Day Three - GNOME Asia 2023

Although light on the scheduled agenda, the third day of GNOME Asia 2023 began with a guided group tour to explore the rich cultural heritage of Bhaktapur and the surrounding areas with the participants and concluded with a successful visit to the Pashupatinath Temple to witness the evening Aarti.

Day Three - GNOME Asia 2023
Photo by Raimond Klavins on Unsplash

While the third day of the GNOME Asia 2023 was comparatively lighter in terms of the scheduled agenda, we were informed in advance by the event organizers to reach the Hotel Yak And Yeti, Kathmandu by 0800 am Nepal Standard Time to make the tour vehicle. A guided tour through famous tourist places in Kathmandu and nearby places was planned for the event attendees, so I woke up at around 0600 am Nepal Standard Time. I contemplated whether or not I would want to join the trip, given the health state I had the previous night but thankfully, I was feeling slightly better in the morning so I decided to go anyway. With a battery bank, a pair of earphones and my passport stuffed in my jacket, I headed downstairs for breakfast where I met Jens Petersen at a table and we were soon joined by Samyak Jain, Nikita Tripathi and Justin W. Flory. Unfortunately, Amita Sharma decided to stay back at the hotel owing to the unwell state that she was in at the time. After some confusion regarding the requirement for identification proof from the event organizers on the conference chat, the five of us departed for the pickup spot which was barely around 1500 metres away from our hotel. We figured that we were probably the last ones to get there once we got to the pickup spot and with Jens Petersen occupying one of the front seats and the remaining four taking the rear-most seats, we were off for our first spot at Bhaktapur.

For a meagre price of only five hundred Nepalese Rupees, we were enlightened about the rich cultural heritage of Bhaktapur and its surrounding areas

Siddharth Sitaula, one of the organizing members volunteered to share information about the places while we were on our way while Justin W. Flory and I discussed the proposal of onboarding more community contributors to establish the presence of Fedora Project during FOSDEM 2024. We soon found ourselves around the Bhaktapur Municipality Center at around 0930 am Nepal Standard Time and after clicking some pictures with Samyak Jain and Nikita Tripathi, we headed to the ticket counter. Amidst some unforeseen problems regarding the availability of accepted currencies, Samyak Jain and I decided to draw some Nepalese Rupees (NPR) for both ourselves as well as for Justin W. Flory when his credit card was declined from an adjacent ATM for some reason. We were soon assigned a government-licensed tour guide for the walking trip who led us through a bunch of kund water bodies and brick buildings with wooden carvings dating back as far as the 16th century. During the walking trip, I bonded with a bunch of other local organizers from the GNOME community and we reached a restaurant with a great vista at around 1030 am Nepal Standard Time. After clicking a bunch of photographs, we sat down for the lunch meal, which was admittedly scheduled a bit too early in the day - consisting of pickled fenugreek, pickled cabbages, boiled rice, boiled pulses, mutton curry, fried papad and flavoured coconut chutney.

The scenic vista seen from the morning restaurant gave a wide view of not just the brick-made buildings in the town but also the blissful mountains surrounding it

Khairul Aizat Kamarudzzaman and I also had a great discussion about the entertainment value of thriller Bollywood movies, especially when one wishes to keep oneself from getting bored on a long flight. Once we were through with the meal, I walked towards the temple campus while helping fellow tripgoers with their curiosity about the community infrastructure of the Fedora Project. At around 1200 pm Nepal Standard Time, I briefly moved away to purchase some fridge magnets and joined back in after getting the spare change from a nearby currency exchange center. The tour guide shared information on the three distinct kinds of architectural structures found in Nepal, namely Stupa, Shikhara and Pagoda as we explored a bunch of temple structures in the area. After the group members had their fill of Pani Puri from a nearby store, we moved on to the central square where we saw, what the guide dubbed to be, the tallest temple in Nepal. While we waited on others to catch up, Justin W. Flory and I explored the nearby stalls for decorative items, bags made from processed hemp and Pashmina Shawl, with Nikita Tripathi and Samyak Jain joining us in some moments after. I ended up purchasing a Pashmina Shawl but left the shop perplexed by an unsettling remark made in the guise of a playful banter by the shopkeeper woman on my way out which stayed with me throughout the remaining part of the trip.

As we spent some more time in the central square, we browsed the neighbouring stores for prayer wheels, meditation bowls, keychains and bookmarks as we walked to our next spot. When I was browsing for some keychains from a nearby shop, Siddharth Sitaula waited for me while I got through the purchase to ensure that I did not get separated from the tour group - a humane gesture that I really appreciated. The two of us soon found our way into an art gallery where the tour group stalled for a brief time and I decided to purchase a handmade Sindoor container. At around 0315 pm Nepal Standard Time, the tour group entered yet around restaurant and this time around, Justin W. Flory and I decided to keep ourselves to only drinking warm honey lemon juice and Tongba, a Nepalese alcoholic drink made from fermented millet, boiled milk and an assortment of herbs. Samyak Jain and Nikita Tripathi decided to order some rice bread for themselves in the meantime and while we waited for the food to arrive, one of the local event organizers exhibited his skill in palm reading to us. Samyak Jain helped me with his international roaming data when mine got exhausted while making flight check-ins for both Nikita Tripathi and myself for the next day. While having the meal, we discussed our plans to make it to the Pashupatinath Temple on time that day and decided to part ways with the tour group after lunch was complete.

Rushing from the hotel to make it in time and wading through the unending crowds felt absolutely worth it after getting glimpse of the evening Aarti at the Pashupatinath Temple
This photograph and the smiles of people present in it probably do the best job of summing up the experiences of GNOME Asia 2023

Jens Petersen stayed back with the tour group while the four of us headed back to the hotel in a cab at around 0500 pm Nepal Standard Time. We got to know that Sumantro Mukherjee and Sudhir Dharanendraiah, with their wives Saheli and Shivranjani respectively were already there in the temple. As Justin W. Flory was unfortunately stopped at the entry by security personnel who mentioned that the entry to the temple was restricted to Hindus alone, only Samyak Jain, Nikita Tripathi and I continued into the temple after leaving our footwear. Once we were through our Darshana, he joined us to witness the scenic evening Aarti that the temple was known for. At around 0800 pm Nepal Standard Time, we decided to head back to to hotel. Amita Sharma, Sumantro Mukherjee with his wife, Saheli and I were aboard the first cab back to the hotel where I got to hear the couple's adventures on that day. Samyak Jain, Nikita Tripathi and Justin W. Flory reached the hotel right after us and while the dinner plans were being discussed, I decided to call it off a bit earlier in the day and catch up on some sleep. With everyone assembled near the elevator, I conveyed my thanks to everyone for the pleasant memories and invited them over to my room to share the snacks that I got from Pune, India. After taking some medicines offered by Saheli and preparing for the next day, I decided to go to sleep at around 0900 pm Nepal Standard Time.