Boudhanath

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 1.     (eck) - Stupa in the morning

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A few of us woke up at 6 to go see the Boudhanath stupa. The biggest stupa in the world, it was surrounded by a throng 5 people wide. Many held rosaries and there was a faint hum of “ohm mane padme hom,” the most common Buddhist mantra.

2.     (duey) – Sick students

By this time most of the people in our group had acquired some nasty colds and/or gastrointestinal illnesses, which were extremely unpleasant. A few peopled were landlocked at the hotel, never far from a toilet, for the majority of the day.

3.     (tin) – Souvenir shopping

Our last day in Nepal, there was no schedule beyond visiting the stupa. As the day progressed, the number of people performing pooja decreased and the number of shops (and shoppers) increased. We spent most of the day walking around the stupa in pairs, going in and out of shops and bartering for prayer flags, pashminas, jewelry, and other final souvenirs.

4.     (char) – More food

We had a buffet breakfast at the hotel, complete with naan and Nepalese pastries. Lunch was at a nice restaurant in a garden courtyard. We had the luxury of ordering our own food (no dal bhat and lots of pizza). Dinner was at a restaurant by the stupa. Walking up to the pation, the most notable feature was the 100% foreign clientele. Again, we ordered for ourselves, and this time we even got desserts!

5.     (panch) – Tenzi’s thanka paintings

One of the guides from the trek, Tenzi, was also a thanka painter. Painting had been in his family for generations, and he visited the hotel with some of his paintings. They were beautiful and several of us bought some (he had to make a second trip to bring even more). Even those who didn’t buy any appreciated the intricate work and traditional stories behind each piece.

6.     (cho) – Our last Nepali hotel

Situated near the stupa and right next to Thrangu monastery, the “Happy Valley Guest House” had a Nepalese ambience. It had traditional murals on the lobby walls, nice marble floors, and several Nepalese people talking at the front desk at any given time. The roof had a view of the top of the stupa with its eyes and prayer flags. The rooms were nice enough, although people had to share beds or sleep on the floor. One room was even on the roof, with a view of Boudhanath.

7.     (sat) – Packing

With our remaining hours numbered, everyone started the tedious task of packing. Most of us had acquired things during our stay, expanding our bags. Many of us packed our smelly trekking clothes as a separate duffle, with souvenirs and nicer clothes in our original bags. It was a melancholy feeling as we packed our bags to know we would be leaving Nepal the next day.

8.     (at) – Free books

In our packing, we added a few books from the guest house’s book swap shelves. They had a bookcase in the room on the roof stuffed with books of all languages. We chose a few English ones and left some new books for the next visitors.

9.     (no) – Visiting a monastery

A couple of us also visited a neighboring monastery. We looked at the bookstore there, milled in the courtyard, and finally approached a group of monks about seeing inside. They only half understood, but sent the youngest, who was perhaps 12, to open the prayer room door for us. The little boy led us into the ornate room and turned the light on over the giant Buddha statue flanked by intricate wall carvings. He invited us to walk up the aisles and behind the glass to pass the Buddha, making a full “U” of the room. On the way out, we gave him a deep “Namaste” and retrieved our shoes (no shoes are allowed in the room).

10. (dos) – Stupa in the evening

After dinner on our last night in Nepal, we walkaed around the stupa a final time. People were still circling the stupa making their last devotions before the night took them away. Flocks of pigeons ate the last bits of corn before flying off into the dusk. The stupa was magnificent at night, its white surface lit against the darkness. It had an effervescent presence; as we headed up the alley, I turned to say a last goodbye to the grand stupa.

Andrea and Liv