As we flew towards Kathmandu, the amazing sight of the Himalayas welcomed us. I couldn't quite believe my eyes as they reached as far as the eye could see from my seat on the plane. I knew right then and there that Nepal was absolutely going to be a once in a lifetime experience.
Nothing could have prepared me for the overwhelming rush of such a mixture of emotions after stepping out of the airport, however. Already I can see that Nepal is such a very beautiful country, but the devastation from last year's earthquake is very apparent. The swarms of locals who have now been left homeless are everywhere you look, and it is especially heartbreaking to see children roaming around on their own; desperate for food and shelter.
Our first nights accommodation was booked in the ancient Newar kingdom of Bhaktapur. Bhaktapur was actually the capital of Nepal during the great 'Malla Kingdom' in the 15th century, so you can just imagine the history and amazing sights to be seen here. You need to show your passport and pay an entry fee because the village is a heritage site.
Our taxi driver (for some reason) dropped us off a good thirty minute walk away from our hotel (he told us it was two minutes). So here Mum and I are, walking through Bhaktapur with our suitcases and all our gear, in the heat, with locals following us, already wanting to offer their services as a tour guide or to sell us their wares. It was a little embarrassing, to say the least.
After we checked in to our hotel- The Peacock Guest House (who, mind you is run by a beautiful couple who are very welcoming and hospitable), we decided to go for a wander. We didn't quite realise how big Bhaktapur is, and we seriously could have walked for days on end around the village. Immediately upon stepping out into the street, we had locals wanting to sell us their handcrafted wares (woven pouches, crystals and jewellery, Nepalese tea). As we walked around it was so very tempting to just buy from every stall we came across, but we very quickly realised that we would then have everyone wanting to sell us their stuff if we went crazy on the first day shopping. Each and every stall (hundreds!) has amazingly beautiful wares!
It was amusing seeing the goats and chickens wandering around everywhere, and watching the children playing such simple games. On the opposite end if the scale though, seeing the children begging for money and food just broke my heart. Two little boys, no more than seven or eight years old started talking with us, and ended up walking around with us for about an hour, and I just wanted to cry and hug them. He was telling me how he comes by bus into Bhaktapur sometimes to sell books for food, and how he wanted us to buy a book from him today, because tomorrow was his day to go to school. As we walked on further, he was asking us to please buy him an ice cream, and even though I so desperately wanted to, we had already been told that this wasn't the right thing to do.
As the sun went down in Bhaktapur, we were told that the power was due to go out very soon for around 6 hours, and so we decided we should go and get something to eat. We went to a restaurant on the corner near where we are staying and it was just a little bit of a culture shock. The power went out about thirty minutes after we arrived and so we had dinner by candlelight. We noticed that the napkins they had on the table were cut in half (obviously so they could save on money), which was something that made me feel sad again. We ordered some traditional Newari food, and while it actually tasted pretty good, I couldn't get the image out of my mind of how food was scattered out in the sun throughout the village and how little the locals had in regards to keeping things hygienic, and so it did put me off a little.
Our first day here most definitely had me feeling some emotions that really tugged at my heart strings, and it has really opened my eyes to just how very lucky we have it- in so many ways. Not only am I blessed in how I am able to live my life, but I am so grateful that my children do not have to suffer in this way. I already felt so very blessed and grateful for the life I have been given, but now, even more so. It really puts everything in perspective.