Nepal - Religion dominates life
Your first impressions of Nepal might leave you speechless: the abundance of temples, monasteries, and other religious structures, the hustle-bustle in the streets around Durbar Marg in Kathmandu, the number of people and animals shovelling and squeezing through narrow lanes …
Start slowly! You cannot expect to comprehend a development of hundreds of years, evident in different ethnic groups and religions, that are most virulent in a country bordering India, China and Tibet, within just a few days.
Let one of my local guides help you to dissolve this confusion. Start off in Kathmandu's Durbar Marg and listen to the guide's explanations. Or you begin at the Old Royal Palace, where a statue of Hanuman, the monkey god, is guarding the entrance. You will find Hanuman statues guarding many important entrances during you visit in Nepal.
Around 20 or more Temples and religious structures are waiting for you only in this neighbourhood. Most vividly I remember the Kumari Bahal, a place where the Living Goddess resides. Learn more about this custom and the Indra Jatra festival, when she is even blessing the King of Nepal.
Ancient towns in the Bagmati River Valley
Patan is separated from Kathmandu by the Bagmati River and its Durbar Square is just as remarkable. There is a fascinating walk, that traverses the most interesting parts of the old city. The walk is described in a small booklet "Patan Walkabout" but ask your guide, he will know the way!
Bhaktapur is the third major town in the Kathmandu valley and in many ways the most medieval. Compared to Kathmandu, it almost seems deserted. But have a closer look! The place is very much alive! Visit Potters' Square for example! You might observe many exotic scenes! Between piles of pots in a shady corner I spotted two little babies lying on the concrete floor and just protected against the flies by a cheese cover!
Relax at the Nyatapola Restaurant with the typical Nepalese meal, the Dal, watching life happening down at Taumadhi Square, after you have been exploring the important sites here and on Datatraya Square.
Swayambhunath complex with its Stupa, towering above the Padmachala Hill and monitoring the surrounding monasteries and temples, the prostrating pilgrims and the hawkers is one of my favourite places. I could hang around here for days and soak up all the exotic sights with amazement and respect.
Another place which deserves all your respect and will draw your attention to the most unusual sights, is that of Nepal's most important Hindu pilgrimage site, the Pashupatinath. Westerners are not allowed to enter this temple, but you can sit on the banks of Bagmati river and watch the cremation acts, carried out by family members.
Walk around Parvati Temple, a two-storied pagoda, which contains a number of erotic Hindu tantric carvings on its roof struts and let you explain all the other religious structures.
Respect is also demanded from quite an unexpected source: There are about 400 monkeys living in the temple area, chasing each other on the tin roofs, screaming and running along the river. They will not hesitate to grab your packed lunch or whatever eatable stuff your are holding.
Let me and my guides introduce you to this wonderworld of Nepal's culture!