Durbar Square + Monkey Temple in Kathmandu

You can’t go to Kathmandu without going to Durbar Square, right? Wrong! We had every intention of visiting the UNESCO World Heritage Site but we didn’t seal the deal.

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After spending all day traipsing around town, we made our way through the capital’s dusty streets and after stopping to ask for directions many, MANY times, found our way to Durbar Square.

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“YASSSSSSSSSS,” we collectively thought as we saw Nepal’s former royal palaces. After high-fiving and congratulating ourselves on our epic navigation skills, we realized we were surrounded by vendors. SURROUNDED. People hawking scarves, rickshaw rides, tiny buddhas, big buddhas, red buddhas, green buddhas, every kind of buddhas, monks asking for money in exchange for photos, straw hats, bells, bracelets, and anything else you can think of! It was overwhelming and not at all what we’d expected. To top it all off, the admission price to get into the site was more than we had spent on our hotel room that day ANDDDDDD most of the structures inside have been completely destroyed by the earthquake, meaning… there wasn’t much to see but there was a whole lot of headache to be had.

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After weighing our options, we did what any sane people would do; we grabbed a lassi. And by god, it was the best lassi of the trip to date. Scratch that: It was the best lassi of our lives to date.

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Please note my sweet glove tan, a side effect of working outside for eight hours a day, six days a week.

With dairy products in our bellies and a dream in our hearts, we headed for the Monkey Temple. OK, it’s actual name is Swayambhunath, but there are monkeys on the grounds.

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There are numerous places to pray outside the main temple.

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We didn’t enter any because it seemed like there weren’t many other Westerners inside and didn’t want to appear disrespectful. BUT this journey did lead us to discover prayer wheels, which are a beautiful thing.

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Used by Buddhists in many Asian countries, the rotating wheels typically have the Om Mani Padme Hum mantra inscribed on them. As you walk, you spin the wooden wheels, and traditional Buddhists are known to repeat the mantra as they spin. There were so many people walking along the sidewalk, spinning the cylindrical prayer wheels, that a faint buzzing noise could be heard from all around. We decided it was time to ascend to the main temple once we’d explored the area around Swayambhunath.

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I’ve been constantly in awe of how detailed and colorful religious sites are in Asia, and Swayambhunath was no exception to my bewilderment.

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Here’s a shot of Tay sitting at the base of the temple’s stairs. You might be wondering how many stairs there are… Well, I just looked it up and there are 365. The walk up was scenic but we were definitely huffing and puffing like a pair of middle-school-aged chainsmokers as we got to the top.

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The temple’s main stupa is adorned with the eyes of Buddha, a common sight around Nepal, and blindingly white in the midday sun.

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And where are the monkeys for which the temple has become famous? Snacking, like y’do.

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We made a few furry friends, but ultimately, there weren’t many primates on the premises.

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Of all the things we saw at the top of Swayambhunath, the view of the Kathmandu Valley was the most spectacular. This was definitely my favorite attraction in Nepal and I would recommend it to anyone planning a visit. Andddd this wraps up things we did in Nepal! Please be expecting a Bangkok blog sometime soon. XO

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