There are no traffic laws in Nepal...that are followed to any real extent. You want to pile yourself and your entire family of 5 on your motorbike...sure! Use a pickup truck as your own personal version of public transportation...ok. Rickshaws, bikes, motorbikes, horse drawn carriage...whatever gets you from A to B. Traffic accidents are plentiful, as you can imagine, but deaths due to traffic accidents are nearly non-existent. This is because the roads are so poorly paved that you are lucky to get over 40mph. But probably the most interesting thing is how people use their horns in Nepal, not usually out of anger or frustration as in the States, but as just another form of communication with other drivers and pedestrians; a common courtesy. For instance...
"Hi tourist I'm on a motor bike coming up behind you. I'm going to squeeze between you and that mini car next to you, and I may have to nudge your elbow to do it...if that's okay."
"Hi friend. You're going a little slow for me so I'm going to pass you now even though we are on a cliff side going around a really sharp bend. I hope whoever is coming the other direction can hear me laying on my horn and get out of the way in time."
2) Human Sacrifices
Yes- you heard me right. Apparently, though seldomly, they do still happen as part of a Hindu ritual (sorry I missed what specific ritual as I was still reeling from the hearing that human sacrifice is still practiced in peaceful Nepal). How is this sacrifice chosen, you may ask. Well, when a sacrifice is to be made, something like 5 holy men get together and make the decision on what person is not deemed fit to live, usually someone who has committed a serious crime (F* the electric chair- we are going to place you on an alter a sacrifice your body to the gods). The man who was explaining this to me then added - "That is why the crime rate in Nepal is so low" Haha...I bet he's right.
3) The last royal family
In 2001 the entire royal family was mass murdered in their palace. There seems to be some confusion over who actually did the killing. Some say that it was the crown prince who went mad and killed his family before attempting to commit suicide (he did die as well 2 days later). Others believe that the person or persons who did the killing were only wearing masks of the crown prince, thus causing the confusion. The streets of Kathmandu were thrown into pandemonium and grief as the king was well liked - many men shaved their heads, a ritual that sons do when their father dies, and a 13 day mourning period was declared in the city. The palace now stands as a museum, and the country is now run by a Prime Minister and parliament.
4) The living Goddess
There is a living Goddess that resides in a temple in Kathmandu's Durbar Square. This girl is around 7 years old and she receives the title of Goddess through a pageant like event. To be eligible for this pageant, you must be Buddhist for no less then 6 generations on both sides of the family, you must be between the ages of 5-7, and possess 32 points of perfection on your body. Once all eligible girls are gathered a pageant is held and a girl is chosen by a panel of holy men. The Goddess then lives in a temple with 9 holy men who serve and protect her until the day she bleeds, which can either be from her menstruation or even just a cut or scrape. Once she reaches puberty (or any form of bleeding) she is replaced and goes back to her ordinary life.
5) Peaceful religion
Nepal is just about the only country where Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and even some Christians live and practice peacefully. The large majority of the country is comprised of Buddhists and Hindus who both practice karma and reincarnation. What is pretty cool is that where you find a Buddhist stupa, you will also usually find a Hindu temple, and there are some temples that both religions will worship at. They even worship some of the same gods but with different rules and names. For Hindus, Buddha is seen as one of Vishnu's reincarnations, while Buddhists obviously do not believe that their dietey is a reincarnation of any other religions god. Muslim is a very small, and peaceful, maybe 4% of the population, and Christianity is kind of forcing its way into the scene, they way it tends to do (no offense). It's a shame, but not totally shocking that Christians are pushing their way into small villages offering food, clothes, and free education for converting to Christianity. Makes you wonder if it is a form of philanthropy or the next form of inquisition.
Off the heavy stuff...
6) Brian Addams is Huge here!
Seriously, I'm pretty sure I've heard Everything I do, I do it for you, like a hundred times...even in the mountains. Hilarious!
7) The early bird really does get the worm
When shopping in Nepal try to get an early start. It is seen as good luck for a merchant to get their first sale of the day so they are likely to let you bargain them down really low, even at a loss to them. Once you pay them, they will touch the money to everything in their shop.
8) The rules of hand holding
It is not uncommon for 2 men to walk down the street hand in hand or with their arms around their necks or waist, and it in no way reflects their sexuality. It is just the accepted behavior between men and men and women and women. What is unusual to see, or even frowned upon is male and female affection in public.
9) Unfinished Housing
There are a lot of houses and hotels under construction all around Nepal. They are being lived in and businesses run out of them, but they are in a constant state of unrest. This is, I discovered, because they can skirt having to pay taxes while the building is being constructed. Tricky, tricky.
UNO is an international game that brings people together, especially in the mountains when the lights go out at 7:30pm and you are playing by head lamps :-)
* By the way- I feel the need to mention that this is all hear-say that I have picked up along the way here in Nepal and should not be taken as hard facts. I did not conduct any research for this post. Thank you.