Archives for March 2014

Monkey Temple in Kathmandu

monkey temple in kathmandu

One place I was a little apprehensive about going to was Monkey Temple, more formally known as Swayambhunath. I’m not a huge fan of monkeys to be honest. They’re beyond cute but in our travels we’ve come across one two many aggressive ones and seen one too many tourist get chased (which I’ll admit is secretly a little entertaining to watch, as long as it’s not us!). But while I’m not a huge fan of monkeys the monkeys here had more personality than I’ve seen before. They were running around playing with cd’s and my favorite was when one young monkey decided to make a nearby puppy his play-thing while he tugged on his tail and chased him around.

Monkey Temple is located at the top of a hill near the center of Kathmandu and offers incomparable views of the city below. On a clear day you can even see the Himalayas from the top. The main attraction is the giant white stupa in the center of the temple with prayer wheels, prayer flags and the infamous eyes of Nepal painted near the top. It actually got it’s name from an old legend that Majusri, the bodhisattva (an enlightened being) of wisdom and learning was raised on this hill. He grew his hair long, had lice and the lice then turned into all of the monkeys found on top of the hill. Hence, Monkey Temple. Makes you think twice about the cute little creatures doesn’t it?

monkey temple

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Fishtail Mountain-The Himalaya

fishtail mountainVery few things in life leave me awestruck any more. The only negative side effect that I have ever found with traveling a lot. I hope I am the only one who has ever felt this way but I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m not alone. After traveling all across Asia, temples start to blur together and I had a similar feeling with cathedrals while traveling in Europe. That’s not to say each is not special and unique in its own way but after seeing quite a few, it becomes harder and harder to feel in ‘awe’ standing there. If only every time could be like the first time where you wanted to sit for hours, inspecting and memorizing every detail of it. I’ll be honest, I haven’t felt that ‘wow’ factor in quite some time. And I’m not talking about seeing something amazing, I’ve had plenty of that. I’m talking about seeing something so spectacular that it leaves you utterly speechless. The last time I felt that way was when we swam with giant whale sharks in the Philippines. And little did I know that the next time I would feel it would be during my first trip up close to the Himalayas. We arrived into Pokhara, a tiny lakeside town boasting impeccable views of the Himalayas, with excitement. We cheated a bit and opted for a motorbike instead of our hiking shoes to get to the top of Sarangkot and the peace stupa to take in the view of Fishtail Mountain also known as Machupuchare.

fishtail mountain peace stupa in nepalfishtail mountain hanggliders in nepal fishtail mountain fishtail mountainWe rented the motorbike early in the morning for a mere 800 Nepalese Rupees or about $8 USD to take us to two different lookout points. The first being the Peace Stupa lookout. Offering optimum views of both the lake and the towering mountains in the background. Not to mention a massive pearl white Buddhist Stupa conveniently and dramatically set on top of a mountain above the clouds. There was even an option to camp overnight at the top and watch the sunrise over the mountains. Mental notes for next time. We wanted to head over to the other look out at Sarangkot right away as we were told the views from there were even more mesmerizing. We had to wait however for the afternoon and wait until the clouds settled. However, I must say, with all of the clouds it looked as if the mountains started out of nowhere.

During dry season from October to May there are significantly more clouds around the mountains. In the early morning and late afternoon however, the clouds settle down into the valleys providing substantially better views. Around 2:30 in the afternoon we headed back out on the motorbike to once again climb above the clouds in search of the perfect view we had been looking for. And we were not disappointed. I felt as if we had been climbing for ages, along with what seemed like endless caravans of hopeful paragliders in pursuit of adrenaline rushing excitement of jumping off a mountain and swirling among the clouds. We spent the next few hours lazily watching people come and go, paragliders effortlessly swooping down towards the lake and an elderly couple working on their hillside farm. I couldn’t help but wonder if in the eyes of the farmer, the Himalayas were now like the many temples to me. Something that once brought about awe inspiring feelings but now are blended into his everyday life. Or if he wakes up every morning in awe of his irreplaceable view of the Himalayas out of his window every morning.

Things to Do in Kathmandu

 

things to do in kathmanduIt’s funny how you meet people on the road. When we first decided to go to Nepal, I immediately sent an email to Katie, knowing that she had lived there with her husband not long ago. Along with sending me two pages worth of recommendations (which were a serious lifesaver) she also put me in touch with her friend Jenna and husband Jon who were kind enough to play tour guide to Jeremy and I for our weekend in Kathmandu. By the end of it I was convinced they could open their own tour company. Here are just a few of the many things to do in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capitol city.

motorbike in nepal

The first stop was the Saturday Farmer’s Market held at 1905 restaurant in the Thamel area. A must go to spot if you’re in town over the weekend. With vendors selling everything from homemade bread, breakfast foods and pastries to jewelry and body goods. Grab yourself a dollar coffee and homemade pastry and sit up on the porch of the restaurant overlooking the market before perusing the other goods for sale. It’s a great way to spend an hour or two in the morning.

saturday farmers marker

The next stop was possibly one of my favorites from the trip. Jenna and her friend Emily took me to a used sari shop to look through pile upon pile of fabric. Pretty much my dream come true. Jeremy knows me too well because with just one look in the shop he turned to me and said ‘you’re going to be awhile aren’t you?’ Yes, yes I am. These girls were pros at sorting through the overabundance of silky material, finding the perfect candidate for scarves, headbands and pillows. At the end of my pillage, and of only about half of what the guy had in his shop, I settled on four saris all for the damage of about $8 USD. I’d be in real trouble if we lived there.

2nd hand sariis2nd hand sariis

Next up was the Durbar Square. A historical site, yes, but also a popular hang out with the locals. It’s also right next to the Kumari Ghar; a palace in the middle of the city where the Kumari child lives. This was my first time ever hearing about her existence. The Kumari is the tradition of Nepali Hindu’s and Buddhists worshipping young girls pre-puberty as the manifestations of the Hindu divine female energy. It is believed that the goddess, Taleju, occupies the young Kumari child’s body until the day she reaches puberty at which time the goddess vacates her body. If you visit the Kumari Ghar, you can see crowds of people waiting at the entrance in hopes the Kumari will appear at the window inside and they can catch a glimpse of her. One of the many things I love about Kathmandu is the history that’s around every corner.

durbar squaredurbar squaredurbar square

Our last stop in Kathmandu was the Garden of Dreams. A quiet oasis from the hectic city. First built in the early 1920’s it was just recently completed it’s renovation in 2010 with help front he Austrian government after lying dormant for many years. Now it’s a beautiful place to spend relaxing for an afternoon or grabbing a coffee or bite to eat and one of the two cafes on the grounds.

garden of dreams, kathmandu

There’s always something to do and see in Kathmandu and in our three days there I felt like we had only barely scratched the surface. Is there anything else that you would add to the list of things to do in Kathmandu?

Other things to do in Kathmandu:
+Monkey Temple-more on that next week…
+Pashupati Temple-one of the most significant Hindu temples, also where you can see many Sadhu or holy men
+Thamel Area shopping-seriously…bring an extra suitcase because you will want to fill it full with beads, scarves, blankets and more!
+Bhaktapur-a traditional town just 15 minutes outside of Kathmandu lets you look back in time, admire their pottery and enjoy their delicious yogurt that they are renowned for!

Everest Flight

When we first talked of traveling to Nepal, we had talked of doing the Everest Base Camp hike. Well after more research we discovered that well…it takes a long time. As much as I love the outdoors, 19 days of hiking is a little intense for me, so is the $1,000 price tag for each of us. And while I admire those who choose to hike, Jeremy and I looked for another option to see the infamous Everest in our time frame and price range. Which led us to taking a an Everest flight which would take us up in a plane for 50 minutes circling a portion of the Himalayas; seeing Everest in the midst of it from the air; and return to the airport.

flight to everestmount everest flightWe arrived at the airport for our 7am flight which we picked because we were told that the earlier flight provided better views and less of a chance there would be a delay due to weather. The views part was true but unfortunately the delay part was not…not even in the slightest. I’m just glad we came prepared with snacks and there was coffee. Which came in more use than we thought since no heat in the terminal plus a huge hole in the window and no coffee would have been a dangerous combination. So after what seemed like eternity but what was actually just two hours (which let’s face it…is eternity in airport time) they called our flight. So in other words, dress warm, pack food and prepare to wait! But not to worry, once you start climbing altitude, it will be well worth the wait.

everest flightWe were taken up in a 20 seater plane with a all window seats and shown a long stretch of the Himalayas including the tallest peak in the world, Mount Everest just 20 miles away. heading to the mountain range we passed over large areas of ‘smaller’ mountains, still high above the city. On top of several of them you could see flattened areas, farming land with only a few houses speckled here and there. With thin roads winding up and down the mountains, just inches from a steep drop off, we were reminded of a simpler way of life. Where things are traded, people fully rely on the land and where the phrase ‘I’m heading into town tomorrow for supplies’ is still undeniably in use.

As we neared the infamous Mt. Everest, we all took turns heading up to the cockpit with the pilots (whose windows were by far the clearest of them all) so they could point out Mt. Everest. Although it does not look as majestic as I had imagined due to a similar (albeit, shorter) peak in close proximity, it was a must see on any bucket list to see the tallest place on Earth and an Everest flight is the perfect way to see it.