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Day 5 – Tuesday June 23 – Durbar Square, Swayambhunath, and Patan Zoo

June 24, 2009

Yesterday I saw Durbar Square with Sarah but it was midday, really hot, and swarmed with people. I wanted to see it in a different light so I got up early and left the hotel at 6:30. I was a bit disappointed that it was so bright at that time, since I wanted to see it with a bit more of a warmer light. By the time I got there it was morning, really hot, and swarmed with people. But it was a different kind of crowd. This time it was filled with people visiting the temples as part of their religious practice, and vendors selling fruits and vegetables on the street. It was fascinating to see people doing things as part of their normal routine.

I managed to do a panorama with the new gear from Really Right Stuff. I’ll let you know when I have completed some of the stitching of the pics. That will probably happen when I get home. But setting up the equipment is quite an event for most of the locals. First I extend the legs of the tripod, then attach the panning clamp and level it. From there I attach the arm to moves the lens’ nodal point back. I attach the camera’s l-bracket and mount the camera to the arm. I rotate it a few times to make sure I have it all set up right and then take the pictures. The entire process takes about 20 minutes and reminds me of the care I took when taking photos with a 4×5 camera on hikes around the Olympic Peninsula near Seattle. I could take the same care with every photo, but I don’t. When I do take the extra time, the ratio of fantastic to crap photos goes way up. 

After my second visit to Durbar Square, I went back to the hotel and met Sarah for breakfast. Since there were a few more things I wanted to see during my stay and they happened to be things she wouldn’t mind seeing again, we decided to arrange for a tour. For today we decided it would be Swayambhunath and the Zoo at Patan. I think this was the first time anyone had asked to go to the Zoo at Patan because she had to ask us if thats where we really wanted to go a few times. Eventually a price was agreed on and we were to meet down in the lobby around 12:45. At 12:45 we were there but she was on her lunch break and would return in 10 minutes. 25 minutes later we were still waiting. When she finally arrived it seemed that she just started to arrange the tour that we book several hours ago. Ugh. Well then the driver showed up and it turned out to be the same guy as this morning. And off we went.

Swayambhunath is one of the typical sites that every Kathmandu tourist visits. At the top of one of the hills inside the Kathmandu valley, it is one of the most important religious sites in the city. There are two ways to visit this place. First there is the very energetic way which is what I did 15 years ago. If you are coming here in a taxi or private car, you can go the lazy route which lets you off very close to the top. You still get to see may of the monkeys that swarm this place, you just don’t get quite as stinking hot as you would if you climbed all those steps from the bottom. And despite what others will tell you, its not all that more gratifying to do the whole thing.

We then had a short climb to the top where you are greeted with an incredible view of the city. Time for a pano. We spent an hour or two here wandering around the temple at the top and having a lunch of chow mein. Then we met up with the driver and moved on to Patan. Apparently most tourists who go to Patan see the Durbar Square there. But we saw the zoo. Its not a very big zoo, but what they have is very impressive. In fact, for certain animals I think this may be one of the best zoos in the world. Seriously!!! I used to have a membership to Miami’s MetroZoo and have visited the zoos in Seattle, DC, Sydney, and SF often. I love zoos. But I have never been able to have such a good viewing of tigers, rhinos, hippos, or leopards as I had here in Patan. In fact I was no more than 5 feet away from the leopard. Incredible.

And then we headed back to the hotel. Tomorrow we have a visit to Bhakatapur and Pashupatinath planned…goodnight.

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