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Paul & Tracey's Travels
8th Feb 2012 - Kathmandu,Himalayas,Nepal
Rain, temples, and a drive round the city

Woke up to find it was raining and very grey. Tracey was feeling unwell, so I went out with the guide on my own at 9am. We drove across the Bagamati Bridge to another District of Kathmandu called Patan. This is a mainly Buddhist area and we have come to see a couple of temples.

Ancient square

First though we stopped to see Patan Durbar Square. There are several such squares in the city, and the name is generic to describe plazas opposite royal palaces. There was a large earthquake in Nepal in the 1920s and a lot of building were damaged or destroyed, so although some buildings have old elements, they may be less old than they first appear. In this square the buildings were originally wooden and have been rebuilt in brick.

Golden temple

There is a mixture of architectural styles with some buildings having domed roofs, some are in a sort of pagoda style, and other have the sort of cone type tower. After looking around the square, we headed off down the thin back alleys to visit the so called Golden temple, although most of the gold has been replaced with brass. This is a Buddhist temple and local people were using it for prayer, walking round the centre in a clockwise direction spinning the prayer wheels.

10 year old priest

We went upstairs into the monastery where several women were sat studying texts. Nepalese Buddhists do not generally dress in the traditional clothing, and will carry on jobs and school as normal. The current priest is a 10 year old boy, who is currently half way through a 30 day period where he will remain in the temple and not wash or change his clothes for the whole period. He was happy for me to take a photo of him in the small room where he stays, together with an older man who helps him in his studies.

From here it was back to the main square to have a look round the small palace area which is having some restoration work done. It is basically a courtyard with the palace area built around it. As we had seen at the square, there were hundreds of intricate wooden carvings in the eaves along around the courtyard. The palace area is not open to the public, but this would have been the area where important decisions were made, and because they are made in front of religious deitys, the decision when made had to be carried out.

Temple of 9999 Budhhas

Back to the car for a short drive to see the Mahabuddha Temple or temple of 9999 Buddhas, so called because the centre piece of the temple is a terracotta carving containing that many likenesses. Again the temple is entered from a side street through a small archway almost hidden away.

Monkey temple

On returning to the hotel for lunch, found that Tracey was still not well, so at one pm I once again set out with the guide on my own. We drove across town to the west of the city where we were going up into the hills to visit Swayambhunath Temple, more easily known as monkey temple. The rain has continued all day and it was now raining very heavily. Some of the roads seemed to be starting to disappear under the brown water. When we turned off the main road up to the temple the road surface was so bad that it was almost undriveable, huge holes and piles of rocks in the middle of the road.

We eventually got up to the temple in one piece and paid our 200 Nepalese Rupees entrance fee - about £1.50. It was in this area of the city that the hippies who lived here used to hang out in the 70's. They were the ones who nick named the place monkey temple. Apparently if you amble along the streets in the right places, street vendors may offer you some hashish but it is illegal.

We ascended the 100 steps up to the Tibetan buddhist temple where on a sunny day there would be fantastic views over the city, however most of the city was shrouded in cloud today. The place is very photogenic with a massive central yellow and gold stupa, Tibetan prayer flags, monkeys running about, candles burning, worshippers moving prayer wheels, the odd Tibetan Monk walking amongst the various buildings etc

Drive back through the city

As we were walking back to the car, we decided that because of the rain and Tracey's absence, we should not try going to see anything further today, but meet up again tomorrow. We therefore went back to the hotel from the temple, but passed several points of interest on the way, including the Government compound - a secure area where all government offices are located, and a very large sand square in the centre which is shared by the army for parading, and for the public to play cricket and football. Football is very popular in Nepal - there is a national league with about 12 teams, and the national team have an English coach at the moment. Naturally, our guide supports Man Utd !

I have notice a lot of United Nations vehicles on the roads, and this is because Nepal is considered an underdeveloped country and they are getting support from the UN with things like education and health. I have seen several really long queues of motorbikes at petrol stations - there is a bit of a gasoline shortage apparently, but there are also 500,000 motorbikes registered in the city!!

Nepalese tourism

According to our guide, tourism started in Nepal after 1953 when Edmund Hilary scaled Everest.The first international flight arrived in 1967, and the airport was built in 1975. I would imagine that the main area of tourism is trekking and hill climbing, although clearly there are some interesting sites for the western tourist to see in the city.

Tomorrow we have booked an early morning flight over Everest leaving the airport at 7am, so am keeping my fingers crossed that the weather improves, because all flights were cancelled this morning. The forecast is for sun again tomorrow so hopefully we will be OK.

Still having trouble loading photos, but at least have got Internet access, which I should be grateful for, as the electricity supply appears so tempremental. We went up to the Ghurka Bar on the top floor of the Hotel early this evening to have a drink, and whilst we there there were a couple of occasions when the lights dimmed, and we have had two or three short power cuts today. There are brilliant views across the city from the bar, and it is very strange to see how dark the city is after sunset, with only a few buildings having lights in the windows and only a few street lights to be seen.

Next: Everest, Rural Nepal, local trades and little Tibet
Previous: Flight to Nepal, a temple, holy men, and death

Diary Photos

Durbar Square, Patan, Kathmandu, Nepal

The local brew, Kathmandu, Nepal

Durbar Square, Patan, Kathmandu, Nepal

Durbar Square, Patan, Kathmandu, Nepal

Golden Temple, Kathmandu

Golden Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal

Swayambhunath (Monkey) Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal

Swayambhunath (Monkey) Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal

Swayambhunath (Monkey) Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal

Swayambhunath (Monkey) Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal

View down into the city from Swayambhunath (Monkey) Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal

Looking towards another hilltop temple from Swayambhunath (Monkey) Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal

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