Sunday, 21 October 2012

Hostel Guide - Himalayan Hotel, Pheriche, Base Camp Everest

The Himalayan Hotel 

     You wouldn't imagine such a well equipped guesthouse to be situated so far up on the base camp trek, but there is, and it's the exceptionally clean Himalayan Hotel, located in Pheriche. Not only is the guesthouse clean but it is also very attractive and the communal area is kept warm and cozy at night by an iron furnace, which is also ideal for drying socks. The food is enjoyable and the staff is welcoming and the Himalayan Guesthouse would have scored a whopping 5/5 if  only they would have turned off the Backstreet Boys greatest hits, which the staff played without fail on repeat--day and night.

Lust for Eastern Decadence

       During this trip to India, my love for the traditional Indian dress has reached a new height. The women are beautifully dressed and I find myself endlessly transfixed on their sparkling saris and gem- encrusted jewelry. The women even wash clothes in dirty rivers, milk goats and carry large baskets on their heads while dressed as glamorous as an Eastern princess. These glamour pusses have inspired me to infuse some of their style into my limited travel wardrobe because I have felt rather boring compared to them, and as I have limited space in my rucksack I can't buy anything that is bulky, so jewelry is my best option.  Thus, this week I have bought many Indian head-dresses for myself to add some eastern decadence to my limited outfits. But fear not, I have also brought a fab collection of head-pieces for my Etsy store, which will open February 2013.

Vintage handmade gypsy headpiece

Indian Pictures above from


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Sneak peak...

     This month I have been busy buying  lots of worldly treasures for my Etsy store. I have spent hours rummaging in shops, haggling with shop keepers, buying pieces I can afford and staring in awe at the items that are simply out of my price range.  Hopefully, most of the items I purchased will actually appear on the Etsy site and not into my own personal collection ...wink wink! Anyway, I thought I would give you guys a little sneak peak at what I have been buying--but sorry, you will have to wait until February 2013 to purchase, when the pieces go live.


Second time's the charm...

     18 months ago I stood on the platform of Amritsar station bickering with my travel companion Louise. We had taken the over-night sleeper train from Rishikesh and had been scheduled to arrive at Amritsar earlier that morning. Instead, we arrived at 4pm because the journey that should have taken 10 hours, took 16, due to, well, I am not really sure-- shame on us for believing anything runs smoothly in India. So there we were, minutes from the Golden Temple--Amritsar''s main attraction--arguing about whether to go or not.  But as we debated, our connecting train to Delhi had rolled in and our flight from Delhi to Nepal the following day had us tied to the train so we had to depart. Thus tired, hungry and upset we boarded the train, swearing to return to The Golden Temple someday soon.
      18 months later I was back, handing in my sandals (no footwear is permitted inside the temple) and queuing to enter the golden wonder. Sadly Louise could not make it this time around, but luckily my boyfriend Johnny accompanied me to temple, even though he hates temples.
     Within there was a feast of colourful characters bathing, praying and bustling about. Johnny and I set up camp under some shade and tried to enjoyed a morning of people watching, but it proved difficult. While observing the spectacle, we were bombarded by Indians who pushed babies into our arms, photographed us, starred at us and sat down with us to have very long chats . For us this was a great way to interact with the people of India and to be in many of their holiday snaps! 


I hope Louise makes it here someday soon.


Thursday, 4 October 2012

My New Favorite Temple

     My new favorite temple is the inspiring Mata Mandir temple in Amritsar. The theater of the wondrous place is something truly special with its long mirrored walk ways, hidden grottoes, vivid shrines, ankle deep waterways, winding staircases and a tunnel replicating a mouth. The temple is captivating and makes you feel like you have entered into another world. 
     The temple was built in 1989 to commemoration the charitable work of Shrimati Lal Devi (pictured above), who devoted her whole life to the Gods and lived purely on fruit and milk. In 1994 she reached the ultimate state of nirvana and ever since she has been greatly respected, and women who wish to become pregnant travel to her temple and pray to her to ensure that they will be given the ultimate gift, a child.
     As I crawled on my hands and knees through the tunnels and waded my way across the waterways I fell deeply in love with the surroundings and felt more at home in this temple than any other temple  I have visited before.

Has anyone else been to this enchanting temple...?


Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Finding spirituality in Varanasi...?

     There is a unique, chaotic beauty in Varanasi that is hidden under the ashes and seedy alley-ways. I had hoped to find this beauty and spirituality in India's most "holy city," but finding peace here was a challenge.  Instead, one is forced to jump head-first into the hectic streets and get lost for hours in the labyrinth of alleys decorated with tea shops, cloth sellers, and India's oddities;  dodge your way past cows, monkeys and goats; and be asked a thousand times if you want a 'super, very good deal' for something you surely never wanted, or would never buy.  
     However, I found the Ghats (steps leading to the Ganges) to be the best way to soak up Varanasi's true beauty.  For it was easy to get lost in a world of people-watching while on the ghats, because many vibrant characters come to the water to bathe and pray.
     One evening I attended the nightly ceremony held at the Dasawamdh Ghat, which was a true spectacle, and a must see if you visit Varanasi. We viewed the celebrations from wooden boats, which were stationed on the river in front of the ceremony, and all the boats were jam-packed with devotees.  The women around us wore colorful saris that glowed in in the dusty pink sunset-- a sight I will always cherish, and as the sun continued downward, the moon rose and the river Ganges turned dark, only to be lit by the golden glares of floating candles, which were placed in water by spectators, including myself, as offerings to the Gods.  The candle was inside a woven banana leaf basket filled with fresh flowers, and the basket ensured that the candle would float once it was dropped in the water. As the candle lights danced on the water, a rush of love for India filled my soul. There truly is no other place in the world like India.
    With my soul dancing from the night's celebrations I slept peacefully. The following day I awoke and I was eager to venture again to another ghat to find the same beauty I found the night before, but I was in for a surprise.  I decided to visit the Manikarnika ghat, the city's most famous burning ghat, to see if I could find peace within the ceremony's realm. Hindus believe that those who are cremated in Varanasi can achieve moksha, a state of liberation from the cycle of reincarnation and a union with Braham (God). 
    After reading about the burning ceremony I had imagined that the ghat would be heavenly: fresh flowers in vivid colours, men wearing bright turbans chanting hymns, and women in bright saris celebrating the passing of a loved one. Instead, the Manikarnika ghat looked like man's impression of hell: large dusty logs were piled 12 feet high all around us; derelict buildings stood within the dead-wood graveyard, covered in smut; skinny cows eating rubbish; touts demanding money and swindling tourists for cash; path covered in ashes leading through the hell. As I continued to walk, I met with the burning ghat where six bodies were burning to dust.  As soon I saw the burning, I felt that I shouldn't be there, that it was wrong for me to be watching the cremation. While I wanted to be able to think peacefully about the sight taking place before my eyes, it was impossible. Death was also staring me straight in the face, and I didn't know how to process the images before me.

Boat trip at dusk

     The burning ghat was too much for me, with the pestering for money and the cremation setting. So Johnny and I opted for a less invasive view and watched the burning from a boat on the Ganges. The view of the burning ghat from the water was much calmer in the glow of the setting sun, and gave me time to reflect on what I had witnessed. Perhaps the reason I found the ghats so overwhelming was due to my own insecurities regarding death and the afterlife. 
     Varanasi might not have given me the spiritual awakening I was searching for, but it did make me think a lot about my own life. As I watched the bodies of the burning ghats turn to dust, I thought about what I wanted to achieve before I, too, met the same fate. Life is a very short journey and I plan to make mine a true adventure.

Ganges offering

Burning Ghats