Goodbye Kathmandu and Nepal

The day after getting back from Lukla I had the tour of Kathmandu included in my trek package. There was just me and the guide and the taxi driver. We visited the large Hindu temple at Pashupatinath, the Buddhist temple at Boudhanath (claimed to be the largest stupa in the world) and the Monkey temple (claimed to be the oldest Buddhist temple in the world).

My guide, Kumud (which he told me means lotus flower) was a Hindu and pretty much taught me everything I know about Hinduism and Nepal and Kathmandu. Apparently the population of Nepal is about 26 million, 1.5 million people live in the Kathmandu valley, 1.3 million of them in Kathmandu itself and the other 200,000 in two other cities. Agriculture is the main source of employment and income in the country.

In adition to the 26 million humans there are 33 million gods in Nepal, one inside every person and another 7 million lurking around for good measure. The big gods at least get loads of sex as and when they feel like it. Apparently head god Shiva is currently shacked up in the deer park next to the Pashupatinath temple getting loads of deer sex. There’s plenty of phallic symbolism all over the temple.

In the temple complex there is an old peoples’ home conveniently located right above the funeral pyre points on the western bank of the Bagmati river. There are 2 sets of funeral pyre points, one for the “ordinary” people and a second set for the “important” people (royalty, prime ministers etc.). There were several cremations taking place on the ordinary set. These funeral pyre points are the most wanted in the city and the going rate is NPR2000 per cremation, firewood not included. Golden monkeys roam around freely, hawkers try to sell you assorted tat, beggars sit with any deformed limbs on special display and hold out a hand or cup as you pass. And people come to pray or just wander around and take in the sights. Admission is free for locals (possibly all Hindus) and NPR 500 (a little under £5) for foreigners. There are some photos in my RTW2011 set at Flickr.

Boudhanath claims to be the largest Buddhist stupa in the world, but Kumud said he was told by another visitor that there may be a larger one in Vietnam. My homework is to check this claim and email him the answer! In a classic example of mixed measures the blurb for the temple describes the stupa as 120 feet in diameter and 43 metres in height. I can’t complain having been using both feet and metres for elevations in my trek posts. There was a bunch of dancers on one side of the stupa shooting a scene for a Bollywood type movie. Again admission is free for locals and NPR 150 for foreigners. Photos at Flickr.

Our final stop of the morning was the Monkey Temple, correctly called Swayanabath, on a hill on the western edge of Kathmandu. This is the oldest stupa in the world and home to lots of golden monkeys. I got the impression there were more monkeys at Pashupatinath. Access to the site is via 365 steps up one side of the hill, or for the lazy or those in a hurry there is an entrance and car park at the end of a road up the side of the hill. Admission is free for locals, NPR 200 for foreigners. On a neighbouring hill is one of the oldest Buddhist monasteries in the world. On a clear day you’d get a good view over the city and along the Kathmandu valley. It was a bit hazy when we were there. Golden eagles soared above and around the hill. There are photos at Flickr.

Yesterday was an admin day and today I’m off to Bangkok via Delhi and lots more sitting around before meeting Hannah tomorrow.

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