Monday 17 September 2012

Kathmandu Sightseeing (Day 1)

I've been in Kathmandu for a few days now and I'm settling in. I have mastered crossing the insanely busy roads, dodging the traffic from all angles and gotten quite good at brushing off the street pedlars, trying to sell me anything and everything. On top of that I've been all over the city sightseeing. I thought I'd let you know what I've seen so far.

A couple of days ago I met my man on the ground, Yadu, he's a super nice guy who will help me out with anything. He has arranged for a town guide (Chandika) and a driver to take me around the sights.

The first day of sightseeing Chandika & I headed out to Boudhanath Stupa. This is a massive Buddhist monument on the east of the city which stands 60m tall, festooned with prayer flags hanging from it, with 100's of prayer wheels around its base. Chandika explained the significance of all the various parts of the stupa whist walked (clockwise) around the base of stupa, spinning a few wheels now and again. I'm not a religious guy but you can't help spinning the wheels.

The stupa is surrounded by many shops and workshops, mainly producing and selling thangkas, a traditional Tibetan Buddhist painting, we went to one of the schools to see how they were created and found out that the students/artists have to follow many rules to create these detailed works of art.

After we finished at the stupa and whilst we were over that side of the city we went to Pashupatinath. This is Nepal's and probably the world most important Hindu temple, sitting on the banks of the sacred Bagmati river. Only Hindus are allowed to enter the temple itself, but there were plenty of things to see around the temple.

Along the river outside the temple are cremation ghats or plinths. There were a few cremations taking place which was quite a humbling experience, and not one I'll forget in a long time. From the river we climbed up the hill so we could get a better view of the temple, hear we found a collection of "Shiva" shrines, some of which were inhabited by Yogi's or wise men (not the bear!) with painted faces and long beards. After wondering around the temple for a couple of hours, we headed off to Kathmandu Durbar Square, but first something to eat.

In a rooftop restaurant over looking the square I plumped for some momo's, traditional Nepali vegetable stuffed dumplings with a spicy sauce, an excellent way to introduce myself to Nepalese cuisine.

Durbar Square itself has a collection of temples of varying shapes and sizes, there is one called Kastamandap, which is where Kathmandu gets its name from. This is quite a large wooden temple and legend has it that it was created from I'm a single tree, it must have been a very big tree! We spent a couple of hours looking at the temples, my guide was very knowledgable. By now it was nearing the end of the day, but there was one last place to visit in the square Kumari Bahal. This was my chance to see the "Kumari" a real life living deity or goddess. This was an 8 year old girl who had been selected to be the embodiment of the goddess who is specially selected based on 32 strict physical requirements (hair & eye colour, etc), she has been the goddess for 4 years. Unfortunately, it is not possible to take photos as the goddess appears in a window.

It was back to the hotel for a recharge, before heading out in search of some food.

As you can see I've been getting about a bit and I've a few more days before I head out to the mountains. I'll keep you updated.



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