For me Kathmandu used to conjure images of epic mountains, hippy trekkers, Tibetan monks and Michael Palin. I had never really thought of it as a place for families, but having spent over a week here I can definitely say I’ve been proven wrong. There is so much to see beyond the incredible landscape and places to visit if you can put up with the clouds of dust that shroud the city. That I have to say is the one massive downside.
There is an amazing sense of tranquillity here and among the people. If it wasn’t for the broken homes and the piles of rubble in the streets, it would be hard to believe these people have gone through one of the worst earthquakes in recent times.
Durbar Square – Kathmandu
Our first trip was to Durbar Square in Kathmandu. We spent hours just walking through the courtyards, admiring the ancient temples and palaces, elaborate and even frightening statues of gods in bright colours and in intricate wood carvings. An incredible sight was seeing a Buddhist monk in bright orange robes standing for hours in meditation.
Ava loved running around here, jumping up on the pagodas and chasing hundreds of pigeons into the sky.
Sadly so many temples were destroyed by the earthquake in 2015 which killed nearly 9,000 people, damaged so much of the city’s infrastructure and pushed people into poverty. Many temples literally turned to rubble and others barely standing. Your heart sinks when you stand in the square and see images on the board of what was and what is. Our tour guide showed us the ‘weed temple’ where apparently John Lennon and Jimmy Hendrix used to sit and smoke weed, we’re not quite sure how true this but it certainly added some humour to the tour.
What we found really fascinating was learning about the Kumari, the living goodness who lives in Durbar Square. She is a young, pubescent girl who is worshipped until she hits puberty to then return to the life of mortals. If you want to find out more, here’s the story of a real Kumari.
Swayambhunath (Monkey temple)
Our favourite place in Kathmandu has got to be Swayambhunath, also known as the monkey temple, and for good reason, there are hundreds of them roaming around. Running behind you, swinging off trees or trying to grab your chips. Yes that did actually happen when we sat for lunch. Ru tried shooing it away which only led to the monkey throwing a punch but thankfully missing! It was quite funny really.
To get to Swayambhuanth you can either climb up 365 steps or drive up to the entrance. We took a taxi and I was glad for it, the stairway is ridiculously steep and makes your stomach turn! When you first enter the site, the first thing that catches your eye is the colourful chains of prayer flags hanging high above. From here there’s quite a few steps to climb before you get to the main temple at the top and to the most wonderful view of the city. The place is buzzing with tourists and devotees, the sound of bells ringing and people spinning the prayer wheels as they walk by. It’s really quite magical.
Durbar Square – Patan
Just a short taxi ride out of Kathmandu is the Durbar Square in Patan, to more beautiful temples and palaces. Just like the square in Kathmandu it’s just a lovely afternoon sitting on the pagodas and admiring the sites.