Continuing on our around the world trip with John and Sandy as they celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary, we make a brief stop in Singapore.
The 150-meter vanishing infinity pool at the SkyPark at the Singapore Marina Sands Hotel offers dramatic views of Singapore from 58 stories above. The remainder of the top floor offers 360-degree views and has a restaurant, private club, and a hotspot nightclub, Ku de Ta. The complex developed by the Las Vegas Sands contains a casino, exposition center, and large retail complex. It was a great stopping off place for our next destination—Nepal.
Visiting Nepal gives us a chance to learn about the Himalayas, the Nepalese people, their Hindu and Buddhist religion, and their culture, arts, and foods. Nepal was ruled by a monarchy most of its history and was closed to outside world until 1950. In 2008, elections favored the abolishment of the monarchy and the establishment of a multiparty democracy. During our visit, all the newspapers covered the commitment to finalize their constitution by mid-October by the interim parties and government.
We start our tour in the capital, Kathmandu, also called the “City of Glory”, named by 2013 Trip Advisor as #1 Asia Destination and #3 World Destination on the Rise. Durban Square is the plaza in front of the old royal palace. It dates back to the 10th century. The buildings showcase spectacular architecture and the craftsmanship over a millennium. Everything is made of brick, mortar, and intricately designed and carved woodwork.
In most traditions, goddesses are only spiritual. In Nepal, they live and breathe. In Durbar Square is the Kumari Ghar, which is a three story brick building with wood carved reliefs. It is the home of the Kumari – the World’s only living Goddess who is believed to be the incarnation of the demon-slaying Hindu goddess, Durga, and the earthly manifestation of divine female energy. These pre-pubescent girls are selected as children. They live in temples, are carried in chariots during festivals and are worshipped by thousands of Hindus and Buddhists. They retire upon puberty.
We were able to enter the courtyard with more carved wooden reliefs and were able to see her in a brief appearance from one of the first floor windows.
Our next stop was to the Swoyambhunath Stupa, said to be one of the oldest Buddhist Stupas in the World. It is set majestically high on a hill, overlooking Kathmandu Valley. It has 400 steps for pilgrims to climb, but we opted, instead, to have our driver take up most of the way leaving only 100 steps to climb to the top.
It is nicknamed the monkey temple after the tribe of monkeys that looks after the hill and mainly amuses visitors, especially at their designated swimming pool.
The top of the Stupa is circled by rings of prayer bells, where we each said a few prayers and spun the wheels.
One of the reasons we chose to visit Nepal was the opportunity to see Mt. Everest by booking a flight on the Everest Express. The flight is about an hour long. Its flight path takes you by 22 Himalayan Mountains, over 20,000 feet high. At 29,029 feet, Mt. Everest, also known in Nepal as Sagarmāthā, is the world’s highest mountain. Every one is guaranteed a window seat. This was great to see!
On May 29, 1953, Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary made the first official ascent of Everest in 1953 using the southeast ridge route. We both read Hillary’s book High Adventure and Jon Krakauer’s National Bestseller Into Thin Air about the 1996 ascent that went horribly wrong.
We also had the opportunity to visit the Golden Temple. This 12th century temple is hidden away off the Dubar Square in Patan, Nepal. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site that has been restored by a family in Nepal during the last two years. Spectacular!!!
In Bhaktapur, also called the “City of of Devotees”, you meander down narrow streets past centuries old homes and temples. It seems as if you are really in the Middle Ages. Above is the Boudha Stupa. The Tibetians came here centuries ago to make this Hindu temple in Nepal.
Bouddha Stupa lies about 6 km east of downtown Kathmandu and is the largest stupa in the Valley and one of the largest in the world. It looms 36 meters high and presents one of the most fascinating specimens of stupa design with hundreds of prayer wheels and 108 small images of Buddha. This stupa has four sides with the watchful eye of Buddha. Buddhists throng to this stupa to take part in the sacred rituals during their festivals.
Also in Bhaktapur is The Peacock Window, which is also called the “Mona Lisa of Nepal”. It is a rare masterpiece in wood. Dating back to the early 15th century, the unique latticed window has an intricately carved peacock in its center. Its an excellent example of wood carving that you see all over the Kathmandu valley. This window design is the most famous and copied in Nepal, as you might expect with Mona Lisa replicas. It is truly an amazing example of skilled woodcarving found in Nepal.
Here is an example of the traditional food of Nepal. We were able to take part in the Festival for Rain God.
By the time we had to leave I could definitely say that anyone visiting Kathmandu must stay at the DWARIKA or Royal Penguin Boutique Hotel to experience the true Nepal hospitality and culture.