Saturday, April 24, 2010
Today we went to the "shopping" part of Nepal. Shawn rode on the back of Bo's motorcycle and I rode on the back of Summer's scooter. The video shows you the streets of Nepal complete with the river where everyone throws their trash. I wish that you could smell it! There were people and cows everywhere while we shopped. And all of the shops have pretty much the same thing so if you don't like the price at one shop, you can go to another. The part of Nepal that we were in is called Thamel. In some of the shops we went into, we got to see the people making the things right there. We saw people making shirts, scarfs, necklaces, wood carvings, and stone carvings. It was really neat to see how everything is made. The other interesting thing is that everyone spits here all of the time. Since it is so dirty and polluted, people just spit out the grime whenever they feel like it: on the street, in the stores, on people's scooter...everywhere. Also, shop owners throw water out of their shops a lot in order to keep it from getting so dusty. So, you have to be careful everywhere you walk!
Thursday, April 22, 2010
We spent the day in Summer's part of Kathmandu today: Swayambu. Swayambu is mostly buddhist and in the center of the town is a giant hill full of buddhist idols. There are golden buddhas, prayers wheels (the more you turn, the better karma or good luck you will have), stupas (a place where buddhists worship), candles to light (again for good karma), prayer flags, and people selling birds to release (the more you release, the better your karma....but before you relase them all, Audrey, know that they are trained to fly back to the cage after being released.) As we were hiking up the mountain, I was holding a banana for Sophie. Before I knew what was happening, a large monkey jumped out of a tree onto my shoulder, stole the banana, and ran away to eat it. For a second no one said anything because we were too shocked...then we all laughed! Once we got to the top, we got to see views of Kathmandu. Kathmandu is called the gateway to the Himalayas. The Himalayas are a mountain range (like the Rocky Mountains) and has the highest mountain in the world...Mount Everest. You would think that since we are right here at the bottom of Mount Everest that we could see it since it is so big. We can't. There is too much pollution and dust here in the sky so the mountains are hidden. We did enjoy seeing all of the views though!
After a few days in Bangkok, we hopped on an airplane and flew to the country of Nepal to see our good friend Summer and her family. We were so excited when we got off of the airplane and there she was (we haven't seen her in 3 years). Nepal is a small country in Asia that is directly above India (India is also to the east and west of Nepal) and directly below Tibet (now part of China). Summer and her husband Bo and their kids are here helping the Tibetan people in Nepal know about Jesus. When we got her car at the airport we immediately realized that Nepal is like no other country we have ever been to. Leaving the airport, we drove down the dusty streets of Kathmandu (the capital of Nepal) with people, motorbikes, trucks, cars, cows (they are sacred here so they can just walk through the county...if you hit one with your car, you will go to jail for 15 years), and lots and lots of trash. There are no garbage trucks here to take your trash away so people just throw their trash in the creeks and rivers. Everyone honks and drives like crazy. At her house we got to meet her 3 year old (Sophie) and 1 year old (Izzy) and cook out Nepali style (we had to use leaves to start the grill fire.) We also learned that you cannot have power all of the time here. So if you want to have lights, TV, video games, fans, etc., you can only have them at certain times! When the lights went out, we just did everything in the dark!
Buddhism is the main religion in Thailand. Upon arrival, Shawn and I were told about 7 Buddhas that we just HAD to see. Because of the riots though we were not able to go to many places. We did make it to the reclining buddha though. We were told that it is the largest reclining Buddha in Thailand (which tells me that there are bigger buddhas in Thailand and bigger reclining buddhas elsewhere). It is 46 meters long and 15 meters tall and it is BIG! What Pho is the temple that this buddha is in and there are over 1000 buddhas there. It was quite crazy. I have never seen so many buddhas in my life. In China they believe that rubbing the buddha's belly will bring them good luck. They do not do that in Thailand but I rubbed his toe just in case. To enter the temple, everyone had to take off their shoes. We also went to the Grand Palace which has all of the past kings and queens jewels and crowns. Sadly, it was closed.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
We got off the Orient Express in Bangkok, Thailand. Unfortunately there are riots going on here so we can't do everything that we wanted to. Right now a group of people called the red shirts are protesting the government of Thailand. Another group of people wearing yellow (the color of Thailand's King Rama 9) are protesting the protesters...so there is a lot of craziness going on here. The government said that they will not give in to the demands of the red shirts and the king is sick in the hospital, so things may be crazy for a while! While we were taking the sky train to the weekend markets we saw and heard the protesters...YIKES! We did get to take a dinner cruise on the river though so we saw the sights of Bangkok at night!
Sunday, April 18, 2010
While we were in southern Thailand, the festival of Songkran or Thai New Year was going on. This is a multi-day event to celebrate the New Year based on the southeast Asian calendar. Water is thrown during this festival traditionally to symbolize cleaning and renewal and to show respect. Now it is done mostly for fun and big buckets or water guns are used. It is particulary nice to throw water since this is the hottest time of year in Thailand (the temparatures can get above 100 degrees!) A chalk paste is also rubbed on faces during this time as a blessing. Shawn and I were both blessed but did not get water dumped on us (I was kind of hoping to though!)
Saturday, April 17, 2010
I have been so excited to see this rail bridge for a while, though I knew nothing about it. Our last day on the Orient Express, we got to get off of the train and watch it cross the Bridge on the River Kwai. It was beautiful. We then boarded a boat a rode down the river while a local historian told us about the bridge. It is part of a railway that connected Thailand to Burma (officially called the Union of Myanmar) that was built by the Japanese in World War 2. Japan had control of both of these countries at the time and needed to be able to get goods and weapons back and forth so they built the railway. They used prisoners of war to build it and many of them died due to horrible working conditions during the process. The original bridge was wooden and was bombed by the U.S. during the war. The Japanese then rebuilt a steel bridge that was also bombed. The steel bridge was reconstructed after the bombing and that is what we see today. We also visited the cemetary where all of the men were buried who worked on building the railway.
While on the Orient Express, we rode through the country of Malaysia. We went through Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur, then on to a town called Butterworth. We were able to get off here and take a ferry over to the island of Penang. We rode a trishaw through the town of Georgetown and it was great fun! Malaysia looks a but like Bali with its rice fields. It also is known for its palm plantations (they make palm oil) and rubber tree plantations.
My new favorite adventure in life (other than the SAINTS winning the Superbowl) is the Orient Express. We boarded this train in Singapore for a 2 night/3 day journey to Bangkok. The train was absolutely wonderful. Shawn and I had our own private bathroom and cabin that looked like a sitting room during that day and at night it was changed into a sleeping room with bunk beds! Breakfast was served to us in our cabin on a silver tray and lunch and dinner were in the fancy dining car. After dinner, we were able to go to the piano bar car to listen (and sing along) to the piano player. At the back of the train was the observation car where you could watch the countryside fly by. It was a magical experience that we will never forget!