New Videos Uploaded - OK finally got around to uploading a couple of videos of the traditional Nepalese Folk Dancing from when we went to the dinner and dance place (no I didn't upload the video of me getting coerced into dancing with one of the locals...) Scroll to the bottom of the photo section to view...
This morning we woke up early and headed to Swayambunath, known as the “Monkey Temple” because of the local monkeys hanging around entertaining the locals and tourists by sliding down the banisters of the long stairway and generally making a nuisance of themselves.
Swayambunath is one of the most famous Stupas in the Kathmandu valley and is pretty spectacular. It is believed to have been originally started sometime in the fifth century and legend has it that originally, it was a hill arising from the lake which covered the Kathmandu valley.
After a long walk through the city and over the unfortunately smelly and polluted Vishnumati River we headed up the hill to the temple. Once you reach the entrance, there is a long and steep stairway leading up to the Stupa that you can see in the first picture of the woman and her mother. As you reach the top of the steps, you are greeted by the Stupa and two large lions, as well as a giant Dorje (a Dorje is a Tibetan “thunderbolt” symbol that you see in the next picture and is representative of male force which is usually counterbalanced with the symbol of a bell representing female wisdom).
Around the base of the pedestal that the Dorje is sitting on are the animals from the Tibetan Lunar Calendar.
Dorje at Swayambunath Stupa
The large, whitewashed Stupa is topped with a four-sided, golden block with Buddha eye’s overlooking the valley on all four sides and is strewn with prayer flags. Along the base of the Stupa are prayer wheels that the devout visitors and pilgrims walk by, spinning each clockwise. On the prayer wheels are inscribed mantra’s, usually the famous Om Mani Padme Hung. There are several small temples and monasteries surrouding the Stupa as well. We had to take the shot of the large golden Buddha with blue hair and red clothing to capture the beggar woman and her baby who chased us incessantly the entire time we were visiting Swayambunath. There were hardly any foreigners today and I guess she thought targeted persistence rather than widespread attempts spread across the locals (who completely ignored her) as well as tourists was in order.
Don’t get me wrong - it is not that we aren’t compassionate, it’s just that there are poor people and then there are the professional beggars and her repeated mantra of “Baby. No father” didn’t carry much weight with us…
Buddha Eyes at Swayambunath Stupa
After visiting Swayambunath, we walked around Durbar Square for a while. On the way back to the hotel, I paused to look at the cool door in the picture of Cindy and the Sadhu. I have another picture of the door detail if you come visit - in addition to the door carving, we like the eyes on either side. Cindy walked across the street to close the door for me to snap the shot and out of nowhere, the Sadhu (holy men who walk from pilgrimage site to pilgrimage site and generally live off the benevolence of others) came up to her attempting to put a red tikka on her head. Unfortunately, in Kathmandu, not all Sadhus are real and some offer a flower or put a Tika on your head and then demand money.
Usually our litmus test is if the locals donate small change then we do too. This time, Cindy turned down the Tika.
Buddha Eyes at Swayambunath Stupa
That night we decided to play tourist and went to Bhojan Griha which is a restored, three story Newari house owned by the same people who own the Kantipur Temple Hotel. It is a set Newari meal seated on floor cushions with lots of Nepali ethnic dancers roaming from room to room and dancing. The food was actually good and the beer cold. Also, they served lots of complimentary Rakshi which is a sake like drink that you see in the dark shot with the candle light (they pour it from high above the small glasses) as well as in the shot of Cindy smiling (yes it is relatively strong). There was a table of locals and we swear, the mom or grandma was giving the little boy tastes too which he seemed to really enjoy.
As you can see from the dancer pictures, they wear really colorful costumes and jewelry and it was actually quite fun (even though the lady in the blue dress grabbed me and made me dance with her at the end. Cindy found this absolutely hilarious since I have rarely danced since our wedding…)
Prayer wheels and butter lamps at Buddha Eyes at Swayambunath Stupa