MONOCHROME MADNESS: Girl in an antique FRAME

Nepal girl-window SEPIA2 SM2

When someone says “Katmandu,” an exotic chime resonates in my mind—right up there with Timbuktu, Abu Dhabi, Tasmania. I would like to be as positive as I can when writing about traveling the world, and there are many great words you can write to describe Katmandu. These are not two of those words: “clean air.” Perhaps the most-used series of words are “wear a mask over your mouth and nose” and “pollution.” Because Katmandu lies in a valley surrounded by very high mountains—the highest in the world—the smog has nowhere to go, so it simply hovers over the city as a thick brew of toxic soup.

If we glide toward the more positive side of things, I can say this: the traffic is marvelously animated and robust. Exhaust fumes syphon into the sky and create stunning red sunsets in your photographs, no Photoshop required. Those high-quality, antique singing bowls used in Buddhist meditation, which you hear on YouTube or in your yoga classes, are available at a fraction of the cost you would pay in your home town (discounting the cost of airfare and hotels). You can purchase inexpensive knock-offs of all your favorite brands of camping gear and clothing (wait…is that positive or negative? Everything is relative, I guess). And the streets are bustling with sights you may see nowhere else.

1 Yawn-flowers 0384

“Pokhara” is another word evoking an exotic ring, and any number of positive aspects to remark about. Pokhara is a small village nestling against the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains and offers great views of several of the high peaks in the Annapurna Range. The air is cleaner in Pokhara. You can swim (if you’re a polar bear) or paddle around in a boat (if you’re a sane human) in the Phewa Tal and snap photos of the snow-capped mountain peaks, using your boat and the lake as your foreground. Guidebooks say Pokhara is the second-most-popular destination after Katmandu. Still, you can wander off and find solitude.

2 Boat-Peak0778 ED

After spending a month in Pokhara, and doing nothing but breathing the crisp air, and standing on my head or sitting in half-lotus position while contemplating the world at an elevation of 884 meters (almost 3000 feet), I was running out of time, so I bought a plane ticket from Pokhara back to Katmandu on—get this—Buddha Air. They fly small, 19-seater, Beechcraft airplanes, supposedly very safe for high altitude landing and take-off.

3 BuddhaBus1184

Earlier in the trip, I had stayed in Katmandu at the very popular, and centrally located, Katmandu Guest House, but decided to stay this time in a less congested, less hectic, perhaps cleaner part of town. Bhaktapur is a traffic-free area of Katmandu and is a traditionally-intact World Heritage Site, with cobblestone streets heavily peppered with temples, shrines, and monasteries around every corner. Many of the hand-crafted, hand-carved wooden buildings date back to the mid-1600’s. Since no cars are allowed inside this area of town, you don’t need a mask over your nose here. However, because we live in the real world of human beings, not everything can be positive—the locals charge foreigners a fairly hefty fee merely to walk into Bhaktapur (1100 rupees, or 11 bucks American). The finely-tuned mechanism of capitalism and globalization at work here. But if cultural ambiance and a paradigm shift on a time machine is what you’re looking for, you might find it difficult to spend your money on anything much better. If you’re looking for beer, tapas and discos, you might want to try Amsterdam.

Bhaktapur's Durbur Square Night Market
Bhaktapur’s Durbur Square Night Market

I was running low on travel funds, so I opted for a more “humble” hotel, the Sunny Guest House, located off Durbar Square, and with a not-quite-exquisite partial view of Bhairabnath Temple, and a rather nice roof-top view of other houses, rooftops and the Himalaya peaks far off at the horizon.

Bhairabnath Temple
Bhairabnath Temple with crow in foreground

On my last day in Nepal, I wandered into the streets to search for the Shiva Temple, also called the “Erotic Elephants” temple. I wanted to photograph it because I’d heard there were statues of various animals copulating, including two elephants utilizing the missionary position. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but perhaps this desire was caused by staying at that elevation for so long, or too many temple visits, or spinning too many prayer wheels. I have no excuse beyond what George Mallory once said when asked why he wanted to climb Everest: “Because it’s there.” Along with my innate curiosity. And wouldn’t any respectable traveler try to see as much of another culture as he could, no matter his personal preference in art, and decency, and taste?

6 Kodak 1306

7 kidsWindow 1318

9 Man-Window 1326

8 ManMetalShop-ED 1357

I took a rather circuitous route around town taking photographs, then wandered into Durbar Square. In one of the atavistic buildings just opposite from the Dattatraya Temple, I noticed a young woman sitting in a window with no glass in it, and the adjoining window decorated with lights, apparently for Dewali, Hinduism’s important and colorful Festival of Lights. The girl, apparently lost in thought, was resting her head on one arm that lay along a protective wooden bar in the window. She did not move the whole time I watched and photographed her. She did not appear to see me, or if she did, she did not care to bother about me or acknowledge me. I felt a desire to ask her a couple of questions. But that was out of the question. So I photographed her and wandered on toward the cultural oddity of two promiscuous elephants.

The photograph of the girl in the window is part of this week’s Monochrome Madness hosted by Leanne Cole’s marvelous site. You can join in or check out other photographers here.

Check out the Word a Week Photo challenge. This week’s theme is “frame.” See photos of others at this wonderful and interesting site: A Word in your ear 

22 comments

  1. So why don’t we get to see the elephants?
    This is a wonderful post. I caught the languid feeling, being there wandering the streets, photographing the things that speak of the culture giving a sense of place. I so long to go to Nepal, but I’m not sure I’ll ever again get Don up to any altitude 🙂
    Many wonderful photos. Love all the ones of the people in windows, and the one looking down on the market. Oh and the one with the flower garlands!
    Alison.
    PS First to comment again 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. Right…first again! Truth is I had so much to write, I thought I’d just stop before I wrote another thousand words. There’s always tomorrow. I loved Nepal. Have you not been? The elevation is not like Peru, no need for the coca leaf cure. Pokara, lower than Katmandu, is not that high at all. Take a hike 20 miles toward those mountains though, and you’re gonna get a nose bleed. And yeah, apparently, sitting in your window is a “thing” in Nepal, maybe it’s dark inside?

      Liked by 2 people

  2. loved the article and the photographs. hard to say which is my favourite – the cultural ambiguity of the kodak shop – love pictures like that – or the brilliance of the pagoda in the night market.
    the monochrome shot and the story of the silent and motionless girl is great too!
    thanks for the snapshots into kathmandu.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks so much. And “cultural ambiguity” are exactly the right words, aren’t they! I couldn’t stop staring at that building when I saw it, so odd, so wrong. I keep threatening to return to Nepal, but some how never do. The girl in the window haunts me.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It looks like a beautiful corner of the world – bad air and all. I particularly liked the composition of the photo with the mountains and the tip of the boat in the bottom.

    … but what does it say about me that I was disappointed not to see the promiscuous elephants? 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, it’s rather nice if you like to look at sheer beauty around every corner along every path. And can ignore…or rather, accept…the poor third-worldness. It is one of my favorite places. You can feel the spiritualness in the air. The promiscuous elephants…what that says about you is that you are not only human, but still alive!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh I envy you going there, although wouldn’t hack the air quality for more than an hour. It is somewhere that sounds romantic and exotic, just like Marrakech always has to me. You’ve also mentioned Timbuktu, real high on my bucket list, alongside Lalibela and the Namib.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Right, Marrakech. I’ve been to Morocco, but didn’t get down to Marrakech, a big hole in my To Do list. When my mother didn’t want me going somewhere with a friend, she used to say something like, “I don’t care if she lives in Timbuktu, you are not going there.” So going there has always been something I wanted to do. Lalibela?? Great name.

      Like

  6. Both your photos and your prose drew me in right away! I came over, having seen a comment in another blog, just to see what your site incorporated. It was a very lovely and happy visit! I feel like I could curl up in a char, while it’s snowing outside, and sit my the fireplace and just keep on reading (why didn’t you write 1000 more words?) 🙂

    Glad I stopped by.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great photos; I rather like the view you had at the Sunny Guest House. I would have found that totally acceptable unless you could have gotten an ocean front room…just kidding 🙂
    The antiquity and the history here is amazing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. And yeah, for the town, it was a pretty good view at Sunny…and for only $10. And clean. And only a few steps away from the center of things in town. And oddly enough, even though this whole area of the world is now some of the highest, you can find rocks with fossils of fish and other sea life, because millions of years ago and before India collided into Asia, this land was under the ocean.

      Like

    • Jeff, the second I saw the girl in the window, I started fumbling with my camera hoping she wouldn’t move. I would have liked to have talked with her. You just have to wonder what’s going on in her head. She’s looking into the square, so she could be looking at anything, or just staring into the void. And no, she did not appear to notice me. If she did see me, she made no notice, did not care. I felt…I don’t know…an odd feeling as I walked away. Also, it was the first trip with a new camera, my first digital, and I was unsure how to use it. Beginner’s luck.

      Like

  8. This post is beautiful and so are the photos. I can understand that the photo of the girl still haunts you. Superb.
    Your words bring the cultural diversity with respect and sensitivity of someone, who can see beyond his own references and share perceptions we can appreciate as well. Thanks.

    PS. by the way, I had to follow you again. I am at loss here. I thought I already followed you and cannot understand why I had to click follow once more. Sorry if you thought I had unfollowed you. Either it happened by accident when reading from my mobile or I am having to contact WP again. This happened before with many blogs I followed, after the introduction of a new notification system. .

    Like

  9. Thanks so much. This post was very odd for me because I merely meant to post the monochrome photo. Then I just started writing. And wouldn’t stop! I do love Nepal.
    PS: that “follow” again situation also happened to me with one blogger I had been following. My site appeared to not be following her blog, but I was. And when I clicked the “follow” button again, she got another notification that I was now following her. She thought it was just a WP “thing.” Who really knows what happens in cyber space, or why? Anyway, glad you’re still here!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s