March 14, 2009
Enjoy photographs taken
by classmates while on vacation to some beautiful places.
Perhaps you will be inspired to plan a spring break trip or
Keener traveled to Ireland. Click on the picture to view a
slideshow of her travels.
Hilgenberg made a trip to Kathmandu. Click on the picture
to view pictures on his flickr site, and read his interesting
I. Swayambhunath Stupa and surrounds. A “stupa”
is a place where religious relics are kept, generally a few
bones or other objects. Stupas have a sort of “standard”
construction. The overall shape of a stupa portrays the seated
Buddha, with components that represent earth, fire, air, water
1. Entrance to Swayambhunath Stupa. This stupa is located on a
high hill with a nice overlook of the Kathmandu Valley. The
stupa is illuminated at night (when the electricity is on) and
is visible from the much of the valley below. It was an easy
15-minute walk from our hotel.
prayer wheels in the foreground. Each prayer wheel has
papers inside on which prayers and chants are written,
principally the chant “Hum Mani Padmi Oom”. People walk past
and give each one a spin in a clockwise direction. They believe
the prayer wheels amplify and give voice to their prayers, and
that all of the prayers written inside the wheel are recited.
The two-entranced gatehouse building in the background contains
a giant prayer wheel that is 12 feet high. This prayer wheel
strikes a bell with each revolution.
2. At the foot of the steps leading up to the 2,500-year-old
Swayambhunath Stupa. This stupa is atop a hill that
overlooks the Kathmandu valley. Swayambhunath is the oldest of
over 600 stupas in Kathmandu valley; it’s said that the Buddha
himself once taught here.
3 & 4. It’s 365 steps to the reach the top. Almost there. I
know making this climb isn’t supposed to be easy – that’s why
it’s called a pilgrimage. But I’m sure glad I quit smoking.
5. Swayambhunath is known as “Monkey Temple” for the hundreds –
make that thousands – of Rhesus monkeys living there. Although
these monkeys are considered holy, keep your hands in your
pockets as you walk by them. A bite from one of these critters
means rabies shots.
6. Looking east to the Kathmandu Valley from the stupa.
7 & 8.
Swayambhunath Stupa. The base of the stupa is a dome,
representing earth. Arranged around the perimeter of the dome
at Swayambhunath are over 200 prayer wheels.
Check out the “Buddha eyes”. There are two eyes and eyebrows,
painted on each side of the stupa, which represent the
omniscience of the Buddha, and between them a third eye which
represents the wisdom of the Buddha. The “nose” is the Nepali
script for the number “1” --- symbolizing “unity” of
humankind. Virtually every stupa in Nepal has Buddha eyes
painted on it. In fact, they’ve become the symbol of the
Notice the thirteen rings above the eyes. Each ring represents
a different level of knowledge you need to achieve Nirvana,
represented by the umbrella at the top.
Surrounding the stupa are a number temples and shrines, a
monastery, a library and museum and (of course) souvenir shops.
II. Kathmandu street scenes. Our visit to Kathmandu fell in the
middle of the
Festival, a religious festival running from late-September
to mid-October. Each morning, starting about 4am, thousands of
pilgrims were in the streets, dressed in their best clothing,
walking to the temple so as to be there at sunrise. Often times
there was cadence drumming, as well as musical instruments
played, as part of the procession.
October 6th was a very bad day to be a barnyard animal (chicken,
goat, duck, sheep, etc) in Nepal, as this was the annual day of
sacrifice. Animals are taken to the temples, sacrificed, then
butchered and eaten for dinner.
9. Meeting tree. Neighborhoods and villages in Nepal have
“meeting trees” and I suppose the analogous concept in our
country would be the town square. It’s a central place in the
neighborhood where people congregate to talk and pass the time.
10. This little girl was working as the waitress and clean-up
person at her mom’s street market. Stopped for a coke!
11. Feral monkeys.
12. Traffic snarls are the rule, not the exception, on
Kathmandu’s narrow, crowded, unpaved and unmarked streets.
Here’s a typical mess at the entrance to Durbar Square. These
vehicles are not moving.
14. “Crafties” Nepal?? I shouldn’t make fun; their English is
far superior to my Nepali!
15 – 18. Street merchants near the entrance to Durbar Square.
19a. People getting water from a public well.
19b. Renovation project using bamboo scaffolding!
19c. These goats will be supper one day soon.
19d. Laundry day.
19e. Street scene.
19f. Merchants near Durbar Square.
III. Durbar Square. . The “durbar” is the royal palace, and
there are three Durbar squares in the Kathmandu valley. Durbar
Square in Kathmandu is the location of the second-oldest palace,
and entry to the palace is not permitted for foreigners.
The square is located in the medieval part of the city center.
There is a two-story pagoda here that is over 2,000 years old
and was constructed only of wood, without any nails.
20a. Durbar Square entrance; pedestrians only.
20b. Durbar Square Pagoda.
21. Entrance to the old palace at Durbar Square. Foreigners are
not permitted inside.
22. Massive carved elephants guard the entrance to this pagoda.
23. Another pagoda at Durbar Square.
IV. Umbrella Foundation. It’s estimated that there are 30,000
homeless and abandoned children in Kathmandu. Go out early any
morning and you’ll see them sleeping in doorways, on benches at
temples and stupas, around the “meeting trees” --- wherever they
can find shelter. The
Umbrella Foundation is a sort of orphanage; they are a
“rescue shelter” for children. If you visit no other linked
site while looking at these photos, you should visit this one.
Umbrella currently has a population of about 300 children,
ranging from very small up to the age of 17. They are sheltered
in houses rented by the foundation, young boys in one house,
young girls in another, older boys in another, older girls in
The children are education, fed and cared for. In some cases
they are returned to their families. Children are regularly
deposited at the gate of the shelter by their families;
unfortunately, financial constraints keep the shelter from
accepting all comers. They would quickly become overwhelmed.
If you choose, you may make a financial contribution to their
work from their web site.
25 - 27. Entrance to the courtyard and the Umbrella Foundation
28. Boys bedroom.
29a. Preparing to cook rice for dinner, which is prepared in
the kitchen of each house. The diet is basic, but as you can
see from the photos the children are well-nourished and well
29b. Boy at Umbrella Foundation.
29d. Older kid’s bedroom.
29e. Boy at Umbrella foundation.
V. Mountain Flight. The Himalaya Mountain range runs between
Nepal and Tibet. One third of the 2,400-kilometer range falls
within Nepal, and contains eight of the ten highest mountains in
the world, which rise above 26,000 feet. The highest, of
course, is called “Sagarmatha” (Mount Everest) at 29,028 feet.
There are hundreds of “lesser” peaks; lesser meaning below
26,000 but still pretty tall.
Daily, when the weather permits, there are over 30 flights
departing from Kathmandu that will take you on an aerial tour of
the mountains to Everest and back – about a one hour trip.
Our friend Kathy tried to warn us against flying on any airplane
that’s piloted by somebody who believes in reincarnation (!) but
personally I thought it was a good idea. After all, a pilot who
screws up and crashes into the mountain could come back as a
snail or toad, so that gives them incentive to be extra careful.
30 -33. The mountain flight boarding and shots of the Himalaya
mountain range. The cloud floor is 20,000 feet and the plane is
flying at 25,000 feet. We’re about five nautical miles from the
mountains, which rise to 30,000 feet.
34. Mount Everest from the cockpit. The world’s highest known
peak above sea level: 8,848 Meters (29, 028 feet). We have
Everest in a couple of other photos, but because of distance,
angle and elevation this is the only photo we have where it is
shown as the highest peak in the picture.
VI. Hotel Vajra. The Hotel
Vajra was built early in the 20th century, designed by a
student of Frank Lloyd Wright. It has many wonderful
architectural details. It’s a short walk to the Monkey Temple,
and the web site says a 10-minute walk to Durbar Square.
Although you may be able to walk to Durbar Square quicker than a
taxi could take you (provided you know the way) it’s generally
better to take a taxi as the streets are not marked and it’s
very easy to get lost.
A “vajra” is an indestructible weapon, as well as a source of
wisdom. There’s a huge vajra at the Swayambhunath Stupa. I
didn’t get a good photo but you can see a photo of the vajra
at this site.
40. Pretty girl caught at the elaborately carved main entrance
of the hotel.
41-42. Small buddhas in the courtyard of Hotel Vajra.
43. Carved elephant at the entry to our building in the “new”
section of the hotel.
44. Carved entry door to the
Pagoda Hall at the Vajra. The hotel regularly holds
performances of plays and traditional Nepali dances in this
45. Shrine at Hotel Vajra courtyard.
46-47. Kathy Hirsch, a friend from old days in Bloomington and
Chicago, happened by coincidence to be staying in the room
beside ours at the Hotel Vajra. We hadn’t seen her in 30 years,
and she turned up in the room next door. Small world, indeed.
VII. Bouddha Stupa. This is the largest and most popular
pilgrimage site in Nepal, this stupa was built in the 5th or 6th
century. The base of the stupa is surrounded by prayer
wheels. For your prayers to be effective, walk around the stupa
– in a strictly clockwise direction – spinning each wheel,
always in a clockwise direction.
The multi-color banners strung on and around the stupa sites are
“prayer flags”. It’s believed that when the wind blows it
carries the prayers written on these flags to heaven.
There are a number of temples around the circular perimeter of
the stupa, as well as souvenir shops and restaurants.
50-52. Bouddha Stupa, from entry way, front and side.
55 – 56. Wall art at the entrance to a temple at Bouddha
Stupa. I do not know what these symbolize.
57. Monk standing in front of giant prayer wheel.
58. Painted ironwork portal of the prayer wheel.
59. Painted archway.
60 – 62. Inside the temple. The monks seated on either side
of the aisle were performing a ceremony that included cymbals,
drums, and a very large horn. The photo at the shrine at the
front of the temple is of the Daili Lama.
63 – 64. Elephants stand at the base of the Bouddha Stupa.
Photo #64 is a close-up of the sign.
65 – 66. Lighting candles in the Bouddha compound. The lady
with her child is dressed in traditional Tibetan clothes.
67. Men gambling at the base of the stupa.
68. Feral cow taking a break from the stress of everyday living
at Bouddha stupa. This is on the perimeter at street level and
you can see a couple of sets of prayer wheels in the background.
submitted photos from late 2008 trips. Mike says, "The first
one is of the
summit ridge on Quandry. It is just south of Breckenridge and
is one of the easiest 14,000 foot peaks. I had been backpacking
and climbing in the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness area in
September and decided to do this one on the way back to the
airport. It had received a few inches of snow overnight and the
hike up was very pretty.
The next three are from a December sailing trip in Belize.
Peg and I and
friends rented a sailboat in Placencia, Belize and visited
small islands inside the barrier reef. This photo is of us on
Laughing Bird Caye.
It is a World Heritage site, but it is so small you can stand in
the water on one side and throw a rock into the water on the
other side. The guys in the boat were local fishermen
who anchored near us one night. They had eight dugouts stacked
on the sides of the boat and they slept beneath the tarp at
night. During the day they use the dugouts to fish the breached
areas of the reef where larger fish come in from deep water."
also traveled to New Orleans. "My vacations are captured
in the architecture and texture of the places I visit....I
captured this photograph and with a little PhotoShopping, I get
a very interesting photo. I call it 'Bum in Doorway'."
Dan and Becky Thornburg have certainly traveled around!