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.
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.