August 2013, Buddha Statues and Tibetan Masks
Heading off to Nepal next week with plans to spend two weeks trekking in Mustang, the remote Buddhist kingdom that sticks up like a thumb into Tibet. We’ll trek between the villages on the old trade route between Tibet and Nepal that was used for hundreds of years by caravans of sheep and goats carrying salt and wool. That tradition ended when China invaded Tibet and effectively closed the borders, though a new road is now being built to connect Lhasa with Kathmandu. The way of life in Mustang, unchanged for hundreds of years, will shortly be changed forever.
Mustang, Buddhist monasteries
Culturally, Mustang is similar to Zanskar and Ladakh in northern India, where we’ve trekked several times, and we expect to see old villages with narrow winding lanes, ancient Buddhist monasteries, prayer flags and white painted Buddhist shrines called stupas – and a dry mountainous landscape.
Kathmandu, Buddha statues
Back in the Kathmandu valley we’ll be looking out for wooden statues and masks and we hope to spend some time in Patan, the town near Kathmandu where for centuries metalworkers have produced the finest Buddha statues, hopefully we’ll be able to buy some to send back home. Incidentally, Patan was originally called Lalitpur which was the inspiration for the name of the country of Lillitpur in Gulliver’s Travels.
Kathmandu’s a great trading place for handicrafts and we might be able to buy some more Mithila paintings. 30 years ago you could buy temple rubbings on rice paper, it would be great to find some of those again.