Prayer Wheels and Blackjack...
The first spot on today's Nepali adventure is Swayambhunath Stupa, also known as the monkey temple.
This colossal golden cone sits on top of a high hill and is one of the most esoteric expressions of Buddhist symbolism in Nepal.
This holy shrine is visible from miles around and carved with inscriptions from the 5th century. Since Tibet's invasion in 1959, the Kathmandu area has become home to many exiled Tibetans and many of them come to this temple to pray. Aside from the giant fixed prayer wheel on top of the hill, there are about 6 thousand small ones that encircle the exterior of the complex.
I had fun running along side of them, spinning away. Up and down and all around this towering temple monkeys scamper around for the amusement of all who will watch. They vastly out number the human visitors and don't seem bothered with them at all.
I had such fun watching them chase each other up and down the tree branches, but I was bummed that I had no camera to capture their antics. I felt naked since it broke the day before and it was finally time to go pick up my baby.
- all Swayambhunath Stupa pictures provided by google.
Me and my camera were reunited at last, good as new!
My trusted guide book noted Nepal's casinos as a "weirdly memorable experience" and being the gambling queen I am, I wanted to see what exactly that meant. There were a few casinos in the Thamel area, where our hostel was located, so we wandered into the first one we came upon.
Upon entering Casino Royal, it looked rather drab and smaller than any casino I have ever been to. I walked around searching for the video poker machines and after making my rounds, finally spotted a few of them. I needed tokens. I walked to the center of the room, to a booth where money was changed. I handed the teller one hundred rupees and asked for tokens.
"The machines." I said, perplexed as to what else I would need them for.
He handed me a stack of ten rupee coins. Knowing that the minimum for video poker was five rupees, and wanting my money to last as long as possible, I asked for five rupee coins instead. I walked back over to the video poker machine and sat down. I felt like an idiot when I could not find the money slot. I looked high and low and for the life of me, could not find it. A few of the casinos employees peered over at me with smirks on their faces. I bashfully asked them what I was doing wrong and they told me that those particular coins were not for my machine. I would have to get new coins.
I have never heard of a casino with different coins for different machines, but then again I have never gambled in Nepal so I went back to the teller. I asked for coins specifically for the video poker machines and was handed a new stack. I went back to the machine. Still unable to locate a money slot on my machine or any of the other neighboring machines, I watched a woman a few seats down from me. She didn't seem to be depositing any money. When I asked her for assistance, she motioned to the employees for help.
"Where does the money go" I asked, holding up my small stack of coins. They informed me that they took the money and entered the amount into the machine via computer. Seems a little inconvenient. What if I wanted to switch machines? I held up my coins and asked them to put my money on this one machine.
"The minimum is 500 ma'am" the attendant said with an authoritative grin.
What the hell? I have never had so much trouble giving a casino my money. I was not about to put 500 rupees on a video poker machine that I would be stuck at until I was broke. We headed back to the teller and cashed out. We left confused and annoyed, but at least we broke even.
Even though this casino experience was a bust, I was not done. There is no way that the guide book would call a casino like that a "weirdly memorable experience". I was weird, yes, but the only thing memorable about it was the inconvenience.
I walked down the block to the next casino, Casino Nepal. I thought it was odd that upon entering I read a sign that said "Nepalese citizens not allowed". For some reason they are banned from playing. It just seems bad for business. Isn't all money good money?
This casino was a lot like the casinos in the states, dazzling lights, singing slots, and money you could smell from the front door. This casino also had a 500 rupee minimum for the video poker machines, but what was weird was that the blackjack minimum was only five rupees. A complete 180 from the US, where I can play 5 cent video poker all day long, but I will search all night for a $5 blackjack table. I was all for the blackjack though, so I pulled up a seat and cashed in a hundred. The drinks were free so I splurged on a few too many of my signature 'whiskey on the rocks'. That was probably where I went wrong. That's how they get you, the free drinks. They get you all liquored up so you forget how to count and the only words you remember is 'hit me'.
"but miss you have 20"
Although my money was quickly depleting, my appetite was not and I was soon hit with the after-cocktail munchies. I found out that food was free too, another ploy to keep you at the table. Free food and drinks, I must be lucky! At the end of the night I lost a good amount of rupees, however, I did spend a good three hours being entertained, not to mention my free Pakoras and whiskey. I'll justify my frivolous spending by saying it was worth it!
- SIDENOTE: The show I was working on at AMS Pictures in Dallas TX, entitled "Ma's Roadhouse", premieres on September 15th at 9pm! http://www.trutv.com/shows/mas-roadhouse/index.html
From Executive Producer Andy Streitfeld and AMS Pictures, comes Ma's Roadhouse a new reality show on TrueTV!
Rick Fairless is the owner of Strokers Dallas, a Texas motorcycle shop, tattoo parlor and biker bar. His greatest asset is his 71-year-old mother, who's also his best, but most outspoken, employee. Can Rick keep his business afloat? And can Ma keep her hands off the bartender?
I wish I could be there to watch it with all the hardworking people at AMS but at least, by then, I will be back in the states and watching intently from my TV at home You guys rock!