Monday, August 1, 2011

Monkey See Monkey Do

I love monkeys.  Their cute little babies.  Their adorable threats.  The way they pick each other's butts.  And Dave loves monkeys too, which is how I could convince him to visit Swayambhunath, Kathmandu's Monkey Temple.

Unfortunately, there was only one monkey there.  Where were all of the other monkeys?  Presumably on strike with the rest of Nepal.
The Monkey Temple's lone monkey.
We don't know why he came to work that day.

Actually, we did find a completely random second monkey at the top.
Swayambhunath sits high atop a hill to the west of Kathmandu.  Built in the fifth century, the Monkey Temple consists of a giant stupa and a collection of smaller temples and shrines.  Interestingly, the complex is a religious site for both Buddhists and Hindus.  I'm not sure if Wikipedia's explanation as to the origins of the nickname "Monkey Temple" is true, but it's too good not to share in its entirety:
Swayambhunath is also known as the Monkey Temple as there are holy monkeys living in parts of the temple in the north-west. They are holy because Manjushree, the bodhisattva of wisdom and learning was raising the hill which the Swayambhunath Temple stands on. He was supposed to leave his hair short but he made it grow long and head lice grew. It is said that the head lice had transformed into these monkeys. 
The view of Kathmandu from the top of Swayambhunath
Swayambhunath is accessible from the south, by car (the lame route), or from the east, the Pilgrim's Route (also known within our group as the Route of a Billion Steps).
At the entrance to the Pilgrim's Route. Our legs are still feeling fresh and strong.

Many, many steps later.
Almost there!
"You can chuck him under the chin, chuck him under the chin."

Buddha's eyes gaze out (sternly? wisely? benevolently? suspiciously?) from each of the four sides of the main stupa.  Below, the complex is full of spinning prayer wheels, flapping prayer flags, smoky incense, flickering candles, and glittering statues.  And, of course, lots of stuff for sale!
Buddha's eyes stare you down
A pilgrim spins a series of prayer wheels
A golden statue
Piles of rolled prayer wheels for sale.
We left ours at the top of Thorong Pass.
Dave: "They totally stole my idea for a Faces of Nepal blog post!"
Each of these were being hand-cleaned and shined in preparation for Buddha Day
I rang this bell
Me and my new friend, a member of the Indian national jujitsu team (or maybe the Playboy team?)
Tiny carvings are tucked into nooks everywhere
An exceptionally cozy nap spot
A statute, a baby statue, and a baby-baby statute
A decorative incense holder
A young boy unravels his prayer flags
Dozens of tea candles waiting to be ignited, inside the Tibetan monestary
More of our photos of Kathmandu are available here.

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