This next chapter is called “meditation and trekking retreat in Nepal and Bhutan”!

I hear you saying “whaaaaat????” Me too! Exclamations are appropriate here! Invited by friends while I was in Africa in December, how could I say no? So I said yes and here we are together for the next while. I added Thailand to the itinerary when I realized how “close” I would be, just a three hour flight away! Let’s grab opportunities where we can, shall we?!

Are either of these countries on your bucket list?

What kinds of things are you curious to learn about?

One of the pieces I love about international travel is the sound and culture salad, the mix of languages, accents, customs, foods, appearances, lifestyles, and expectations that surround you, especially in the airport. It’s fun to see all the destinations to which people are scurrying and leaves me wondering who they are, why they travel, and what experiences await them.

Today’s journey through the Bangkok BKK airport offered all the above. After finding my gate, and deciding not to fast as planned after hearing about the organizational mayhem at my destination airport, Kathmandu (KTM), I fueled up on curry with rice and mango with sticky rice. (If you haven’t had mango with sticky rice I highly recommend. I’ll include on the recipe page when I return.)

The other thing I love about international travel is meeting interesting people. Everyone has stories to tell so, while biding my time, I sat next to two monks from India dressed in their maroon and gold robes (are you seeing the trend of temples, monks, MEDITATION??? Yes, Madame Universe, I am paying attention). They were on their way to Taiwan. To the one who had entered the monastery at age 7, I asked what inspired him to be a monk? His answer was simple: it is a privilege to serve in the monastery. In his culture, it is considered an esteemed thing to be and do. He is the only monk in his family and his decision brought pride to the family. We waved our goodbyes as he set off for Taiwan.

Another traveler was just returning home after a month of volunteering with an elephant sanctuary called Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand ( I’m definitely looking into that. Have you ever dreamed of working with elephants? They are indeed magical creatures.

The clouds were spectacular flying into KTM

The flight to Kathmandu, Nepal provided spectacular views of the Himalayan foothills with their tan sandblasted ridge lines, slopes dotted with trees like stubble on a man’s face, misty mountain ranges seemingly formed by giants plowing furrows in the soil and filling the valleys with dry ice, what I called the Land of Rivers just off the Bay of Bengal because there were so many large rivers in a given area, rivers flaunting sandy beaches between the mountains, beautiful turquoise water as we headed over the Bay of Bengal. What a vast landscape Thailand has to offer!

It’s hard to get a great photo on land from a plane but look at all those squiggles! Each one was a water body. So much water, so little land. They are all coming from the Himalayas.

Did you know that Katmandu (KTM) is 81% Hindu population? There are temples everywhere. And with a population of 22 million that’s a lot of people.

Kathmandu, Nepal

I’m sorry for everything I said about Thailand drivers being creative. They’ve got nothing on Nepali drivers! Oy vey but it’s impressive watching how close they come to one another without incident.

I settled into my hotel then went exploring. KTM is not a beautiful city but rather one filled with blocky cement buildings in all conditions, electrical wires strung like spaghetti squash between poles and sagging across doorways, shopkeepers begging passersby to come in, rivers and canals filled with trash, and an energy of desperation and survival. Spread across many square miles, it is tightly packed. Mixed in are oodles of shops selling everything from cashmere and jewelry to serious trekking gear and Buddhist paraphernalia, and newer buildings like my hotel. The city is surrounded by gorgeous mountain ranges over which we watched a breathtaking sun set and every local I’ve met has been supremely kind.

This is home of the Buddha and Buddhism supplies and souvenirs are everywhere. I’m in heaven.
Construction site: they weee moving this pile of stone by filling a basket strapped to this man’s back.

Crossing the street is not for the faint of heart with traffic in all directions and fluid “lanes” meant everyone for themselves. While I stood waiting for a safe break in the action, a local stepped into the street like traffic didn’t exist and the cars simply made micro adjustments to accommodate him. When in Rome…

For our upcoming trek, I bought a small dry bag, a hat of yak wool, and mittens. My style is to travel light and I had not wanted to carry anything I didn’t need before I needed it. The local currency is rupees and converts about $1 USD to 100 NPR so things are ridiculously inexpensive.

After an amazing dinner of local cuisine like butter chicken, chicken Bengali, pad Thai, fried rice, clear soups, and more, we repacked our bags for several days of trekking. Day 1 tomorrow! Here we go!

Love, Wen

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