Where We Be
|Buddha looks very hip with his blue hair, red robe, and gold skin
|Swayambunath Monkey Temple, Nepal
Swayambunath Monkey Temple is located on a hill
near the ring road that encircles Kathmandu. As
we climbed the steep stairs leading to the temple,
we saw lots of the rhesus macaque monkeys that
give the place its name lounging, eating, running
around, and generally having a fine time. Babies
clung to their mamas' bellies, and slightly older
youngsters scampered along the stair rails like
At the top of the stairs we came to the main stupa.
A stupa is a temple that looks like an inverted bowl
with a golden tower on top. Unfortunately this one
was under scaffolding, but we knew we would be
seeing the biggest and most famous stupa of all at
Bodhnath in a few more days. Swayambunath was
still a lovely temple site with dozens of smaller
shrines, statues, carvings, and candles, not to
mention curio shops exploding with stuff to buy
and monkey antics at every turn.
Coming in the early morning was good because a
lot of locals were doing their morning devotions,
lighting butter lamps, murmuring prayers, touching
statues, spinning prayer wheels, ringing bells, and
making offerings. We walked clockwise around the
site, enjoying the unusual sights and sounds and
the sense of spirituality that permeated the place.
We found a small teashop catering to locals where
the prices were so low that we ended up ordering
a full breakfast – two chai, two potato curry, and a
two-egg omelet, all for less than a dollar. We were
the only tourists there, everyone else was Nepali.
The owner of the shop pointed out a tiny old
woman sitting on a bench about ten feet from us
whose face was completely wrinkled and beautiful
and told us she was 102 years of age! The woman
was alert and active, cracking jokes with her family
and laughing merrily the whole time. The twinkle in
her eyes was priceless.
|A monkey and a dog in a standoff on the stairs -- the dog runs if the monkey attacks and vice versa
|These colorful lions stand guard on either side of the thunderbolt, or "dorje," a key symbol of Tibetan Buddhism
|Shops line the edges of the temple complex, chock-full of stuff to buy
|Some of the carved doorways in Nepal are unbelievably beautiful
|A man and woman pray quietly in front of an offering of lit candles
|This "celestial thunderbolt," emblematic of the destruction of ignorance, stands at the top of the eastern stairway
|Not being a Buddhist I have no idea what the significance of this stone garden is, but it's pretty!
|Gorgeous 7th century statue at Swayambunath called the
"Dipanker Buddha" carved from a single piece of stone
|Tiny statue in a niche with devotional candle, flowers, and paint pigments
|The smallest icons seem to attract devotion and attention
|This is the Swayambunath stupa, enclosed in scaffolding at the moment.
Is it my imagination or do Buddha's eyes look just a bit ticked off at being caged?
|The steep eastern stairway leads up and up to Swayambunath