Friday, November 14, 2008

Good Intentions

So, the much heralded trip to Boudnath temple was a failure amidst a victory.

After doing a few laps of the stupa we (somehow) managed to get about 10 of us onto a rooftop restaurant. The problem with a group of more than 5 people is that they don't tend to act like sheep except for when you don't want them to. So when you are a hungry shepherd, and you just want everyone to follow you they may not. In the end you might just say "screw you all" and hope they work out where the rest of you are.

Anyway, the reason that we had to do a few laps of the stupa is because you must walk around a stupa clockwise, for fear of the gods or God, or something, smiting you. Now although the idea of seeing something smiting brings a smile to my face (as I imagine it's not exactly something you would see every day) it also wasn't soemthing I wanted to risk for fear of being labelled culturally intolerant or, more importantly being trampled. I did see one guy trying to go anti-clockwise on a bicycle. I think it would have been faster for him to do 10 laps clockwise than to travel 10 metres.

There were THOUSANDS* of people - tourists, Buddhists, Hindus and tourist Buddhists (complete with whacky clothes) out doing the walk. We were there because supposedly the stupa is lit up like a runway every month at the full moon. After the sun setting, and still nothing happening but many local shopkeepers setting up tables and lighting thousands** of candles on laying them out on tables in front of their shops. A ceremony was taking place with some monks chanting and blowing into conches (Lord of the Flies style) and horns while passing people threw food onto a pile (that they had bought from the entrepeneur who set up a shop next to the pile). I'm not sure what happens to it after, but I hope it goes to someone needy (it was a VERY big pile of food).

We retreated to our rooftop balcony to have some drinks and dinner. After about an hour, it occurred to someone to actually ask why the stupa was not lit up yet. Completely baffled, we asked the waiter, who suggested (in that "I'm answering even though I don't think I understood your question" kind of way) that it "might" have happened yesterday but he wasn't sure. Someone (it might have been me) suggested that he thought that the full moon was on the Wednesday. This was all devastating news to poor Mike, who had been planning this expedition since Monday with email trails a million*** miles long from volunteers trying to avoid doing work.

It did leave a few riddles.
1. Why on earth had they lit all of these candles just to have them sit on tables outside shops?
2. Why were there so many people walking around if it wasn't a special occaision?

Someone suggested that perhaps, unlike many Christians, Buddhists and Hindus might not especially wait for special occaisions to go to worship or meditate, or do what they do. I think we'll have to wait for the next full moon to find out.

The night was still claimed a success from the good food, company and that anticipatory feeling you get when you know something cool is about to happen (even though it didn't).

This is something like what we missed:

* OK, maybe hundreds
** no, this time there actually were thousands
*** not actually "millions" - maybe one million****
**** probably not though


  1. And still, probably better than sitting in your little apartment all alone for the evening.

    Spectacular failure is all part of the adventure!

  2. as far as failures go, it was kind of epic.

  3. Dear Dash - could you let me know next time this happens please? Is it the nearest Friday to full moon?
    Want to add it to this: