While in Nepal, I hired a guide named Indra to show me around Kathmandu Valley. Indra apologized that he wasn’t fluent in English. His economy of words resulted in some memorable and wise one liners.
“Every Boy Has Scooter.”
As we drove through Kathmandu’s crowded and crazy action-packed streets, Indra sighed and commented, “Every boy has scooter.” He wasn’t exaggerating. The scooter population in Kathmandu is about 700,000, with approximately 1.7 million people living in the Kathmandu Valley. I had a blast riding on the back of a scooter to and from Tranquility Spa in the Thamel district, where the massages are incredible, and incredibly inexpensive. I highly recommend it (both the spa and the scooter ride).
“Very Cheap, No Need.”
Kathmandu is a haven if you’re shopping for jewelry, pashminas, hiking gear, prayer wheels, singing bowls, statues of Hindu gods and goddesses and countless other trinkets. Thamel is a shopper’s paradise. More aggressive salespeople follow you, promising that what they’re selling is “very cheap, very cheap.” Indra summarized his shopping advice, and made the salespeople go away, with four little words: “Very cheap, no need.”
“All Gods, Same Same.”
Until 2006, Nepal was a constitutionally declared Hindu state. About 80 percent of its population is Hindu, and about 10 percent is Buddhist. Indra took me to see the palace of Nepal’s own living goddess, the Royal Kumari of Kathmandu. The Kumari — who has a sweet ride, pictured below — is believed to be the incarnation of the Hindu goddess Taleju or Durga. When the Kumari has her period, the goddess vacates her body. No one wants to be around PMS.
The three main gods of Hindu mythology are Vishnu (the Preserver), Brahma (the Creator) and Shiva (the Destroyer). They’re honored in the dozens of temples in Hanuman-dhoka Durbar Square, pictured below. Each god has a number of incarnations, along with a goddess-mate with her own incarnations. Parvati (shown below with Shiva), for example, is an incarnation of Shiva’s mate Shakti (the Mother of the World).
One of my favorite places in the Kathmandu Valley is the famous Buddhist temple and monastery Swayambhunath (literally the “place of the self-born”). It’s more commonly known as the Monkey Temple for its numerous furry inhabitants.
Buddha is believed to be the ninth incarnation of Vishnu. After dozens of questions from me about Buddhist and Hindu gods, Indra advised me that, when it comes down to it, “All gods same same.” They and their wise followers all share a common goal: MAY PEACE PREVAIL ON EARTH.