abby and i went to kathmandu this past weekend, to visit friends we’d made while serving in albania. it is a fascinating place, but first, i should clarify something: whatever bob seger was singing about in 1975, it certainly wasn’t this:

the first stop was swayambhunath temple, a major buddhist pilgrimage site atop a hill overlooking kathmandu. according to legend, the bodhisattva manjushri had a vision of a lotus floating in a lake on what is now the site of the temple. he drained the lake and the lotus grew into a hill, with the flower forming the stupa itself. as it happens, there is historical evidence that kathmandu valley once was a lake, so the legend has some element of truth to it; however, records also show that the temple was founded by king vṛsadeva at the start of the 5th century b.c.e. i wasn’t there, so i can’t say which story is the real one.

the temple complex is holy to hindus and buddhists alike – there is a shrine to harati, the hindu goddess of smallpox and other childhood diseases, next to the stupa – and the whole thing is so crowded with sculptures, buildings, and tourist tat, that it is difficult to get a good wide shot of the place.

on the neighboring hill is a monastery, lots of prayer flags, and the monkeys from which swayambhunath temple gets its nickname, “the monkey temple.”

we finished the day in durbar square, kathmandu (as opposed to the two other durbar squares in the area – “durbar” means “palace”), where there were lots of people trying to sell us things, and i took a few street shots.

next: kathman-two