Today, we visited Bhaktapur, one of the ancient cities in the Kathmandu Valley and the most well-preserved. The intricately detailed, centuries-old, hand-carved woodwork was remarkable. We could feel the age and authenticity of the place instantly and were seemingly transported back to medieval times.
From there we went to Bodhnath (believed to have been built in the 5th century), which is one of the largest Buddhist stupas in the world (if not the largest), which historically served as an important staging post on the trade route between Lhasa and Kathmandu where Tibetan traders would pray before their treacherous journey home over the high passes of the Himalaya. The area is vibrant and represents one of the few places left in the world where Tibetan Buddhist culture exists undisturbed. Most of the Tibetans living near the stupa today are refugees from the Chinese invasion of Tibet in 1959, and it is amazing to witness how seamlessly the Hindus (~80% of Nepalese) and Buddhists co-exist even understanding the considerable overlap between the two religions. We circum-ambulated the stupa clockwise, per the custom, while spinning the prayer wheels for good fortune and blessings. We also visited the local monastery and received a blessing from a Buddhist monk. Very unique and enriching experiences.
We concluded our day at Pashupatinath, Nepal’s most significant Hindu temple, which stands on the banks of the holy Bagmati river. Being non-Hindus, we weren’t allowed inside this sacred temple, but the exterior, grounds and surrounding temples were all beautiful. We witnessed cremations taking place on the banks of the Bagmati as well. Finally, after a long day, we enjoyed dinner at the famous Rum Doodle in Kathmandu, where all Everest summiters returning to Kathmandu after their successful climbs sign the wall. Names like Sir Edmund Hillary, Reinhold Messner, and Chris Bonington can be found among those on the wall. I hope to place mine there soon as well.