Kathmandu is one of the those cities that you have to get past the very rough exterior to really see the hidden beauty of the place. Since we were there in the dry season, our first impressions were that there was a lot of dust and pollution and the traffic was a complete, chaotic nightmare. I didn't think it could get any worse than Vietnam's nonsensical traffic flow, but it was. However, once we realized that there was some semblance of order to the chaos, it allowed us to navigate the treacherous streets with a (very small) measure of confidence.
We started our city tour in the morning and made our way first to the monkey temple. This Buddhist temple sits high atop a hill and of course is teeming with monkeys of all sizes and temperaments. The views of Kathmandu would have been spectacular if not for the smog, but the temple grounds were incredible.
I can't really explain the style of Buddhism that is practiced here compared to Thailand, but in seeing both, we noticed the difference. We observed that the architecture differed in some of the structures and the types of ceremonial symbolism were more ornate.
Our guide gave us an overview of the grounds and then left us to explore the grounds on our own. His only warning was, "Don't get too close to the monkeys!" I quickly found out first hand what he meant by that caveat.
The Kumari will only present herself to the public for a brief period in the morning and again every afternoon. This phenomenon draws very large crowds, much like the Pope in Vatican City. She is only visible for a minute or so and says absolutely nothing. She solemnly gazes upon the crowd and then, in a flash, she is gone again.
It is difficult to explain the stunningly beautiful and very intricate details that are carved into the wood that surrounds these places. Some were carved from single pieces of wood while others were pieced together from many individual carvings. Many temples throughout the city have the erotic images of the Kama Sutra carved into the struts of the temples.
While in Patan, Chase and I stumbled upon a "coming of age" ceremony for two young boys. We later found out that once this ceremony takes place that the boys can officially marry. However, the tender age of ten to twelve years old seems a little early to take on a wife and a mortgage, doesn't it?
Seeing all these places was so interesting and unlike anything I had ever seen before. I really had to command myself to stop and just take it all in. Chase and I experienced the same dilemma after returning from EBC. For two weeks we were in total solitude with only the sounds of rivers, birds and our own thoughts to occupy the time. When we returned to Kathmandu, it was a cacophony of sound that shocked us. It was a complete sensory overload. Thankfully our hotel was located off the busy streets and could provide us a quiet respite of peace.
Still, all the dust, chaos, and brain-wracking noise never diminished what we saw or experienced together. Nepal will forever be etched into our memories and our hearts.