Some of our group started their trip in Dubai. They visited the indoor shopping mall with an indoor ski slope, the Burjj Al-Arab and went dune bashing in the desert, and learned about the history and archeology of Dubai at the Dubai Museum.
Board Members Louis Pillarella, Peg Harrington, Beverly Garcia-Anderson, and friends, Patricia Haith and Larry Anderson in Dubai.
The trip to Nepal took our group from Kathmandu and the old cities of Patan and Bhaktapur to a sunrise flight over the Himalayan Mountains, to Pokhara where we visited the students at the Pema Tsal Monastic Institute, to the National Park in Chitwan. There was a great diversity in architecture, scenery, and landscape.
The group spent the first few days in Kathmandu exploring Hindu Temples and Buddhist Stupas. In Durbar Square the group had the opportunity to visit the Kumari house and see the Kumari, a young girl revered by the Nepali people as a living goddess. We explored Pashupatinath, A Hindu pilgrimage site on one of the tributaries of the Ganges River where we saw the Lingam Temples and the Cremation ghats. The group visited Boudhanath, the largest Buddhist stupa with prayer wheel encircling the entire edifice and the Swyambhunath, or the Monkey Temple which offered spectacular views of the Kathmandu Valley.
Stupa at Boudhanath
Also in Kathmandu, the group visited Patan, the city of fine arts, full of Buddhist and Hindu Temples and monuments, and spent a wonderful day in Bhaktapur, which is a UNESCO world heritage site and is known as the city of Devotees.
One cannot escape the beauty of both the Himalayas and the Annapurna Mountain Range. The group had the opportunity for a scenic flight along the Himalayan range and then an overnight in Nargakot, a hill station with one of the best views of the mountains.
The group then traveled to Pokhara where we visited the Devi Falls, the gorge of the Seti River the Tashiling Tibetan Center where we saw the craft of making Tibetan carpets, and then a boating trip on Phewa Lake. On our second day in Pokhara we had the opportunity to visit the Pema Ts’al Monastic Institute. Led by Khenpo Kunga, the Institute includes a school, dormitories, guest house and a temple. Khenpo Kunga started this school in a small apartment and today it has grown significantly. We had lunch with many of the older students, college –aged boys who were soon to be monks, and we also had an assembly by the younger students who sang both the Tibetan and Nepali National Anthems for us. We had a great tour of the classrooms and the temple where we observed a long-life Puja.
Monastery at the Pema Ts’al Monastic Institute
We then traveled by bus to Chitwan, the second largest city in Nepal. Chitwan is comprised of a National Park and the local economy is very reliant on eco-tourism. We had an elephant ride in the jungle and an evening cultural show. The next morning we visited an elephant breeding center before our return flight to Kathmandu.