Saturday, March 19, 2011

Everest Panorama Trek ~ Day 3. Kathmandu Holi Festival, Durbar Square & The Kumari


Day 3 - Our Attempt at Flying to Lukla, again...

The next morning, on Day 3, we bravely heaved our heavy bodies and luggage out of our room and made our way to Kathmandu Domestic Airport to give ourselves another chance at Lukla Airport.

"This time round, I am sure we can take off and land successfully at Lukla," I thought quietly to myself.

In a little while, the bright sunlight came streaming through the Kathmandu Domestic airport, and we had a brief glimpse of hope...
But as it turned out....
All flights to Lukla got cancelled just before noon, as the weather over at Lukla turned bad just as the fog in Kathmandu started to clear!!!

So what happened after that?
Very exciting, very exciting event that was totally out of our expectation and totally unplanned:
The Holi Festival!


Day 3 - The Holi Festival

It was truly a blessing in disguise that we could not fly on Day 3, for it was the Eve of The Holi Festival in Nepal, The Holi Dhana.
In Nepal, the Holi Festival is celebrated in a big way, as big as the Diwari Festival.
Here, courtesy of Wikipedia, is a summary:

Holi is a spring religious festival celebrated by Hindus. It is primarily observed in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and countries with large Indic diaspora populations.
The most celebrated Holi is that of the Braj region, in locations connected to the Lord Krishna: Mathura, Vrindavan, Nandagaon, and Barsana. These places have become tourist destinations during the festive season of Holi, which lasts here to up to sixteen days.

The main day, Holi, also known as Dhuli Vandana in Sanskrit, is celebrated by people throwing coloured powder and coloured water at each other. Bonfires are lit on the eve of the festival, also known as Holika Dahan (burning of Holika). The bonfires are lit in memory of the miraculous escape that young Prahlad accomplished when Demoness Holika, sister of Hiranyakashipu, carried him into the fire. Holika was burnt but Prahlad, a staunch devotee of god Vishnu, escaped without any injuries due to his unshakable devotion.

Holi is celebrated at the end of the winter season on the last full moon day of the lunar month (February/March), which usually falls in the later part of February or March.
In 2011, Holi was on March 20 and Holika Dahan was on March 19.

So there we were, right smack in the middle of the Holi Festival Eve.
We arrived at our Hotel Vaishali after a disappointing morning of No Flights. And Goose, Johnny, ZY and wkcheah were one of the first few brave ones who ventured out of the Hotel compound onto the streets of Kathmandu, knowing jolly well that they were asking for it (it, as in having coloured powder smashed on their faces and bodies).

I slowly plucked up my courage and walked to the hotel gate.
To my utter shock, I saw for the first time in my life, Wai Kit running so fast back into the hotel ground!!!

The Holi Dhana (Holi Festival Eve) continued...

When I scanned the street behind wkcheah, what I saw was something that totally blew my mind. It was nothing like what I have ever seen before. Although deep down inside, I knew that Holi Festival was a festival of jubilation, but the sight of masses of Nepali with coloured faces and clothing walking down, smiles hanging on their faces, coloured powders at the ready in their palms, and water bombs in their hands... was simply too overwhelming for my uninitiated brain to come to grasp.

So I ran back together with wkcheah into the hotel ground. Hehehe...
But not before I took some more shots...

Here, we saw a couple of Ang Mohs who got totally bombarded. From afar, I couldn't even tell that they were Ang Mohs until they walked nearer...

... and a Japanese/Korean-looking man, also totally bombed out...

... and an unsuspecting Ang Moh lady who may not have remembered that today was Holi Festival Eve...

... and another Ang Moh lady who may have realised that it was Holi Festival Eve too late...

We thought that the hotel ground was safe.
But we were totally wrong.
On Holi Festival Eve, no where in Kathmandu was safe from the Happy Holi-ing crowds...! Hahaha...

Here, cnleong attempted a last minute burst of fire before retreating further...

... and our poor AmelG... she really kena bad bad from the Holi revelers... left, right and from on top... Heheh..! Some more right in the middle of our hotel car park!
They really never give chance yah! The cuter the XMM, the more she kena-ed...

So at about 2pm, the decision was made for the whole team to walk out onto the streets of Kathmandu to experience first hand for ourselves the Holi Festival, led by our good guides Mahesh and Baboo, on the pretext that we would be walking all the way to the Durbar Square of Kathmandu.
Now that was really something.
Because for the first time in my life, I felt as though I was a photo-journalist in a War Zone, shooting photos of soldiers running in zig-zag fashion for their lives, taking cover beneath shelters, dodging water bombs and colour-powder bullets...
Phew... it was really an experience, for me, as much as I am sure it was for every one else on the team.

Here, Johnny our man cheong-ed through the Danger Zone... He already kena-ed one big red bullet on his forehead by then...

... and Ah Wind Tan follow tightly. At this point in time, he was still clean as he didn't kena any bombs yet... unlike our poor victims Goose Goi, Johnny and AmelG..

... and who else but our Sherwn running through sheets of water from high above the roof. The Nepali are really good bombers... they have very accurate aims...

... and yes, our husband and wife team.. Still clean and energetic..

And if any of our audience here was on that street at that moment on that day, this would be the scene that he or she would behold, with trepidation...

... and also this scene of Melvin running very very fast for his life! Hahaha....!

And here was Goh Su Pin's depiction of Serene being coloured by the Nepali children!
Photo: Goh Su Pin

Hehe... some of the shots of our fellow team mates that SereneXMM and I captured, collated into a simply montage.

Of so many handsome fellows, the one on the lower right hand corner is of course, none other than our Nepali main guide - Mahesh.

And here was my VIDEO!

And here was Adrian Loh's famous Group photo!!

Photo: Adrian Loh


Day 3 - Visiting the Durbar Square, Kathmandu.

We walked all the way from our hotel, braving the crowd and the joyous exuberance of Holi all along the lanes of Kathmandu until we arrived at Kathmandu's Durbar Square.
Not forgetting the fact that we visited Bhaktapur's Durbar Square the day before, this Durbar Square in Kathmandu is a little different from the other Durbar Square back there in Bhaktapur.
Here, we saw Indians celebrating Holi Festival in their own ways.
From what Mahesh explained to us, the way the Indians offer their prayers is slightly different from the way the Nepalis do. But the difference escaped me.

Here a shot by Wai Kit depicting the Malla Statue at Durbar Square. I really enjoyed this one.
[Click on the photo below to go to the original post by Wai Kit on the ClubSNAP thread]

The Malla Statue at Durbar Square. Photo: Cheah Wai Kit

The Temple of the Kumari of Kathmandu

After we walked past the main Palatial building at Durbar Square (Kathmandu), and saw the jubilant pair of men dancing their way crazy with the yellow powders spraying all over themselves, we arrived at the entrance of the Temple in which the Kumari of Kathmandu lives.

This is another holy Temple and according to Mahesh, the Kumari of Kathmandu would only show her face only on a couple of occasions in a year.
Sometimes the lucky few visitors who gaze up from the courtyard of the compound might catch a sight of her in the hall of the second floor...
So on this day, the whole lot of us simply just stood there and gazed and gazed, in hope of catching a glimpse of the Living Goddess...

... and keeping our lenses aimed at the window in the futile attempt...

... only to see the Father and the Mother of the Kumari, but not of the holy virgin herself.

Day 4 ~ Our Third attempt at flying to Lukla