Nepal – Gods and Men at the Foot of Himalaya

November 20, 2014 Updated: November 20, 2014

If you wanted to say what is there to be seen in Kathmandu, only a full book would be enough. This is why I’d say let’s take a few steps outside the city as well and visit the outside-the-capital Nepal. And there are a lot of fabulous places – either if we talk about the Monkey Temple from above Kathmandu or the fascinating Buddhist temples of Boudhanath or the Hindu ones from Pashupatinath…

 

(Imperator Travel)
(Imperator Travel)

 

On one of the hills, lies the Buddhist Stupa Swayambunath or “the Monkey Tempe” as it named in a tourist way. Its official name is pretty hard to pronounce for an average outsider. From here, you have a gorgeous panorama over the city and the surrounding regions and you can step into the Buddhist world, a world of quiet and peace, of nice and open hearted monks…or in the world of the naughty monkeys that try to steal anything that will seem vaguely eatable. And you have to bear with them, as the army of the monkeys led by the monkey-king Hanuman helped Rama to save his beloved Sita from the fatidic king Ravana, therefore we can only accept them…

Next to Kathmandu, at a few kilometers distance lie two sacred places for Buddhist respectively Hindu people. The village of Boudha hosts one of the greatest stupas in the world around which a true small miniaturized Tibet was built by the refugees following the occupation of their country by the Chinese, which built copies of the Tibetan monasteries destroyed by the invaders. But before visiting the multi color Tibetan monasteries, a feeling of peace and inner quiet encompasses you when you are surrounding the stupa, together with hundreds, maybe even thousands of Buddhist pilgrims, while rhythms of Tibetan incantations embrace you.

 

Bhaktapur (Imperator Travel)
Bhaktapur (Imperator Travel)

 

You might feel that you are transported directly in Shangri La. One can observe the street’s show from the roofs of the buildings nearby, transformed in “roof-top restaurants”, an extremely widespread fashion across the sub-continent. You can also see the faithful Tibetan women prostrating themselves thousands of times under the eyes of Buddha or the European and American Buddhists gathered here to illuminate themselves in the Tibetan monasteries of Nepal. Or you can receive a marriage proposal from a girl coming from Bhaktapur which seem to forget that this is the job of their parents and that they will meet their husbands only in the day of their wedding…

South of Boudha, lies Pashupatinath, a holy place for the Hindu this time. Not being a Hindu, you cannot enter inside of the temple, but this will not stop you from wandering around through this holy complex. It is said that if your body would be burned on the shores of the little river which crosses the temple, you will have a superior reincarnation in your future life. May be that is why, at any time you go to Pashupatinath, you have the chance of attending the cremation of some lucky person.

 

Bhaktapur (Imperator Travel)
Bhaktapur (Imperator Travel)

 

Also here you can find the royal ghats previously used only for the royal family Shah, ghats used intensively a decade ago when the heir prince machine gunned almost the entire royal family and then committed suicide, putting an end to a dynasty that ruled Nepal for 10 generations – amazingly enough, there is a prophecy from around 1770 that the dynasty founded by the first king Prithvi Narayan will end after exactly 10 generations! And that prophecy was indeed correct – after the killing of the last king, followed a period in which his brother, Gyanendra, which escaped the last carnage became the last king of Nepal – the power was then seized in 2006 by the Maoist forces which abolished the monarchy and proclaimed the republic in 2008 !

If you are at Pashupatinath, you just cannot miss seeing the holy people – sadhu, Hindus that gave up the mundane things (some are even ex bankers or businessmen) to dedicate themselves to a virtuous life, giving up the material life in favour of a superior reincarnation, hoping even to end the reincarnation cycles in order to reach Nirvana. Although in Kathmandu, you will be picked up by a sadhu to get some money from you for a photo, these are false sadhus (I even have a photo with a “sadhu” reading his newspaper, even if a proper sadhu is not interested in the mundane temporal news). However if you want to see some real sadhus, Pashupatinath is definitely the place with the largest concentration of sadhus from Nepal.

Next to Kathmandu, there are however other two historical towns that throughout the centuries were separate states, ruled by kings that always had something to fight. This lasted until 1768, when the king of the military tribe Gorkha conquered the three fighting cities and basically set the foundation for today’s Nepal, stretching the borders of the state far away up to Sikkim or Tibet.

 

Boudha stupa (Imperator Travel)
Boudha stupa (Imperator Travel)

 

This is why, since you are in Kathmandu, a visit to the former enemy towns of Bhaktapur and Patan will reveal other Nepalese architectonic wonders – the kings of Patan and Bhaktapur didn’t want to fall behind Kathmandu, building numerous temples and remarkable palaces. Otherwise, the Patan palace hosts the most interesting museum from Nepal, the former royal palace rebuilt and organized by the Austrians, while Bhaktapur hosts the highest temple in Nepal, a pagoda with no less than four multifloor storeys.

Finally, even if you are not too much of a mountaineer, you are too close to the roof of the world, Everest not to see it. Your dream is achievable. Daily, early morning, Buddha Air and few other airlines operates the so-called “mountain flights”. For 130 – 175 US dollars, you sit comfortably in a modern jet which can only take 12 persons, each with a chair next to the window and you will tour above the Himalayas getting pretty close to the famous Everest. And since the paranoia 9/11 did not affect too much Nepal, you are invited in the cabin crew by rotation to observe the show of the highest mountains on Terra together with the pilots. Upon descent, you receive a diploma that poetically certifies that even if you did not climb Everest, you have touched it with your heart…

This article was originally published on www.imperatortravel.com. Read the original here.

*Image of Himalayas mountain landscape via Shutterstock