Kathmandu – day 213

Took our time getting ready this morning, choosing photos for the last remaining blogs that need to be uploaded and generally lounging around in the posh hotel room. Enjoyed a scorching hot shower (so hot that even I had to turn on the cold tap!!) before getting dressed and checking out. Dumped our bags in our regular hotel and headed off to the Internet cafe to use and abuse the decent speed of their internet to upload the rest of our remaining blogs – feels so nice to have them all online now and was really nice reliving those moments, even though they happened so recently – kind of makes me want to read older post too!! Whilst Jayne did a sterling job of sorting out the blogs, I printed out our ‘letter of acceptance’ so that we could get out visas for Myanmar when we arrive in Yangon and did some research for our month there (as well as some Facebook procrastination!!). Treated ourselves to a bakery lunch of pizza bread each and a cheese plait to share as we started walking towards the Swayambhunath Buddhist temple (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). According to legend, the Kathmandu valley was once a lake (supported by geological evidence) and the hill now topped by Swayambhunath rose spontaneously from the water, hence the name swayambhu, meaning ‘self-arisen’.   The compound is centred on a gleaming white stupa, topped with a gilded spire painted with the eyes of Buddha. We approached the temple from the stone pilgrim staircase that climbs the eastern side of the hill – and it climbs steep!! Even after a month trekking, I needed to stop midway for a little breather! Constructed in the 17th century by King Pratap Malla, the stone staircase is covered with rhesus macaque monkeys (which is why the temple is also known as the ‘Monkey Temple’. We walked past statues of brightly painted Buddha, lions, elephants, horses and peacocks on our climb to the top. The stupa itself was beautiful, despite being covered in pigeons and the compound being incredibly busy. We headed first for the viewpoint to look out at Kathmandu valley – you can see how it used to be a lake and the view reminded us both of Rio de Janeiro.   We then walked clockwise around the stupa (as you are supposed to!) looking at the ornate plinths representing the Dhyani Buddhas that are located around the base of the stupa which represent the qualities of Buddhist wisdom. The entire structure of the stupa is symbolic – the white dome represents the earth, while the 13-tiered, beehive structure at the top symbolises the 13 stages that humans must pass through to achieve nirvana.  The stupa is surrounded on all sides by religious sculptures, so we spent some time looking at these. We did a second loop around the stupa, this time spinning each of the prayer wheels as we went. Double checked that we hadn’t missed anything by looking at our guide book only to be descended upon by two monkeys who were far too interested every time we opened our bag…   Headed back down the staircase and made our way back to Thamel via a little temple that we spotted as we wandered through the back streets. Interestingly, it had karma sutra type engravings on the top layer and in the back left hand corner, but nowhere else. It also was decorated with skulls around the entire temple and appeared to have a sacrificial goat in a pen just outside it.     As we walked back to the hotel, we stopped in a couple of art shops to look for a painting – Jayne had seen a big version of something she liked and we were trying to find something more reasonably sized (and priced!!). Found what she was looking for in the third art gallery and treated ourselves to a black and white painting of Everest with the prayer flags in colour. I then treated myself to a couple of stone beads that I’d been eyeing up for a while. Back out for dinner where we tried to organise ourselves for tomorrow and made tentative plans for where we are going to go after Australia…

Saturday 7th May 2016

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s