There’s no reason not to make that extra effort and go visit Bouddhanath. Mark my words, Bouddha will not disappoint you.

 

Often, you have found yourself strolling in the streets of Thamel – rummaging through old books in the bookstores, hogging at Or2k, or sipping that good old coffee in your favorite café. You’ve also often gone on a shopping spree, letting yourself get spoiled by the hip clothing stores of Durbar Marg or you’ve simply window shopped with your closest friend at Civil Mall and later made an impromptu plan to catch a movie in the theatres. Maybe, you’ve gone as far as giving your mother a little company while she bargains at Ason. Once in a while, when pockets are full, maybe you haveeven treated yourself to a spaat Gokarna and later chilled out at Jazz Upstairs, allowing yourself to get immersed as the music seeps into your soul. You’ve also spent afternoons letting the creativity juice in you flow as you mull over things long gone, admiring the historically rich architecture in Kathmandu/Patan/Bhaktapur Square. But you often leave behind dear old Bouddhanath, which is in fact only 11 kilometers away from the center of Kathmandu! Leaving aside people who live in and around Bouddha, I can tell for a fact that many of you don’t even entertain the idea of giving it a visit. But trust me when I say this, there is no place else like Bouddhanath. You are guaranteed to have a very enriching experience there!


Bouddhanath (commonly called ‘Bouddha’) needs no introduction. Bouddhanath is one of the most ancient and the largest Stupa in the world and rightly so! With over 100 million Buddha statues being kept inside the dome and with over 50 Tibetan Gompas (monasteries) around, visiting this beauty is a treat to the eyes and soul. The monasteries pulse with life as you take your first step and if you just look around, you’ll see a preponderance of glistening pigeons being offered food by residents, tourists and kids. Clad in maroon robes, simply watching the monks will fill you up with contentment like no other. The colorful prayer flags add richness to the Stupa and when the sun turns to a brilliant shade of orange in the evenings, the prayer flags against the beautiful Stupa will strike your deepest chords. Get some of these flags and decorate your space, be it at home or at your workplace.


The prayer wheels add another touch to the grandeur of the Stupa. I have spent hours spinning the prayer wheels and taking rounds of the Stupa because that’s how untiring and fulfilling the experience is. The Tibetan Buddhist culture is one that every Nepali should savor and there’s no better way to do it than by prostrating! Oh yes! Be it early in the morning, in the scorching summer afternoon or in the evenings, you’ll find not only Tibetans, but also kids and foreigners kneeling with their palms flat and pointed upwards. Their entire body will be on the floor facing the ground. It is a very good way of meditation and people say that it is a way of purifying oneself and brings good karma. Historically important Bouddhanath, this place is also famous for marking the famous trade route to Lhasa and therefore, you’ll find many Tibetan traders prostrating around the Stupa praying for their safe journey to the highlands of the Himalayas.


The Stupa is encircled by varied shops, which sell everything from Thanka paintings to butter lamps to ceremonial costumes and accessories to ethnic clothes of all shapes and sizes. The street stalls will keep you busy as you look through to find the best priced Nepali Games which you had long forgotten about – Bhagh-Chal is one that you can find in almost any stall around the Stupa. Further, why look anywhere else when you can find souvenirs of the best kind in Bouddha? To note, evenings are the best time to visit Bouddhanath. Any day is a perfect day but to make the experience all the more special, Lhosar and Buddha Jayanti are the two notable days where you will see the Stupa lit up in all its glory. The lit up butter lamps and the holy chant will keep you abuzz and aglow.


A visit to Bouddha would certainly not be complete without getting a taste of the authentic Tibetan food. If you want to get a real taste of Tibetan food, Stupa View Restaurant and Double Dorjee Restaurant are not to miss. Nevertheless, there are many more with perfect ambience and perfect food. If you walk a little further from the Stupa, right next to the Khumbu Hotel, you will come across an alley with restaurants in every step. You’ll find anything you want, from Tibetan to Chinese to Italian to Indian! There are some really good organic restaurants too that you might want to check out. Saturday Café used to boast of serving the best cakes in town and oh yes, it indeed had cakes to die for but sadly, the café is no longer situated there. Nonetheless, Flavors Café and many other pastry shops in the nook and corners of Bouddha will leave you senseless – in the right way, I assure you.


Tsering Art School Shop is another remarkable place that sells rare Tibetan CDs, thankas, incense and beautiful sculptures. And within the vicinity of Bouddhanath, you have other equally famous shops that will have you occupied for hours with its artistic work displayed all over. The Thankas are painted on the spot and it is an interesting and rare sight watching the artists put their heart and soul into the canvas. And there are monasteries like Shechen Tennyi Dargyeling Gompa and Sakya Tharig Gompa that will leave you amazed as well as stupefied by its murals on the walls that are absolutely unmatched to anything you will have ever seen. If monasteries and art shops aren’t your cup of tea, fret not! You can give your mind some peace it deserves and join yoga/meditation classes around Bouddha. Learn the Tibetan language; learn how to make sand mandala and inhale Tibetan music with every fiber of your being. Bouddha is an extremely unexplored territory and you’ll be surprised to know that there’s so much more to do there!