I remember racing on the 365 steps of Swayambhunath to see who reached first to the top. My elder brother would win most of the time as he was stronger, faster than me. All this was so easy when we were young. Now, when I climb those stairs, it takes twice as long and can’t imagine running. That’s the beauty of any place, the memories you make and leave behind. I have a lot of fond memories of Swayambhunath and so, it tops my list of things to do in Kathmandu.
If you’re still hung on to the 365 steps, don’t worry! There’s a back door but for a true traveler, I would suggest stairs. Trust me; It’s worth the effort when you reach the top! Plus, you won’t feel like you’re climbing up the stairs at all. There are also a lot of mini shops of jewelries and souvenirs that you can browse through.
The monkeys running around the place are pretty fun to watch and it will take your mind off things. I guess that’s why tourist prefer to call it the Monkey Temple. But don’t worry! They won’t bother you as much. Although, I suggest you to take care of your belongings. There have been times when they tried to steal bags. Being born and raised in the holy temple didn’t at all teach them any manner! Anyways, the monkeys are one of the major attractions of this place and there’s a history as to why they live here.
Once you reach the top, you will feel like you’ve come to a different world. I love coming here early in the morning to watch life begin at this place. You will see lots of people praying to the gods, by chanting prayers with incense and bells. The first thing I do is go around the stupa (a domed edifice housing Buddhist relics) spinning the prayer wheels. My brother and I use to make sure that we didn’t miss any of them. After that, I always light the Diyo (butter lamp) for good wishes. You can purchase it there itself and costs you around 5 cents.
After paying my respect to the gods, it’s time to take a stroll! The most magnificent thing about Swayambhunath is that it gives a 360 degree view of Kathmandu Valley. I loved figuring out where my house was in all the clusters of houses. I could do that when I was young, as there were fewer houses then, but now it seems impossible! Nevertheless, it is still an amazing sight for all.
Most Nepalese come here to get some exercise while they pray to the Gods. But honestly, they’re the ones with bigger bellies among all! And I can’t blame them! The early morning trip does get you hungry and there are shops that still sell our classic breakfast items like Sel roti, Jeri- Swari, Malpa and my favorite Gwaramari, which are all made of flour and sugar, deep fried in ghee (butter) or oil. Now, to neutralize the effects of a diet like that, strolling through 365 steps is certainly not enough! But if you’re hungry and health conscious, there are many restaurants around the temple that serves good and healthy food as well. But I dare you to try some deep fired sweet breakfast of the locals! You won’t regret it!
So, if you have some free time while you’re in Kathmandu and wondering where to go, you should consider Swayambhunath. Even if you’ve been here, you can always come in the morning or in the evening to watch it become a lover’s park. Just a different perspective!
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