Millions of monkeys

Kathmandu Travel Blog

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Smaller buddhas

I was able to find Julie at her hotel along with a friend of hers from her recent trek, Ian, as they returned from a bike ride.  We went out for tea with their bike guide and made plans for the next morning.  I then went back to Bhurungkel where the Kansakar's live.  I had a traditional Nepali meal of dal bot and then watched the news while drinking Nepali tea.  They were covering the primary presidential elections on the news (it was hilarious watching the reporter trying to pronounce Huckabee).  I couldn't help noticing how well informed the Nepalis are of our politics, yet I couldn't name any politicians from here for the life of me!  After the news, Nirmala and Baburaja showed me their pictures from their recent trip to Myanmar, Singapore, and Thailand.

Notice you can get stitches and vaccines and for some reason, no line!
  They did tours of Buddhist sites, so they told me about the different styles for each country.  I told them I wanted to go to Swayambunath the next morning and they told me they go there every day as part of their prayer ritual and invited me alone. 

The next morning, we all walked to the Monkey temple.  On the way, we stopped at several small temples where they would have me ring the bell to ward off evil spirits or spin giant prayer wheels to send them to the gods.  We passed the place where Nirmala had gone to pay her condolences the day before.  Essentially it was an open building with rugs spread out all the way onto the sidewalk, a photo of the deceased, and the men of the family in long sheets sitting on either side of the photo.  People came up, bowed in front of them and would give them gifts.

Children in Kathmandu
  The body itself is cremated within hours of death and the ashes are spread in the river.

We kept making our way and stopped first at some large statues behind the monkey temple.  Behind the statues was this large rock that had a temple carved inside it and a shell built into the rock.  They showed me how they blow on the shell to make a horn sound to wake up the god inside.  We then walked to a small "cafe" which was essentially a number of wood planks under an old tarp.  They bought a breakfast of Nepali tea and this round fried bread shaped like a ring.  It was somewhat like hush puppies, except for the fact it actually tasted good.  While we ate the sickest dog I've ever seen came up begging, it was so sick it's skin was grey and most of its fur had fallen out.

A doctor, myself, head monk, and Baburaja (host family)
  Dogs are everywhere in Nepal, most are just in the street not as pets.

We then walked up to the nearby monastery where they took me to meet the head monk in his garden.  From there we made the long climb up to the monkey temple.   Monkeys are given sanctuary there and the place is crawling with them.  They come right up to you but I didn't see anyone having problems with them.  While at the temple, Nirmala took me into some back areas where the really old artifacts were hidden.  We also received holy water from the monks, tika (the red dot on the forehead), and marigolds which goes on your head.  They also gave monetary donations to some of the gods and Nirmala made sure to touch the money to my forehead before giving it over.  (I suspect she was asking for blessings for me).

Nirmala (host family) at monkey palace
  We then walked back to their home for a Nepali lunch, stopping at even more temples along the way.  In all, we spent four hours visiting the temples, but I'm pretty sure we visited some that are not part of their usual routine to show them to me.

After lunch, I headed back to Thamel where I met Julie.  We grabbed a taxi and headed to Patan, another city just south of Kathmandu (more like a suburb).  We happened to be there during a woman's festival at one of the temples.  We tried to follow a walking tour, but gave up and just tried to sort it out on our own.

Me and monkeys just hanging
  Overall, it was very similar to Kathmandu.  After walking, we went to a rooftop restaurant where I had a great soup with momos (steamed dumplings) from a table overlooking the city and Himalayas. 

We took a taxi to Thamel and went to a free meditation session led by a Tibetan monk.  We were the only ones there and it was during a blackout so he just set up some candles and we sat on pillows on the floor.  He essentially just described the usefulness of meditation in learning about yourself and how to alter your reactions towards the world around you.  In the middle, the power came back on which turned on these blinking Christmas lights in the room.  A bit distracting and amusing.  We then had a few minutes to meditate before the session ended. 

When I headed back to Bhurungkel it was another blackout.  Luckily I had decided to take a rickshaw so I didn't have to walk in the dark.  Nirmala and Baburaja were waiting for me with flashlights because it was pitch black.  I felt bad that they were so worried.  I had no way of knowing about the blackout since it was fine in Thamel by then.  We did have a nice candlelit dinner of momos, after which they showed me pictures of their daughter's wedding and explained some of the customs.

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Smaller buddhas
Smaller buddhas
Notice you can get stitches and va…
Notice you can get stitches and v…
Children in Kathmandu
Children in Kathmandu
A doctor, myself, head monk, and B…
A doctor, myself, head monk, and …
Nirmala (host family) at monkey pa…
Nirmala (host family) at monkey p…
Me and monkeys just hanging
Me and monkeys just hanging
Young monks
Young monks
Prayer wheel
Prayer wheel
Monkey temple
Monkey temple
Kathmandu
Kathmandu
Me and Buddha
Me and Buddha
Under monkey temple
Under monkey temple
Kathmandu
photo by: sharonburgher