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Three-year-old Matina Shakya, daughter of a Nepalese watchmaker, has just taken her seat as the Royal Kumari (living goddess in the country’s capital, Kathmandu) on Tuesday, Oct 6.

Here is the news report of this 3-year-old kumari on NBC

Like all Kumari’s, Matina Shakya has been moved away from her family and is now living in a “palace”.   She can leave her palace only on ceremonial occasions.  Her playmates will be drawn from a narrow pool of Newari childred from her caste; and she has to dress and put on make-up in a specific way (e.g. dress in red, with a “third eye” painted on her forehead as a symbol of her special power of perception).

Matina Shakya with her mother

While her life is now free of material troubles, she has ceremonial duties to carry out. Although she is not ordered about, she is expected to behave as befits a goddess.

I feel sorry for the girl. This is the beginning of her abnormal life.  She will be deprived of a normal childhood.  She won’t have the same freedom, schooling, social activities as everyone else her age.  She can’t make friends with whomever she wants or dress as how she wishes.  In short, she can’t do many things, even basic things like running on a grassland and enjoying the sun.

And it is said that the girls often struggle to re-adjust to normal lives after they return home.  So, to Preeti Shakya, the former Royal Kumari, I wish you the very best!  It might be tough, but it’s the beginning to a normal, yet always-exciting life 8)

Photo taken when Preeti Shakya was carried throught the streets in a chariot during the Ghode Jatra festival in March 2007

More on Kumari

Video: Kumari – Living Goddess – Nepal

Living Goddess – the Movie

The Living Goddess in Nepal


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Based on the experience of my trip in India and Nepal, following are links to my reviews of accommodations, restaurants, and other services that I would like to recommend you to try or NOT to try.

This is just my two cents. For more reviews and suggestions, I would recommend one to check out IndiaMike.com, an online community for India travelers. I especially like its forums. The personal experiences and up-to-date information given by its strong member base are far more trustworthy and helpful than many other random travel sites.

And things change quickly in this world, especially places like India and Nepal. So please don’t take the numbers I gave here as they are, but only as a reference. I have two advices for you when shopping in these countries.

  1. Check and compare the prices of different shops or hotels before making your purchase.
  2. Bargain always. You will be surprised by all the better deals that you can get for yourself by doing so. =)

Another website that I used a lot when I was doing my research is Trip Advisor.

Here are some reviews of accommodations and restaurants.

Delhi – Waves Restaurant, Prince Polonia Hotel, Hotel Blue Sapphire
Varanasi – Scindhia Guest House
Khajuraho – Hotel Zen
Agra – Taj Home Stay, Maya Hotel
Jaipur – Umaid Mahal Hotel
Kathmandu – Annapurna Lodge

In addition, here are more information that you may find helpful.

Cost Breakdown of My India & Nepal Trip

Itinerary of My India & Nepal Trip

Transportation in India
Travel in India – Car Rental
Indian Drivers & the Evil Commission System
Car Rental in India: How Much Tips for a C+ Service?
Transportation in India: Car Rental & India Railways

Tour Guide in Nepal
Nepal Tour Guide

Trekking in Nepal
Jap Quality Hot spring in Jhinu

Shopping in India
Travel in India – Beware of the Commission System!!!
Travel in India – Have Fun Bargaining
Travel in India – The Best Anti-Hawker Strategy
Different Entry Fee for Indians and Foreigners
Indian: Friendly? Tricky?

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Tourguide: Kumar Pandey
Contact Address: POB No. 8974, CPC 251, Kathmandu, Nepal
Phone: 0977-9841292381
Email: trekman_nepal@hotmail.com
Comment:
We didn’t have Kumar as our ABC trail trekking guide, but we met him afterwards when we were in the Durbar Square of Kathmandu. We didn’t especially want a tour guide that morning, but since Kurmar offered us an extraordinarily good deal of NRs 100, plus he looked fun and friendly, we accepted his offer. Kumar later told us that a scheduled protest of some kind that he had organized would start later that day. And because he was waiting and got a little bored, he wanted to find something to do. So he offered us such a good deal of being our tour guide, even without us asking and bargaining for one (we had other Nepalese offering us NRs 300 – 500).

Kumar speaks good English and is a Nepal government authorized guide. He is very experienced, and apparently, he has a very wide network of friends (he kept shaking hands and having small chat with those hanging around in the square). He is a fun guy. We had a good time with him 🙂

Back to the main page of India & Nepal – Reviews and Recommendations


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Hotel: Annapurna Lodge
Address: 355/26 Jhochhen Tole, KTM Durbar Square, Kathmandu 23, Nepal
Phone: 00977-1-4247684, 00977-1-4245096
Comment:
While Themal was too touristy and Bhaktapur was too out-of-the-way, Yik and I decided to take the middle ground and find a lodge in the Freak Street area. We shopped around before we chose Annapurna Lodge.

Comparing with other guesthouses, the rooms in Annapurna Lodge were clean and cheap. The lodge had both rooms with and without private bathroom. Hot water was not 24/7 though. But since water supply in Kathmandu was restricted and only available in a certain time period of the day by the time we were in the city, I bet that there was no guesthouse in similar price range could supply hot water all day long.

The lodge is just a few minutes walk away from the square.

Water supply was restricted by the time we were there. People had to get water from the water truck everyday within a scheduled time period.

This rooftop restaurant was located near by the lodge. Its food was pretty good. We tried a buffalo dish there 🙂

Back to the main page of India & Nepal – Reviews and Recommendations

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I found many similarities between my experience of the ABC trekking trip and the Vipassana 10-day course in Hong Kong .

Duration

Both the Vipassana course and the ABC trekking trip were 10 days long. Interestingly, in both of them, every day went by very slowly, so slowly that I didn’t just count the time passed by day (“ok, still have 8 days to go”, “ok, 7 days left”…), but I actually counted by hour (“yes! another hour, then lunch!”, “still have another two hours to go before arriving to the next stop point”…) Time passes by very slowly when we keep doing the same thing all day long, for many days, without any distraction. Unlike Vipassana, while I could talk with others during my trekking days, I found the trekking trip a good time to focus more on myself and do some self-reflection and whatnot.

Lodging

Both provided the very basic – only a bed. We had to bring our own beddings. Well, all lodges along the ABC trail provided a pillow more than the Vipassana center, but I wouldn’t mind to carry my own pillow since I stayed in the same place for all 10 days during the course. Yet, in no doubt, the Vipassana center provides better lodging, since hot water and electricity are guaranteed 24/7! 😀

People

One may not make lifetime friends there in the Vipassana course or during her trekking trip, but all the people one meets there share some very similar interests. Hence, I have found it very easy to pick up a conversation and have a good chat, share information and ideas, with the people whom I met, both in the course, as well as the trekking trip.

It’s a Challenge!

Completing the 10 days of the Vipassana course or the ABC trail needs strong determination. During the course, there were times I doubted that it wasn’t want I was looking for and if I should call it off . And when I was trekking the ABC trail, there were times I wondered if I had picked a trail too long. It’s not only a physical challenge, but a challenge of one’s patience and endurance as well. And it was the happy findings and beautiful moments along the way

that made me knew that I had made the right choice and would stay put and keep going. In addition, as time went by, the more time I had invested in the course/trekking trip, the less I would want to give up. Unlike some crises that just happen in life involuntarily, both the Vipassana course and the ABC trail are challenges that one searches and gives herself by her own free will. I like both experience and am happy that I have got myself to do them. They are definitely a self-learning experience, as well as an achievement and experience that I love to share with others. 🙂

Feeling Afterwards

While I liked my experience along the way during the 10 days in the Vipassana center / ABC trekking trip, I told myself I had enough of my share and wouldn’t want to do this again. But a few days after the Vipassana course / ABC trekking, my mind changed. It’s really not a bad idea to do them again. Now, if some friends are planning a trekking trip of other trails such as Jomsom or Mt. Everest, I won’t mind to join indeed. And, I am actually interested in checking out the Vipassana centers in other countries. It is nice how there are Vipassana centers all around the world, making it quite convenient, and even fun, just like trying out the McDonald’s in different countries haha 😛

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Here is a good video on youtube about the living goddess, with much information, interesting facts, showing a better picture of the life of kumaris and ex-kumaris. It also talked about the visit to US of Sajani Shakya, the living goddess of Bhaktapur, in 2007.

In response to the concern of the goddess may have been “contaminated” while in the US as a result of eating food cooked in a kitchen that had also prepared beef, Sajani’s father said that he didn’t even know the Americans eat beef. 😛

While I found it funny, it reminded me how we have been taking our education and all the information that is so readily available to us for granted.

So there really are people who think no one in this world eats beef huh? 😯

Kumari – Living Goddess – Nepal
15:41

More on Kumari

Video: The New Royal Kumari – Living Goddess of Kathmandu

Living Goddess – the Movie

The Living Goddess in Nepal


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In Jun 2007, the living goddess of Bhaktapur – Sajani Shakya – flew to Washington DC to attend the American Film Institute’s Silverdocs film festival of a British documentary, Living Goddess, which explored this religious tradition in Nepal.

In known history, no kumari has traveled overseas like how this goddess did. She has broken centuries of customs and almost got her title stripped off by the Nepali authority for this breach of etiquette.

Here is the ABC News reporting on the living goddess’ visit of Washington DC.


ABC News Reporting on “The Living Goddess” Premiere
2:09

Here are the website of the Living Goddess movie. It is a documentary featuring three living goddesses and exploring this unique religious tradition in Nepal.


on Flickr

More on Kumari

Video: The New Royal Kumari – Living Goddess of Kathmandu

Video: Kumari – Living Goddess – Nepal

The Living Goddess in Nepal

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