For many of us in the Sangha, the upcoming Maitri Puja for World Peace in 2017 presents a wonderful opportunity for learning, growth and a re-connection to this beautiful feeling of Maitri, love and peace.

** When your travel plans are set, please kindly fill out the Puja registration form **

With the official Puja announcements having been released, we now know that there will be an international camping area that can be utilised by all attendees visiting from around the world. We are all very much looking forward to sharing this space with everyone so that we can all reflect, absorb and share our own unique experiences with one another and with much love in our hearts!

For those who have attended previous Pujas in Nepal, it is wonderful that the 2017 Puja is taking place very close to Kathmandu and as such, it will be easily accessible by bus or taxi from the airport, or from other parts of Kathmandu.

For those who may be visiting Nepal for the first time, this will no doubt be a very exciting time for you as you sit in the presence of Maha Sambodhi Dharma Sangha and as you open up to receiving many divine blessings throughout the Puja!

In the interests of helping our fellow attendees, devotees and Maitri Brothers & Sisters from around the world, we would now like to provide some additional information that may be helpful for planning and organising your journey to the Puja.

We hope this information helps everyone to feel welcome, comfortable and joyful about attending this very auspicious World Peace Maitri Puja in 2017. Please feel free to contact us at contact@bsds.maitriya.info if you have any questions.

Alternatively, there is a loving network of Sangha around the world that you may wish to connect with on social media. This presents a wonderful opportunity to connect with others who may be attending and to ask any questions that you may have with someone who has attended previous Puja events. It may also be a good idea to meet up with others in your country / area in order to help plan things together. We are all here to help each other and we look forward to seeing everyone at this very auspicious and divinely enriching event!

In past Puja events (in the days following the main Puja celebration) international guests have been given an opportunity to be in the presence of Maha Sambodhi Dharma Sangha for Dharma meetings. Therefore, for those who are not able to stay for the entire duration of the Puja but who would like to plan for this possibility, you might like to consider the dates of your trip with this in mind.

For example, you might like to attend the second week of the Puja and then allow yourself a few days after this just in case an impromptu Dharma meeting is called by Guru. Please note that there is never any certainty that this will take place as this will always depend on the circumstances at the time.

The following information is divided up into seven sections:

1. About The Puja Location
2. Getting To The Puja
3. On-Site Puja Accomodation
4. Alternative Puja Accomodation
5. Attending The Puja
6. General Information About Travelling To Nepal
7. What To Bring List

1. About The Puja Location

As announced, the World Peace Maitri Puja will be held from 21st March until 2nd April 2017 in Bugal, Bungamati, which is in the South-West of Kathmandu, Nepal. The Puja location co-ordinates are 27°37’25.8″ 85°18’23.5″ (27.6238333, -85.30652777) which if you put into Google Maps will give you the location as shown by the red marker below:

maitri-puja-2017-map-bungamati-bugal-kathmandu-nepal

Bungamati

Being surrounded by rice fields & mountains, Bungamati is perhaps best known for its charming ambience and untouched beauty. Being situated on the outskirts of Kathmandu, it is a truly wonderful setting for this very special Maitri Puja.

The Local Bungamati Area

Bungamati is also well known for its old town centre which many tourists have visited to appreciate the beautiful range of temples, 5th century architecture, ornate wooden carvings and the traditional Newari homes.

After the earthquake of 2015, Bungamati is now in the process of being rebuilt and restored with a beautiful abundance of love & support from the international community. We are very happy to see many new houses built in the surrounding villages in what has been a truly wonderful sharing of kindness, generosity & resources to those in need. We share this information here so that people can feel more comfortable about travelling to Bungamati and to Nepal as we all come together in a feeling of Maitri and loving kindness for all.

Bungamati & Surrounding Areas

Moving away from Bungamati (as you travel towards Kathmandu), you will pass through the two nearby towns – Kokhana & Bhaisepati. Both of these towns offer a small range of amenities which include restaurants, a few smaller guest houses, mini-marts and ATM’s that can be accessed should you need to during the Puja. These towns are around 30 – 45 minutes walk (one way) from the main Puja site.

Map of Bungamati and areas of Kathmandu
Map of Bungamati and areas of Kathmandu

Near after Kokhana & Bhaisepati you will reach Patan, the second biggest city in Kathmandu and home to the beautiful and famous Patan Durbar Square tourist attraction. Here, you can find everything you would normally expect from a typical city environment including shops, supermarkets, hospitals, restaurants, internet cafes etc. Patan is located around 5kms away from the Puja site and will take around 15 – 20 minutes to reach by taxi (or 30 – 45 minutes by bus).

Further away from Patan is Thamel, one of the main tourist centres in Kathmandu which caters almost exclusively to tourists. Thamel is located around 13kms from the Puja site and will take around 45 minutes to reach by taxi (1 – 1.5 hours by bus).

Finally, on the other side of Kathmandu is Boudha. Being visited by many thousands of people each year, Boudha is made famous by the awe-inspiring Boudha Stupa and the great variety of Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries. With Boudha being located on the other side of Kathmandu, it will take you around 60 – 75 minutes to reach the Puja site by taxi (each way). By bus, it can take anywhere between 1 – 2 hours, depending on times and traffic.

2. Getting To The Puja

As the Puja site is on the outskirts of Kathmandu, it is quite easy accessible by either taxi or bus from most areas of Kathmandu (with a taxi being the easiest option).

Nearest Airport

The nearest airport to the Puja and also the main International Airport in Kathmandu is Tribhuvan International Airport. This is the only international airport in Nepal and therefore, almost all international visitors will arrive at this airport. After arriving at the airport, the easiest and quickest way to get to Bungamati is by taxi (via the prepaid taxi counter at the airport).

nepal-tribhuvan-airport-prepaid-taxi

Immediately after landing, you will be guided through the process of getting your tourist visa at the airport (we have included more information about this in Section 6). You will then need to collect your bags and then exit the airport facility. As you do this, you will see a prepaid taxi counter on the right hand side (just before you walk out the exit doors) or alternatively there is also one located outside the doors. From either of these, you can organise yourself a prepaid taxi to ‘Bungamati’.

kathmandu-airport-bungamati

Taxis

To help you with your journey, please find below a list of some ‘estimated’ prices for hiring a taxi from a few different locations in Kathmandu. (Please note that the actual prices will vary depending on conditions such as time of day and your bartering ability). It is always a good idea to agree on a price to your location before commencing the journey.

Estimated Taxi Prices
• Airport to Bungamati = 13km (approx. 1000 – 1500 rupees in a taxi and 60 minutes)
• Thamel to Bungamati = 14km (approx. 1000 – 1500 rupees in a taxi and 45 minutes)
• Patan to Bungamati = 5km (approx. 500 – 800 rupees in a taxi and 15 minutes)

Buses

It is also possible to travel around Kathmandu by bus however the buses can often be overcrowded and will take much longer to reach your final destination. You will also need to find the various bus stations (which can be a little tricky sometimes) and you may need to go on an indirect route to reach your final destination.

For those who wish to travel to the Puja by bus (from Patan), you will find a direct bus at ‘Ekantakuna Junction’. From Ekantakuna Bus Park, the bus will take around 20 – 25 minutes to reach Bungamati.

For those travelling from other parts of Kathmandu, Ratna Bus Park is a very major & central bus park where you can find direct buses travelling to Bungamati every 15 minutes (the bus takes around 1 – 1.5 hours to reach Bungamati). For those who are not familiar with the Ratna Bus Park area, it can often be quite tricky to find the actual bus that you need, so please don’t be shy to ask a few bus operators to help you find your way!

tribhuvan-airport-bungamati

3. On-Site Puja Accomodation

For many Puja attendees, one of the really wonderful aspects of any Puja is the opportunity to connect with, meet and share experiences with other devotees from around the world. With the blessings of Maha Sambodhi Dharma Sangha, all international guests & devotees are invited to bring our own tents and live at the peaceful Maitri Camping Area for free.

Maitri Camping Area

The Maitri Camping Area will be located on the Puja site, within an easy walking distance from the main Puja Tent and will therefore allow for a very easy ‘commute’ each day to and from the Puja.

Picture Of The Bungamati Area / Maitri Camping Area

We expect that many people will stay in the Maitri Camping Area so to help us run things as smoothly as possible, we kindly ask that you please bring your own tent and bedding with you as well as anything else that might make your stay more comfortable. (A comprehensive ‘what to bring’ list is included in Section 7).

Please note that in order to help accumulate spiritual merit and blessing energy and to preserve the integrity and purity of the Puja location, all men and women are being asked to sleep separately. So please, if you are a couple, you will need to bring two separate tents with you as well as two sets of bedding.

Purchasing Camping Supplies

For those who wish to, items such as tents, pillows, sleeping bags etc can be purchased in Thamel upon your arrival. Thamel has a wide variety of tourist shops that sell tents (US$60 – $80), torches (US$5 – $10), sleeping bags (US$20 – $40) and other outdoor equipment so this could be a good option for you if you have the time to visit.

A comfortable mattress and pillow can also be purchased at either the nearby town of Bhaisepati or from Patan. A mattress will cost around 1,500 – 2,000 rupees and a pillow might cost around 200 rupees (depending on the quality). There is also the Bhat-Bhateni Shopping Malls where you can buy western food, snacks and other treats – and credit cards can also be used here.

If you are intending to purchase such things in Kathmandu, prior to the Puja, we would suggest that you allow yourself a full day for your shopping endeavours as you will need time to travel to and from Thamel plus the actual shopping time, plus the time it takes to set everything up back at the camping area.

Renting Tents

For those wishing to rent tents, you will likely be able to rent tents in tourist areas such as Thamel upon your arrival. However for those staying for the full 13 days of the Puja, you may find that it is cheaper to buy a tent than to rent one for such a long period.

Please note that at the time of writing, the Bodhi Shrawan Dharma Sangha Organisation is not able to provide any kind of tent rental service during the Puja.

Camping Facilities

When living at the campsite, the conditions will likely be quite simple and basic. There will be some basic toilet facilities and showering facilities (cold water only) near to the campsite area and hopefully, a nice area for us all to share experiences with one another.

Water And Food

Drinking water will be available throughout the Puja so it may be a good idea to bring a refillable drink bottle with you.

Meals will be provided to all international guests, at least twice per day i.e. lunch and dinner. Plates, cups and spoons are supplied for all guests, however you may wish to bring your own as sometimes there can be a shortage. For breakfast and snacks, it is very likely that there will be other local food options and various foods available in the local village area. In addition you may however wish to bring your own snacks.

4. Alternative Puja Accomodation

Although the Maitri Camping Area is the main and preferred accomodation option for international attendees, we do understand that some people may prefer a little more comfort. You may therefore wish to look for accomodation in the surrounding areas.

For example, you may consider staying in the closest major ‘city centre’ of Patan. Or alternatively, you might feel drawn to the more local accomodation options dotted around in the towns of Bungamati, Kokhana or Bhaisepati (although these are minimal).

At a guess, it is also quite possible that during the Puja a few local homes may be offered up as ‘homestay’ lodging options by the local people. Perhaps the more fluid traveller might therefore like to simply organise something appropriate for themselves upon arrival.

As you can see on the hotel map below (taken from booking.com), there are many hotels and guesthouses located in the Patan area, with a wide variety of styles & amenities being suitable for all budgets. Taxi’s will likely be easy to find in Patan and there are many tourist amenities available to you (especially around tourist areas like the Patan Durbar Square).

Please note that for anyone staying in these off-site options, you will also need to organise your own transportation to and from the Puja Site each day. As well as take into consideration that should a spontaneous meeting with Guru arise at the Puja site, you will unfortunately not be able to be contacted to attend.

5. Attending The Puja

Important Information

All guests are able to come and go to the Puja, discreetly, as they please throughout each day. The schedule for the Puja has yet to be confirmed however generally, the prayers will normally start between 6 and 9am, and will be finishing anywhere between 4 and 8pm (with breaks inbetween for breakfast & lunch).

To help maintain a smooth running and enjoyable Puja for all, the Bodhi Shrawan Dharma Sangha organisation requests that all guests & devotees please adhere to the following guidelines whilst attending the Puja and being on the Puja Site:

• No smoking
• No alcohol or drugs, including tobacco (excluding personal medications)
• No photos & videos please (unless permission has been given)
• No meat or animal products (including belts, fur, leather products, meat snacks etc)
• No inappropriate clothing i.e. nothing too revealing including short shorts, singlets etc.

We would also suggest here that you please respectfully and politely refrain from eating meat, smoking, or consuming alcohol and/or drugs for the whole 13 day duration of the Puja. This is not only beneficial for yourself but it will also help to uphold the integrity and purity of the Puja on a grander scale. Preferably, it is best if you can be vegan. For some, you may also wish to uphold these before the Puja, in preparation for this blessed event.

We also ask that you please respect that this is a very holy, blessed & sacred event. As such we would always suggest a sharing of loving kindness & Maitri wherever possible. In more general terms, the Puja is a wonderful chance for us to deepen our connection with Guru and with this feeling of love, peace, unification and Maitri. If possible, it is best if you can remain in a peaceful and loving state as much as possible during the Puja.

Inside The Puja Tent

To help preserve the sacred space, quietness is normally observed wherever possible when inside the Puja tent (apart from when you are chanting prayers of course). All guests are kindly requested to remove their shoes or sandals and are invited to sit in the areas that are allocated. You are welcome to bring in some drinking water, cushions and any other things that will help to make the Puja experience more comfortable for you.

Maha Sambodhi Dharma Sangha will be giving blessings throughout each of the 13 days so you will also be invited to receive a personal blessing on each day. When receiving a Darshan (blessing) from Guru, we ask that you kindly:

• Remove jewellery
• Remove any metal from your body
• Remove glasses
• Remove any head wear (scarves, hats etc.)
• Remove other personal decorations (necklace, rings, hat etc.)
• Do not wear or bring animal products (leather, fur etc.)

(The same applies for any child or baby you are presenting for blessing.)

You will also be able to offer up ‘items’ so that they can be blessed. For example, some people like to receive blessings for photos of family or Guru, water, their mala or other close personal items. When offering items to Guru, you will need to bow your head down first to receive your personal blessing and then offer up your items in your hands for Guru to bless these after your personal blessing.

Dharma Items

During the Puja, there may be a number of different Dharma items being made available to international guests & devotees such as prayer books, malas, pictures etc. There will be more information about this during the Puja.

Disabled Access

The Puja is being held in a more rural area of Kathmandu and as such, it is a difficult task to ensure that every area offers disabled access. Having said this, we hope to provide a very basic level of disabled access to help make this sacred event available to all.

If you are disabled and wish to come to the Puja, we strongly recommend that you bring an assistant with you and we would also kindly ask that you please contact us before your arrival so that we can more easily prepare for your arrival.

Being Considerate

During the Puja, there is often much purification happening from within each of the participants and as such, we kindly ask that you please be considerate of others as best you can during your stay. We would suggest here that love, compassion and kindness are always the foundation to share with others.

In the official Puja announcement, there is also a beautiful set of guidelines for attending the Puja which we recommend reading.

6. General Information About Travelling to Nepal

Hopefully, we have covered most of the important information you will need for attending the World Peace Maitri Puja, however in the interests of providing some more general information about Nepal, we now invite you to read through the following information to help you plan a happier and more comfortable stay.

Visas

Nepal visas are available upon arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu. You can fill in a paper visa form for which you will need a passport photo, or if preferred, use the automated visa machines. Alternatively, you may also wish to speak to your travel agent to organise a visa prior to departure.

Visa fees are required to be paid in CASH and most major currencies are accepted including US dollars. Note that the payment desk is not so keen to accept US$100 notes due to counterfeiting, so if possible bring some smaller notes with you. In our experiences, it is often a little easier.

Visa Costs (as at time of writing) are as follows:
• 15 days = US$25
• 30 days = US$40
• 90 days = US$100

Money

The majority of countries do not stock Nepali Rupees (NPR) and therefore it can be almost impossible to get NPR before you arrive in Nepal. You can obtain Nepali Rupees once you arrive though, either at Tribhuvan Airport currency exchanges, the exchanges in the tourist centres or from the ATM at the airport.

When you arrive at the airport, you will find a currency exchange just before you go through immigration (in the visa area) and again just after you get your bags. There is also an ATM at the airport but there is never a guarantee that this will be working so be sure to bring some extra currency just in case!

Almost all taxi drivers and hotels will also take US dollars so it can be a good idea to have some extra USD just in case. 1USD normally equates to around 100NPR.

Once inside Nepal and Kathmandu, ATM’s are very common. The maximum withdrawal is often between 10,000 and 35,000 NPR (US$100-350) and there is usually a fee of about NPR400 per withdrawal. Please be aware that there will be very few ATM’s located near to the Puja site and therefore, we would recommended bringing sufficient local currency with you to the Puja for any additional expenses (such as buying food, snacks and other tid-bits).

In addition to this, when you are leaving Nepal, it is normally a good idea to use up or exchange your Nepali Rupees back into USD (or your home currency) before leaving. Again, you will quite likely not be able to exchange your Nepali Rupees outside Nepal (unless you are going to India).

Credit cards are rarely accepted as a form of payment in Nepal and therefore cash is normally best (the more tourist orientated Bhat-Bhateni Shopping Malls however do accept credit cards). You should also be able to use your credit card to draw cash from ATMs.

Cell Phones

We kindly ask that cell phones not be used within the Puja tent.

Normally, it is easiest for tourists to purchase a Nepali SIM card at the airport so they can use their phone during their stay. This can easily be done at the airport on arrival (look for the NCELL desk right next to the prepaid taxi counter, after baggage claim and before exiting the airport building).

You will need to fill in forms and provide a passport photo for the application process however this is the easiest way to get your cell phone working because the staff speak relatively good english. Trying to get a SIM card set up in Kathmandu somewhere else may be more challenging with the English language barrier. NCELL is a very common supplier and the regular visitors to Nepal say that it often gets the best coverage.

If you have an internet capable phone then it is also possible to get data with your purchase. The internet however can be very slow. We recommend that you ask about this at the NCELL counter at the airport also.

Electricity

It is likely that there will be either no electricity, or very limited electricity, in and around the Maitri Camping Area. We will try to do our best to accommodate everyone where we can however the facilities on site are very basic and there may be many guests, so please be considerate of this if you are bringing electronic items.

In Nepal, the country lives with a shortage of electricity and therefore has “load-shedding”. This means that electricity is only available during certain parts of the day (usually it rotates from week to week) and that it can often cut out at any time of the day or night. It is advisable to always carry a torch or headlamp (sometimes easier to have your hands free) with you in case the power goes out.

Candles are usually provided in most hotels and some of these will also offer back-up generators for lights / electricity in the rooms. But do please prepare yourself to go without electricity at times.

Power plugs in Nepal are either two or three pronged round pins, or the three pinned English plug as you can see in these photos.

nepal-electricity nepal-electric-plug

Medical Care

Please note that there may only be a limited supply of medical care at the Puja and therefore, we ask that you please ensure that you have all basic medical requirements with you. There will be a basic first aid kit on site but it would be advisable to bring your own first aid basics and medicinal requirements with you.

Travel Insurance

For those wishing to organise travel insurance, the Puja site lies in the Kathmandu Valley with an altitude of around 1000m. [This information may be necessary for your travel insurance company or your doctor, as altitudes higher than 2500m can be of concern for them].

7. What To Bring

Please keep in mind that the free Maitri Camping Area will be quite basic and will also likely be very limited with electricity usage. As such, for those of you who are wishing to camp at the Puja site, we have prepared a list of things that you might wish to consider bringing to help make your stay more comfortable.

The weather in Kathmandu during March / April can range from a sunny 27 – 30°C to a sometimes brisk & windy 5 – 10°C at dusk or night time. So please be sure to pack a few extra sweaters or some warm clothes.

The below list gives an idea of what you might like to bring:

• torch or headlamp & spare batteries (preferably an eco-one without batteries e.g. solar)
• tent, sleeping bag / blankets / pillow / mattress
• towel (often not supplied even if staying in a hotel)
• toilet paper (this will not be provided at the Puja site)
• washing powder / soap if you want to do laundry (and perhaps a bucket)
• toiletries (e.g. toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, deodorant etc.)
• umbrella
• earplugs
• clothing – appropriate clothing for the temperature (layering is great) and for the sacred precinct (nothing revealing, see-through or short. No singlet tops or short shorts please).
• solar charger / power plug adaptor / battery pack for electrical devices
• personal first aid kit & any medications / vitamin supplements you require
• flip flops / sandals
• sunscreen
• sun hat or cap (which must be removed for Guru’s blessing)
• sunglasses (which must be removed for Guru’s blessing)
• insect repellent and salves for insect bites or stings
• hand sanitiser
• mosquito net (if you are not sleeping in an insect proof tent)
• warm nightwear for the cold nights
• lock for your tent and / or bag
• small daypack or bag (to carry your things into the Puja each day)
• plate, spoon and cup (optional)
• pillow or cushion to sit on inside Puja tent
• your prayers & beads (if you have them)
• notebook & pen (for anything you may wish to write down during the Puja)
• refillable drink bottle (for refilling at water stations)
• food items, dried food, powdered soups or other breakfast supplements / snacks for your stay
• seniors esp. may wish to bring a lidded “night pot” and absorbent underlay for use inside, saving night trips to the (sometimes) distant toilets.
• for the outdoors setting, you may like a bucket and scoop for outdoor showers
• Your Maitri loving kindness!

Most of these items you will be able to purchase in either Thamel or in Patan, so you can decide if you wish to bring them with you, or buy them after arriving.

We hope that this information has helped you and we hope that you will have a wonderful stay in Nepal for the Puja! If you have any additional questions, please be sure to contact us: contact@bsds.maitriya.info

Maitri Mangalam _()_

Please note that the above message has been compiled by a small group of international devotees with the intention of helping our fellow Brothers and Sisters from around the world to prepare for the World Peace Maitri Puja in 2017. As part of this, we would like to point out that Maha Sambodhi Dharma Sangha Guru is not connected with any enterprise outside of the Sacred Precincts and has not sanctioned any commercial lodging, transportation, travel guides, healing, selling of religious artefacts or other such services. We trust that each attendee will follow their own heart and feelings when making their own individual preparations for attending the Puja and we hope that the information contained within this article will make your travel preparations a littler easier.