Upon our return to Kathmandu Valley, we explored Kathmandu City, capital of Nepal.
The Durbar Square includes the sprawling Hanuman Dhoka, the ancient palace of Nepalese Royalty.
We also visited the Temple of Kumari, home to Nepal’s most important living goddess. The Nepal Kumari are little girls chosen for their physical and mental perfection and worshiped as living goddesses until their first menstrual period, at which time they are retired and a new Kumari is chosen.
During our trip, a new 3 year old Kumari had been chosen just a couple of days before, and we saw the long line of devotees waiting to be brought to her presence for a blessing.
Because of religious reasons, we were not allowed to see her personally, so we had to be contented with access to one of the courtyards in the palace where she will live while she acts as the living goddess.
One particular striking statue was that of the ferocious Kal Bhairav, a colorful memorial to the Hindu God of destruction. Another unforgettable place was that of the Temple of the Goddess Taleju.
The square was severely damaged in the April 2015 earthquake and many
of the buildings are braced with long poles to prevent additional damage.
Our second stop was a wonderfully enjoyable visit to Swayambhunath, a 2,000 year old Buddhist Stupa, celebrated as the oldest Buddhist shrine in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This majestic ancient structure, with its lofty copper spires adorned with fluttering prayer flags, and painted on all four sides with the eyes of Buddha, crowns the hilltop overlooking the Kathmandu Valley.
Also known as the Monkey Temple for the number of monkeys that inhabit the hill, it is reachable through a multi level path with steps and hundreds of stupas and shrines of various sizes and styles, some of them occupied by monks. Meandering through the hill feels like a journey through visible devotion.
The whole experience was unforgettable and contributed in great part to the overall atmosphere of mellow calmness that permeates Nepal. Their life philosophy is definitely more enlightened than anything I’ve encountered before.
No visit to Kathmandu is complete without a stop at Jhochhen Tole or Old Freak Street, a small street at the south of Durbar Square. It was notorious in the 1960s and 1970s as the epicenter
during the hippie trail for its source of cannabis.
Currently is a fairly nondescript street featuring cheap guest houses, trekking agencies, and souvenir shops.
However, a much more entertaining stop was at the commercial neighborhood of Thamel. It’s a labyrinth of narrow alleys crowded with various shops and vendors of every kind. There are also many restaurants that serve both traditional and continental cuisine. It boasts a wide range of trekking shops, and foreign money exchange booths. There is also a very lively array of clubs and nightlife. It’s incredibly easy to lose your way along these alleys, many of which are not even paved, but it’s also very easy to get help to obtain a taxi, or directions back to the main roads close to the area. It’s a not to be missed stop.
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