The long and winding road to Kathmandu

Trip Start Aug 10, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Shopping for thangka's

For those unaware, a thangka is a buddhist painting on cloth, most popular in Tibet and Bhutan. Generally the paintings depict a manifestation of buddha or one of the many boddhisattva's, the life of buddha or a mandala (oh, come on, you've got internet, just look it up, okay?). For some reason, the most beautiful thangka's I've seen until now weren't in buddhist countries, though were in hindu Nepal, but then again, I haven't yet been to Tibet. Maybe due to a large population of Tibetan refugees in Nepal? Try and steer clear though of the thangka shops in Thamel in Kathmandu as they tend to be of lesser quality and rather too expensive, as the salesperson has the expensive rent for his shop to recoup on each sale. Wenka and I made a young thangka salesman in Bhaktapur very happy, by buying a large part of his (brilliant) stock and therefore providing him and his family with enough to have him sing out a quarter year.

Now the problem was that Alone decided she wanted one as well as a souvenir for her trip through India and Nepal. Unfortunately time to buy one in Kathmandu was in short supply. Every minute outside of sightseeing and eating (well, sometimes even eating was sacrificed) was spent visiting shops in which I'd seen some good quality pieces. To make things more fun, Kathmandu on Wednesday and Thursday has two hours in which the power is shut down, and admiring a thangka by the light of a candle can be a somewhat limiting experience. The last four hours of her stay in Nepal were divided over visiting Swayambunath, the Monkey Temple, and speeding past thangka shops, deciding which one to buy, then panicking on not being able to pay by credit card, not being able to get money out of the ATMs (there are ATM's which only take VISA cards and not Cirrus), but with a little help from a friend and just another 10 minutes to go before leaving, Alone became the proud owner of a beautiful White Tara (you can look that one up as well, Wikipedia is great). And with that, I've found someone who's even more "last minute" than I am!
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