Brahma created man and the universe in Kurukshetra. (Don’t ask me how you create the universe in a particular town. It just is so.) Sometime later, Krishna delivered his epic Baghavad Ghita sermon advising Arjuna before he fought the epic Mahabharata battle here, ultimately triumphing over evil.

Hmmm, perhaps, we should have spent more than three minutes there.

Incredible India (Part II)

After two enjoyable weeks in Kathmandu, we were recharged and ready to face India for another 6 months. A couple of days before leaving, we started to entertain the idea of returning to Delhi by a solid 2-day bus/jeep/train combination. However, we soon found out that bus services to the border had been canceled due to a serious fuel shortage (a result of the rising oil prices), and major flooding in the Kathmandu Valley caused by the monsoon rains.

To be honest, if we had waited for a few days, things probably would’ve returned to normal, but we’ve gotten weak. We were on such a Nepal rush and just couldn’t face another overland border crossing. So we opted to Continue…

The Traveling Honeymooners

Where did you go on your honeymoon? When Jeff and Jennifer are asked that question in the future, they are going to have one hell of an impressive answer. “Oh, we went to Fiji… and New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Bhutan, Myanmar, Vietnam, Nepal, India, Austria, Hungary, Israel, Jordan, Turkey, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, France, Spain, Brazil, and Argentina.

Yep, that’s right, a 13-month, 26 country extravaganza to celebrate their nuptials. Yikes, that puts pretty much everyone to shame! They have so many stops on their around the world ticket, they couldn’t use Continue…

Kathmandu Pictorial

Well, during the past year, we’ve ended up spending quite a bit of time in Kathmandu (about two months to be precise). Whether it has been to take care of bureaucratic processes or rest up after long treks, we’ve come to feel quite at home in the city. Yes, it’s polluted and chaotic and many people hate it, but I would go so far as to say it is one of my favorite cities in the world. Layers upon layers of culture lodged between the crumbling brick buildings. So isn’t it about time that we put together a pictorial on the city? Absolutely! Click here to view the pictorial.

Musical Koreans from Hell

They came marching into our beautifully quiet hotel, an army in baby blue. A hundred singing automatons goose-stepping through the lobby singing a series of bizarrely militaristic tunes.

Grand pronouncements were made by their supreme leader. The army clapped in wide-eyed jubilation. The females squealed and bounced in titillation at their leader’s perfection. Euphoria.

Hotel guests retreated to their rooms and watched in horror as Continue…

Northfield Cafe (and Tortoise)

Breakfast in Kathmandu means the Northfield Cafe. And after the forced vegetarianism of India, I’m ready for my steak and eggs special. (I’m a practicing carnivore again!)

Just as I was starting to sip my bottomless cup of coffee, I felt our little friend, the Northfield tortoise, bumping up against my foot under the table. He’s the restaurant mascot/comic.

But don’t worry, if he wanders past the security guard out of the Northfield gardens into the dangerous streets of Thamel, he has the restaurant’s address clearly written on his shell, so he can be safely returned to his home 🙂

Trash Strikes Kathmandu

When we arrived in Thamel this time around, we weren’t greeted by the oh-so-common smell of incense, but rather by the stench of rotting garbage.

There are mountains of trash 100 meters (100 yards) long and 4 meters (12 ft) wide along the congested road leading to Thamel. Kids are playing in it, and beggars are digging through it fighting dogs for anything edible. It’s quite shocking!

But trash strikes are not out of the ordinary. When we were in Nepal last time, a strike ended the day we flew to Lukla to start our Everest trek. To get rid of it all, people set the heaps of garbage on fire, and from the air, it looked like Kathmandu was burning.

For the sake of my lungs, let’s just hope for rain this time.

Back in Kathmandu

We left India screaming our lungs out at the Jeep driver who had been racing one of his buddies on the busy road to the border. As we were stepping over the invisible line into Nepal pursued by Indian rickshaw drivers and touts, the Nepalese border officials welcomed us with a big and knowing smile. It was good to be home.

Unfortunately, the ugly reality of bureaucracy quickly caught up with us when we went to renew our Indian visa in Kathmandu. Continue…

Baby on the Sidewalk

India challenges in every way – we’ve made no secret of that – the filth, the poverty, the corruption, the bureaucracy. Don’t get me wrong, the palaces, the wildlife, the stunning tribal clothing thrill visitors, but sometimes the “cultural differences” stop you dead in your tracks.

While walking around Connaught Place in central Delhi braving the 100+ temperatures, we came across beggar woman who was using her baby as a prop. She had laid the naked baby (less than one year old) on the burning sidewalk, the unconscious child covered in a blanket of flies.

Noticing my attention focused on her, she whipped the child up and thrust it towards me gesticulating wildly to make me feel some pity. The malnourished child’s arms and legs hung motionless – there was no movement. I don’t even know if the child was still alive.

When I failed to react to the perverse show, she Continue…