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Kathmandu is the commercial, administrative and social capital of Nepal. It is one of the most picturesque capitals in the world with over 2000 temples and shrines. Most of the interesting things to see are found in the old city center and on the far side of Durbar Square.
Durbar Square: This square is the focal point of the old city area. Here are some of the finest temples, palaces and old public buildings of the city.
Hanuman Dhoka: This is the historic palace and temple complex. In this large compound are many different courtyards and buildings, both religious and secular. Telaju Temple is a fine three-tiered temple built in the 16th century. By the main entrance to the palace complex is a statue of Hanuman, the famous Monkey God. The statue is shielded by a golden umbrella and his face has been covered with red paste by devotees.
Jagannath: Opposite the statue of Hanuman, this temple is world famous for the erotic carvings on the roof struts.
Maju Deval: Located on the opposite side of Durbar Square. This nine-tiered temple is also noted for its erotic art.
Kal Bhairav: Near the Maju Deval, this huge carving represents one of the most frightening and sinister figures of Napalese mythology. Nearby is the carving of Sweta Bhairav.
House of Kumari Devi, the Living Goddess: Looking out over Durbar Square is a three-story building with beautifully carved windows. Stone lions flank its doors. This is the house of Nepal's "living goddess". She is a small girl who is selected from a particular clan after extensive ritual. This girl is then declared a goddess and lives in the house until puberty, after which she is given a life pension and a new goddess is found. She takes part in several festivals each year. Tourists often see the child goddess sitting at an upstairs window. And she sometimes makes an appearance for the crowds assembled below. Her appearance is certainly an interesting experience.
Kasthamandap is an intricate wooden temple carved from the timber of a single tree. Built in 1596...located near Hanuman Dhoka.
Trailokya Mohan: A three-tiered temple with a statue of a kneeling Garuda facing it.
Machhendra Nath Temple: A white three-tiered pagoda style roof tops this temple. It's set in a courtyard full of secondary stupas and shrines.
Akash Bhairav: A three-tiered temple on Indra Chowk.
Singha Durbar: Close to the parade ground area. An impressive stucco palace of huge dimensions built in the European style. Government offices
Royal Palace: Located at the end of Durbar Marg. It is a modern building.
Browsing: This whole area is fascinating. Lining the streets are open-fronted shops and sacred shrines to various Hindu gods. Street vendors lay out their wares and tribal folk, down from the high mountain areas still wear their traditional costumes. Through these narrow streets flows the constant traffic of all of Kathmandu.
Kathmandu Valley: Interesting excursions from Kathmandu.
National Museum: A rather run-down museum and collection of cultural and artistic objects of the Nepalese.
Swayambhu: Near the National Museum, this is a superb Buddhist stupa set on a hill. The approach is up steep stairs from the east. The base of the stupa is a huge hemisphere of brick and earth, edged by dozens of prayer wheels. The structure dates from the 13th century. A spire rises above the base, capped by a gilded pinnacle. Painted on the four side of the spire are huge eyes, the all-seeing presence of the Lord Buddha. The main stupa is surround by other, smaller shrines and pagodas. Very interesting.
Bodnath is one of the world's largest Buddhist stupas. It is said to contain the bones of one of the Buddhas who preceded THE Buddha. It looks similar to Swayambhu. The temple compound is full of smaller stupas, images and carvings. In the houses, which surround the temple, many monks live and study.
Pashupatinath: Nepal's holiest Hindu temple. Dedicated to the guardian spirit of Nepal. In the temple are golden roofed shrines, entered through huge doors sheathed in heavy-worked silver, and a gigantic gilded image of the bull Nandi. Non-Hindus may not enter the temple compound, but one can get a good view into the whole complex from high above on the other side of the river.
Flight seeing: A popular excursion from Kathmandu is the flight over the Himalayas. Make sure the weather is clear.
Patan: Three miles southwest of Kathmandu, lies the second largest city in the valley. Patan was once an independent kingdom dating back 2,000 years. Most of the finest buildings one sees today date from the 13th to 17th centuries. Patan is still the major center for craftsmanship in Nepal. At Durbar Square one can see a 12th century Buddhist Monastery (Hiranya Varna Mahabihar), which is among the finest in the country. Its gold-plated roof, courtyard with many prayer wheels and richly decorated three-storied temple are superb. Nearby is a five-tiered temple devoted to Shiva, known as Kumbeshwar. The elaborately decorated buildings, statues, temples, palaces and shrines found in Durbar Square mostly date from the 17th century. Here one can see statues or shrines devoted to many Hindu gods. A shiva Temple, guarded by two huge elephants and a bull, is famous for its erotic carving on every roof strut. The Krishna Mandir is unusual in that its style was influenced by India. A statue of Garuda kneels atop a pillar facing the temple. Set on a high pillar is the statue of King Yoganendra Malla, who ruled early in the 18th century. The Royal Palace, with its golden gates, delicate woodcarvings and bronze castings on the windows is another highlight on the square. Away from Durbar Square is Maha Buddha, a temple of terracotta, where every brick has an image of the Buddha.
Bhaktapur (Bhadgaon): 9 miles from Kathmandu, this was the earliest of the three major cities of the valley. Its narrow streets are dirty, quaint, and ancient. The quality of the art here is extraordinary. Durbar Square, as usual, is a complex of temples. But experts believe that it contains the finest architectural showpieces of the valley. Rich decorations and carvings make these structures memorable. The Royal Palace was built of brick and wood in the 15th century. See the Golden Gate, which is richly gilded and topped by a statue of Demone being ridden by the Goddess Durga. A statue of King Bhupatindra Malla is seen on top of a pillar facing the gate. On Taumadh Square one can see the largest pagoda in Nepal, the Nyatapola, built in 1708. It has 5 tiers and stands on a pyramid base of five levels. Monumental statues of men and animals flank the main stairway. The wood carving here is considered the best in Nepal. Beyond Durbar Square is the Dattatreya Temple which is famous for its rich woodcarving and, in particular its peacock windows.