Of Horror Houses and Cremation Sites

Most of my third day in Nepal was spent lazing in the hotel because my friend/tour guide wanted to finish some work. It was good though because I got to get some catnaps, before we went out in the afternoon. First stop was Buddha Air to get tickets to Pokhara. Turns out my friend was a frequent flyer in Buddha Air, and thus had accumulated enough air mileage that we paid only USD25 for a return trip, Kathmandu-Pokhara! Yet the price would have been US$200! How nice. Saved me having to go on a six-hour bus journey over mountains, and through cliffs, on buses in questionable mechanic condition. But that would have been exciting as well.
The flight lasted 30minutes, and we were only served water and candies. I’m told even in their longer flights, Buddha Air serves nothing more than peanuts! Talk about bad airline food! Peanuts, soda, water, candies—that’s the only choice you get on the Buddha Air menu. But at least if they reward their frequent flyers with free airtickets, then it’s worthy flying with Buddha Air.
With our super-discounted tickets in hand, we decided to go to Pashupatinath, which is one of the most famous Hindu temples in the world. It’s also the place where they cremate bodies, and I was told the whole burial ceremony is there for tourists to behold. I’m told of tourists who go so close, not caring about the grief of the mourners, and take extreme close-ups of the burning bodies. Well, I wasn’t about to do that. I only wanted to see, for an open air cremation is something you see only once in a life-time. (That is if you are not a Buddhist.)

Preparing the dead for the after-life.

Unfortunately, while we were still in the taxi, a heavy downpour came. Almost out of nowhere. We reached Pashupati while it was raining Hindu dogs and monkeys as though the gods were angry with me for something I don’t know. We took shelter somewhere outside, and when the rain relented a little bit, we decided to try our luck inside.
Now, I look like a Nepali, and my friend being a resident, has this card which grants him free access to all those lovely tourist sites. But I had to pay. Yet, looking like a Nepali, I could easily pass for one. Just walk through the gates, pretending like I’m a Nepali, and no one would stop me—for as long as I don’t open my mouth.
We did pass through the gates successfully, but then, the taxi driver had deposited us at the wrong gate. So we ended up heading into a place that was restricted. Only Hindus could enter this part of the temple. We were stopped. And my Nepali cover was exposed because while everyone was barefoot, we sauntered down the aisle with our rain-drenched sandals. That was the give-away. Now we had to go back round to the other side of the temple and get in through the right gate, which meant passing through more “Please Pay” counters.
And the ground was wet. There was still a drizzle. How could I enjoy anything in such weather! Better save my money for a sunny day! Further more, at this time of the day (almost 5 p.m.) we would be pointing our cameras towards the sun, and thus the photos wouldn’t look any good! What good is there then in going to a tourist site in which you can’t take photos?
It’s supposed to be the start of the monsoons, so not a good time to visit Nepal (as I would later sadly find out) but luckily, the monsoon isn’t in full bloom yet, so the trip is still enjoyable.
Well, we decided to come back another day to enjoy Pashupati.
We took a tempo down to Ratna Park, for I wanted to shop for a skirt (I think you’ve read about my escapades in the skirt hunt, about Nepalis not wearing anything but long dresses and trousers?) We went to Kathmandu Shopping Mall, and spent a greater part of an hour looking for a skirt to no avail.
But we stumbled upon a horror house. And in we went! I was so frightened, for I am claustrophobic, and the place was so dark. I was screaming “Let me get out! Let me get out!” even before the door closed. Well actually, the attendant was trying to close the door and I was pulling it back like some sort of tug-of-war. I wanted to get out! But my friend had my other hand and was pulling me into the darkness of the terrible house. He won. The door closed. I was locked up in there. And started our tour of a horror house.
There were some frightening moments, especially when my friend started to ask, “Where is the exit?” All along, I was laughing and frightened, that kind of fright you have while watching a horror movie. But now, I really got scared, and I thought we were lost inside this dark place. Being claustrophobic, that’s not really a good place to get lost in!
Well, we stumbled our way out, laughing so hard that our cheeks hurt. Thirty minutes later, we were still laughing and feeling the hurt in our cheeks. It was such kind of a horror house. Not frightening. Just for laughs. Certainly not like the Silliman University Haunted House, where I actually fainted because of fright.

And when we came out of the shopping mall, what do we see? The Mountains! The snow-capped Himalayan ranges! It’s something people travel from all over the world to see, and here we got a glimpse of it. Not too much, just a little, and it increased my eagerness to go to Pokhara. For they say that in Pokhara you get a clear view of the mountains, all year round. I couldn’t wait!

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