Temple hopping, public cremations, and my favorite food spots in Kathmandu, Nepal

After returning from the Everest Base Camp trek, I spent a lot of time in the Thamel region of Kathmandu doing absolutely nothing.  There was a serious recovery and recuperation period needed.  I spent most of my days with my butt firmly planted in a booth at the local coffee shop, Himalayan Java, working on my blog.


Then, after a morning of drinking an unhealthy amount of caffeine, I would meet up with friends at usually one of two places – OR2K, the infamous Israeli restaurant that serves heaven on a plate (aka the ‘Kiss From Zuri’ cake) with a fun, chill atmosphere.


Or Western Tandoori where they serve the most incredible Indian food I’ve ever tasted.  The garlic naan is to die for and you can eat yourself past the point of full all for about $2.


Though we’d occasionally mix it up and eat actual Nepalese food.

IMG_5759Finally, after far too long of doing nothing but eating delicious food, I ventured outside of Thamel with my friend Babs who I met in China and hiked Tiger Leaping Gorge with, and we did a bit of temple hopping/exploration.

First up was Pashupatinath Temple (1000 NPR, or about $10, entry fee), Nepal’s oldest and most sacred Hindu shrine.  It sits on the banks of the Bagmati River in Deopatan, a village just outside of Kathmandu. It is dedicated to a manifestation of Shiva called Pashupati (Lord of Animals).


Non-Hindus are not allowed to enter the temple, but are welcome to view the temple from the outside and watch the cremations that occur on the banks of the river.

You read that correctly…public cremations.  In respect to the families and those who had died I did not take any pictures of the cremations, but many did.  All day long Hindu families cremate their loved ones on the banks of the Bagmati River in full view of locals and tourist alike.

It was a very…interesting…practice to witness.  The bodies were placed on piles of wood and straw, covered with a sheet, and flowers were placed around the body.  Close relatives then said their goodbyes before the wood and straw were lit on fire.  Once the cremation is complete the remains are pushed into the river.


You can see the cremation smoke rising off to the left side of the picture

While there were many tourists watching the cremations, I was surprised as to the number of locals who were watching as well.  According to a local we talked to about it later, he said he used to go there often when he had a bad day.  I’m not sure if watching people be cremated made him feel better about his life, or if it was in some way spiritually freeing, but without a doubt local Nepali people as well as foreigners flock to the banks of the river to witness these events.

After watching the cremations for a while, Babs and I moved on throughout the rest of the temple.  Pashaputi Temple’s extensive grounds include many other old and important temples, shrines, and statues.

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 The grounds also contain an extensive number of furry creatures.

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From the Pashaputi Temple we walked to the Buddhist stupa of Boudhanath, one of the largest stupas in the world.


The stupa itself is surrounded by a pretty touristy area with lots of little shops, cafes, and restaurants.


But many people still come here in pilgrammage.  The stupa is located on the ancient trade route from Tibet.  Tibetan merchants have rested and offered prayers here for many centuries, and when refugees entered Nepal from Tibet in the mid 1900s, many decided to live around Boudhanath.


It was a truly remarkable structure to behold, and for the small entry fee of 200 NPR (or about $2) we were able to walk on the stupa itself, walk around it from the ground (in a clockwise direction per tradition and occasionally spinning the prayer wheels along the way), visit smaller temples located within the town surrounding the stupa, and eat a snack of momos and tea.

After a long day of temple hopping Babs and I had a delicious dinner of Western Tandoori…but of course.  I’m serious those garlic naan breads are like crack.  I still dream about that place.

Where in the world have you been temple hopping?  Have a favorite restaurant abroad you still crave for?

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