October 30, 2007 Exploring Kathmandu: Carpet Factory and Temples
Today reminded me of the Charlie Brown poster that I saw back when. Charlie was standing with his school books and the caption on the poster said: "The more I learn, the more I learn I need to learn." We were immersed in the history of Kathmandu, along with the Buddhist and Hindu religions, with a side trip to experience hand-weaving of Tibetan carpets.
Leila gave us a break this morning. We were allowed to sleep in as the excursion did not start until 8:00. Our first stop along the way was the Swayambhunath Buddhist temple, commonly known as the “Monkey Temple”. The central point of the Buddhist temples is the stupa. This stupa commemorates the legend of the transformation of Kathmandu from a lake to a fertile valley from which the city grew. Here we were also introduced to the Buddhist Prayer Wheels and Prayer Flags.
From here we visited Pashupatinath, the most sacred Hindu shrine in the world. Only Hindus from the immediate area are allowed to enter the immediate shrine, but Hindus from all over the world come to visit. It is as sacred to Hindus as the Kabal in Mecca is to Muslims. All Hindus are required to visit here once in their lifetime, if possible. This shrine is also the central cremation point for Hindus, immediately adjacent to the river. We were able to watch cremations taking place. Rather than go into details, be sure to ask a member of the trek to relate this experience when they return home. Also ask about the milk cow legend and the holy men for more interesting stories.
Our next stop was the main Buddhist temple of Boudhanath. It has one of the world’s largest stupas and its history involves an interesting story about a King who was killed by his son who did not know he was killing dad.
At the carpet factory we watched carpets being made. We started with the blending of the wool from Tibet and New Zealand. All of the work is done by hand. Leila’s friend Tsering personally took us through her factory to explain the whole process. It was quite fascinating. After a very nice lunch at the Hyatt Hotel, we went by the showroom for some shopping. The rugs were exquisite and quite inexpensive and many of you will get to see these.
At the first temple, Terri introduced us to the hazards of shopping from the vendors. After approaching a vendor about a back pack, it was as if a message was beamed to all the other sidewalk vendors “Buyer here!! Buyer here!!” They followed her all the way to the van and one lucky vendor actually consummated the purchase while she was in her seat. They are persistent.
Tomorrow we begin our actual trek with a 6:30 AM flight to Lukla. So Leila has called for a 5:00 AM muster in the hotel lobby. This way we will be happy that we can sleep until 5:00 for the remainder of the trek.
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