Mr. D and the monkeys

Trip Start Oct 13, 2010
1
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Trip End Mar 08, 2011


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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Today we wanted to check out Kathmandu's Durbar Square, famous for many different temples, and then Swayambhunath, the "Monkey Temple". We walked through the streets to get to Durbar Square and visited one of the many smaller Stupas, which are Tibetan… with the eyes of Buddha. Next to the first one there was a Buddhist monastery chanting their morning prayers, with cymbals, drums and horns. They had a room with a huge prayer wheel spinning and another smaller room full of butter candles.

As we continued we passed more fruit vendors and a few butchers. In one courtyard we saw a little girl dressed up for the festival. Once we got into Durbar square it was really crowded and busy. We had our lonely planet book with descriptions of each temple, but trying to find which ones were where and what was hard to do with the craziness. We walked into one building which we learned is the house where the Kumari lives. The Kumari is the living goddess for Nepal. She is chosen as a young girl through tests of physical attributes and character, and remains the Kumari until her first menstruation. She leaves the house only once a year for a festival, has private tutors, lives with a priests family and never walks on the earth. Once she is an ex-Kumari she gets money from the government, but life is tough because she isn't treated as a goddess anymore and no one wants to marry an ex-kumari. Anyway, the house was beautiful and had a lot of intricate wood carving in its windows and doors. There was a central courtyard from which, if your lucky, you can see the Kumari in a window above, but she was busy giving Tikas to the locals inside.

While we were in there we were approached by a young Nepali guy named Mr. D. He was a good kid and offered to give us a very good tour of the Square. He said he usually charges foreigners 800 rupees per person ($11)... we told him we'd pay 500 per person, and he agreed but said if we were happy with him then we could tip extra. He took us all around the square and gave us tons of info about the history and architecture and gods of the various temples. It was really fascinating. He also had a pretty good sense of humor and had fun explaining stuff and having us try to guess certain answers. Usually the tour is about 1 hour, but we spent a good hour and a half with him, and even got some cokes together and just chatted. Turns out he's been doing the tours for 7 years, since he was 11 and today (conveniently?) was his 18th birthday. In the end we gave him 2,000 rupees, because we were really happy with his tour. =) We wouldn't have gotten half of the info or had half as much fun from trying to use our book. Thank you Mr. D!

After that we took a taxi over to the "Monkey Temple". There are two ways to get to it. You can take a taxi or bus to the top of the hill, or take the pilgrims approach which is a very long set of stone stairs all the way up the hill. We opted for the stairs, needing to start training of course. Once we got there we already saw a bunch of the monkeys that live in the forest below and have made a career of begging and stealing food from visitors. As we started to climb it started to rain, and as we approached the top we were caught in a full on rain storm, it was pouring buckets! Luckily there were a few vendors who had tarps strung up, so we hid under them with everyone else and waited it out. The tarp we were under had a small speaker blaring some nepali music, and it made for a very surreal experience in the rain.

Once the rain cleared we found that the temple had a plaza of sorts surrounding the main Stupa, with other little temples, some shops and a Tibetan monastery. Along with all the monkeys there were also a couple packs of dogs that were strewn about sleeping. The monkey's were very entertaining, jumping, running, climbing. There were a few larger males, quite a few females and a handful of babies which were clung to their mothers and sometimes ventured out on their own. One monkey was splashing a puddle over and over, sometimes it looked like he was hunting for bits of rice or food that might be under the water, other times it looked like he was just having fun making big splashes. Either way it was pretty funny when he'd take a break and then some unsuspecting tourist would get splashed when he started up again.

We spent a couple hours up there, just watching the people and monkeys, lighting some butter lamps and then eventually made our way down the steps again. We took a taxi back to the hotel and decided to check out the "Yak Restaurant" for dinner. When we got there it was full. We waited for a bit and then one of the hostesses asked if we would mind sharing a table as there was a couple who offered. We gladly accepted because we were pretty hungry. The other couple were super friendly and we immediately struck up a conversation about our trips so far, future treks, which then lead into photography and he and Simon geeked out over their cameras and lenses, handing them back and forth over the table. Eventually we were sharing food and found out that they were staying at the same hotel, and actually in the room right above ours. It was a funny coincidence.

Both guys ordered Tongba which is a type of hot Tibetan beer made from fermented millet. What we didn't realize was that you actually get a small wooden barrel filled with the fermented millet seeds and a large thermos of scalding water, which you pour into the millet. The longer you let it sit, the stronger the beer is, and as you drink you just keep refilling. You also got a special straw that was melted shut at the bottom and then punctured a bunch of times with a push pin, so that you don't suck up the seeds. It was a very 'unique' flavor which on a cold day might have tasted better, but it was still pretty warm. With full bellies we all walked back together and exchanged contact info. They were planning to get up at 4am to catch their flight to Lukla and begin hiking towards Everest Base Camp the next day.

The next day we planned to hire a car and drive out to explore Bhaktapur and Patan, which are neighboring villages with amazing temples and a medieval feel.
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Comments

mona Perdue on

Your pictures are fabulous. What camera are you using? Love your commentary, too.

simonjessica
simonjessica on

Thank you. I am using a Canon 7D with a 10-22mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm lens.

Thanks again. Glad you enjoy it.

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