Pt 4 – A Monkey Temple, Swastikas & Cremations

Sunday, December 27th, 2015

We were roused from our slumber by cooing pigeons, barking dogs, and the many honking horns from the traffic outside. I was amazed that we slept for so long, but glad it wasn’t long enough to miss the free breakfast by the hotel lobby. We relished in our hefty, mixed breakfast of pea and potato curry, sausages, omelettes, hash browns, and toast with jelly. We met an older couple from the States, Ray and Pat, who would be joining us on our upcoming overland tour through Nepal and India. They had just completed the first segment of their tour from Calcutta to Kathmandu, and we chatted with them a while before returning to our room to battle it out with the heater to speed up the drying process of our damp laundry.

Trevor and I generally aren’t nervous about learning the ropes around a new travel destination, however our plans to tour throughout Nepal and India had us moderately apprehensive. Enough so that we decided to eliminate some of the stress by signing up with a tour for the first leg of the journey. Then we’d wing it through the second leg in Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

We had the whole day to kill before we had orientation with our tour group, and wanted to do some more sightseeing before our time in Kathmandu ran out. We organized a short excursion through some of the suggested sites of Kathmandu nearby with the help of the lady at the front desk. We made a run for the ATM to withdrawal some funds before we waited in the lobby for our driver to pick us up.

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Our first stop was across town to Swayambhunath, the monkey temple. As we climbed to the top of the hill, we were presented with some great views of Kathmandu while also being bombarded by street vendors with souvenirs on display the whole way there.

“Buy this!”

“Look at this!”

“There is no fee to look.”

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We wandered around the grounds underneath the prayer flags while enjoying the company of the monkeys. We kept our distance in order to avoid monkey thievery. I watched one of them struggling to rip open a juice box, while others were swinging from the prayer flags. We laughed as young boys training to become monks were playing around the monastery.

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Some buddhist were lighting candles in the shape of a swastika. Westerners often associate this with the more recent symbolic use by the German Nazis during the 20th century. To most Asian religions, it takes on more positive, and peaceful meanings rather than its newer, heinous one adopted by the Nazis. To buddhists, it symbolized the mark of Buddha and the eternal cycle of life.

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We returned to the car and headed to the other side of town to visit Pashupatinath Temple, where a Hindu cremation ceremony was taking place. During the ceremony, the bodies are wrapped in white sheets and adorned in flowers before being burned.

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After strolling around the premises, we headed back to the car to be dropped off in Thamel again, our last stop for the day. The driver dropped us off, but it didn’t look right so we tried communicating with him regarding our whereabouts. Given the language barrier, this was a lost cause, so we asked a police officer who pointed us in the right direction.

We wandered around aimlessly hoping to find something that appeared familiar. I had brought a map with me, however the roads weren’t very well marked, so it was practically worthless. We would ask several others to help direct us to a familiar landmark, and eventually came across a familiar intersection which happened to be close to our hotel. Since we were getting hungry and didn’t feeling like shopping around for a new place to eat (lazy, I know), we returned to the hotel. Trevor really wanted to eat the momos I ordered yesterday and I went with the pakoras, which are vegetable fritters. After we ate, we headed to the “Yeti Bar and Grill” on the rooftop, and tried a local beer called “Everest”.

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Notice the recycled “Kingfisher” bottle? We would be drinking many of them over the course of the trip.

A power nap would follow, then we’d attend the group orientation which would have me both excited and nervous! Everyone from the group met up for the buffet dinner at the hotel. I put a small amount of chicken on my plate which was mostly wasted. Trevor just had to ruin my appetite by reminding me of the chickens in the cages we saw yesterday next to the chopping block. That would be my last taste of any sort of meat for a while!


Jump Back to Part 3: Frogger, Thamel & Momos

Jump Ahead to Part 5: A Rock Slide, Chitwan & Cultural Dance

OR

Start from the Beginning at Part 1: Don’t Forget to Pack Your Anxiety

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