Finding my groove in Kathmandu

Trip Start Jul 05, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Friday, July 22, 2005


today i did a 4km walking tour to the outskirts of Kathmandu to visit Swoyambunath Temple. The weather was very nice. its slightly hot here, not really humid. walking out from downtown kathmandu was a pleasant learning experience. Compared to walking through Chinese cities, Kathmandu is much more....charismatic. I mean there's no sidewalks, huge potholes deep enough to swallow a bicycle and chaotically crowded streets. this is definitely one of the most unique capital cities in the world!
My destination today is perched atop a forested hill on the western edge of the Kathmandu Valley, Swayambunath Stupa is the Valley's most important Buddhist shrine, and chances are you're already familiar with this historic pilgrimage site (though you may not know it). The sleepy, all-seeing Buddha's eyes that stare out from the top of this hemispherical shrine have become the quintessential symbol of Nepal.
Kathmandu streets have alot of enchantment but this temple is just oozing charm. there is a 1st century BC enscprition from the Sri Lankan Emperor Ashoka. So this place has been recognized in buddhism for 2000 years. Swoyambunath has an ancient feel to it, which is enhanced by approaching it on foot like i did. There are tons of crazy monkeys around too, which is the reason the temple is locally known as the Monkey Temple.
When i finally climbed to the top of the stairs, i was greeted by a large bronze Vajra (tibetan Thunderbolt) and i started to make my 7 circumnambulations around the stupa. an elderly local woman with a small dirty child bekoned me over to paint the well recognized 'talik' on my forehead, but i said no, i must finish my rounds around the sacred site first. there was sweet sandalwood insense in the air, tibetan monks chanting near by and this place was amazing. after i did my last round, spinning all the "Om Mani Padme Hum" prayer wheels i had my forehead painted and went into the Tibetan temple to watch them beat their drums, bang their cymballs and listen to their touching deep chants.
the walk back was nice, no one even noticed my forehead was painted. they just treated it as normal.
I have no plan for tomorrow. just to keep within the budget.
probably the day after i will go to Bhaktapur (the name means "City of Devotees") or the Nagarjun Forest Reserve...Either way i'll write about it.

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