Greetings, from Sri Lanka ! I am currently in the capitol city of Colombo, biding my time at a taphouse before my train leaves for the south. I know, a taphouse, how western of me.. but I did pass on the TGI Fridays so at least give me credit for that. I want to share a few more Nepali experiences before delving into the bustling, surprisingly modernized culture that exists in Sri Lanka.
So, after returning from my trek and mostly ridding the sweaty smell of success from myself, I spent a few days in Pokhara before going back to the village. These days in Pokhara consisted of mostly eating and drinking as well as a somewhat exuberant amount of relaxation. Seriously tough times. But hey, after enduring 9 days of trekking I allowed myself to embrace it. I shared these days with my trekking team, as well as a British friend Rachel (also a volunteer), and a new Swedish friend Emil. Emil had just arrived in Nepal from India, with the scam story of all scam stories. Between that, and my recent Jet Airways experience, I have no intention of ever traveling to India alone.
The highlight of these days was most definitely our encounter with a new friend. On our first night back from trekking, despite suffering from a high level of exhaustion, Jamie, Chanelle, Emil, and I decided to celebrate with some drinks at Busy Bee. Busy Bee is THE bar of pokhara, Live music, large crowds, strong drinks, and lots of fun. This particular night, Jamie decided to go after the gin with an appetite I didn’t know she had. I guess it was time for her to make up an entire month of sobriety in Jopati (her small Kathmandu neighborhood where it is not possible for women to drink). Anyway, let’s just say I would party with this girl any day. Well, one encounter leads to another and we suddenly find Jamie introducing us to her new Nepali friend Pradeep. Pradeep is a middle aged man, out celebrating a successful work week with his colleagues. This guy was happy, friendly, fun, and genuine. He was immediately our friend and we joined him for another round of drinks. Pradeep tells us that he is the general manager at the Fishtail Lodge in Pokhara, the city’s most luxurious and historic accommodation. As the night is winding down, he insists that we join him at his hotel tomorrow for a cocktail hour. The next night, after much debate if we should go or not, we do indeed show up. Only 2 hours late. At first it appears that we have missed Pradeep, so we settle in at the bar prepared to indulge on one of Pokhara’s pricier cocktails. Moments later, Pradeep shows up and we are instantly VIP guests. Wow. What is happening?? Well we have a few cocktails and share good conversation with Pradeep and his right hand man. During the conversation it is revealed that the lodge is in fact owned by the Nepali royal family and is now in a trust. About ten years ago, almost the entire Nepali Royal family was massacred by a loony nephew. Hearing this, I was fascinated by the history of the Royal family and began asking several curious questions. Pradeep changed subjects and it appeared this was not something he enjoyed talking about. After drinks, we were taken on a tour of the grounds by the two men. We even saw the rooms where Prince Charles and several Kings have stayed!
Now, the point- While Pradeep is busy sharing his love for the property with my friends, the right hand man fills me in on a little secret. “You know, Pradeep is royalty, right?” Um, no, of course I don’t know this. SERIOUSLY?!! “His Uncle was the last King of Nepal and his Father was a military commander” UM ROYALTY?!! Are you kidding?!!! Why did I wear my flip flops and yesterday’s t-shirt for this encounter? Wow. Anyway, I could tell Pradeep had not wanted to disclose this information during our cocktail conversations so I kept my mouth shut for the remainder of the tour. After Pradeep’s driver returned us to our lowly guesthouse (Pradeep did offer a free night stay for us, I felt unworthy), I immediately blurted out this information to my friends. Wow, we had just enjoyed cocktails with one of the few remaining members of the Royal family of Nepal. After an immediate google search, we discovered he was a member of the Rana dynasty. This was the last family in power before a democracy was established. So surreal. Anyways, Pradeep (or more commonly known Tiger, as he blushingly admitted to us) invited us back for lunch and cocktails by the pool the next day. He was far too kind and hospitable to us grungy backpackers. Anyway, we enjoyed a few days of fun with Tiger and his colleagues. I was even invited to meet him at Annapurna, Kathmandu’s luxury hotel, for a farewell cocktail. A pretty remarkable experience, Tiger still isn’t even aware that we know his secret. What a humble guy. I hope I will cross paths with this generous man again someday!
Okay, lastly, I spent four days back at my village home. Honestly, after week one did you ever imagine that I would willingly return to this place?? I know, crazy, but I had really missed it. I returned for the Dasai festival. Nepal’s biggest holiday. Children and government employees are given 15 days off during this time and much of the country is closed during celebrations. There are several festivities, but specifically I went for the goat sacrifice and Tikka. On the 12th day a goat is sacrificed to the Gods by each family. Although I did not get to witness the beheading, I did get to experience various body parts in my food for the next several days. I think I accurately identified- tongue, vertebrae, liver, and fatty tissue. I was not successful in eating all parts, but I did try. The next day we celebrated ‘Tikka’. A tikka is the red dot commonly worn by married women on their forehead. On this day, everybody gets tikkas. The tikkas (consisting of dry rice, dyed red) are ceremoniously placed on children’s foreheads by the elder family members. They are also given a type of blessing with good wishes for the future. Delicious sweets and a small sum of money are also provided. After celebrating within your immediate family, the Hindu version of ‘trick or treating’ begins. Family members, young and old, travel eagerly around the village visiting the homes of their friends and family. At each house they are blessed with more tikkas (I never knew so much rice could fit on one person’s face), about 20 rupees (more or less, depending on your relationship to the family), and usually a snack of sweet bread. At the end of the day the children return and anxiously count their earnings from the day. They also have a forehead covered completely by rice. Such a fun day to get to be a part of! The next day I said goodbye to Auma and Baba, as well as the rest of my village friends, so sad!! I will miss them, but I have promised to be back one day.
Well, thats all for Nepal. I am in love with this country and everyday I am gone I miss it more! I highly suggest you all take advantage of any opportunity you have to visit this beautiful place. See you tomorrow, from the beach!