Tuesday, March 13:
Today was our first full day on the ground in Nepal. Rising at the bright early hour of 8 a.m., we ate breakfast, repacked our bags, and headed out on foot towards Swayambu. While walking through the streets of Kathmandu, we were struck by the extreme density and grotesque poverty along the streets. At the same time, the amazing brightness of the buildings and the unworldly scenes were thought only to be seen in a Hollywood world. On our way to the temple, we were forced to cross Bagmati, a river that is more trash than water and a prime example of Kathmandu's waste managment troubles. Arriving at Swayambu, we were greeted not with the well-advertised "Monkey Temple" but rather by hundreds of steps leading to the temple. We saw the monkeys, however, acting mischieviously everywhere. Once atop the ladder-like stairs, we circled around the temple (counter-clockwise, of course) spinning prayer wheels and and observing both locals and pilgrims pay their respects. Attached to the top of the temple and several exterior points were strings of five-color prayer flags (you can see a similar set hanging from the lights in Dant 10). After decending from the massive climb, we headed back down into central Kathmandu and ended up in Darbur Square, the central square of Kathmandu. After a tasty lunch at the Festive Fare Restaurant (the chicken dumplings, aka momos: SO GOOD) we toured a former royal palace that is now a museum. The entire museum is dedicaded to the former kings of Nepal. At the end of our tour, we walked up to the top floor of a nine-story pagoda (much to the chagrin of a few height-fearing group members) for a wondrous veiw of the city. Finally, we headed to a small courtyard, home of the Kumari, the living goddess. Kumari is a seven-year-old girl who is worshiped as a goddess until she hits puberty or "bleeds a single drop," at which point a new living goddess is chosen. Taking pictures of Kumari is strictly prohibited. Unfortunately, two non-Catlin Western tourists decided to ignore that rule, so we only saw Kumari for roughly two seconds. After leaving disappointedly, we headed out to a bus that drove us to Bhaktapur, where we will spend the next two nights.
Cody and Theo