On our last full day in Kathmandu we went to the Indian Embassy to pay for and pick up our visas. On the walk back to Thamel we found a street vendor cooking chowmein for sixty rupees (seventy-five cents), it was the nicest noodles we had tasted during our whole trip.
After this we headed to Bodhnath (or Boudha) to see the Bodhnath Stupa, one of the world’s largest. We took a tempo (shared rickshaw) from Thamel. The stupa looks like many we’d already seen, however it is its sheer size that makes it so remarkable. It is said to have been built in the 7th century, during the time of Tibetan King Songsten Gampo and also contains a bone that belonged to the first Buddha himself (Siddharta). Around the base of the stupa are hundreds of prayer wheels, which we spun as we traversed in a clockwise direction.
Patan, or also known as Lalitpur, is the second largest town in Kathmandu Valley and also has a Durbar Square, full of temples and stupas. We did a day trip to Patan from Thamel and spent our time wandering around its Durbar Square and doing a walking tour of the old city. The walking tour gave us insight into the everyday lives of Patan residents, as it entwined us through courtyards, water tanks and wells.
One particular highlight was the Patan Museum which detailed the different Buddhist and Hindu gods and their characteristics. For example, Ganesh, the Hindu God of Prosperity (with the head of an elephant) is often depicted with his vehicle, a rat (or mouse) and because of his love of sweets, holds a ladoo ball (Indian sweet).
Patan Walking Tour
- Ganesh Shrine
- Sulima Square
- Pim Bahal Pokhari
- Chandeswari Temple
- Lokakirti Mahavihar
- Nyakachuka Courtyard
- Naga Bahal
- Golden Temple (Kwa Bahal)
- Manjushri Temple
- Kumbeshwar Temple
- Uma Maheshwar Temple
- Rada Krishna Temple
- Krishna Mandir
- Narayan Mandir
A trip to the Buddhist temple, Swayambhunath, was on the agenda for day two. The temple is also known as the Monkey Temple and is located atop a hill west of Kathmandu. We took a stroll there early in the morning. As soon as we reached the temples, we saw a monkey hanging off a Buddha statue. The climb up to the massive white stupa was tiring, but we were entertained by the monkeys and store vendors along the way. Although strikes were still on, tickets were still required to be purchased. The top offered wonderful views of Kathmandu valley. The highlight is the stupa, surrounded by prayer wheels, a religious symbol which we requires to be walked around in a clockwise direction. Also atop the hill is a Hariti Temple, a gompa (monastery) plus small statues and stupas.
Durbar means palace, and this area is very much the centre of the old city where the city’s royalty were crowned and celebrated. Along the way we had already enjoyed a vast array of Buddhist stupas, Hindu temples, shrines during our Lonely Planet walking tour (which, we noticed, so many other tourists were also doing) however were impressed by the number of temples clustered around Durbar Square. Highlights included;
Kasthamandap Temple – the oldest of the buildings in the square, building in the 12th century and which Kathmandu is named after.
Maju Devel – we joined many other Nepalese as we sat on the steps of this 17th century Shiva temple which overlooks the bustling area below.
Kumari Bahal – I was quite surprised to read that the Nepalese worship a real-life goddess – the Kumari Devi – and this is the house where she lives. The Kumari is basically a little girl, selected based on a rigid physical criteria and is tested to ensure she is able to select the correct items of her predecessor. She lives in the Kumari Bahal with her family, making occasional appearances, and is worshipped by the people. Once she reaches puberty she becomes mortal and another girl is selected. We somehow managed to visit on a day where she was making an appearance, a brief but fascinating appearance (particularly watching other people’s reactions upon seeing her). She was a normal childlike, young girl, with a face full of makeup.
Hanuman Dhoka palace – a massive palace complex guarded by an orange Hanuman statute out the front. Inside the palace are museums commemorating King Tribhuvan, King Mahendra and Birenda. Some extremely erotic carvings were evident in the courtyard of the Basantapur Tower.
We had a delicious Thakali daal baaht for dinner in Thamel.