We are on our fourth day here in the Kathmandu Valley, soaking in the sights, views and memories.
On Friday morning we landed in the city of Kathmandu. After a bit of jostling in the airport, we were greeted by the family of Alden’s dear friends from Nepal who adorned us with welcoming khatas (special Tibetan scarves) and necklaces made of marigold flowers (Mala). From there, our time here in Nepal has been nonstop.
Following our arrival, we promptly dropped our bags off at the Guest House (a traditional house over 300 years old and our home for 2 nights hidden in the historic city of Patan) and went off to see some sights and meet some amazing Nepali people.
In the following hours, we explored the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Pashupatinath and Boudhanath Stuppa – ancient Hindu and Buddhist religious sites teeming with both religious devotees and spiritual energy.
At Pashupatinath (considered one of the most important and holiest sites in Hinduism), we participated in a Hindu goodwill ceremony (Puja) where we were graciously welcomed to Nepal with a blessing, decorated on the third eye (Tika) and gifted a necklace of sacred rudrakshe seeds. For the rest of our time at the site, we explored the temples and shrines dedicated to the Lord Shiva, the powerful destroyer god, and learned more about Hinduism and Nepal from ShivaRam Khatiwada, our guide and friend.
Following our exploration of Pashupatinath, we were welcomed in ShivaRam’s brother’s home for some classic Nepali food and an intimate show of Sanskrit songs and poetry by the same Hindu priest, Lamichami, who blessed us at Pashupatinath. With our bellies full, minds bright and curious, but bodies a bit tired, we went off to Boudha, one of the most major sites in Buddhism and just a couple miles away.
At Boudha we looked up into the knowing and compassionate eyes of the Buddhist monument and started our clockwise walk abound the base of the enormous temple. The hum of spinning prayer wheels, whispers of people chanting “Om Mani Padme Hum”, and the hush of a quieting Kathmandu made our trip to Boudhanath a great way to conclude a first day in Nepal.
On day two of Kathmandu, we set out for another day of exploration, accompanied by our guide for the day Pramila (who met us at the airport with the whole big family!), a close friend of Alden and now a great friend of our entire group. Throughout the day we saw three main sites related to Bhuddlism. A Monastery and Buddhist University beautifully built in red brick and dark wood, three huge Buddhist statues accompanied by a prayer wheel meant for a giant, and the notorious “Monkey Temple” (Swayambhu – another World Heritage site) that came with a steep incline of 365 steps, a display of hard working monks, a bunch of monkeys, countless prayer flags and ancient monuments, along with an onslaught of tourists from all walks of life.
Next we had a delicious typical meal of Dal Bhaat (rice and lentil soup with curried vegetables and assortment of side dishes) at Pramila’s home. We got to walk around Kathmandu for a few hours and see Kathmandu Durban Square (another World Heritage site! Where many temples were destroyed in the 2015 earthquake), and look around shops in Asan market, which was particularly crowded (the narrow streets were totally jam packed) with people shopping for the upcoming holiday Dashain.
We concluded our evening in the home of Pramila and her large welcoming family where we had fun making and eating incredibly delicious momos (Tibetan-style dumplings) while basking in a sense of home that so many of us have been missing…. to be continued…