Saturday, November 11, 2006

Bandipur in Nepal

I left Kathmandu after two days for Bandipur. The Lonely Planet guide decribes Bandipur as a Newari village where time has literally stood still. I wanted to see old Nepal. The noise and buzz of Katmandhu, Amy and Brad, Helga and Johan, were pissing me off and I needed to escape (ummm these are not actual people I know, they are stereotypical American and European couples backpacking through the streets of Kathmandu and Pokhara).

Bandipur is roughly halfway to Pokhara. Pokhara is where the folks above most likely end their Nepal experience. I got off the Greenline bus at a butt-ugly town called Dumre. From there I joined a "jeep" with about two hundred people in it, or that is how it felt after the greedy driver packed the pick-up to no end. The trip to Bandipur took 45 minutes and was severely steep. The distance, 7kms. A little boy of no more than seven sitting next to me was puking his brains out. His grandpa, who was sitting across from us, asked me to hold him as he leaned over the the side. I did. Oh man.

My arrival in Bandipur did not come soon enough. But I soon forgot the 'jeep' ride. The place is truly a treasure. It was about 5pm on a Friday and the streets were full of people. The sound of children playing was like music to my ears. Kids everywhere and they were playing marbles and "hide and seek" too. When was the last time you saw children play for playing sake? Bet it has been a long while. Kids today are most likely tied to some electronic gadget while stuffing Doritos into their mouths. I could go for a couple of Doritos right now .... oh yeah I was talking about Bandipur.

I stayed in the most expensive hotel yet (in India or Nepal). Usd$20 for the night. The manager said right out "we are expensive" and they are by regional standards. The bathroom is outside of the room but the staff are all locals and spoil their guests to a level that is almost annoying. It was worth it though. The view of the Himalayas and the valley was magical and I did put the fact that it was restored and now owned by a Brit out of my mind for a while. The hotel has the best view of the Himalayas in Bandipur. And, as the day progresses the view changes. Amazing is an understatement.

I don't know how long Bandipur will stay real. As I settled into the hotel there was a buzz about a motorcycle rally that was going to end in Bandipur that night. Given that no-one owns anything above a 125cc bike, I was not excited. Rather I was amused. Seeing wanna-be bad-ass bikers roll into town on 'poopertjie' bikes was like watching Mr. Bean dubbed in Hindi on the local channel in Delhi. The scene was just funny.

Bikers aside, I really do hope that Bandipur is not screwed by developers. Let caucasia do all their screwing in Kathmandu and Pokhara. I know Nepal is poor and tourism is a veritable gold mine. But man, caucasia knows nothing more than the self-involved "hunter-gathererism" that will turn Bandipur into a Newari Disney world. Damn shame. I can envision Amy and Helga sipping green tea while shopping for local Saris and colourful beads for their hair which will be braded by dutiful Newari women. Brad and Johan (or the other way around since we all know how 'liberated' caucasia is) can of course challenge themselves with a mountain bike ride up the Himalayas or a bungee jump off a bridge that will have to be constructed for this purpose. All the craved adrenaline pumping "extreme" outdoor action and they can still make it back to the hotel for long ponderous discussions about "doing Bhutan and Tibet" next.

I spent a few hours just walking through the streets. On several occasions folks asked me where I was from. "But you have a Nepali face" was uttered several times. Yeah I am sure my genes walked through these mountains many centuries ago. Let me just say that the people of the sub-continent are among the most beautiful anywhere. Don't even get me started on the sisters. Sorry, oh why the hell should I be sorry? ... lotsa melanin rules.

I will treasure my memories of 'real' Bandipur. A simpler and more refined place I have not seen. It feels real and the people are genuine. Not veneered over and plastic like that piss hole called Portland .... ummmmm, well you know what I mean ... right Ms. Kirton?

Anyway, these two beautiful children followed me around the hotel most of the night. It was wonderful. The little one was energetic. She was learning to say some choice English words. In the picture she is saying "Namaste" (means greeting the divine inside of you) to me. Beautiful child. The boy was quiet but a joy all the same.

The whole experience made me want to make brown/black babies immediately ;) and still does. But I'm an old brother with foretold genetics that can cave by mid-sixty. Maybe Mooi will outlive me and ensure that my kids will have family from my side. Of course, I need to convince his ass that we are related .... :) and that is not going to be easy!

If Mooi won't act as a substitute pappy when I go to the big revolution in the sky there are always my homeboys Derek and Gugu (pictured here in my office at the Military Academy in 2005). I don't know though. Derek already has two of his own and may be too damn tired already. As for Gugs, well the brother is yet to settle down. I know all about the field Gugs, the bleachers, the parking lot and a couple of buses going by ;0) A sizeable score card and f-all to remember with fondness. Oh well, guess I will have to hit the gym and make sure I live long enough to see my hypothetical kids through grade school :)

Anyway, I ended the day just hypnotized by the view. The sky seemed more beautiful than anything I have seen recently. The colors faded in and out and by 10pm this soldier was about to crash. But before I did, I paid silent respect to the revolutionary Moaists in the hills who are committed to keeping Bandipur pure.


Anonymous said...

Hello Ridwan Laher,

I am pleased to see that you

have made it safely to Nepal. I

understand what you mean about the

children playing. There are many

things once seen that you don't

see anymore. You in a part of the

world that many people won't

get to see in person, so in this

way you are a step ahead of most

people. Be safe in your travels

my friend.

Andre' S.

Emma said...

Hi there,

Just a note to say thanks for this excellent (and humorous) blog. I've been thinking of visiting this area of Nepal and your blog sold me.


Ridwan said...

Emma you are making the right decision. You will absolutely love Bandipur.

I cannot recommend a place more than Bandipur, anywhere.

If I could do it over again I would have stayed three or more days.

There is so much to see and to reflect on.

The views early in the morning when the clouds are low and the Himalayas clear is nothing short of divine.

Please let me know about your experiences in Bandipur and Nepal (I will of course also read your blog).

And thanks for your kind words about the blog and my stupid humour :0)

Best wishes and travel safe.