We started our day at Swayambhunath, otherwise known as the 'Monkey Temple'. This temple has a large stuba in the center and is high up on a hill. All around the temple and around the stuba, were Tibetan prayer flags. We also got to see a worker painting the Lotus Flower on the Stuba. To do so, he literally flung paint in an arc through the air. We walked around the Stuba in a clockwise direction as directed to do so. The sound of the prayer wheels spinning was in the air. Swayambhunath is called the Monkey Temple because there are many small monkeys there. They are cute, but pests. We were advised not to have any food on us, and as I saw a monkey go after a woman with an offering (rice), I was quite glad I had none. This temple was also the site of the first beggars we have seen since we have been here in Nepal. Often it was small children. It's hard not to give, but one needs to do so through official organizations and channels. We departed the temple by a set of very steep stairs that lead back down to the city. The temple was a lovely first stop of the day.
After the monkey temple, we headed to Durbar Square. Now loyal readers of my blog will know that we have visited several other places also called Durbar Square. It seems to be the common name for the main town square here. Durbar Square in Kathmandu, like the one in Bhaktapur, is a UNESCO site, however I will say that the one in Bhaktapur is much nicer! Here in Kathmandu, the peddlers were incessant. They would not leave us alone and even after we politely declined whatever they were selling (jewelry, tours, trinkets etc) they continued to ask us to buy. I really felt like people were seeing me more as a dollar sign than anything else. We went into the museum in the square, it offered a respite from the traffic (motorcycle and persons) of the square.
After Durbar square, we headed to Thamel, the shopping district. If you are ever needing to outfit yourself or a trek in the mountains, head over to Thamel and you will find whatever you need. As I was not outfitting myself for a trek, I stuck to two new outfits -- two dresses to be exact. We also had fun looking through stacks of bootleg DVDs and negotiating with roadside vendors. We enjoyed our shopping break. After Thamel, we went to lunch (see the post on food: Nepalicious) and then headed out again.
Now we headed to Pushupatinath, site of a famous Shiva temple. This is also the location of the funeral Gnats, that is, the funeral pyres where bodies are cremated. The area is also a World Heritage Site, but the upkeep has not been the best. The area was full of monkeys, cows and stray dogs. The monkeys were fighting and shrieking. The dogs followed us, sniffing for food. The cows blocked our path, while they tried to mate - or fight, I"m not sure. There were many individuals who tried to sell us products, who tried to lure us into a temple or who let us know we could not come into an area. To be honest, we both felt a feeling of corruption and bad juju. It was the first place in Nepal where I have not been comfortable or felt safe. We were both relieved to leave it.
Our final destination in Kathmandu was the Boudha Stupa. The legend is that a common woman wanted to build a Stupa and she went to the King. The King was distracted, and did not really pay attention to the wish he was granting. However later, he stood by his word. The woman and her sons built the Stupa, and in doing so, they gained in good deeds that lead to better Karma in their lives. The Stupa is a center of calm in the bustle of the city. As one walks clockwise around the Stupa, one hears the clickety-clack of the prayer wheels spinning, sees the devoted monks prostrating and feels the peace in the air. We stopped for a cool drink at a rooftop cafe that overlooked the Stupa and could see the scene below. Nary a motorcycle roared by and the mountains surrounding the city, made it feel as if the Stupa was the center of the world. It was the perfect location to finish up the day in Kathmandu.
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