I'm stuck in Kathmandu, thanks to a severe fu*k up (sorry mum, but it's deserved) on behalf of Thai Airways or Global Adventure Trekking or Flight Consultants or Osho World Travel or the fiddler's dog, who knows. The end result is that instead of being reunited with my boyfriend at the Edinburgh train station in a misty sepia-coloured photograph RIGHT THIS MINUTE, I am here with my daiquari. I'm turning into Ernest Hemingway.
To make pleasanter the 48 hour delay, I've been thinking through the highlights of this trip. Here's the top ten...
(in no order)
(off the top of my head).
1. Mytkyina to Mandalay boat ride, Myanmar
48 hours in the lungs of a ship: inter-mingling with Burmese people, sharing my books and camera and pictures; laughing with the boys running the kitchen that will live and work on the noisy rusty ferry for all their lives. Singing the 'Titanic' song with Heather whilst watching the sun set over palm fronds and water; it could almost have been the Thai islands.
2. Mt Kailash kora, Tibet
Such a beautiful place, a sacred place. One of the few places on the tourist trail that it's still an effort to get to (and not for long - again the Chinese are gonna destroy the thing they so revere by building an airport and a road around it) and an effort to climb... but for such reward.
3. Tibet in general
My first land-bound glipse of theTibetan mountains whilst on the road from the airport into Lhasa will always stay with me, as will first seeing the lovely lady pilgrims with their prayer wheels and patterned aprons walking the Barkhor... Butter tea; yak wax candles, spruice... such a special, special place.
4. Bagan, Myanmar
Having awesome travel companions in Germans, Gerd and Sarah, so I didn't have to think about the schedule for a minute! Watching the sunlight rise over the Bagan temples, thinking how it the pink light of dawn, it looked just like England.
5. Thamel, Kathmandu
There are few places to get over the remoteness - and lack of a good menu - of a trip like that to Kailash than Thamel. There can be too much of a good thing though... I do wish I wasn't still here.
6. Tiger Leaping Gorge, China
Like Bagan, this was a place that I'd longed to see from afar and had planned my trip around. It's such a vast gorge from north to south and unfortunately one that is soon to be diminished by the humans who mistakenly think they can tame the world. See below blog for more on China's plan to dam TLG.
7. Kids of Kathmandu
Many people have flocked to Kathmandu from the countryside over the last five years to escape the Maoist conflict, including many children who've run away or been pushed away from home. I had the good furtune to meet Bruce Moore of the American Himalaya Foundation and go to a shelter for street kids here. The shelter we visited caters for 600 kids, and provides shelter for 200 of them every night. There is a school and a clinic. If not for that place, many of those kids would have no option outside of the glue sniffing and intravenous drug use (that means HIV) that's prevalent in the homeless community. Please check out the Foundation's link(www.himalayan-foundation.org) because they do absolutely fantastic work for the Nepalese, Sherpas and Tibetans that have very little support to get outside the tragic cycle of displacement and poverty.
7. Chinese food
The Chinese make very bad humanitatian and environmental decisions but they cook like angels.
8. Lijang, China
This UNESCO town was like stepping back into the China of two hundred years ago. Imagine swinging lamps, water wheels, willows brushing the water of stone canals... stunning.
9. Missing Richie, everywhere
High vomit factor, I know. I don't think distance could make this heart grow fonder, but it has given me even more perspective on what's important. So I'll see you soon baby!
10. Edinburgh, Scotland
I'm not there yet but it'll be good. :)