Saturday, September 9, 2017

Bistare bistare

Bistare bistare

Le Soleil qui tape, dégoulinantes de sueur et bien empoussiérées. C’est ainsi que nous avons fait notre entrée dans Changu Narayan depuis Bodhnath, Népal. Le plan: faire le tour de la vallée de Katmandou à la marche, puis nous diriger vers Pokhara, vive le trekking. Sur le chemin de terre menant au village, un homme nous hêle, sortant de forêt tel Gandalf, comme lui seul a le don de le faire. Nous parlant dans un anglais fluide, Anoj nous apprend qu’il est un guide. Bistare bistare (lentement lentement, expression souvent de circonstance) nous montons une colline jusqu’à  arriver à la Starview Guesthouse, après en avoir visité une autre antérieurement. Suivant Anoj, nous débouchons sur une terrasse et rencontrons Ama, la propriétaire, et des amis népalais. En effet, beaucoup de Népalais fréquente la terrasse de la guesthouse, lieu de rassemblement et de socialisation. Accueil chaleureux, café extrêmement satisfaisant gratuit (mais surtout à volonté), musique joyeuse détendue, conversations agréables en bonne compagnie… le meilleur clash que nous aurions pu espérer suite à notre marche. Nous nous entendons rapidement pour un prix avec Ama, option bénévolat possible, l’unique chambre disponible étant la plus spacieuse, s’éloignant du but économie, part déterminante de notre philosophie de voyage. Nous avons passé notre première soirée, comme toutes les suivantes, simplement sur la terrasse, à jaser et contempler les paysages qui s’offraient à nous, bières à l’appui. L’endroit, situé en hauteur, offre une superbe vue sur villes et montagnes, particulièrement après la mousson. L’air frais, significativement moins pollué qu’à Katmandou, libère l’esprit et étire les séjours, au grand bonheur d’Ama. Parties pour rester 2 nuits, nous en avons dormies 6 dans la Starview Guesthouse, rencontrant de nouvelles personnes  à chaque jour et explorant les lieux aux milles découvertes. Nous avons fait quelques tâches bien simples, comme du marquage de trails juxtaposé à la visite de Kali Babba, un holy man.  Joindre travail et plaisir, travail étant un peu fort pour décrire la situation. Nous avons également choisi d’aider à faire le souper pour la gratuité alimentaire, concoctant des recettes épicées avec goût, plaisant à plusieurs. Si le déjeuner (petit déjeuner pour les Français de ce monde) s’avérait inclus dans le prix de la chambre, ce n’était pas le cas pour le souper (déjeuner pour les Français de ce monde), comme dans la majorité des guesthouses que nous avons visitées depuis nos petits débuts au Népal. Par contre, pour 250 roupies de plus par jour, vous obtenez un souper cuisiné dans l’endroit. Sinon, pour repas de milieu de journée (évitons la confusion entre Québécois et Français), il est possible de trouver de petits restaurants dans le village et les alentours. Ce dernier recèle de petits commerces, entre autres de thangkas, peintures de la vie de Bouddha foisonnant de petits détails plaqué or, de toutes qualités, et d’un fameux temple, quelque peu atteint par les tremblements de terre de 2015. Or, l’endroit dégage une atmosphère sereine, portant à la spiritualité et au respect de la nature. La majorité du temple se tient toujours fièrement sur ses pieds et on le sent chargé d’histoire, dans chaque pierre. Les balades en forêt se prêtent merveilleusement à la place, avec toutes ces herbes saisonnières et ses grands arbres. Quoi de mieux pour se détendre à fond? Ici, nous apprenons que le temps n’a pas d’importance et que la vie est sans stress, sans même faire de méditation, excepté nos étirements quotidiens.  Fini le niaisage, ramène tes ramens pour profiter de la sérénité inspirante éloigné du mode de vie occidental, axé sur la performance, l’individualisme et la consommation  de Changu Narayan et de sa Starview Guesthouse!
- Maude Gascon et Caroline Chartrand (Montréal, Québec, Amérique du Nord)

Friday, September 8, 2017

Birdwatching, animal watching and Changunarayan

One morning after going up to my roof to call my son I saw this on the way down. This is one of our village's eagles. They nest near the temple. I love to sit on the roof and watch them fly overhead. Sometimes I sit and listen to the birds and either see or hear at least 6 different species. We even have fast flying swallows like the ones from Capistrano, CA, US. One thing I like about the temple here in Changu is we don't have quite as many pigeons. I think the monkeys keep them away to a certain extent.

These are not happy monkeys, either.
Sometimes I stop to admire some of our smaller friends. Many are the same as back home, the dragon fly, preying mantis and so many varieties of beetles. But many are new to me and I have to take out the camera. There is one beetle that flies around the light at night that looks like a Volks Wagon Bug. It seems to fly until it just can't go anymore and then plummets to the ground.

This bug was about 6 inches long. He was out on a hiking trail.
When these birds fly you can see a patch of white on their wings.
For three years I've heard this bird, the coo coo bird. I finally saw him right outside the guest house shortly after I moved here. 
Bhaktapur admission is $15. Changunarayan costs only 100 NRs. or $1. I wouldn't recommend both places in one day. I'd suggest staying in Changu and then taking the local bus to Bhaktapur or Kathmandu. Seriously, it isn't hard to learn to take the bus in Nepal. I usually have a young person sit next to me who wants to practice speaking English. You just won't believe how friendly people are in Nepal. 

Some meals are just fun to eat and some foods are worth waiting for. We’ve been waiting for almost an entire year, but it’s finally that time. Avocados are getting ripe and I actually paid $4.50 kg. and it was well worth it. It seems like a lot because chicken meat is only $3.00 kg. 

Our favorite meal with avocado is hummus and Bimala, our cook, made a delicious feast for our guests. We are hosting 10 Chinese architecture students who are practicing their skills by drawing our ancient temple and grounds. I have to say that they are some of the most gracious guests we’ve had so far at the Star View Guest House. 

We serve all-you-can-eat family style and it’s always something interesting. I like to offer our guests meals they don’t get to eat while traveling in Asia.  Altogether, we devoured almost the entire kilo of chick pea. We had homemade nachos, Basmati rice and raw carrot with the meal. One of the nicest things about serving this kind of dinner is how it adds to the ability to have a great conversation and an extra long dinner time. 

We also had a couple of French Canadian girls who helped make dinner. Not only did they learn how to roll out a tortilla, but they got to eat their dinner for free because they helped. We welcome our guests into our kitchen, but we reserve the right to limit the situation due to health and safety reasons. When we have someone on a deep budget we try to give them an opportunity to save a bit when we can, but Ama is a crazy person when it comes to cooking time; it’s about germ management.

Yes, we have Dal Bhat, the traditional Nepali meal and can provide a meat dish upon request. Otherwise, we try to minimize cross contamination by cooking vegetarian. We take extra care for germs when we serve meat. For instance, we buy the meat the same day we eat it and the same day the animal was slaughtered to minimize problems. 

What's for dinner at the Star View Guest House? You can have just about anything we can find the ingredients for, so if you've been traveling for awhile and want a familiar comfort food just let us know. Here are a few pictures of some of our meals:

Aloo Paratha, which is mashed potato in flat bread served with our special Ju Ju Dau (yogurt)

We found organic beetroot, so Bimala made Borsch.

Manchurian Cabbage on a bed of rice

If you enjoyed this post you might like our other blogs. will help you appreciate the intricacies of life in Nepal. 

After the earthquakes, I started an NGO to help the local people in need. You can read about our agencies projects at




Thursday, July 17, 2014

Retire abroad for only $500 per month-How??

First, I want to assure you that this information is regarding a legitimate offer. I am hoping to give help to those who have no chance to elevate their lifestyle in the US and who struggle with medical, food and heating in the winter. When retirement catches you with deflated real estate investment and a deflated portfolio due to the financial crisis of 2008 and few job opportunities for someone in your age bracket it’s time to rethink your options. Is staying where you are really a good option?

One thing that became clear to me by living several years in Florida is that winter is the thing that causes old age to creep up on us. My plumber while I lived in Florida was 92 years old. I lived in a senior mobile home golf community and several of the residents there had more energy than I did even though they were decades older. So my secret to a long life is to live in a climate where you can stay busy all year long. Hibernating may work for bears but people just get older and less healthy with each spring. We have to keep moving or our bodies loose stamina.

When it became clear that I needed an entire building due to my Nepali landlord keeping a fresh breeze rolling through the building all winter long, I found a beautiful guest house that was still under construction. Although I kept saying, “No, not Changunarayan,” when I saw it and the amazing location I had to take it. So, I am now the proud owner of a 14 room guest house. The possibilities are really exciting. Why ‘not Changu?’ It’s a long bus ride from Kathmandu and there has been an issue with water. Pipes have been laid and bridges are under construction that will bring Kathmandu closer. That left a lovely guest house in an amazing location, so how could I say ‘no’ to that?

I only have 6 rooms for guests. The rest is for the restaurant, living room areas, etc. No one can be expected to sit in their room all day. That means room for sitting around, room for socializing and room for making a guest house look and feel more like a home. I am not looking to make an ‘old folks home,’ but an expat home for mature people who want to enjoy life and stay active.

But $500 a month just seems a bit too low. People are a bit skeptical of just what they are getting themselves into. Even Thailand is well over $1,000 a month, according to many sources. Truthfully, if you were to come here on your own you would need to have a lot less activities, do more of your household work yourself and pay a big chunk in transportation. You would need at least $5,000 for furniture, kitchenware, inverter, car and driver (or take the local bus). Then there is the learning curve. People end up in Kathmandu because the facilities are all there. Hospitals, government agencies and most items you would want to buy are all easier to find in Kathmandu. But the pollution can be difficult to deal with. Everyone wears masks to combat it, but there are still the dogs, horns, beggars and heat.   

My rent here in Changunarayan is the same as what I paid each month when I lived in the mobile home community in Florida, but instead of a tiny, old trailer I have an entire building! Instead of living with a bunch of older people as neighbors from a similar culture I get to have people from all over the world coming through. I got to rewrite myself and live a much better lifestyle.

Guest services is the next biggest expense, but wages are so low here, especially if room and board is provided, that I have 2-3 staff working for me at all times. It’s really nice to have ‘people.’ Surprisingly, room, food and $10 per week is a living wage here, so that really isn’t very much overhead.

Food is another expense, but even when vegetables are out of season they are seldom over $1.25 a kg. (about $.60 per pound). We get some lovely, picked-the-same-day vegetables and many are even organic. None of it is GMO. Some food is almost as expensive as in the US, such as pasta ($1.30-500 grams) butter ($4 per kg.), olive oil ($10 per 500 ml.). This is because local people do not include things like butter and olive oil in their diets, so these items are often imported.

Many of the electronics are quite expensive and a laptop can cost as much or more as in the West, due to the import tariff. So my diet, vegetarian only, costs me less than $3 a day, maybe $100-150 per month. You probably won’t want to eat meat here. They kill it and cook it without curing it, so it’s tough as nails. There is also a problem with refrigeration due to electric shortages, so you won’t want to eat too much meat. Although anyone can get stomach bacteria problems, it seems to me that meat eaters have more problems and have a more difficult time recovering.

Transportation is another issue. I will have a car and driver, costing between $300-500 per month. My plan is to convert a car to LPG, which will make it very inexpensive to drive. Regardless, we will have the car taking everyone together to Kathmandu whenever anyone wants to go. I think it will be that the car will leave at 10 am and return at 3 pm to avoid the worst of the traffic. Evening meetings and events will be available whenever anyone wants to go. Of course if you’d like to go to Chitwan or Pokhara you would need to pay unless it’s a group adventure. We will be doing things like going to Pokhara or Chitwan for a week at a time.

Electricity runs about $5 per month, water is free during the monsoon, but can cost $50 during the dry season; drinking water will cost about $1 per day for everyone. The home phone is only $3 per month and internet with cable TV costs around $20. Although we have horrendous power cuts in the winter, we seldom run out of electricity. The only reason we do run out is because sometimes it just doesn’t come back on. We have several rechargeable lamps to use at such times. Cooking fuel will cost around $15 per month.

Not that disease like malaria is a problem, but we have screens on the windows, mosquito nets and mosquito zapper paddles. I also make sure each room has a bathrobe and shower shoes to make showering and dressing easier. The bathroom floors get very slippery and cold, so you will want to put a robe on and dress in your room. Yes, each room has an attached bath, so you could even walk around naked.

As you can see by the expenses listed here, there is no need to cut corners. There is plenty of room for a lot of miscellaneous expenses and still some profit. I’d love to just be able to live free so I could save my retirement income to do projects to help Nepal. So, if you are retired and living on a small income and would like to explore the possibility of coming to Nepal for an extended stay please contact me by email:  

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Great oppertunity for retired women from the west

supply costs lessI'm a retired American widow much too poor to live in the US. I am living like a queen in Nepal and enjoying everyday like a treasure.

I would like to help other Western women in my age bracket to escape the rat race and enjoy life on a small budget. If you have a minimum of $700 in solid retirement income I'd like to help you to transition to life in Nepal. It is very safe and cheap to live here. But I know that if you have only a small income it is impossible to come on your own. You'd have to find your way around and buy furniture and things. That's the way I did it, but I wasted a lot of money and time and ended up going back to live in a guest house, which required me to store my furniture. I lost a lot of what I had due to storage issues.

I am creating a project to sponsor other retired women from the West. I will house them in a group home environment and provide them the safety net they need. There is lots of walking paths, natural remedies that are very affordable, really everything you need for a healthy lifestyle. I'm even taking royal bee jelly that I could never afford to buy in the US and I'm feeling 10 years younger. A month's  than $25!

Rich people don't have to sacrifice like the poor do. I know if it's a mistake for these women it will be a huge mistake! That is not my intention. My intention is to create an environment for older Western women to live whereby they can be more active, have more fun and live longer than if they stayed in the West. Any women interested in doing a 'Poor Woman's Senior Gap Year' should contact me for more information.

I have more information about my intentions and what I can do to help senior poverty at

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Star View B&B & Retreat Center

Intro Offer: This is a brand new guest house at the top of Changunarayan ancient temple village near Bhaktapur, Nepal. Not only is your breakfast included, but your lunch and dinner will also be included and prepared to your order.
The Space
This brand new, Cat. 9 earthquake safe, bed & breakfast with 24 hour electric and gas water heating to assure you of hot water, is located right outside the West Gate of the ancient Hindu temple. It is the oldest temple still actively used in the Kathmandu Valley. It is like a step back in time.
If you are looking for nightlife of Thamel, this is not for you for two reasons. First, it is a long ride to Thamel, about an hour. Secondly, if you are out that late you would not be able to get a ride home. But if you want a very quiet place where the air is clear and you can almost touch the stars from our rooftop then you will enjoy it. In fact, you would do well to schedule your first night or two here to recover from your trip from the West.
Guest Access
The Italian restaurant will not be open for a few months, so you will be able to have access to the kitchen if you like to cook. We will also have a TV in one of the living rooms. The other one, of equal size, will be for using the WIFI or visiting.
Interaction with Guests
I am always happy to help my guests with information about Nepal and have a box full of tourist brochures.
I do not have a trekking agency and do not earn any money on my advice except for sales from my eBook, Nepal: A Tourist's Manual, which you can find via (website hidden) search.
I do have a 'Nepali Grandson' who can take you on a motorcycle trek for less than $10 for the day. He is very kind and honest.
The Neighborhood
Although still in the Kathmandu Valley, we are a bit higher. We have beautiful views and clean air. This is an ancient village. Many of the people do not speak English. The people live and dress as they have for generations. They are very friendly.
Getting around
There are buses that leave to Bhaktapur every 30 minutes, all day long. From there you can go to Kathmandu or just enjoy this ancient city. It is also very beautiful. If you come during a full moon there is usually a festival. Some are not so tourist friendly, but others can be the highpoint of your trip.
Other Things to Note
There is a 100 NRs. ($1.) admission donation, but will be good for the time you are here in Changunarayan if you are staying at a guest house here. They are restoring the temple area very nicely.