Kathmandu

There are 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Nepal, 4 are in Kathmandu. During our stay in Nepal we visited all 10 (including: Kathmandu Valley, Sagarmatha National Park (Everest), Chitwan and Lumbini). This last week we went to the remaining 4 in Kathmandu.

The hectic, overcrowded, dusty city of Kathmandu has advanced a little in the last 7 years since we were here last, but it still feels very 3rd world. Cost of living is very low, the roads are still very poor, blackouts occur less often but still happen most days. But it’s still one of our favourite places. What has changed is the access to the internet, with wifi available almost everywhere, and really good restaurants and coffee shops with quality food, at least in the tourist area of Thamel.

Streets of Kathmandu
Streets of Kathmandu
Streets of Kathmandu
Streets of Kathmandu
Streets of Kathmandu
Streets of Kathmandu
Streets of Kathmandu
Streets of Kathmandu
Thamel, Kathmandu
Thamel, Kathmandu

The damage from the 2015 earthquake is still very obvious. Many homes and buildings in the old part of town are either in rubble or being held up by wooden support beams. The damage is most obvious in the Durbar Square *. Seven historic buildings in Durbar were completely destroyed and nearly all had some damage. Similar to Bhaktapur, mounds of rubble still lie where temples used to stand, bamboo scaffolding surrounds buildings under repair, piles of gravel and concrete fill empty spaces waiting to be used. Not much actual repair has been done to the historic buildings. It sounds like there is an inter-government battle on who and how repairs should be done.

Under repair, Durbar Square, Kathmandu
Under repair, Durbar Square, Kathmandu
Under repair, Durbar Square, Kathmandu
Under repair, Durbar Square, Kathmandu
Reparing Durbar Square, Kathmandu
Reparing Durbar Square, Kathmandu

There are few historic buildings still standing or renovated. We wish we had our pictures from 7 years ago to compare, but you can see a few of the difference on this slideshow from that trip  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGL5XQNaWm8

Durbar Square, Kathmandu
Durbar Square, Kathmandu
Durbar Square, Kathmandu
Durbar Square, Kathmandu
Kali Statue, Durbar Square, Kathmandu
Kali Statue, Durbar Square, Kathmandu
Kumari Bahal, home of the living goddess, Kathmandu
Kumari Bahal, home of the living goddess, Kathmandu

In Kathmandu’s Durbar Square there were more Newari temples with erotic carvings. These were the strangest of all.

Erotic carvings, Jaganath Temple, Kathmandu
Erotic carvings, Jaganath Temple, Kathmandu
Erotic carvings, Jaganath Temple, Kathmandu
Erotic carvings, Jaganath Temple, Kathmandu

On a hill in town is the impressive Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple) *. Thousands of years ago the Kathmandu Valley was a lake. Legend says that an island with a chorten emerged from the lake. The original chorten is from the 5th century and over hundreds of years it has become a large complex. There’s a large, white chorten in the centre and many shrines, prayer wheels and other Buddhist and Hindu objects. There are always prayer flags flapping in the wind in one of the open areas.  There is a resident Rhesus monkey population giving it the common name of Monkey Temple.

Swayambhunath, Kathmandu
Swayambhunath, Kathmandu
Swayambhunath, Kathmandu
Swayambhunath, Kathmandu
Rhesus monkey at Swayambhunath, Kathmandu
Rhesus monkey at Swayambhunath, Kathmandu
Looks like he's from 'Planet of the Apes', Swayambhunath, Kathmandu
Looks like he’s from ‘Planet of the Apes’, Swayambhunath, Kathmandu
Prayer flags at Swayambhunath, Kathmandu
Prayer flags at Swayambhunath, Kathmandu

At the bottom of the hill, a kora of prayer wheels surrounds the hill with two parks housing large shrines and statues.

Swayambhunath kora
Swayambhunath kora
Statues on the Swayambhunath kora
Statues on the Swayambhunath kora
Rhesus Monkey on Swayambhunath kora
Rhesus Monkey on Swayambhunath kora
Swayambhunath kora
Swayambhunath kora
Swayambhunath kora
Swayambhunath kora

Pashupatinath * is one of the most sacred Hindu temples in Nepal. As with most Hindu temples, the main temple is off limits to non-Hindus, but we were able to walk around most of the site. The complex is always very busy, loud and smelly. It feels very chaotic.  Located along the sacred Bagmati River, Pashupatinath is the site for many Hindu cremations. Hindus close to death come to the grounds to spend their last few days as they believe those who die here will be reborn as a human regardless of any sins they committed during their lifetime. We saw a cremation taking place along the river bank. When the ceremony is done, the pyre including the remaining bones, wood etc. gets dumped in the river. Downriver, people commonly bathe, do laundry, brush their teeth…

Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu
Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu
Cremation at Pashupatinath, Kathmandu
Cremation at Pashupatinath, Kathmandu
Cremation at Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu
Cremation at Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu

On the other side of the river are many old Hindu shrines and chortens. Sadhus (holy men) can often be seen meditating/begging around these shrines.

Shrines at Pashupatinath, Kathmandu
Shrines at Pashupatinath, Kathmandu
Sadhu at Pashupatinath, Kathmandu
Sadhu at Pashupatinath, Kathmandu

Boudhanath * is a large Buddhist complex that feels exactly opposite to hectic Pashupatinath. Instead, Boudhanath feels very serene, even when the square is full of worshipers. The massive yet graceful white chorten is in the centre of a clean square filled with shops and restaurants and the historic Guru Lhakhang  Monastery. Many Buddhists come here daily to do a kora around the chorten.

Boudhanath Chorten, Kathmandu
Boudhanath Chorten, Kathmandu
Lama at Boudhanath, Kathmandu
Lama at Boudhanath, Kathmandu
Boudhanath Chorten, Kathmandu
Boudhanath Chorten, Kathmandu
Boudhanath Chorten, Kathmandu
Boudhanath Chorten, Kathmandu

Throughout Kathmandu there are many important historic sites. Most are either Hindu or Buddhist structures. We visited a number of these, some we just accidentally stumbled across as we explored the city. Those were usually the best ones.

Kathesimbu Chorten, Kathmandu
Kathesimbu Chorten, Kathmandu
Temple, Kathmandu
Temple, Kathmandu
Getting a red sindoor for good luck
Getting a red sindoor for good luck
Sitting with a Sadhu, Kathmandu
Sitting with a Sadhu, Kathmandu
Sadhu, Kathmandu
Sadhu, Kathmandu

(*) – indicates a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Coming up next: Top 15 pictures from Nepal.

For extra pics from this trip go to Gallery/Nepal. For extra pictures from other blogs go to Gallery at monkeystale.ca

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