Nepal – Life, Death and Reincarnation

Not far away from my home, there lies a paradise where photographers would love. Nepal. A country, which owns the highest mountain in the world – Mount Everest – as well as a wide variety of cultures from various ethnicities, has intrigued my travel thirst. Being a state with the most unique flag, in my opinion, I have been gravitated to searching new experiences in this beautiful country. It has since become one of my favourite travel destinations.

Nepal is located between two major powers – India and China – and has a population of approximate 26.4 million. Majority of Nepalese adopt Hinduism while the others believe in other forms of religions such as Buddhism, Kirant, Christians, Muslims and etc. In Kathmandu, you can easily find small temples around each corner where devotees pray to Hindu’s Gods or Buddhas, flourishing a different ambience that is only applicable to Nepal. The dust and pollution are unfortunately a setback on this journey of mine, emulating the difficulties of all developing countries faced; affecting the health of poor locals due to the lack of proper healthcare and effective traffic system. Many traffic junctions – traffic lights – are no longer functional and are replaced by Traffic police standing in the centre of each traffic junction, directing the mess that vehicles have created. Exacerbated by the 2015 earthquake, Nepal has yet to recover fully from the blow of this devastated disaster. Many buildings are still in the process of reconstructing with many others are left untouched. In Basantapur Durbar Square, majority of the buildings remained strong however several important buildings such as Hauman Dhoka palace, Gaddi Durbar palace and Gaddi Durbar are damaged by the earthquake.

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Basantapur Durbar Square  – Photography by Kimy Chang

In Thamel, this place lays the soul of Kathmandu, is one of the main commercial districts. Wifi is easily available in this neighbourhood. The endless streets of restaurants, shops and travel agencies have brought out the essence of daily lifestyle of the Nepalese. Porters carrying heavy loads are a common sight along these narrowed walkways. Many times, streets are occupied by various walks of lives using different commutes such as by foot, cars, bicycle and motorbikes. A bustling area where one should never missed.

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Shoes Porter – Photography by Kimy Chang

During my trip to Boudhanath, I happened to be at the opening of the restored Boudhanath stupa after it was damaged by the 2015 earthquake. With the help of both Chinese and Nepali devotees, this stupa now stands magnificently on the site it has used to be, portraying vividly the mighty Tibetan Buddhism across the Kathmandu valley. I was lucky to have the chance to experience shaman dances as well as to have a close contact with Nepal’s Prime Minister.

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The Prime Minister – Photography by Kimy Chang

The Pashupatinath Temple, a UNESCO world heritage site, is the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu with evidence from this temple dated back to 400 AD. Located at the west of Kathmandu, you can pass by this temple if you arrived from the airport to the central of Kathmandu. A temple perpetuates ancient Hinduism traditions and practices till to date, bringing you into their world of life and death.

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Burning Corpse – Photography Kimy Chang

The City of Devotees, Bhatakpur remains as one of the most visited places in Nepal. Despite the fact that this place has been badly damaged by the 2015 earthquake, its charm outlived the disaster. Visitors are still pouring in to this UNESCO place to experience these mystical ancient Newari traditions as well as to see the architecture wonders created during the Malla Kingdom.

Following after Bhatakpur, Lalitpur, or historically named as Patan, is another place on your must see list in Nepal. Lalitpur shared a similar but a longer history than Bhatakpur, stretching between the 300BC of the Kirat dynasty to the Mallas of the medieval period. If you happen to be in Patan in May, you will be able to celebrate their longest religious festival – the Chariot festival, which last for one month.

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Destroyed Stupas in UNESCO Bhatakpur – Photography by Kimy Chang

Last but not least, the neighbouring villages, for instance Bungamati and Khohana, should also be on your list. Bungamati and Khohana can both be visited within a day. If you are travelling from the central of Kathmandu, the travel leg will only take about 1 hour each leg. In Bungamati, you can find one of the finest wood cravers reside in Nepal. Despite the fact that many houses and buildings have collapsed during the earthquake, the scenery of the aftermath is another sight of its own.

Below are some of my pictures taken during my Nepal trip:

All Photographs on this Blog, Copyright © 2016 Kimy Chang, All rights reserved

*Tips:

  1. Always bring a mask
  2. Bear in mind that accessibility to clean toilet can be difficult.
  3. If possible, apply visa prior arrival in Kathmandu airport. The queue for on-arrival visa is always long.
  4. Food: Try traditional local “Mo Mo” and Nepali meal set.
  5. Best travel time is during October and November

For more pictures, please look forward to my photobook on Nepal in 2017.

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Laos, Luang Prabang: A touch of the Laos Kingdom 2016

The Lao People’s Democratic Republic, in short Laos, was my next travel destination for this year. Laos, a landlocked country with borders shared amongst many countries such as China, Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia, is exposed to a wide variety of cultures and tribes. This country however has had experienced great hardship during the Vietnam war. Many evidences have supported this claim that the Americans have more bombs dropped in Laos than bombs fell in all parts of Europe during the Word War II; up to 30% of those bombs have failed to detonate, exacerbating there then already impaired country and economy situation. Many Laotians have hence fled to France and Thailand as refugees. Sadly, even until today, many Laotians have been affected and severely injured by bombs left after the Vietnam war. Nearly as much as eighty millions of bombs have yet to be detonated spreading across vast land mass – farms, villages, jungles and rivers; a never – ending threat to the daily livelihood of the people. This ongoing consequences of war in Laos makes me reflect how fortunate I am living in a safe and well secured country like Singapore.

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Buddhas at Wat Visoun

Arrived at my destination – Luang Prabang, it seems that I have entered back to the period of 1950s – 1960s. Shop houses along the main city street are mostly made from bricks decorated with a touch of French colonial architecture. Roaming around Luang Prabang, you will surprisingly find many preserved French colonial houses preserved which are left over during the French Colonial Empire in South East Asia, giving a sense of nostalgic recollection about the old colonial period. Intrigued to having a feel of how colonists used to live, I booked my stay at one of these old colonial houses. During my visit in Laos, it happened that US President Obama was in Laos to discuss about US plans in Laos. He is the first US sitting president to visit Laos; he has pledged to increase US contribution in 2017 to fund bomb clearance activity.

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US Air Force – US plane at abandoned domestic airport in Luang Prabang

Laos. Despite having multiple culture facets from different borders, the Laotian’s culture seems to be dominantly skewed to Thai’s culture. For instance, food in Lao and Thailand is almost identical except that Laotian preferred sticky rice as well as grilled dry meat. More than 66% of Laotians are Buddhist, resulting in numerous number of Wats in but not limited to Luang Prabang, Laos. Luang Prabang is hence recognised as one of the UNESCO world heritage site in 1995. For people who are staying in Asia and who wish to explore a new area within South East Asia, this could be your place for a short escape from your stressful work.

(Please do keep in mind that since it is a touristic place, food prices will be adjusted higher for travelling in this area)

Below are some of the pictures I took during this trip:

All Photographs on this Blog, Copyright © 2015 Kimy Chang, All rights reserved