Little Vid does Nepal

Little Vid’s globetrotting adventures continue. You can follow all the action here.

DSC_4894
Little Vid enjoying the valley views on our hike from Bodhnath to Gokarna Mahadev in Nepal

DSC_5103
Little Vid conquers a wild dog in Lalitpur’s Durbar Square

DSC_5108
Little Vid atop the Vidya Mandir!

DSC_5111
Little Vid getting a hands-on tutorial in mudras

DSC_5178
Little Vid is Hindu, but she respects her Buddhist brethren

Bodhnath

Bodhnath (or Bodnath, Bouddha, or even Bouddhanath) is a small Tibetan town, just outside Kathmandu. There isn’t much to do besides walk around the stupa and sit in cafes overlooking the stupa, but it is a quiet and peaceful place, and a welcome change from the craziness of Kathmandu.

We stayed for two nights, and although is was raining for much of our time here, we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. Because it’s a Buddhist town, most of the restaurants are vegetarian, which was a lovely change, and a few of the restaurants even feature very creative takes on veg food. We had a fabulous veg feast at the Stupa View Cafe and became regulars at the Saturday Cafe.

Tomorrow we’re heading out on a hike through Shivapuri National Park up to Chisapani (and then eventually down to Nagarkot on the eastern edge of the Valley).

DSC_4851
The stupa

DSC_4854
Bodhnath is a town full of monks

DSC_4971
View of the stupa from the Saturday Cafe

Hike from Bodhnath to Gokarna Mahadev

We had expected to spend most of today inside various cafes and bookshops in Bodhnath to wait out the rain, but the sun made an unexpected appearance after lunch. We decided to risk a resurgence of the downpour and head out on a short hike to the Kopan Monastery and Gokarna Mahadev (“Temple of the Great God”).

The hike took us through the hills overlooking the valley – with views of Bodhnath and its stupa – and was quite nice. The temple itself was nothing special.

Our full Bodhnath photo set is here.

DSC_4876
That’s the Bodhnath stupa in the distance

DSC_4882

DSC_4904

DSC_4922

DSC_4954
The temple

Changu Narayan

Today we hiked from Bhaktapur to a Vishnu temple on a hill called Changu Narayan. We were fortunate to arrive at the temple before the rain, but once we got there the heavens opened up and we were stuck for a while. More on our adventure later, but for now some pretty pictures (full Changu Narayan photo set here):

DSC_4767

DSC_4778

DSC_4782
Chad gad yah, chad gad yah… (I had this song stuck in my head for most of our walk)

DSC_4796
Detailed wood carvings on the main temple. The carvings on the roof struts show the ten incarnations of Vishnu.

DSC_4797
An elephant with great eye makeup

DSC_4824
Kenny chatting with a local student, who told us a bit about the temple while we waited out the rain

DSC_4828

End of the Monsoon?

We had a fun rainy hike from Bhaktapur up to Changu Narayan, and then down the hill to Brahmakhel today (more on our adventure later). Now we’re enjoying some shelter from the downpour at the Saturday Cafe in Bodnath, a small Buddhist town near Kathmandu that we plan to use as our base for hikes over the next few days.

Checking the weather forecast, it looks like tomorrow will be quite a bit like today, so we may bypass our hike plans in favor of spending a quiet day in Bodnath. You may also notice that the forecast gets considerably better after tomorrow. :) The monsoon has come very late to Nepal this year (global warming?), but looks like it may end abruptly on Friday.

ktmweather

Heading out on a Trek

Obviously, trekking is one of the main reasons tourists come to Nepal. Something like eight of the ten highest peaks in the world are located here. The two most popular treks – the Annapurnas and Everest Base Camp – each take about three weeks. We only allotted two weeks for Nepal, so we are opting for a shorter DIY loop around the Kathmandu Valley for the next six days. We’ll have to hit EBC next time!

Here is the rough plan:

10/07: Hike from Bhaktapur to Changu Narayan, then onward to Bodnath (either on foot or by bus); overnight in Bodnath
10/08: Hike up Shivapuri (8500 ft), in Shivapuri National Park; overnight in Bodnath
10/09: Hike to Gokarna Mahadev temple, via the Kapan Monastery; overnight in Bodnath
10/10: Some combination of hiking + buses to get from Bodnath to Nagarkot; overnight in Nagarkot
10/11: Hike from Nagarkot to Dhulikhel; overnight in Dhulikhel
10/12: Hike from Dhulikhel to Namobuddha to Panauti; then use some combination of hiking + buses to get from Dhulikhel back to Bhaktapur, where we’re leaving most of our things; overnight in Bhaktapur

Then we fly to Bangalore on 10/13.

In all, it’s about a 40km loop; we may take buses for some parts if we get tired or we hit a bit of unpleasant road. Pretty much every stop on the loop is cuttable if we decide to change plans for whatever reason. We arranged the itinerary this way to optimize for clear skies in Nagarkot and Dhulikhel, where the main attraction is the view at sunrise. The forecast calls for clouds through 10/9, and clear sunny skies thereafter – we’re crossing our fingers that the forecast holds!

Kathmandu Walking Tour

Kenny and I spent a few hours today following the Lonely Planet’s Kathmandu walking tour, which started just south of Thamel and took us to a few temples, a Buddhist stupa, and through a busy shopping area on our way to Durbar Square. We were certainly drained by the end of the walk – the combination of the heat and the hawkers constantly hassling us to buy souvenirs added up to us requiring a good afternoon nap.

DSC_4485
Stupa

DSC_4510
Mind your head… or I will mount it on my wall

DSC_4542

DSC_4512
Mmm, garlic

DSC_4547
The LP describes Durbar Square as “peaceful.” I don’t know that I’d go that far, but it was certainly quieter than Thamel.

DSC_4582
Shiva and Parvati watching over Durbar Square

Swayambhunath

We rose early this morning to beat the heat and the crowds for our walk to Swayambhunath, a temple complex on a hill in northwestern Kathmandu. The hill’s most famous feature is a stupa that has been completely overrun by monkeys. Being a big fan of monkeys, I was excited to check it out. I had never seen a monkey temple before, although I heard that monkeys once piloted a ship from here to Monkey Island!

DSC_4210
The early morning walk to Swayambhunath

To our surprise, the monkey sightings started as we arrived at the foot of the hill, and continued all the way up the long staircase to the stupa. I had fun playing wildlife photographer, snapping as many action shots of the primates as I could get. At times it was even more fun to watch the tourists react to the monkeys than to watch the monkeys themselves.

DSC_4272
Monks and other devotees circling the stupa and spinning the prayer wheels

DSC_4321
Tourist kitsch for sale at the top of the hill

DSC_4325
This monkey seemed particularly curious about the nutrition facts on his carton of juice

We saw even more monkeys as we made our way down the other side of the hill. The staircase that we descended dropped us off directly opposite where we had started, so we walked back around the hill and then continued on to Thamel. Along the way, we passed several smaller pagodas and shrines, which exist in high numbers in this holy district of Kathmandu.

DSC_4348DSC_4369
Mischievous monkeys

DSC_4408
Kenny and me under the prayer flag canopy

The Monkey Temple is certainly very touristy, but definitely an essential part of any visit to Kathmandu. Tomorrow we’re planning to follow the LP’s Kathmandu walking tour, and then move on to Bhaktapur in the afternoon.