Kathmandu’s Monkey Temple and Boudhanath Stupa

Our return to Kathmandu was once again very temple centred. We returned to the Indian Embassy to hand in our visa forms and passports and pick them back up again in the afternoon on Friday. In the meantime we filled our time with a visit to the ancient cit of Patan and a visit to Kathmandu’s two biggest, most important and most spectacular Buddhist temples, Swayambhunath and Boudhanath.

Swayambhunath is on a lovely wooded hill to the west of Kathmandu, around 20 minutes walk from Kathmandu. On the way we crossed the Bagmati River, which sadly is one of the most rubbish-filled, polluted stretches of water I’ve ever seen.

Swayambhunath is known as the Monkey Temple due to a number of holy monkeys which live in and around the temple on the hillside. We were in no way immune to the fascination with monkeys of anyone who hasn’t grown up with them, and spent most of our time at the temple watching various monkeys doing various mundane things with a potent mixture of curiosity and fear.

Aside from the monkeys the temple itself was spectacular. It extends over most of the hillside, with ponds, several different stupas, a monastery and an absolutely epic flight of stairs which were not only extremely long but terrifyingly steep.

At the top of the hill we found ourselves amongst a group of young buddhist monks. Far from meditating peacefully the boys, who can’t have been more than 12, were running about shouting and laughing and playing on the prayer flags, using strings of them to swing from and play tug of war with. It was great to see them having so much fun.

After a delicious snack of some bhel puri made on a little cart and served in a twist of paper which turned out to be a map of Mexico we headed back down the hill to Thamel.

For our second taste of Kathmandu’s buddhist temples we went to Boudhanath, this time with an old friend of my mum’s, Ravi, a local buddhist who lives in Kathmandu.

It was nice to visit the somewhat touristy temple with a local, especially as Ravi visits the temple once a week anyway to make his three cirumambulations of the stupa, so for him it is a part of daily life with more meaning than it could ever have for us.

The boudhanath stupa is enormous, each circumambulation took us ten minutes or more, as we walked slowly around the outer edge with a crowd of other tourists, local buddhists and robed monks.

After our walk around the stupa we made our way to one of the surrounding rooftop restaurants for masala chai, momos and a chat with Ravi while we watched the sunset behind the stupa. Truly a beautiful sight.

6 thoughts on “Kathmandu’s Monkey Temple and Boudhanath Stupa

  1. Thanx for stopping by my blog. Outstanding photos in this post, although the trash filled waterway saddens me…it makes me think of the millions of tons of garbage we’re dumping in the ocean every year (month)…always frustrates me that we remain so short sighted…

    sorry…didn’t mean to be negative…

    happy travels

  2. I love the photos of the monkeys hanging out at the temple. That is so cool! Sad to see the river so polluted. The statues and shrines were so beautiful at both temples. Loved the joyful little monks in training too. What a fabulous adventure you are having!

  3. Hi.

    Was searching for some good and bad but subjective pictures of Kathmandu and came across yours among others. I am a citizen of kathmandu and also very embarrassed to see some very shameful pictures of this place, like the picture of the Holy River, through the Holy Site with a HOLY COW! :D That was a picture with so much of irony for myself.
    That was a great subjective photo for me, and i, as a citizen, have started something called Project Kathmandu, as a citizen’s movement to re-integrate the city and its values and beauty and charm, with the citizen participation. You can get to know about it at http://projectkathmandu.wordpress.com, if you may.
    Will it be alright if i ask to use that particular picture in any of the communication themes we’ll be using soon in our media and ground level campaigns? I’d definitely like to add the credit to your picture.

    Kindly let me know.



    • Hi Kaal,

      Of course, please feel free to use the picture and I would love to be credited on your site. Your project sounds amazing – I’d like to get involved if at all possible. I’m hoping to come back to Kathmandu soon – believe me I love the city more than any other place I’ve visited and definitely did not mean to embarrass anyone!
      Best wishes,

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