Wednesday 26 November 2014

A Temple where Monkeys rule

During our tour in Nepal, we passed through Swayambunath Stupa temple, dubbed the 'Monkey temple'. Inhabited by hundreds of Monkeys, tourists and worshippers wander alongside mostly avoiding getting too close to the temperamental and unpredictable creatures. On the striking white stupa near the entrance, the eyes of Buddha are painted on all four sides of the structure. Looking out over the valley, the Buddha's all seeing eye. The nose is actually the Nepali for 1, symbolising unity and the one way to reach enlightenment, through the teachings of Buddha. In between the eyebrows is the 'third eye', the all-seeing wisdom of Buddha.

As we make our way around the temple, up a long staircase to the top, which looks out over Kathmandu Valley, there are less monkeys to avoid and a slightly greater feeling of calm. Around the top section, alongside shrines and small temples are stalls selling Buddhist art, jewellery, prayer flags, idols and trinkets for visitors to take home with them. I walk clockwise around the main stupa, surrounded with prayer wheels. Turning them as much to use them as intended as to simply watch them spin. 

Back down at the entrance, I have a go at throwing a coin into the 'lucky' fountain. As expected I miss the target, and my copper coin sinks to the bottom of the green lagoon, to take its place with the hundreds of other unlucky ones. 

Over to one side of the temple complex is the Monkey swimming pool. Where they frolic, diving in and swimming around. This is really fun to watch and my mum and I stand here watching until everyone is ready to head back onto the bus and continue onwards to Kathmandu. 

Friday 21 November 2014

One day in Amsterdam

I made my second visit to see Chelsea in the Hague this autumn. Roughly the same time as I had been last year. This time, on the friday while Chelsea was at work I headed into Amsterdam. Although I missed the first train (which was annoying as I was walking alongside it as it pulled out of the station), I managed to have a good half a day to myself roaming the canalled streets of the capital. My main reason for visiting was the Anne Frank House, which I queued up for and spent a meaningful couple of hours inside. I walked through the busy tourist area, which I didn't particularly like, I got slightly lost making my way to the train station through the red light district - or actually I don't think I made it to the red light district in the end. Following Chelsea's directions I found a great little area for lunch, down small streets of cafes and bars, tables outside, making the most of what was left of the warm weather.

Amsterdam was pretty, just as I had expected. Although I still love the Hague and was very happy boarding the train back to spend the evening with Chelsea in her lovely Dutch home. 

Sunday 2 November 2014

Nepal Chitwan National Park

A highlight from my trip to Nepal, was heading out to Chitwan National Park and taking a jeep ride through the trees and long grass searching for animals in the wild. We didn't get to see the elusive tiger, but a Rhino wandered across the road in front of us, which was truly amazing. We had a lovely snack breakfast at the top of a look-out tower and spotted a few wild boar, deer and plenty of birds. The trip across the water was a bit scary as we were paddled across in a long, thin canoe with water lapping nearly up to the sides of the boat. This made slightly more terrifying after our guides pointed out a couple of crocodiles lurking in the water. Thankfully none showed up too close to us as we floated from one bank to the other. 

I also took another elephant ride during this trip, coerced by my mum. I wouldn't do this again. I'm not  exactly sure about the ethical implications of elephant rides. I can't imagine that it's something elephants want to do - strapped up with a seat on their back and between 2 and 5 people sitting atop. They are also smacked around by their keepers - the mahouts - by a hook on the end of a long stick. It's also incredibly uncomfortable.... 

Just strolling across the road
Boiled egg breakfast
and spotted another one hiding in the brush