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Chaotically Cool: Street Photography In Kathmandu

Chaotically Cool: Street Photography In Kathmandu

Nepal’s capital is often merely seen as a jumping-off point, overshadowed by the call of the Himalayan mountains. Yet, Kathmandu is one of a kind to say the least. It is chaotic, fascinating, exhausting and mesmerizing. Its character shines through in ancient architecture, temples and Buddhist stupas which made for its World Heritage Site status, its overwhelming display of sights, smells and sounds and its crowded, narrow streets taking you back to the real Asia.

The earthquake in 2015 has shaken the city, but it didn’t change its heart. Life happens on the streets, so all you need to do is be at the right place at the right time (with a bit of luck & a good eye) and snap away. But where?

Chaotically Cool: Street Photography In Kathmandu Chaotically Cool: Street Photography In Kathmandu

Thamel

Thamel is a maze of small streets, lined with restaurants, hotels, shops and tour agencies. Although it’s a busy area filled with tourists, the – still bustling – narrow alleys are what you are looking for. The car free streets (you won’t find these anywhere else in the traffic-jammed city) give you enough time to pause and walk around the winding streets. Although some of the light is blocked by the high buildings and narrow streets, rays of light coming through can make for a unique sight. Start at Ason Tole morning market at 6:00AM to catch the busiest time and work your way through the streets.

Chaotically Cool: Street Photography In Kathmandu Chaotically Cool: Street Photography In Kathmandu Chaotically Cool: Street Photography In Kathmandu Chaotically Cool: Street Photography In Kathmandu

Durbar Square & Surrounding

Durbar Square is the old Kathmandu, and although some parts of the square (and area) were damaged during the 2015 earthquake, it is still one of the biggest attractions. The temples, palaces and shrines bustle with pilgrims, flower sellers, orange-clas Sadhus and tourists. Spend some time walking around the square and then head towards the surrounding streets to get a more local feeling.

Chaotically Cool: Street Photography In Kathmandu Chaotically Cool: Street Photography In Kathmandu Chaotically Cool: Street Photography In Kathmandu Chaotically Cool: Street Photography In Kathmandu

Boudhanath Temple Area

This area is the center of Buddhism in Nepal and an important place of pilgrimage and prayer for Buddhists from all over the world. The main draw being one of the biggest Buddhist stupas in the world. The stupa is full of activity during the entire day, especially during sunrise (without the tourist crowds) and surrounded by monasteries making the entire area filled with monks of all ages. An urban street feel with a Buddhist touch. Kathmandu’s ‘Little Tibet’.

Chaotically Cool: Street Photography In Kathmandu Chaotically Cool: Street Photography In Kathmandu Chaotically Cool: Street Photography In Kathmandu

Pashupatinath Temple

What Boudhanath is to Buddhists, Pashupatinath is for Hindus. A Hindu temple, surrounded by smaller temples and ashrams on the banks of the Bagmati River, offering grounds to walk around for hours. An eclectic mix of sellers, musicians, monkeys, flowers, dresses, sadhus (it will cost you 20 rupees if you want a photo) all surrounding the Hindu cremation gaths is what earned this place the name ‘Little Varanasi’

Despite Kathmandu’s reputation of being overcrowded and chaotic, it is chaotically cool. Use the constant dust filled air to your advantage, by adding highlights and different moods to your pictures. Creating a unique grace beyond the grime you won’t find anywhere else in the world, but here.

Chaotically Cool: Street Photography In Kathmandu Chaotically Cool: Street Photography In Kathmandu Chaotically Cool: Street Photography In Kathmandu Chaotically Cool: Street Photography In Kathmandu

Images by Pie Aerts

Asia Journal

Kathmandu: Beauty In the Chaos

After 30 hours of traveling my plane finally landed in Kathmandu around 8:30 at night. Deliriously I got off the plane, stepping into the quiet Nepalese immigration. I was greeted with kind faces and a customs without any power. I waited in the dark to get my visa and go through customs before I hopped in a cab to drive to one of the nicer hotels in the city, the Shangri La Hotel. I sat in the back of the cab, while cars weaved in and out around each other with no hesitation or rules. Horns filled the streets as I sat in the back with my eyes closed, bracing for impact. My driver kept looked back at me laughing, asking where I was from. When I responded he replied with “America? Oh, very good place”.

The next morning I woke up and headed to the famous monkey temple located high in the hills called Swayambhunath. I walked up the steep stairs lined with colorful prayer flags and white washed stupas until I reached the top. The views of Kathmandu below were breathtaking and I stood there just taking it all in, my first ever solo vacation has begun. The smell of incense filled the air as I walked along the beautiful temples, touching the prayer wheels like the locals, and walking clockwise around the large gold stupa.

There were people all around, praying at the beautiful temples and I watched them as I walked around making sure to dodge any monkeys coming my way. I knew right away I was going to love this place.

My next stop was to Patan Durbar Square which is located in the center of the Lalitpur area of Kathmandu. It is one of the three famous squares and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There were remnants of the destruction from the 2015 earthquake that shattered Nepal but overall the Square was in pristine condition and I was more than eager to explore. I walked all around exploring the small side streets, ducking into temples to be blessed with the Tikka on my forehead, and checking out the amazing architecture that surrounded the square. Beautifully hand carved doors and windows were present in every building around the square and I couldn’t help but just stop and stare at the intricacy and imagine how long it took for someone to construct such a building. Coming from a world where “handmade” doesn’t really exist anymore, especially for buildings, it was mesmerizing.

I ducked into a small garden restaurant where I got my first taste of Nepalese cuisine…. Momo. Momo are steamed dumplings, filled with either chicken, vegetables, or water buffalo (OMG), with a slightly thicker dough than you’d find in other asian dumplings. They pair them with a spicy curry tomato sauce and oh. my. goodness. they are SO good. I couldn’t stop eating them. After washing them down with my cold Everest Beer I was beside myself with pure happiness.

The next morning I found out there was a holy festival going on in the city called the Teej Festival. This festival is where all of the women wake up really early in the morning, dress in their finest red attire, fast all day long, and go to the Pashupatinath Temple to pray. The younger single women pray for a good husband while the married women pray for their husband to be the best they can be. It’s a vibrant, colorful festival and I couldn’t wait to see the women. As I was driving there the line of women in red seemed to be never ending. I couldn’t believe about many women were standing there waiting. The line had to have taken 5-6 hours to get to the actual temple itself. Lucky for me, I’m a tourist, and I could go in another entrance and not have to wait in line for 6 hours. I walked towards the temple in a sea of beautiful Nepalese women dressed in red. I stopped to receive a Tikka blessing on my forehead before I started taking pictures. I couldn’t stop and they didn’t want me to. They were all so beautiful.

I walked to the other side of the temple where I passed the river where cremations were being held on the bank. The smoke filled the air and I couldn’t help but feel a little queasy knowing that I was breathing in the smoke from four nearby cremations. I glanced down to the riverbank and watched a man washing himself in the river, completely unaffected that he was washing in the same river the ashes were being put into. It’s always an eye opening experience witnessing a different culture and their faith about the afterlife. I found there was a much better understanding of life and death here and how they perceive what our body is, just a vessel for our soul.

I walked up the stairs and past the moss covered old shrines until I came across something so amazing: a group of Sadhus. A Sadhu is a holy man in Hinduism that has dedicated their life to meditation and contemplation. They wear brightly colored clothes signifying their Holy status, and you’re instantly captivated by them. I sat next to them as they talked to me, giving me a blessing, wishing me a life of happiness, love, and prosperity. I wanted to sit there all day with them, but I continued on.

I made my way to the Boudhanath Stupa located in the city center of Kathmandu which is the largest of all the stupas and the holiest. Unfortunately there were significant damages done to this beautiful stupa from the earthquake and as I walked around I watched as volunteers worked diligently scaling up and down the precarious bamboo ladders trying to restore it to its former glory. I walked around the stupa clockwise like the monks were, touching the prayer wheels the whole way and observing the sweet Nepalese people around me.

That night I feasted on a traditional Nepalese dish: Dal Bhat. This is a dish that is served almost every night at home in Nepal and the name literally translates to exactly what it is: Dal = lentils and Bhat = rice.
The lentils and rice are always the same, but what else accompanies it changes. Usually it’s sautéed curried vegetables, some kind of curried meat, Nepalese “pickles”, and greens all served in their own small silver bowls so you can add them to your rice as you’d like. I ate my weight in delicious Dal Bhat, piling on the incredibly flavorful curried wild boar and curried squash.

The next morning I woke up at 5 am and headed to the airport. Today I was going to take a scenic flight on Yeti Airlines to see Mount Everest and the majestic Himalayan Mountains. I patiently waited in the
small domestic terminal until the airline got the go-ahead for clear weather. We ascended through the clouds and in twenty minutes I saw one of the most beautiful sights of my life. The color blue didn’t seem real, the snowcapped mountains didn’t seem real, and the fact I was looking at them with my own eyes
didn’t seem real. I sat there speechless while we flew next to Mount Everest. It was a surreal experience. We were all given a glass of champagne and my new friends and I toasted to the Himalayan Mountains as we headed back to the airport.

My trip continued from here, seeing the rest of this beautiful country, for the next two weeks. I fell in love with the culture, the people, and the food. Despite Kathmandu being so large and chaotic, I found beauty in the chaos. The cars and their crazy driving towards the end didn’t even bother me… in fact I got used to it and started to like it. Everyone was so present in the moment that there were hardly any accidents ever. People were so kind to me in this great city that I was hungry to see the rest of the country. Kathmandu was an amazing place, and one that I hope to return to one day, if I’m lucky.

Insider Tips Photography

6 Instagram Worthy Places to Visit

Arizona
“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center.” -Kurt Vonnegut.

This is horseshoe bend and a view of the Colorado river located in Page, Arizona. You have to hike a short distance from the parking lot in the sand to get to this view. Be careful when you get to the edge, since there is no warning or guard rail to protect you from the 1000ft drop!

Iceland | Blue lagoon
It’s 11:00 a.m., the sun is rising, super windy and freezing here at the Blue lagoon in Iceland. Loved being in the hot springs though!

Here are few tips if you visit: visit the lagoon the day you arrive or day you depart to save you time. The facility provides luggage storage and lockers for personal items. You must take a shower before you enter the lagoon. Also, ladies tie your hair up and don’t let your hair get wet in the lagoon. The water will damage your hair and make it lifeless for a week or so because of the minerals in the water. It also helps if you leave conditioner in your hair that the shower room provides.

Oh and the fun stuff, around the lagoon they have areas where they have the free mud which you can apply all over your face & body. Have fun!

Nepal
We are up in the clouds on an ultralight flight in Pokhara, Nepal. This was truly a once in a lifetime experience. You get a good close up view of Machhapuchhre (fish tail) mountain which is part of the Himalayas and if you look below you see villages, lakes, rivers, valleys and much more. What an amazing view all around! Please check out Avia Club Nepal to book your ultralight flight.

Abu Dhabi
I am lost in the beauty of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. The mosque is the largest in the UAE and 8th largest in the world. It has one of the most beautiful and detailed architecture i’ve ever seen.

Also, I’m wearing an abaya for the first time which females need to wear before they enter. It’s provided by them for free to borrow.

Peru
Doesn’t the background in this picture look like a painting or a wallpaper?! This was in Pisac, a peruvian village in the Sacred Valley of Peru. It’s known for its Incan ruins and breathtaking scenery. We are in love with Peru, the people here are so humble and the food is awesome!

Travel tip: If you visit Peru, drink the coca tea which can help in the prevention of altitude sickness or you can also find altitude sickness pills at the airport.

Bhutan
I am in the beautiful Kingdom of Bhutan in the largest fortress & Buddhist monastery in Paro known as Rinpung Dzong. There are so many historic sites this country has to offer. You will feel like you are taken back in time when you step into the many forts and monasteries built as way back in the 7th century.

Travel tip: Unless if you are from India, Bangladesh or Maldives independent travel is not permitted in Bhutan. In order to visit, you must travel on a pre-planned, prepaid guided package tour which includes visa, food, tours, guides and lodging offered by certified travel agents. This was done to avoid negative impacts on the culture and the environment of the country.

Follow more of Kajal & Komal‘s adventures on Instagram: @FollowKK

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