Phew! We landed. Ok, it was a jerky bumpy landing as though we had touched down onto a pothole in the runway (not as unlikely as you might think having seen the state of the roads here!!!!) Anyway we were safe which was a huge relief; you see a week after we had booked our tickets a Bangladeshi plane crashed here killing 50. I read that Nepal has the worst air safety record in the entire world. Gulp! That wasn’t comforting to know. But we reasoned that statistically a second major disaster shouldn’t happen so soon after and we would probably be ok. Plus we were flying Royal Thai (which I can highly recommend folks) and they have new planes etc. Getting through immigration though was another nightmare. I think that this country is about 30 years behind the rest of the world, which makes it lovely and quaint to visit but does nothing to assist the queues waiting for a visa.
But we are here now.
Our hotel is very central and has an air of faded gentility but everything works (just)Apparently Kathmandu suffers from almost daily power cuts which can last up to 16 hours. The newspapers even publish when the power will be on where in the city so that residents can plan their days!
The old streets around us are delightful. So pretty with the flags and ticker tape decorations. You need good shoes though due to the aforementioned pot holes.
They sell a marvellous selection of cashmere and yak wool clothes, brightly coloured felt hats and of course lightweight, breathable hiking gear. I got a pair of (ostensibly) North Face trousers for £12! Bargain.
For those of you wondering about the local beer – it’s called
And the adventure begins… first up we went to the Monkey Temple (Buddhist). No prizes for guessing how it got it’s name.
However, it could also have been called the Sleeping Wild Dogs Temple as the place was littered with them. Apparently they are nocturnal.
This temple has prayer wheels and you walk clockwise (for good fortune) spinning the wheels and chanting Om Mani Pom Me Om. I have always wanted to do this so today fulfilled a life goal. Here is me
And here is a professional doing it
The temple is also strung with coloured flags. Each piece of cloth has a piece of Buddhist scripture on it. The colours represent different elements so red is fire, yellow is earth, blue is sky, white is water and green is air.
What happens is that the flags are put up during a festival and when they flutter in the breeze your sorrows fly away. Brilliant idea. We could all do with more of that. Each year more are added and they look quite spectacular. That’s quite a lot of sorrow blown way. It’s just a shame that it was cloudy when we were there so the pictures don’t look so vibrant.
This temple had a relatively new statue in a pond at the entrance and people throw coins at it. If your coin lands in the alms bowl then you get good fortune
This struck me as good income generation but it also reminded me of Wishing wells in Europe. Humans seem to have a great desire to throw money into water all over the world.
Then we moved on to the Hindu Temple. Not being Hindu we weren’t allowed inside the actual shrine but could view the golden bull from the hill above.
This temple complex was quite a moving experience as we witnessed open air cremations in the grounds. These are carried out by the river
The white building in the background is a hospice and bodies are burned very quickly after death. Here you can see the relatives carrying the deceased down to the River.
Special prayers are said by the holy men. Then the bodies are burned while the relatives go into another building for some food (the wake I guess). It takes 3-4 hours to burn completely then the ashes are washed into the river. This river flows into the Ganges which is sacred for Hindus.
From a western standpoint it felt invasive to be watching something so personal but they obviously didn’t mind. We had paid our £8 to enter the area so it was income for the temple. Plus we didn’t see anyone grief stricken. Perhaps the Indian philosophy of reincarnation makes the process of mourning easier.
As a special you can pay (68p) to sit with a holy man and have your photograph taken. I was given a bonus red dot on my forehead and had a double blessing for long life and happiness.
Then we were taken to the golden Stupa (for lunch) where we saw the vivid coloured powders that they use during Holi.
We were able to stroll around the raised section of the stupa and it had a truly spiritual feel as we looked down on the hustle and bustle of the street below. It felt as though we were elevated from the world and in a peaceful place.
The stupa itself has eyes and a nose drawn on each of the four faces of the tower. The eyes are looking in every direction for good deeds or acts of compassion and the nose symbolises unity. The Buddha is watching you.
Finally we saw the Grand Palace. Or rather the site of it because in April 2015 there was a huge earthquake in Kathmandu and this along with many other buildings were severely damaged. There is currently a massive restoration project underway as most of the old city is a UNESCO world heritage site.
Below is the Temple of Hanuman, the monkey god (which wasn’t badly damaged). Apparently there are over 3 million gods and goddesses in Hinduism which is quite a lot to keep on top of. Each level had a fabric trim which ripples gently in a mesmeric pattern.
The sixteenth century streets around Durbar Square are impressive and the details on the wood carvings are superb. Only a few survived the quake intact.
One temple has a series of karma sutra carvings around it because at one point the king was worried about the population decline so he basically put pornography in places where the people went to encourage them to get down to it!
Nepal is 85% Hindu so the cow is sacred and as in India they roam the streets freely. This can cause some serious traffic problems congestion.
Note the state of the roads. I am surprised that any of the vehicles have any suspension left at all.
Our walk back to the hotel was through the old market with its hobbit-sized workshops and unusual stalls. This is a flute seller.