To Asia, With Love (and Other Emotions)

Shelley with Ultadanga kids

My time in Asia challenged me, rewarded me, made my heart ache and churned out a stronger person. I learned more in the last 11 months than I have in the last 11 years, and that’s no hyperbole. I became more familiar with the world and with myself. As it turns out, I’m a nomadic homebody. My style is to hunker down in a city and get the lay of the land instead of moving every three days. Maybe when in a state of constant change, it’s comforting to know where you can go for a reliable bowl of pho or a cup of REAL coffee.

Surprisingly I did make it to 12 countries (if you count Tibet and Hong Kong as separate from mainland China, which I do). I’ve had 7 telephone numbers, taken 13 flights, crossed 2 borders overland, added 31 stamps to my passport, secured 10 visas and spent about $24,000. Below is a snapshot of my feelings about each country: what I liked, what I didn’t and how I sum them each up. India is longer than the rest because I spent the most time there and it had such a profound effect. Ladies and gentlemen, I present my view of Asia in 2,000 words or less… Continue reading

Three Weeks in Kathmandu

Kathmandu valley

My intended two-week stay in Nepal turned into three weeks, but not because I couldn’t bring myself to leave. Upon arrival, Vivek (from my Tibet tour) and I checked into the same hotel, but different rooms. I was so happy to have my own space again! Hotel Family Home was perfect, situated in the heart of tourist district Thamel, but down a quiet-ish alley. There are a lot of good things about Thamel. Restaurants, shops, cafes and bars are all within easy walking distance, some right around the corner. Lots of people are on the streets in the evening, so it’s safe to walk home alone. While there are some Nepali restaurants, many are international serving everything from salads and sandwiches to hummus to grilled chicken with potatoes. Since I still couldn’t look at a plate of curry from my months in India, this was good news indeed. Continue reading

Lhasa to Nepal and Everest Base Camp

Entering Qomolangma National Nature Preserve

We hit two monasteries before leaving Lhasa- Sera and Drepung. At both we were able to witness robed monks in action. Unfortunately monasteries that once educated 1,000 monks at a time are now only operating at a capacity of 300 due to limitations by the Chinese government. Since many have historically expressed anti-government opinions, this is a way to keep them “in check”. Continue reading