Today is a good tourist day.
Kathmandu is really small, and almost everything is within walking distance. That being said, our walking distance has now extended to anything within 5km. It’s just nicer to take a walk through local neighbourhoods and see what they look gives us a better pulse on the city.
Walking from our hotel to Swayambunath, aka Monkey Temple, we got a feel for the city and we aren’t too keen of what we see. Going westward from the tourist district the city does not get any more inspiring, with the continuation of the 70s looking stores (sewing machines, old car parts, craggy paint but no North Fake gear). Crossing over a bridge and over a river, we see an unpleasant stream of water full of garbage, and pigs floundering at the shores. Eagles (or falcons?) soar around the river, occasionally dipping down for a drink or catching flies, we aren’t sure.
We walk past a Hindi-Buddhist temple, as the Nepalese have combined both forms of religion into a single harmonious one, and finally reach the entrance way after a string of ‘mansions’. Even the rich in Kathmandu have their share of the region’s problems…such as bad roads, slummy shacks and trash everywhere.
Swayambhunath, means “self-rise”, as in Nepalese mythology it was said that this whole valley was filled by a lake, and the valley risen up by itself. Apparently, archaeological evidence supports this fact! Once reaching the top, we did admire the area for both its architecture and its amazing views. Buddhist sure know how to pick spots!! The massive white stupa has those cool Buddha-eyes we’ve seen back in the Samye monastery, but we didn’t see any monkeys! Taking a walk around the mountain-top, the sacred monkeys showed up and added a lot of colour to the hilltop.
Next, we headed back to Durbar square. There is a supposed ‘entrance fee’ for non-locals, but we’ve came here twice and got in without much hassle. The Nepalese aren’t very good at enforcing their admissions, you just need to find the right route! Sitting at top of the Vishnu temple, it was nice break watching all the hustle and bustle down below. Not before long, we heard a very fluent “Ni Hao”, but it was actually a young Nepalese girl. She chatted fluently in Mandarin, and asked us if we’d like to do a henna. She really knew how to do business, and after a quick couple minutes, both of Jiajia’s hands were painted like artwork! She was friendly, but knew very well how to work the tourists and she was only in gr9!!!
We strolled around the temple, but one of the highlights of the area is the Kumari Chowk, home to the Kumari Devi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kumari_(children)), a living Goddess! Seeing her is to give you good fortune, but if she cries then death is near for you.. It is said that she is the living embodiment of the goddess Durga, that is until the first time she loses significant blood, either through bleeding or … yup… menstruation. When that happens, she turns from goddess into mortal, and is said that marrying a former Kumari brings the husband imminent death. So, I’m guessing they’ll have a hard time adjusting back to the world, especially when she spends almost her whole life holed up in a small building without ever setting foot on the ground after being coronated.
Durbar square has so much going on, it’s hard to take it all in, especially when we’re no expert in Nepalese history nor Hinduism. It’ll probably be easier to just enjoy the majestic views of the Himalayas a few days from now. =)
We’re not sure how this works, but in the evening we found a Chinese restaurant that cooked up some really decent Sichuan food. The crazy thing was, all the servers were local Nepalese, but they all knew how to speak Mandarin and THEY CAN WRITE IN CHINESE!!!! Even when the owner shouted at them in Sichuan dialect, they understand perfectly!
The Nepalese are very smart at their language skills, never have we seen such multi-faceted language skills by locals. Dining at restaurants from Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Italian cuisines, every server knows the language!! There are crazy talented…