Pashupatinath

After checking out the Monkey Temple our helpful taxi driver took us to Pashupatinath. It was an experience to say the least, if a bit morbid. Pashupatinath is the ultimate holy site for Hindus in Nepal, where it is their greatest honour to be burned at the riverside ghats after they die. As soon as we entered the temple some robed men walked by carrying a bamboo stretcher and a corpse to the cremation platform. They proceeded to line the body with logs and dry grass and set it alight. Quite a strange setting with several different bodies burning on the various platforms in various stages of combustion, some just getting started and others consisting mostly of smoking ash that was being swept into the river by the grieving locals. All the while crowds of tourists like us looking on in morbid fascination.

Swayambhunath Stupa, the `Monkey Temple`

Once Sean was feeling better we did a day trip to the Swayambhunath Stupa, nicknamed the Monkey Temple. The taxi driver who took us was very friendly and helpful and also helped us buy bus tickets. I was so excited to see the monkeys, the place was crawling with them! They were rhesus macaques and Sean was worried they`d steal our things as he`s had that happen in the past. Tiny ones hitched rides on their mothers and the light posts and things like that were covered in barbed wire so the monkeys wouldn`t break things. They ran past vendors to steal fruit and the locals carried sticks to ward them off. The temple is at the top of a hill so we got a good view of Kathmandu although it was very smoggy as always. Sean was very surprised not to see any skyscrapers.

Thamel & Durbar Square

Thamel is the touristy area of Kathmandu full of restaurants and shops, and Kathmandu’s Durbar square is an old part of the city about an half hour walk from Thamel. We walked through both on our first day in Kathmandu. I’ve never been in such a busy place with so much going on, every breath was a totally different smell and you always had to watch what you stepped in while staying out of the way of honking motorbikes and cars trying to fight their way through the crowds. It was all old hat for Sean though. I was surprised not to be hassled by vendors in Thamel, but in Durbar there was a lot more of that, especially by people who wanted us to pay them to take us on a tour. Durbar square is full of temples covered in intricate carvings, a lot of them strangely erotic and featuring a lot of weiners to ward of the god of lightening. Durbar was very busy as the festival of lights, known as Tihar, was going on. I saw things I’d never imagine, like a leper missing his fingers and toes begging for money, men huffing gas out of paper bags as they walked down the street, and a lone toddler popping a squat in the middle of the sidewalk. Everything was so busy because of the week long Tihar festival it was a hassle to get bus tickets, rooms or even food. We ended up staying longer in Kathmandu because of that and poor Sean got sick from the food right off the bat and had to start antibiotics.