September 27, 2014 - City Tour in Kathmandu

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Annapurna Base Camp
27 - September, 2014 - City Tour in Kathmandu

Awoke from a difficult night following a dinner at the Rosemary Kitchen (highly recommended).  The "mild" green curry wreaked havoc with my digestion and had me scrambling for some Immodium.  Got things under control just in time for the Kathmandu tour and we were off at 9:00 am with our driver, guide (Arjan), and Marry and David from NYC.  Traffic was bedlam but our driver was up for the task, both in terms of speed and aggression.  First stop was the Swayambhunath or Monkey Temple, so named for the legions of furry beasts that populate the area.   The Temple grounds are beautiful, sitting high on a hill overlooking the Kathmandu valley, and were filled with worshippers and onlookers.  Next was Pashupatinath Temple, one of the more sacred Hindu sites but also important for Buddhists as well.  The Temple is devoted to Shiva, the Destroyer, of Hindu mythology, and sits on the banks of the holy waters of the Bagmati River.  There is an important and active cremation site here used by many Hindu.  It's difficult to describe the impact of bearing witness to a cremation in so public a forum.  The first impulse is to turn away from what one assumes is such a personal and sorrowful event.  The mourners first bath the body themselves in the Bagmati before it is carried by them to the funeral pyre for its final release back into the five basic elements of Hindu belief. I watched a family bid farewell to their father; so different from my own Dad's funeral and cremation, some of whose ashes I spread in the Rocky Mountains just before leaving for Nepal.  Different yet somehow the same.  The final stop was the Buddanath, the largest Stupa in the world and a central sacred site for Buddhists.  We enjoyed a great lunch overlooking the square which was also filled with worshippers.  We finished with a tour of a teaching centre for Thangka painting, the amazingly detailed and precise Buddhists motifs that are painstakingly applied to treated cotton canvases and used for worship and meditation.  All in all a very full day with a great guide.