Updated: Jan 22
As we had the weekends free when volunteering, we went and spent our time in Katmandu, the capital of Nepal. It was not far from where we were staying (Dulikhel, Kathmandu valley), but with the poor roads and several cows lying in the middle of them, the journey lasted around an hour and a half to two hours. Our transport consisted of a regular jeep, there was 8 of us and a driver, it was probably incredibly unsafe and the space was very limited. The driver looked as if he was 14 or so which was also rather unsettling.
When we arrived, we stayed in a 4* hotel in Thamel which cost around £8 for the night. This was insanely cheap. It was just a luxury to sleep in a ‘real’ bed, with fluffy pillows and a soft duvet. It was what we all needed. The town had several shops and restaurants which kept us entertained for half the day. The second half of the day we went to the Swayambhunath Stupa, also known as the ‘monkey temple’. This was a dome shaped temple that was worshiped in Nepal. Its other name was given due to the sheer number of wild monkeys roaming around the area. As the Stupa was higher up it meant that we were able to see an incredible view of Kathmandu, it was truly breath taking. After, we visited the garden of dreams. A botanical area that was well looked after. Our leader informed us that this is where Nepalese teenagers in love would go to meet up and sit and talk all day.
The next day, was more educational and religious. We went to Pashupatinath. This is where the bodies of the dead were cremated on the river. Originally, I was one of the members in the group that did not want to visit here, the concept of death is very different in our culture and seeing dead bodies was not something I wanted to do. However, plans changed and we decided to visit the place. The rain drenched us all yet again, making the trip more unpleasant. After paying and walking around for ages, we eventually found where we needed to be. As soon as I seen the bright flames the sudden realisation had become apparent. There was a body underneath it. It sent shivers down my spine. A tour guide spoke to us and educated us about the culture and reasoning behind the process. The more he spoke, the more I understood and became more custom to the procedure. This was until a new dead body had arrived and was being prepared to be burnt. It was so distressing watching a young girl wail and sob whilst being dragged away by her family. We were told that if her tears had reached the body the soul would be trapped forever. The tour guide proceeded to inform us all about the several religions and more about the Gods. Not everything here was all doom and gloom, we visited fertility temples. It made sense that they were in the same place, the other side of the river, as it completed the ‘circle of life’. As one came to the end, the other side of the river represented the start.
During our next free time, we visited the Boudhanath, a stupa in Bagmati. It was full of bright coloured flags hanging from every point of the Stupa, brightening up the place. Opposite there was a monk museum that contained several relics and at the top you could get a view of the Stupa.
Finally, Patan. This was the area that had been affected badly from the earthquake. A lot of old traditional buildings were still in the process of being refurbished, 3 years later. The square represented traditional Nepalese culture and contained many museums centred around religion. It was fascinating and educating about the many Gods the Nepalese worshiped. Hinduism and Buddhism is the 2 main religions worship however, many more are practiced making Nepal multi-cultural. The museums were mainly Hindu and had many traditional relics and information about Shiva, Parvati and their son Ganesha. We were fortunate enough to see a live set, as they were currently filming. There is still no way of knowing what was being filmed or what it was for but it was assumed that it for a film. With a large camera crew, Nepalese dancers in the most beautiful traditional dresses and stunt men. With the main actress dancing in the middle, she was surrounded with around 20 female dancers and in the back ground there was several men performing eccentric stunts with somersaults and swords. We were very fortunate to witness this, luckily the opportunity arose by chance.
Kathmandu Is full of culture. I learnt so much whilst being in the city, gaining a better understanding of Nepalese lifestyle. Nepalese culture was the first Asian culture I had experienced, and I was so fascinated, constantly amazed at their way of life and how it was centred around religion. The contrast between British culture and Nepalese culture couldn’t be any more different. I was constantly comparing between the two, it is a completely different way of living and I loved that. I loved that people could be in a different place in the world and live their life so differently.