I met a man wandering through the city of Kathmandu. A wonderful man, Philippe Lamaire, an unknown name for most of us and it was unknown for me too until that day I met him 4/26/2016 in the Greenline Bus Ticket counter. I was sitting there with my friend Rajesh chitchatting. He was busy with other people booking tourist bus ticket to Pokhara. Greenline is the most popular name among Nepalese and foreigners for the luxurious travel to two destinations of Nepal Chitwan and Pokhara, one is a National Park in Terai and another is the popular tourist destination.
I saw a gentleman, who was there to book Ticket to go to Pokhara to meet his son who was volunteering in the school since last 5 weeks. As Rajesh asked his name, he wrote his name on the paper and then again he asked for the country and he told that he is from France.
Suddenly, I realized that “Oh a French guy to visit Nepal”. My curiosity grew for him as I learnt French Language in the Kathmandu city in Alliance Francaise. Whenever, I met people from France or German I could not stop myself talking with them because it has been a habit since I have started learning foreign language.
Bonjour Monsieur,my first question was that “ParlezvousFrancais”? I am asking to a French guy either he speak French or not. I began my conversation, in response he greeted me with “Bonjour” and we introduced each other in French. We started to talk for a while.
He was an easy going gentleman and gave answer to my entire curious question of “wh” when? Why? Where? and whom. Perhaps, a lot of questions at once, like an interrogation to criminal. Despite verbal bombardment, he spoke me easily and replied every question that I interrogated.
Hmmm. Finally, I assumed that if I would be with him for a day to show him around the city. Again, my thought changed, if he say no than what shall I do. I could not stop myself and persuaded him if I could volunteer for him as a guide to show the city of Kathmandu. He told me that he has already visited the ancient medieval city of Bhaktapur and the ancient Stupa of Kathmandu Valley, Swyambhunath Stupa.
Monsieur Philippe showed me a map then I proposed him to visit three more place. Ancient city of Lalitpur, ancient and biggest stupa of Bouddhanath and the ancient city and the house of living goddess Kumari at Kathmandu Durbar Square. All of these places were damaged by the last year April 25th, 2015 earthquake but I assured him that there is yet to see many things.
Well, we made a plan that we will meet the other day in his hotel Osho Home which is located in Thamel. He told me to meet him at 9 a.m. as he liked to visit early. Our conversation for the day was over as it was 4.30 p.m. and he was feeling hungry. He left me in Greenline tours as I left for my home.
I left my home early in the morning in my Scooter. Kathmandu Valley has a lot of motorcycles and scooters as well as public vehicle. For many, public vehicle are part of their regular transport system and for others who were busy and who have to travel to outskirts of valley Motorbike and Scooter are the regular means of the transport. I
met him outside of the Hotel with a taxi driver named Gopal Dai. He is a warm welcoming guy and he always smiles whenever he talks. We exchanged our greetings and drove our first destination to the ancient city of Patan (Lalitpur).
Lalitpur is the city located 8 kilometer away from the Patan. It is the city of Buddhist. There are many Buddhist Monasteries in Patan in compare to city of Kathmandu and Bhaktapur. Patan was once called a beautiful city and it is also the city of artists who made statues Hindu and Buddhist god and goddess. Hence, it is also called a city of metals.
We reached there by crossing holy and mighty Bagmati river which is the most polluted river in Kathmandu, the traffic jam in the bridge of the river was awesome. However, we reached our destination and Gopaldai left us in the mid of the ancient palace and its surrounding.
I explained Mr, Phillipe a little history and geography about the city. It was the anniversary of the great earthquake and some of the political leaders of Maoits party were there for the inauguration of the reconstruction program.
We simply heard their speech; in fact the reconstruction work was never started here. We visited the royal palace and the garden over there and we then followed to five storied temple of Patan called Kumbeshowr Mahadev temple. There is a dry pond over there.
The annual festival held in the month of August here where there is a competition among youngsters to kill a goat with the help of their teeth when someone throws an animal in the pond. The pond is full of water during the monsoon period. There are many activities the Brahmins are doing in the surrounding of the temple. We left the temple and visited the 14th century’s Golden Temple of the Patan which Phillipe found quite beautiful and peaceful.
12.30 p.m- 3 p.m.
Our second visit was on the ancient Buddhist Stupa of Katmandu called Bouddhanath. BouddhanathStupa was a biggest Stupa in the valley which was believed to build around 10th century. According to the legend, it took 12 years to build the Stupa.
After 1960, many Tibetans were residing around the Stupa and it is the spiritual site for Buddhist and peace seekers. There are more than 35 monasteries located around Stupas. These monasteries were built by various Tibetan Buddhism school. The stupa of Bouddhanath was partially destroyed by the earthquake and the reconstruction work was on the full phase.
We made an inquiry near by the site and a Buddhist Lama told us that it will take more one and half year to complete the reconstruction work. Before heading to other place, Monsieur Phillippe offered us a lunch which Gopal and me accepted without hesitation. It was kind of him that he told us to choose a Nepali food and we chose Tibetan Restaurant but ordered Nepali food.
Monsieur Phillippe was not so fond of Nepali dal bhat Rice and Lentil. It is a saying in Nepal that Dal Bhat power remains 24 hours. We really enjoyed a lunch and talked with MonsiurPhillippe. Then we visited Shechen Monastery, located in the alleys near the stupa. A very spacious and beautiful temple founded by the late DilgoKhyentse Rinpoche.
This monastery was badly damaged by the great earthquake and the reconstruction work has not yet been completed. It was very popular monastery among tourists. We left Bouddhanath after that and headed towards Kathmandu Durbar Square.
3 p.m-6 p.m.
Kathmandu durbar square is the ancient world heritage site located in Kathmandu. It was the biggest site affected by the earthquake. Many monuments and people died during the great disaster. Yet, there is a lot of things remained in this site. The old temple of Kasthamandav by which the name of city was later changed to Kathmandu (the city of woods) was completely destroyed by the earthquake. Luckily we were there around 4 p.m. and I offer Monsieur Philippe to visit in the ancient house of the living goddess Kumari. The tradition of the living goddess was started to believe some 250 years before.
This tradition still exists in Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur. Kumari literally means a child or a girl who is unmarried. We entered through a small door and reached to the royal court of the Kumari. We have to wait 15 minutes. The tourists and crowd gather to have a darshan (prayer) of living goddess.
During that time, I explained Monsieur about the legend and tradition of the goddess Kumari and hearing that he showed his concerns for him. Finally we saw, the living goddess on the window. Many have seen the goddess for the first time and they were surprised to see her.
Kumari is regarded as reincarnation of Hindu Goddess Parvati and believed to have supernatural power with her. She is equally respected by Hindus and Buddhist, president and locals. Phillippe later told me that he have not seen that the goddess was happy in that place. However, it is the tradition remained in Nepal since a long time.
After that, we walked through the ancient market of Ason visited the rain goddess temple in Janabahal, temple of white Machindranath and finally arrived to Hotel Osho Home. MonsiuerPhillippe seemed to very tired and satisfied with the visit. He tipped me in the hotel and wished me a good luck. I can see an eagerness in his face that he is going to meet his son the day after.
Well, what I found in Monsieur Phillippe a good friend, an eager father, an interested traveler, a respectful man and beside all of that, a good friend. Having so many qualities inside, I will always remember a day that I passed with Monsieur Phillippe in the city of Kathmandu. I will wish to see him again in the near future.