October 5, 2006:
Kathmandu - Swayambhunath & Bodnath
After a mostly sleepless night, mainly because
of jetlag, I woke up at 6:30 am. I had
breakfast on the rooftop terrace of the Tibet
Holiday Inn. At 9 am, Bharat and Lima, the
driver, picked me up and brought me over to
the L'Annapurna Hotel. We left my bags there
and continued on to the Swayambhunath
Temple, or Monkey Temple. This temple sits
on a hill overlooking the Kathmandu Valley.
At its center is a large stupa from which the
eyes of Bhudda look in all four directions.
Lima dropped us off at the bottom of the
staircase. 365 stairs to the top. At the bottom
of the stairs was the typical congregation of
hawkers, gawkers, sadhus etc., just what you
can expect at the entrance to a major tourist
attraction. I escaped getting red-dotted by a
sadhu.
The Bodnath Stupa is the largest stupa in Nepal, built in the 14th century. It is a bastion of Tibetan
culture in the heart of the Kathmandu Valley. Thousands of Tibetans came here after the 1950's
Chinese Invasion of Tibet. Bodnath has become one of the most important centers of Tibetan
Buddhism. There are lots of Tibetan shops as well as several Tibetan monasteries around the stupa.
Bharat and I went to the upper part of the stupa and circled it clockwise. After completing the
circle, we checked out some of the shops around the stupa. We went into one of the Thangka
shops. The shopowner showed us how they made the Thangkas. I bought a Thangka of the Guru
Rinpoche which now hangs in our bedroom (that was the only place in our house where there was
space...).
We walked up the stairs to the stupa. From
there we had a wonderful view of the
Kathmandu Valley. Lots of little stupas,
shops etc. are up there. There is also
another small temple on the backside of
Swayambhunath. Additionally a Tibetan
Monastery. We spend quite some time
there soaking up the sights and sounds.
After a while, we went back down the stairs
and met up again with Lima who then
drove us to the Bodnath Stupa via the Ring
Road. The traffic is pretty bad, way too
many cars, people, animals, bikes, etc. on
the roads. Everybody is driving like a
maniac, but overall the speed is quite slow
because of the congestion and the cars are
pretty old and certainly not tuned for
speed.
After visiting the Bodnath Stupa we went back to the L'Annapurna Hotel where I checked in.
During the afternoon, I packed my backback and got ready for my hiking trip to Everest Base
Camp. I had a delightful dinner at the Chinese Restaurant at the hotel where I had a long
discussion with my waiters about Nepali customs, language, ethnics, castes, etc. etc. I was the only
guest for a while, so the guys had time to chat. I went to bed around 9 pm, but woke up at my
"normal" time of 1 am celebrating another night of jet lag.