The morning we woke up in Kathmandu was one of the lazy ones. Somehow, my muscles refused to perform after all that trekking, bumpy bus rides from Pokhara and tasty food the night before. We had city tours planned out for the two days in Kathmandu, so I urged myself from the bed and made my way to breakfast floor.
Our local guide met us in the hotel lobby and we became quick friends. He was one of those people who radiates energy and positive attitude. After some small talk our whole group was ready to move out. The day was going to be long and educating.
Our first point of interest was Swayambhunath, or monkey temple. Before we even started climbing the steps (again), we passed through a small fruit market and bought some bananas for the monkeys. It was a wise decision, as there were hundreds of them everywhere, and feeding the animals is a one of the kind experience.
The temple was both stunning as well as commercialized with lots of souvenirs sold on every corner. It was also the first time that I could (finally) roll the prayer drums. The whole place was radiating religious energy, with heavy smells of candles and typical Buddhist music playing loud. Next thing I know, I was dragged by an old lady and stamped with the red dot on my forehead.
Another interesting experience was peeking inside Tibetian monastery – so different, with lots of singing and drum beating. One could easily go into trance by just listening to this for a little while.
We moved on to the next location – famous Pashupatinath – sacred Hindu temple complex and one of the four most important religious sites in Asia for devotees of Shiva. The place is difficult to be in, and not just because of all the cremation ceremonies. The air is heavy here. You see people mourning, performing their duty and saying goodbye to their loved ones.
Visiting Pashupatinath was one of the most memorable experiences of the whole Nepal trip. Although I could never understand their traditions and religious view, I respect them and value the chance I was given to participate in all of it. The temple is quite impressive, even though it gets harder to be impressed when all you see all day is beauty.
Last sight for the day was a very pretty stupa – Boudhanath. We had very nice lunch (bamboo soup!) on a terrace right across the stupa. After lunch we went around (prayer drums again!), climbed the steps up and just enjoyed the vibe of this place.
Our guide told us many interesting facts, but sadly I was too busy filming it, so I missed most of them. From what I read, Boudhanath was the largest stupa in the world in the 17th century. As of 1979, Boudha Stupa is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Second day of our Kathmandu adventures was devoted to Patan – suburb of Kathmandu, once a fiercely independent city-state. The trip to Patan takes around 45 minutes and once you arrive, you don’t really feel you left Kathmandu at all. The main attraction of Patan is Durbar Square, which is still well preserved even after the 2015 earthquake.
Patan has its own charm with its narrow, hidden streets, ancient temples and local life. Thanks to our guide we had an opportunity to visit Kumari – Living Goddess – and received her blessing. Last but not least, we bought some local sweets and enjoyed them at one of the cafes next to Durbar square.
Impression of Kathmandu
I have mixed feelings about Kathmandu as a city. On one hand, it’s a thriving city with lots of life, energy, different religions and all kinds of people living next to each other every day. The city has tons of historic monuments, religious cites, true treasures. It’s a city that hardly sleeps, has all kinds of celebrations and holidays. You feel safe and welcome here, despite extreme poverty. In a way, you start missing this place as soon as your plane takes off.
On the other hand, it’s terribly sad to see how poor are the people who live here. The streets are dirty, dusty, and nothing is done to make it a better place for everyone. The traffic is terrible, there are no roads (except for few stretches), everything is just so chaotic and unusual for people from the west. Staying in touristy areas is surely doable, but somehow you start counting the days until you leave for the mountains or home. It’s difficult to imagine somebody would actually want to live in this chaos.
For me, visiting Nepal and Kathmandu has been an eye-opening experience. Would I ever come back here? I’m not sure right now. Despite their attractiveness, mountains are not a big enough factor to convince myself to go through all of it one more time. Perhaps I would come here for the natural parks, maybe for the EBC trek. Time will tell.