Getting to Swayambhunath Temple
Coming from my early morning visit to Patan Durbar Square in Lalitpur, I opted to take the bus to Swayambhunath temple from Lagankhel bus station. Lagankhel is just about 10 minutes walk from the Patan Durbar Square, where buses going around the Kathmandu valley are parked. The station is quite chaotic, but the simple solution is to ask around from a local. Nepalese are a bunch of friendly people, in general.
The bus took the Ring Road, crossed the bridge over Bagmati River, and in a few minutes, it was time to get off at the Swayambhu, specifically at the Buddha Park. The trip from Patan took me 30 minutes. The bus stop is hard to miss because three large welcoming Buddhas can be seen from the road.
I started my journey up the Swayambhunath temple complex from the Buddha Park, by walking the road uphill from the right side of the Buddha Park. I was waiting to see stairs that would lead me up to the stupa but after what felt like 5 minutes of ascending on a paved road, I was beginning to doubt if I’m taking the right way, especially that I don’t see anyone else heading towards where I’m heading. Until finally, I saw stairs cutting across the hill in a semi-forested area, a few small vendors and locals also on their way up the hill.
Giving myself an excuse to rest from climbing by taking photos of views overlooking the Kathmandu valley
I’m glad I took this route to the hilltop, as it offered me panoramic views of the Kathmandu valley. I climbed for 20 minutes, I think, while stopping a few times to catch a mouthful of air. After all, the only warm-up I had was the climb up to my homestay room in the 4th floor.
The World Peace Pond, before the entrance to the temple complex
The Swayambhunath Temple Complex
I was surprised to realize I’m already at the temple complex, because I did not pass through any ticket booth. The main attraction is the large white stupa, with the symbolic “all-seeing” Buddha eyes like that in Boudhanath (click here to learn more about Boudhanath Stupa). The stupa is surrounded by smaller stupas and shrines.
(Note: Sadly, the Anantapur shrine, the white tower on the right, was destroyed during the April 2015 earthquake)
Swayambhunath temple is also known as the Monkey Temple because of the presence of naughty tailed creatures, called…monkeys, no less. I didn’t dare stand too long in front of them for fear of them grabbing my cherished companion hanging around my neck (my camera).
Monkey, monkey, Annabel, how many monkeys did you see? And a rikitikitik in a blue black sheep. Is-pell yes, Y-E-S. Is-pell no, N-O. A-lis! Okay, I’ve just revealed my age by reciting these lines. If you're a Filipino and you know this game, then you're in my not-so-old generation.
Watch your banana, the monkeys might steal them.
From the hilltop, you can also enjoy the view of the Kathmandu valley…Can you spot the monkey? 🙂
As to be expected in any major tourist site, souvenir vendors abound in the area.
I stayed for more than an hour in this UNESCO World Heritage site just going around and people-watching, while quietly in fascination of the unfamiliar. I know not much about Buddhism and Hinduism but I think that this place represents the fusion of these two cultures, as I saw Hindus (I assumed they are Hindus because they have red tikka dots on their forehead) also paying reverence in the temple.
As Sarita, my homestay's host, suggested, I exited the temple via the 365-step stone stairway, the end of which will be my take-off point to my next destination: Kathmandu Durbar Square.
The strong earthquake that shook and caused grief and damage in Kathmandu happened a year after I traveled to Nepal. Hence, this and my other upcoming posts about Nepal are pre-2015 earthquake time. Let us continue praying for Nepal's recovery.
Other activities in Kathmandu
Everest Mountain Flight - Fly a trusted airline for a memorable experience and see the peak of Mt. Everest, the world's highest mountain, and other Himalayan peaks, such as Kangchenjuna, Lhotse, the Annapurnas and many more.
Kathmandu Full Day Exploration - Roam the UNESCO-listed Durbar Square, also known as Hanuman Dhoka Square; visit one of Nepal's oldest Buddhist temples, the Swayambhunath Stupa; explore Boudhanath Stupa, the largest stupa in Nepal and holiest Tibetan Buddhist Temple outside Tibet; see open-air cremation sites at Pashupatinath, at Bagmati River (optional)
Bungamati & Khokana Exploration - Wander among the residents of Bungamati as they go about their day-to-day activities; see the Rato Machhendranath Temple; visit the Newari village of Khokana and get to know the local farming community and process; see the 3-storey temple dedicated the local mother goddess, Shikali Mai.