Edit Blog Post
Published: November 21st 2007
Well after spending 10 days on the meditation course at Kopan Monastery and been isolated from the noise and chaos then it was time to step outside the sanctuary of peace (or relative quiet if you ignore the 5am chants and bells from the monks!).
The first excursion was to Patan's Durbar Square
, just south of Kathmandu on the other side of the sacred Bagmati River. Patan it is often known and sign posted by its Sankskrit name, Lalitpur which was a touch confusing when the taxi driver dropped us off.
Patan's Durbar Square is crowded with temples, and has a very similar look and feel to Kathmandu's Durbar Square but has a much less hassle factor from guides and touts - though unfortunately not entirely void of them but it wouldn’t be Kathmandu without the them.
Patan is marked by four Ashoka Stupas to each corner of the city though we only got to glimpse one of these and that was after traipsing around in the dark and getting lost many times (see later for details).
Anyway to the beginning we (that is Cornel, Ricardo and myself) decided that we would experience local transport which involved
a rather rough, bouncy and somewhat dusty and fume filled local bus ride to Chabhil from Bodhnath. At which point realising that the rate we were progressing we would just get there in time for dark and the considerable protest from our coccyxs from the all bouncing which we could no longer ignore we resorted to taxi’s - not necessarily that much quicker in the congested roads of Kathmandu.
When we eventually arrived we decided grab a drink and a spot of lunch over looking square before taking in the sights - a welcome opportunity to recover our equilibriums.
Wandering around the many temples was interesting, though I couldn’t help but wish for a knowledgeable guide to maybe give that a little life to the next red brick temple, adorned with deities (can’t believe I uttered the words wanting a guide!). I loved the myth gleaned from the Lonely Planet Guide (alternative name the Bible of Travelers!) about King Yoganarendra Malla's Statue - which has a figure of 'The King kneeling with his queens on top of a lotus protected by the hood of a cobra on top of which a bird figure can be found. Legend says
while the bird remains then the king will return to his palace but if it flies then the elephants in from of the Vishwanath Temple will stroll over the to the Manga Hiti for a drink!'. Good job the statue is so high as I am sure it would have been removed just to see if this happens!!!
After dark we wandered around the back streets of Patan procuring some attention as we tried to find our way back across to Kathmandu side of the river to pick up a taxi but on the way attempting to see one of the elusive Ashoka Stupas at least, which though large for at least ½ hour remained hidden and elusive until we eventually found the alley leading to the one of Kathmandu’s oldest Buddhist monuments. Oh everyone had an opinion on which direction to go but it never seems to be the right one!
On another day Ricardo and I decided to leave the sanctuary once again and head to Pharping
by hiring a taxi for the day (not as expensive as it sounds even taking account the increased rates caused by the fuel crisis hitting the Nepal). It proved a
long and somewhat bouncy trail to get to our end point (ok maybe I should stop mentioning the poor road conditions of Nepal and you should just take it as read. The journey showed Nepal for the country that so many people had said they had fallen in love with but to date neither of Ricardo or I had seen or experienced. So we were surprised to find beautiful and breath taking countryside just a short distance outside Kathmandu and welcomed the escape from the noise and over crowded streets to sparsely populated small villages with houses festooned with corn crops hanging out to dry. All this was offset against a backdrop of wide green hills.
Our first stop was into the Drolma Lhakhang, a chapel which has images of the Hindu Elephant God, Ganesh and The Buddhist Green Tara forming out of the rocks all by themselves!!!?!!!!. Climbing the hill behind this chapel and the Phodrang Gompa we passed under many colourful prayer flags on our way up the hill. All the way we were followed (read chased) by several sellers and those professing to be guides, we or more to the point Ricardo relented and bought some
flags to hang as blessing and wishes to family and friends. Both of wrote the names of their names on the edge of the flags before they were hung by our now adopted guide and who kept trying to persuade us to buy a second set to join the full stretch between two poles but settled with our one purchase.
We continued up the hill for a better view - the summit seeming never to arrive but somewhere near the top our adopted guide came running and puffing up after us and said that it was not safe to go further because there was a tiger that had attacked villagers. Not sure this the region for tigers or whether this is just a scare story to keep errant villager kids under control (and wandering tourists!) but not wanting to become tiger steak we headed back down the hill and to safety (relative because this put us back into the domain of the flag and butter lamp sellers again!!!!).
We then walked between the temples to visit Guru Rinpoche Cave (also known as Gorahnath Cave) and where he meditated for enlightment and his mark can be seen as handprints
in the rock outside the entrance.
And then one final stop into in the Vajra Yogini Temple - featuring the Tantric Buddhist goddess Varayogini before it was back to our patiently waiting taxi driver and to head homewards but not without a stop by Chorbar Gorge. The gorge is meant to have been cut by the Buddhist deity Manjushree sword and it is said it released the waters trapped there and formed Kathmandu Valley in the process.
But my favourite excursions were closer to Kopan and a steep hill walk down to Bodhnath
(or Boudha as also known) to see the spectacular and one of the world’s largest stupas. Supposedly with wish granting properties it has a large percentage of the community circling it clockwise in the early morning and evening with the Tibetan ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ chants resonating from the many shops circling the Stupa. I fell in love with the gentle and spiritual atmosphere of the place that can be found there if you wait until dusk fall and the many tourist parties departed back to Kathmandu.
The circumnavigation by devotees can be watched from the Stupa View Restaurant Terrace whilst enjoying and very
Wanting to visit the Stupa on last time before I left Kathmandu I decided to head down on my own. Heading there I ended up walking with a couple of Nuns and took a different route than previous excursions. Returning I tried to reverse the same route but it all went pear shaped after a successful start I missed a turn and ended up in unfamiliar territory. I asked directions and got 'go straight' or 'go left' but when I finally got a clear view of Kopan it was in the far distance and on the opposite side of the valley!!!!! Maybe there is something in the thing where guys don't like asking for direction because least this way I wouldn't have spent the next 1 hour traipsing through fields in blazing sunshine and midday heat getting to the other side of the valley and getting some very strange looks from workers in fields in the process. But looking at it with a positive (Buddhist) spin the experience gave me the opportunity to experience the scenic route back but think it is a good idea I have a guide for the Jomson Trek in a weeks time
So there having had one last trip to Bodnath and a few acclimatising trips from the monastery it was time to pack bags and thinking about leaving to see more Nepal - next stop Pokhara.
Tot: 0.996s; Tpl: 0.019s; cc: 16; qc: 104; dbt: 0.0205s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.6mb