Stories, Questions, and Mysteries

Stories, Questions, and Mysteries

Friday, 24 January 2014

Durbar Square Mk II

In a city build inside a mountain perimeter on what used to be a lake, now unstable and waiting for the big earthquake, where roads and streets struggle to get names is not easy. I have not yet chanced a taxi and have generously been given lifts by my hosts and the neighbours. Crossing roads in the Asian countries I have visited is probably worth a book in in itself. Mercifully I have survived the two wheelers whom a Tibetan neighbour describes as warding off fear of instant death should their feet touch the ground.
And there are the wires. Some of which have caught passing pedestrians and one of which was caught by a motorist and dragged down nearby posts.
My second trip to Durbar Square involved more backstreet interesting routs than the first. The whole Patan area around the Square is notable for artists of all kinds. Little shop after little shop, dark inside with a dirty window on to a laneway is crammed with religious or cultural or just superstitious pieces. Many are of great beauty and most wonderfully crafted. The two below are a couple studying at university and doing process work in their spare time.

The museum is wonderfully laid out and full of good examples and simple explanations of Buddhist and Hindu theognies. 
The wooden structure of older buildings incorporates jutting crossed beams resting on lintels supported by one or more commonly two carved columns. As the people of Delphi learned to build with stone to withstand earthquake so did the Nepali people using wood.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Home and abroard under the Kathmandu skies.

Yesterday Sunday Jan 19th was a day of dual focus. Maya my hostess Kate’s daughter had a party for her 8th birthday. And her father Daeng, my Thai host spent quite a bit of time surveying reports of the Bangkok Demonstrations. At a much more pedestrian level I went off for my third visit to Durbar Square in Patan.
Kate spent days preparing for the onslaught of near 8 year olds, expats and locals who were friends of Maya. The amount of excitement was matched by the variety and colour of all kinds of cup cakes, fairy bread and even that old Nepali dish, Pavlova.  The guests left with packages of goodies like those handed to first class airline passengers. I sought and was granted permission not to attend, though I was regaled with highlights on my return where Kate described the food consumption as a “sellout”.
Durbar Square in Patan, a section of Kathmandu, is an ancient and sacred site and magnet for tourists local and foreign. The buildings comprise a former royal palace, now an excellent museum, several Hindu temples, two tall stone pinnacles, a water dispensing fountain and nearby the Buddhist Golden Temple. Though the area had fallen into disrepair it seems the Austrian pitched in and restored buildings and the curating of the museum. Though deservedly declared a World Heritage site local Nepali people enjoy the surrounds as a common outdoor living room. Nooks and crevices provide spaces for intimacy and the long benches facing the sun are full of older men and women chatting.
To convey such a visually rich set of places in writing or photos is not possible unfortunately or fortunately lest they be taken for granted. Nonetheless I will put in a couple of shots.

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         I couldn’t resist the one with the old mate.
Maybe that’s enough for now and more anon.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Quick Note on Thai situation.

Tonight I have been watching social media coverage of what is happening in Bangkok. for the first time in history this has been planned as a peaceful protest against the corrupt government of Khaksin and his sister Yinluck. So the sniper shots and the bomb today need some explanation.
In big picture terms this protest is against Thaksin and his running his sister's government from outside his country from which he is banned unless he is prepared to spend two year in gaol.
Several times his supporters have tried to move motions of Amnesty for current criminals, including of course Thaksin and those convicted of violent crimes from the last Red Shirt protests.
This time the people are rebelling against the corruption of the current puppet and corrupt government.
The sides if there are clear lines are business people, the army undercover and many of the young people of Thailand who have had enough. On the other side are those who support Thaksin mostly the police from who he came and those whom he anoints in his company connections in the oil and communications industries. The saddened and aged King tries to remain distant. The army has said it does not want to mount a coup, but I wonder if they are protesting too much.
When the protesters broke into the building from which the bomb was thrown the y found an abandoned building to which the electricity had been connected last week and a sizable cache of arms and whiteboard notations of suspected supporters of the protest. These artifacts are not those of an alternative splinter group. They look like the toys of secret service police.
Protesters were shocked by the introduction of violence which they wished to avoid and have done so. 
But who might be the international backers? Suggestions are that the USA is keen on Chevron's lusting about oil on the Cambodian/Thai border and much more. It is noted that the previous American ambassador, known to the Thais as Clit, was the first official to congratulate Thaksin when he grabbed power.  If as usual Zoe Daniel reports on the situation for the ABC watch out. she seems to have taken her own llne on Thai politics backing Thaksin as the revolutionary saviour of the poor. Watch this space.

Sydney to Katmandu

First stop Sydney.
          On Monday morning January 14th Jayne and I drove down from Robertson.
The Consulate of Nepal is in North Sydney. Arriving at their address on the Visa application I discovered that they had changed address. Not too far to walk. North Sydney is something else to me. I was wondering what all these people do. How many people does it take to run the city businesses and other jobs? They seemed to know what they were on about striding along in blue/black pants or smartly dressed women. It was lunchtime so eating was in full swing. Smoking was also a priority item so clusters gathered in allotted place where they could throw their buts on the ground. If there are a lot of people here how about Nepal, India, and Thailand? Travel eh?
It’s not the new places I will need it's the new eyes.
         The woman at the Nepal consulate desk could not have been more pleasant and efficient. Parking cost almost half the price of the Nepal visa. We are a prosperous country, which some can afford and others will be excluded.
Tuesday 14th.
         Travel to Sydney Airport took less time through morning traffic than I imagined. Easy check in with Cathay Airline where the check in clerk told me I could have gone Sydney Hong Kong Kathmandu instead of going via Bangkok and Delhi. Great time to find this out. Thence to the “outdoor area” mostly peopled by smokers. I still find it hard to believe that I am going away on an aeroplane.   

“Think of the riches and joys of Cathay” as the song says.
         First time flying with Cathay did have its riches of a witty chap from Kilkdare (Irl) and joys of endless a.v. entertainment opportunities  Hong Kong airport has changed a bit since 1974. Dizzy and glitzy as modern airports are they do provide space for walking exercise and visual diversity.
It never ceases to amaze me as to how so many people can line up at a boarding gate and disappear into a plane. It seems the reverse of the remark by the father in Roddy Doyle’s novel surveying is back-yard saying, “I don’t know how so much shit could come out of one dog”. Then to listen to the announcement “In the event of a forced landing…” Oh yes all these good folks will abandon their treasures, form orderly lines and follow the directions of the crew to exits which they have not noticed or are poorly lit. Forget it; just sit there.
There was some concern about what Bangkok might be like with demonstrations against the corruption of the government, the puppet administration of Thaksin Shinawatra managed by his sister Yingluck. But all was normal and efficient at Subaniphormi Airport.
After some toing and froing my “Transfer” was arranged to the Miracle Subaniphormi Hotel.
As usual the online photos were more flattering than accurate. Nor did the publicity capture the ambient fragrances of clouds of air freshener and ineffectively ventilated plumbing. My impression was that this building was one of those many R&R hotels built for American soldiers during the Viet Nam War. From the state of the fabric, tired, stained carpets, chipped paint and linen which is a lighter shade of pale along with the gaudy blinking shrine near the lobby I concluded that the ownership is now Chinese like a lot of property in Thailand.