05.05.2012 - 08.05.2012
After almost 3 weeks of stunning nature views, breathing in fresh mountain air, and enjoying the serenity of ACTUAL peace and quiet, we decided to spend 3 days in Kathmandu to see the city and its surrounds.
We stayed at a fantastic hostel called Yellow Hostel right outside of the backpacker district of Thamel. The owners were very involved, welcoming, and extremely friendly. The food was delicious and the vibe was very relaxed. The hostel is owned by a Nepali woman and her Swiss husband, and their children spoke fluent French, English, Nepali and Hindi! I received some tips from the Nepali woman on how to teach your children different languages so that one day our children can be multilingual!
Only equipped with our Lonely Planet book and Derek's internal ability as a human GPS, we guided ourselves through the allies of Kathmandu towards Durbar Square. Along the way, there are thousand year old temples, buildings, and relics that are embedded within the more recent architecture of Kathmandu. For instance, you’ll see things such as a tiny, thousand-year old statue of Ganesh squished between 2 convenience stores, or an ancient temple that indirectly used as an island for a roundabout and is surrounded by motorcycles. We also happened to adopt a stray Canadian along the way who became lost while exploring the city by herself before she caught her flight back home to Toronto. Be warned that there are some “graphic” carvings entrenched within these ancient pagodas, but here’s what we saw during our walk:
Bhaktapur was once the capital of Nepal and is now a beautiful UNESCO heritage site. It is rich with towering pagodas, beautiful stuppas, various Nepali ethnic groups going about their daily lives, and ancient inhabited architectural buildings. Thanks to our Lonely Planet guide, we were taken off the beaten track and enjoyed a day free of tourists and tour groups, peacefully exploring the city ourselves.
Born in 253 BC, we were lucky to be in Kathmandu during Buddha’s 2575th birthday! We decided to check out how they were celebrating at the Swayambunath Buddhist temple. It is also known as the “monkey temple” but people will quickly correct you to say its proper title. We took local transportation to the temple and were overcome by the seas of people going in and out of the temple! We had a great time watching monkeys running around, families enjoying their day together, and monks trying to keep up with the festivities. It was great to see the beautiful Tibetan colors and flags draping across the temple. It was truly a festive experience!
This was one of the holiest sites in Nepal with a massive stuppa as its most popular holy landmark. The humongous white stuppa was built in the 14th century after the original one was destroyed by the Mughals. We had a peaceful visit.
One can see why people visit and revisit Nepal for months at a time. Its cultural diversity, wonderful people, and the Himalayas are just a fraction of things to appreciate while visiting there. Given how disorganized the government is and how negligent it can be with its people, it’s a wonder that the people are not more jaded.
I look forward to visiting Nepal again one day and definitely invite those who haven’t gone to do the same! And while you're at it, order a huge Tongba (Tibetan Hot Beer!)