A day in Bhaktapur, Nepal with a motorcycle tour guide

A day in Bhaktapur, Nepal with a motorcycle tour guide

I’m recalling my past travels in Nepal last 2014. It is such a beautiful country, I wish I can go back someday.

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After a few days in Kathmandu city, I decided to venture out and head to Bhaktapur. I found an American couchsurfer host and despite being 60, her radiance and outlook in life makes her aura younger.. I might be flattering her so much because I’m surfing :)) but really she’s awesome!

She recommended that I go around and hire her adopted Nepali grandson to tour around so that’s what I did one day. We started very early, around 6AM..

Although we could have went out of the house of my couchsurfing host at 5:30AM, I just had a hard time going out of bed coz I’m not a morning person. On the other hand, Bimal, my tour guide, was very prompt.

It was chilly, around 10 degree, and as we go up the mountain using Bimal’s bike, we stopped at a great spot overseeing the Himalayas to take a picture of the sun rise.

It was beautiful.


sunrise in Nepal


And seeing beautiful places has just started.. After a brief tea stop, we went on top of a hill in Nagarkot. The sun was already up and the Himalayas looks sparkly stunning.. the top of the world is at sight.. and I said to myself how lovely is your dwelling place dear God.


this grasya is in nepal


Then after a while, we descent to see the surrounding hills , rice terraces, cool breeze. It was picture perfect that we periodically stop so I can take a pictures..  I’m not a good photographer though but hope you like the picture


nepal


Then we went temple hopping.

Nepal, a country between two giants India and China, has an interesting religious culture.. For example, my Hindu tour guide performed Buddhist traditions when we went to a Buddhist temple.. so despite the difference, I’m glad to observe that religious tolerance is very much apparent.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


Riding a motorcycle instead of going on group tours made my trip flexible. We stop whenever I want to take pictures and we went on roads not passable to regular vans. For those who wants to avail of motorcycle tours, I paid 1000 nepali rupeess plus entrance fees plus lunch to the tour guide. If you know other cheaper options, let me know though ^_^

For those who own bikes, you may want to check out best metzeler motorcycle tires at bikebandit.com

How to avoid travel mishaps

How to avoid travel mishaps

This is an update on how to deal with challenging events when you are travelling. I travel solo most of the times and have encountered all the scenarios below.. but it doesn’t mean I won’t travel again despite all those misfortunes.. the world is too beautiful not to see before our mortal time is up and these setbacks should not discourage us from travelling.

At least we know these can happen, so we can all be prepared.

Don’t get caught in the delusion that travellers are always happy and having a fun travelling life.. that will make some of the readers get envious instead of being inspired. Well reality check, it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. But some people chose this as a way of life, together with the mishaps that goes with it.

I don’t have the control of your feelings after you read this.. But I do hope it will help you be ready and do necessary steps just in case unfortunate incidents happen to you while travelling:

0. If you arrive in a place that is currently undergoing floods and storms.. I strongly advise you to store lots of food and don’t go out until the storm has subsided. If you feel down because you can’t enjoy the holidays, you can always create ways to have fun indoors. Bored from staying indoors? Join volunteering and aid relief groups, that will give meaning to your holidays.. that’s an extra adventure too. Here’s a video of me and other volunteers trap in a far flung village.. looks exciting ya?




1. If you lost or broke a stuff during travel… learn how not to be too upset about it. I lost a few things during my travels including almost loosing a toenail when I was travelling solo in Mindanao. But while I travel, I have become more and more unattached to stuffs.. I buy inexpensive phones, buy dress in bargain stores.. if I lost them then it doesn’t hurt too much… The downside is some cheap stuff gets easily broken.. Oh what about broken hearts? Wait, I don’t know how to deal with that too. Go ask other experts xD

2. If you get ill while travelling, oh dear, take all measures not to get ill… Get appropriate Hepa shots if you love eating at local shops, rabies shots if you’ll be dealing with crazy dogs while walking around, and mosquito repellents if you want to avoid dengue. Although even if you are traveling in style and being careful, sometimes you really can’t avoid getting sick, so make sure you have enough medicine emergency supplies.. and a doctor or nurse friend on your facebook account just in case you need advise and no one is around to extend a helping hand.. and if you really got ill, please make sure you have travel insurance so you don’t have to pay huge medical bills.

3. And in case you get into an accident, make sure that travel insurance get it’s worth. This is for people with a birthmark on their butt. That’s a way of saying that you’re prone to mishaps.. I don’t have a birthmark on my butt but I’m really prone to misadventures because I’m special. Yeah you can sing – trouble, trouble, trouble.

This makes me think – Is someone voodooing me?


voodoo doll


4. If your ATM card is not working, have backup ATM/Debit/Credit Cards. Better yet, make sure you have enough money ready in your wallet. I really don’t recommend getting a credit card specially if you have an addiction to buying and don’t know how to manage your expenses.. But if one of your ATM is not accepted in a country, then you can try another ATM/Debit/Credit card… if all else fails, make sure you have money on your phone so you can call someone in an emergency. To have a rule of thumb, as much as possible, don’t withdraw your money from an ATM if the country you are in doesn’t have a good reputation to these kinds of transactions.

5. Speaking of money, if you are travelling in Myanmar/Burma, have ready crisp dollar bills.. I’m not sure about the status now but the last time I went, people do not accept dollars that are folded or old..

6. If you encounter harassment on the road.. learn the basics of self defence, or carry self defence tool such as pepper spray. Be sensitive with the culture and don’t go around wearing only a bra and miniskirt in most parts of India and other conservative countries because you might be inviting rape in the eyes of the men.. Good thing I never really experience being harassed to the point of getting raped when I was there, just men looking at the small mammary glands even if I make all the effort to hide it. I’m sure I disappointed them.

7. If your bus or boat gets stranded in the middle of nowhere.. have emergency snacks and water so you can munch on something. This was my smart move when I was travelling solo in Laos. The bus broke down that left us stranded for a very long time… The bus is expected to arrive in Vientiane at early morning and its already lunch time and we’re still on the road! Good thing I brought snacks with me and i was able to take one bite and one gulp every hour.. and was still able to share some to the kid in front of me..


Stranded in Laos


8. If your footwear got broken.. well don’t buy cheap ones specially if you are walking a lot. It happened to me when I was walking along a sleepy posh village in Chiang Mai, Thailand and suddenly, voila! the pretty pink sandals I bought in Hong Kong broke.. and like a stroke of luck (feel the hint of sarcasm?), there was no one else along the road and I don’t know where I am. I walked barefoot for like 10 minutes until I saw a human being. Armed with my basic Thai, I asked for directions on how to go back so I can get another footwear from the house I was staying in. Yeah that’s embarrassing.. it’s okay, they don’t know me there anyway.

9. If you got lost.. make sure you know the number of your hostel/guesthouse/hotel. Buy a local sim so it will be cheaper to call people. Getting lost almost always happen if you are new to a place. It is safe to wander with new found friends but if you’re a true blooded soloista like me sometimes, make sure the place you are exploring is safe. I met a Japanese young lady in Melacca Malaysia almost bursting with tears as she struggle with her English telling me she is lost and don’t even have a map or number of her hotel. It’s a good thing that people in my hostel are very kind to assist her so she can safely go back.

10. If you don’t have clean clothes because there is no time to wash or get changed… at least have the effort to smell good. I have seen lots of travellers wearing the same clothes in 2 or 3 consecutive days because travel schedule is hectic and simply there is no time to wash or change… It’s okay to wear the same clothing but please take pity on your travel companions and make an effort to smell nice.

When I was travelling nonstop from Phonasavan Laos to Chiang Mai Thailand I also wear the same clothes in 2 consecutive days and by the time I was in Non Khai, I was really already filthy.. imagine the horror in my eyes when I boarded a van and it was full of good smelling newly bathe handsome Filipinos!!!

So folks, please be ready when you encounter such mishaps. Currently I’m taking a break from travelling, which means taking a break from collecting misadventures.. so people who love me can breathe..

For those embarking on a new adventure, kindly bookmark this. If you think this won’t happen to you and it did, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you. ^_^

Tourism and Community Development: Showcasing the richness of the poor

Tourism and Community Development: Showcasing the richness of the poor

For other people, there’s nothing special in places that are far from everything. No skyscrapers, no malls or fancy restaurants nearby.. if you’re lucky, no cellphone or internet signal too. Others may think that locals who live in very rural areas are poor. But for me, these people are lucky they are living in a hidden paradise. That’s what I observe during my travels around Asia.

There’s no shopping malls, but most people in the remote areas grow their food so they don’t need to buy.. And even in places that have no farm, cost of living is very low. I usually spend $10/day for myself, but in a far flung province in Nepal, $10 will let you feed yourself, 7 kids and the kitchen lady.. and I’m not even required to contribute that much.

Despite not living in condominiums or posh houses, members of communities are even generous enough to share what they have.. even to strangers. Like what I experience during Fiestas in the Philippines.

Kids from the tribes may not be exposed to ballet school or proper gymnastics, so it makes them very creative.


ballerina


These local communities may not have skyscrapers, sky trains, nor fast cars; but they have natural springs, mountains full of greens and the sky has birds that freely fly.


birds in Nepal
 

They may not have cute dogs or cats as pets, coz they have exotic animals already roaming in the house. Below is a picture of a Tuko, a big lizard, in my ancestor’s house in the far flung province of Antique, Philippines.


welcome


 

Whenever I travel, I love to appreciate the differences of religion, language and tradition of a place.. For me, they are the spices that make’s a country beautiful. This is a traditional Tiboli tribal dinner down south of the Philippines.



 

 

And you think because the country is poorer than yours, people will take all your wordly possessions once you visit? My friend even gave me Vietnamese coffee when I visited her in Vietnam. She even accompanied me to her favourite beauty salon.. Maybe I’m just lucky.

 

 


beauty salon in Vietnam


 

 

Yes there are struggles. But the strength of their soul inspires me. Below is a picture of me with a tribe girl while people are crossing the flood in the background in the Thailand border.


 

 

I remember my friend from Myanmar, whom I haven’t seen in 5 years, cried tears of joy when I get to visit her country. I also felt guilty that I have seen most of her country while she was stuck in her job.. I wish locals will have the chance to travel in their own country too..


grasya in motorcycle


 

That is why I support additional sources of income like homestays so travelers will have the chance to visit beautiful places and directly contribute to grassroot families too.. and probably learn a thing or two. This is taken while celebrating Christmas in India.




I’m not really a tourist that travel just for leisure. I travel to also connect with locals in the community. It is because of them that a place has become beautiful anyway.

Book Review: Progressive Utilization Theory: Prout – An Economic Solution to Poverty in The Third World

PROUT is characterized as a model of social development… which advocates a ‘small is beautiful’ approach to society.

I saw this book about PROUT when I was in a remote town called Hetauda, Nepal. I was living with kids in a children’s home that is also in the same location of their school. Living together means sleeping and eating with these cuties. They meditate in their own way, I pray the rosary.  We watch films, learn e-tutorials, and play together in my laptop or with the computer tablet. So I will really need to go to the salon when I get home because I might share their lice too!

I observed the Children’s Home is almost self sustainable.. The kids from abled families in town enroll in this school, and thus in turn provide funds for the Children’s home. Besides the cost of living is priceless, for $10 dollars a day, I am able to contribute feeding 7 kids including me and the kitchen helper already… and the good news is, I am not even required to donate money! So I can save funds to travel further.. but I’m not that thick face ya know ;D

Although the head of the school and children’s home says funds are still not enough, and that is the reason why they have donors coming from Italy. I do hope they and all other small communities all over the world, can be fully self sustainable in the future.. I would imagine people from economically rich background visit here not to donate money but to learn their way of sustainable living instead..

But of course there goes a crack in my head again ;D


ananda marga school in hetauda, nepal


The school and children’s home needs vast improvement though, specially in the way children are being raised.. I encourage volunteers to visit that place in Hetauda too. If you are interested to volunteer, let me know so I can introduce you to them. I’m doing this to monitor if this article is effective.

So I was immersed in an environment where PROUT is being implemented. Here are excerpts of the book that you might find interesting:

“In America, many had called me Dr Doom. In India, people called me Dr Hope. But I am still the same old Ravi Batra. I used to pray to my Father to make me “nothing”. That is what I now am at heart – nothing – but my Father is everything.”

“Humanity is said to have made tremendous progress today because life seems so much more comfortable these days than it was a few centuries ago. All this to Sarkar, is not progress. To be sure, it has resulted in a great change in the mode of living, but he denies this to be progress because most scientific discoveries have created problems which were non existent before.”

“Faster travel today has increased the risk of accident, industrialization has resulted in environmental pollution and cancer and other diseases unheard of in the past; modern medicine quickly cures the malady but generates side effects requiring further treatment.”

“Even in the intellectual sphere, there is much available to keep the mind occupied, but people today suffer from emotional problems and neuroses that did not afflict them before.”

“Indeed, Sarkar goes as far as saying that progress in the intellectual and physical sense is impossible unless there occurs a spiritual advance, at the same time.”

PROUT model is similar to the Economy of Communion from the Focolare Movement, an international organization that promotes unity and universal brotherhood. Ideas like this are worth spreading.. who knows it can be the key to Pandora’s box leading to the creation of Heaven here on Earth.

So no need to wait to Die so you can go to Heaven ya? We can already have it here on Earth.

Related Links:

About the Author: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ravi_Batra
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_Utilization_Theory

Book Review: Karma Cola by Gita Mehta

This book is kinda cynical… which makes it a bit interesting. It can be a product of the author’s mind, but it seems as if she’s recounting real facts.

During my travels around Nepal or India, I encounter hippie and barefoot travelers whose traveling to these areas in search of spiritual or any kind of freedom.. or are they just being victims of gullibility and will do anything for a crack or a weed?

These kinds of people are very interesting to observe.. Not that I’m interested in their way of living.. I’m a budget traveler so a sort of a hippie but I’m still taking care of my hygiene when I travel.. and I comb and shampoo my hair.. I’m not saying that they are bad guys, I made casual chitchat with them and they are okay to talk to, so I’m not stereotyping everyone here.. I’m just curious.

And I do wonder why they chose that kind of life as compare to the norm. Here are excerpts of the book talking about most of these people, and more:

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“In recognition of the difficulties of remaining intact in Asia, most embassies have, over the last three or four years, acquired doctors or psychiatrists or often both, whose only function is to deal with the casualties of the great pilgrimage. For a month, I tried to meet an embassy doctor, but each rendezvous was canceled as the doctor was urgently required to accompany another casualty back to the mother country. In four weeks the doctor had flown between Europe and India a dozen times. He had been attached to the Delhi embassy for barely a month, but in that short time his feelings for those he accompanied, diseased, suffering from malnutrition, or trapped in inarticulate nightmare, had gone from sympathy to contempt to fear.”

“They are scum. What is the point of taking them back where they can infect other people with their lies and their dirty habits? I sometimes wonder why we dont let them die here in India where it doesn’t matter.”

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“They believed that Jesus Christ during his absence from the Bible between the ages of twelve and thirty, was in fact traveling in India. In India, Jesus traveled with a guru who taught him about mysticism, fasting and levitation. The archaeologists argue that these 16 years of training enabled Christ to spend 40 days in the wilderness without food or drink. Also thru yoga control, Christ was able to remain in tomb for 3 days and nights after his crucifixion.

The archaeologists are convinced that Jesus levitated his way back to India, and spent the last years of his life in the Himalayas.

The archaeologists are now scanning thru the mountains around the vile of Kashmir looking for the Jewish tomb.”

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“We discovered these places, Afghanistan, Nepal, Goa. Where we arrived everybody loved us. Now the whole damn world is on a trail we opened up, and the same people who loved us **** hate us.. there’s too many of them.. they are not in the same class as those of us who got here first.”

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“Exploration appears to be a hazardous undertaking.. Columbus discovered America looking for India. The Beatles discovered India escaping America.”

Do you want to read the book online? Here’s my link:



karma cola