November 25, 2013

Kathmandu, Nepal

After over 30 hours traveling to Kathmandu, we were exhausted and went to sleep at 5PM. Thanks to good ol' jetlag (and sleeping for 12ish hours) we were up before the sun came up and twiddled our fingers in our hostel until we started hearing the city wake up--time to go!

We first started at Monkey Temple...because I mean who doesn't love the idea of a monkey temple? :). It's officially known as Swayambhunath and climbing up the stairs to the top of this Buddhist temple, it was clear where the name came from....monkeys played around the footpaths, in the trees, climbed on smaller shrines and statues and once at the top, they walked around the grounds like they owned the place (some had baby monkeys clinging to their bellies too...cute!). 

Monkey Temple was awesome--tiny shrines and prayer wheels decorated with garlands of dried flowers and those monkeys! Some of them were evil little buggers too, hopping towards tourists who got too close and we saw one monkey swing onto an Indian woman are grab her food. 
Monkey: 1, Indian woman: 0.

Next up we walked back into the craziness of Kathmandu towards Thamel and to Durbar Square (not before I picked up a 20 cent samosa from a street vendor). We had no idea that we would be walking into a living Unesco museum. They even let you climb on these temples! There are actually 3 Durbar Squares around the Kathmandu valley and each one has their own kumari, who makes an appearance each day from one of the temples. We wandered in at the right time because we were able to get a glimpse of this dolled up little princess.

A kumari is a goddess who is chosen when she is 4-5 years old. Her and her family live in one of the palaces in Durbar Square until she reaches puberty then of which she is released from her duties to become a commoner again--and another kumari is chosen. Apparently there are 20-30 different characteristics a new kumari must have ranging from the sound of her voice to the shape of her eyes. When the new kumari is *almost* chosen, they will put her in a dark room and try to scare her with screams, fire, dead animal heads and if she truly is the kumari then she shows no fear. If she passes, then she is the new goddess.

Just around the corner from Durbar Square is Kathmandu's famous 'Freak Street', where the hippies chilled out in the 60's doing meditation, yoga, smoking hash and everything in between. Freak Street was the ultimate end on the famous 'Hippie Trail' not to mention it was frequented by Jimi Hendrix, Cat Stevens and Bob Marley. Damn it I wish I lived in the 60s :-/!

My favorite sight around Kathmandu (so far!) was Bodhnath Stupa, a Tibetan Buddhism temple right smackdab in the middle of interweaving alleyways leading to numerous Buddhist monasteries. This stupa is one of the largest centers of Tibetan Buddhism (and it's common to see Tibetan monks from nearby monasteries strolling around). Part of the stupa signifies water, fire and air while the upper portion displays Buddha's "all-seeing eyes", the 13 steps at the top represent Buddha's path to enlightenment and the spire at the top reaches up to the universe. We spent most of the afternoon on a rooftop terrace with a view of this magical place--and considering how close it is to the busy street, it's a peaceful break from the craziness of Kathmandu!

{Swayambhunath Buddhist Temple - the "Monkey Temple". Entry = 150 Rupees about $1.50}
{Kathmandu's Durbar Square. Entry = 750 Rupees about $7.50}
{The beautiful Bodhnath Stupa. Entry = 150 Rupees about $1.50}
{Freak Street!}


Jay said...

Beautiful photos Rachael - I love all of the colours!

Georgia said...

I had no idea about the music history of Kathmandu (though I should have guessed, as I know the word makes me from a Cat Stevens Album) I'm sold. Wish I could hop on the next plane over!

Unknown said...

Nice writing! My daughters for sure no Kumari's ��!

Alex said...

Such beautiful pictures! I'm really excited about these posts as we're planning Nepal for 2015, so we'll get some good ideas from you two!