We arrived back to an illuminated Kathmandu, with homes and businesses strung with flower garlands and lights for Laxmi Puja, the third day of the Tihar festival. The puja, or prayer, involves placing a trail of red mud (along with flowers, fruits and candles) at the entrance way of the home to invite the Goddess in. Because Laxmi is the Goddess of Wealth, many businesses also perform puja in hopes for a successful upcoming year and nearly every store front in Thamel (the tourist area of Kathmandu) was decorated.
The fourth day of Tihar involve more door-to-door singing in exchange for gifts of money. It was adorable, for the most part, but possibly bordered on begging (or extortion...) when it involved 40-year-old men rather than children. The last couple of days also involved lots and lots of illegal Chinese firework. We felt like we were in a war zone, and if it weren't for the holiday joy enveloping us, we might well have gone mad from all the noise.
The final day of Tihar is very endearing, and involves sisters and brothers giving tikas and gifts to one another and praying for the long life of their siblings. What a nice idea.
I wasn't feeling well, so we spent a few extra days in Kathmandu relaxing and recovering. This gave us the chance to visit a few sites around the city as well, like the palaces and temples of Durbar Square and the lovely Swayambhunath Stupa pearched on a hill at the western edge of the city. The latter is also referred the Monkey Temple because of the thousands of monkeys that dart up and down the stairways and swing from the trees. We could sit and watch those comedic creatures all day.
After one last western meal (pizza), we were finally ready to leave this travelers' haven to face the mysteries of India. If our bus trip to the border - enlivened with thousands of chirping chicks and a cadre of bearded sadhus (ascetic holy men) - is any indication, we are in for one heck of a ride....