Kathmandu: Swayambhunath

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Swayambhunath or ‘The Monkey Temple’ was actually our last day in Nepal. After Chitwan, Lumbini and Pokhara we had two days left back in Kathmandu before we flew back to the UK, the second to last day involved a bit of shopping in Thamel and the last was an afternoon at Swayambhunath. The weather by that point was thundery but pleasantly warm; people moan about the rain and say things like “Oh it’s a shame it rained on your holiday.” and I always give them a quizzical look as to why it’s such a shame? It’s actually a very beautiful experience to feel the rain in another part of the world because it is so different to the rain in your home country plus most of our holidays do not involve lying on the beach every day, most destinations we visit are not beachy-cocktail sipping-going lobster red kind of holidays so the rain really isn’t a shame, I love the rain actually, it’s colour and smell is different in every country.

So, the monkey temple was actually my least favourite place in Kathmandu, I hated those monkeys! Literally hated them. Monkeys are one of my least favourite animals, I do not find them cute, most monkey species have their butts on show and they are nasty little buggers. Even as a child I was not impressed by the monkeys or apes at the zoo, I even skip the monkey enclosures. Unfortunately Swayambhunath temple is swarmed by monkeys and these monkeys are opportunists, never hold carrier bags because they will snatch them out of your hands and make sure all strings, toggles, zips, pockets, hoods are neatly packed away because they will attempt to pull on things. The whole time I was walking around Swayambhunath I was extremely nervous, these monkeys follow you in small groups and if you get too close they do snarl and lash out at you. Thankfully the locals keep a pack of dogs up there too, these dogs keep the monkeys from running amok because they are afraid of the dogs. I actually felt like I was being watched and that the monkeys were planning a group attack so I couldnt fully appreciate the beauty of Swayambhunath and the views below without fear of being stalked or attacked by a dirty monkey.

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From Thamel you can jump in any of the numerous taxis driving around, you will NEVER be short of a taxi, there must be twenty per tourist (and I am not joking), it takes about 5 maybe 10 minutes to get to the bottom steps of the temple and some monkeys are already sat there.

Swayambhunath is an ancient religious architecture atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley, west of Kathmandu city. The Tibetan name for the site means ‘Sublime Trees’Swayambhunath occupies a central position, it is probably the most sacred among Buddhist pilgrimage sites. For Tibetans and followers of Tibetan Buddhism, it is second only to Boudhanath. The Swayambhunath complex consists of a stupa, a variety of shrines and temples, some dating back to the Licchavi period. A Tibetan monastery, museum and library are more recent additions. The stupa has Buddha’s eyes and eyebrows painted on. Between them, the number one (in Devanagari script) is painted in the fashion of a nose. There are also shops, restaurants and hostels.The entrance stairway of 365 steps flutters with colourful prayer flags and getting up to the huge stupa at the top of the hill involves a certain amount of fitness, stamina and strong legs and by the time you have gotten to the top you’ll be sweaty, breathless and on the verge of crawling because your legs will feel like they’ve power walked on a step machine at your local gym! It is all worth it though because the views are out of this world. At the top of the steps you see the biggest vajra (thunder-bolt scepter) you have ever seen, the vast white dome of the stupa and plenty of monkeys. Much of Swayambhunath’s iconography comes from the Vajrayana tradition of Newar Buddhism. However, the complex is also an important site for Buddhists of many schools, and is also revered by Hindus.

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According to Swayambhu Purana, the entire valley was once filled with an enormous lake, out of which grew a lotus. The valley came to be known as Swayambhu, meaning “Self-Created.” The name comes from an eternal self-existent flame (svyaṃbhu) over which a sūpa was later built.

Swayambhunath is also known as the Monkey Temple as there are holy monkeys living in the north-west parts of the temple. They are holy because Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom and learning was raising the hill which the Swayambhunath Temple stands on. He was supposed to leave his hair short but he made it grow long and head lice grew. It is said that the head lice transformed into these monkeys.

Manjusri had a vision of the lotus at Swayambhu and traveled there to worship it. Seeing that the valley can be good settlement and to make the site more accessible to human pilgrims, he cut a gorge at Chovar. The water drained out of the lake, leaving the valley in which Kathmandu now lies. The lotus was transformed into a hill and the flower became the Swayambhunath stupa.

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Swayambunath is not just an ancient religious site but an active, living one with pilgrims performing clockwise circumambulations around the stupas. The continual soft chanting of ‘om mani padme hum’ and the smell of incense and yak butter lamps create a magical atmosphere in the early morning. And if you are a person who likes monkeys then all the better: they are everywhere. Aside from the monkeys, this place is very peaceful as it is a lovely quiet escape from the chaos and noise of Kathmandu. The best time to go is very early in the morning or during sunset because it will add a touch of magic to the colours of the skyline as you take in the views of the valley below.

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Stay tuned for our next destination! We stay in an eco-lodge in the jungles of Chitwan!
If you missed previous blog posts about Nepal click on the links below.
Kathmandu: Thamel
Kathmandu: Patan
Kathmandu: Bhaktapur
Kathmandu: Pashupatinath
Kathmandu: Boudhanath

I am on tripadvisor here
and you can now follow me on Instagram
I have also updated my travel section in my Categories side bar so it is easier for viewers to find and read specific destinations.

Wild Kuan Yin Oracle

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I have been in search for a new Oracle deck for years. I have all the tarot decks I need now (two collectors decks and one travel deck) and I don’t need any more. I have owned the fairy oracle by Doreen Virtue since I was 19, it was the first deck I ever owned because my mother at the time told me I was too young to own a Tarot deck, looking back now, I know that’s ridiculous and if I had children who wanted to learn more about divination I’d probably help them choose their first Oracle in their tweens and their first Tarot in their late teens.

So for years I have felt I have grown out of my fairy cards, I no longer feel connected to them however I will keep them as maybe one day I will pass them on to one of my children. And so I have been casually on the hunt for a new oracle deck, not necessarily constantly searching for something and buying it on a whim but being content in waiting for the right one to captivate me. There are so many out there and I just didn’t want to rush.

By chance I watched a youtube video of a review on the Wild Kuan Yin oracle deck and fell in love. I shall be doing a Tea & Tarot video of this deck soon but I will say I just love the flying yaks and the paintings remind me of a favourite film “What dreams may come.” and I just couldn’t be any happier. The art is based on Tibetan tribal women and you all know I LOVE anything to do with tribal cultures plus I love how wild and airy it feels. I will be using this deck for daily card draws.

Reasons for purchasing this deck are:
1: My Chinese sign is Ox and I love the flying oxen in the artwork.
2: I love tribal cultures, the artist was inspired by Tibetan tribal women.
3: Wild is a favourite word.
4: I spent 3 weeks backpacking around Nepal last March, Nepal is next door to Tibet, I’ve spent time with Tibetan monks in Lumbini & both cultures heavily influence each other.
5: As a Libra I love the wild airy vibes from the cards, it’s as though the painter has opened my chest to find flying people and animals inside.
6: It reminds me of a favourite scene about heaven in the film “what dreams may come”.
I am in awe of this Oracle Deck, happiness is an understatement!

Kitchen Yoga & not giving a flying fuck.

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I was always that girl at the back of the room, the wall flower, the one who barely spoke, the one who was told not to speak, the one who was told ‘just don’t do anything that might upset others’ and I was made to feel like if I did ‘step out of line’ then a black hole would swallow me up for being such a bad girl (figuratively speaking) and so I became this half formed thing, this shy, insecure, submissive thing that was too afraid to voice an opinion, to experiment with boundaries (physical and emotional) and to explore my identity and it’s relationship with the world and with life. Looking at me now, you wouldn’t think I was painfully shy and repressed would you?
Interestingly enough there are people around me who lets face it are utter arses and are allowed to be that for some bizarre reason and yet IF someone like myself finally took a stand and said “Hey you are an arse” the majority of the people in the room would stick up for the arse and tell me I am being a bitch? Or I am being too sensitive? What the actual fuck? Somebody please tell me why situations like this happen? And it happens over and over and over again??? The good girl finally makes it known that she wants to break away or voice an opinion or rebel and she is swamped with a sea of judgement and yet the selfish dickhead who is a dickhead every single day is allowed to continue being that dickhead and people simply say “Yeah that’s Sandra or that’s Joe, that’s just the way she/he is.” What kind of insanity is this? Why do the masses stick up for the sociopath and not the empath?

And the reason why I bring this to attention with my lovely new kitchen yoga photos is basically I have had enough of being told who I should and shouldnt be for the sake of being good and sensible in the eyes of people who if you held a mirror up to their faces to make them see their own imperfections, probably have enough skeletons in their closest to create a mass grave and yet they have the audacity to point the finger and tell me be to be good and to do the right thing. FUCK OFF! Honestly FUCK RIGHT OFF!

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Why is this related to my new kitchen yoga photos? You might ask. Well, everything! I never rebelled in my terrible twos or in my teens. Ask my Mum, I was that angelic child who silently read a book in the corner of the room and I still am that quiet, peaceful person BUT that is not the whole of me, like an Opal I have many colours and I am tired of people painting an image of me that is totally one dimensional. Most of the time I appear happy-go-lucky with an optimistic and theatrical attitude (when I am not quietly reading a book) but that is my armour for all the facets caged inside of me. Someone once said “I never thought you’d be a person to want to do white water rafting because you are quiet.” Seriously, what does that even mean? Let me tell you something, I may be quiet but I am brave and open minded, I usually try everything once and I like a challenge, I face my fears head on like an Ox (I live up to my Ox Chinese sign), but also just like an Ox I can quite happily sit in a flowery meadow, contemplating life whilst chewing on grass. Quiet has nothing to do with ANYTHING, people are quick to associate quiet with good and if you are good it is expected you know your place, to be be seen but not heard, look but don’t touch, speak only when spoken to, get dressed but only in muted tones, do what you want but I don’t like what you are doing, strive for your dreams but maybe stay in your mediocre good girl box. THIS SHIT NEEDS TO STOP!
These people tell me how to live my life whilst they treat others like shit and do what the fuck they want! It is a fucking joke!

But I am and always will be a very good girl however for the love of God, let me just explore my naughty side once in a while, let me get to know my shadow, to explore my boundaries, to swear and frolic in the woods naked. I am at a point in my life where I will shock people, this is not necessarily a new me but a side of me that is a little bit feral and has been let out of its cage. Imagine it as a fox that has lived in a cage all its life and an animal rights activist has found me and taken me into the woods and said “Here you go, this is what freedom looks like, it’s OK to be you, you dont have to sit alone in a cage all tied up in the dark anymore.”

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And so I will be breaking the rules, I will be answering back, I will be saying what I feel, I will be dying the tips of my hair blue and I will be getting my tattoo. I will have a potty mouth and I will tell you to fuck off, I will have that cat fight with any bully who attempts to cross me, I will tell you to your face that you have no right to tell me to be sensible, in fact the words ‘sensible’ and ‘should’ are banned from conversations with me. I will be taking back my power, I will not let you take it away from me. I will dress the way I want, I will be vibrant, I will be playful and I will be temperamental, I will do what I want. I will be a little bit selfish, I will put myself first, I will live my life from now on the way I want and if I want to wear stripy orange stockings, pig tails, red lipstick and do Yoga in the kitchen I bloody will do it! I want to play and experiment with who I am and figure myself out without thousands of voices in my head of people constantly belittling me and telling me that my ideas are stupid or that I am wrong or that I should and shouldnt do something all because I have stepped out of the ‘Good Girl’ box and totally thrown your distorted concept of me in the garbage.

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I am actually at the happiest I have ever been right now. As a little girl I felt invisible, as a teenager I felt isolated, in my early 20’s I felt misunderstood and unloved and now I am 30 I have realized all I have ever done is do the right thing (according to peoples opinions), be the good girl to make people happy with me? But what about MY happiness? Why was I constantly putting people and their opinions before my own? Why did I let people tell me how to behave? Out of fear of rejection? I spent most of my life so far following the rules whilst watching everybody else break them and turn out fine. In my mid 20’s I began to develop an eating disorder, anxiety and an unstable sense of identity, I didn’t know who I was because I spent most of my time being numerous masks to numerous people to make them happy with me. By the age of 27 I was very poorly and in therapy with a cognitive behavioural therapist to help me understand that peoples opinions towards me have no power over me, I do not need their approval, I do not need to constantly be perfect to be loved or to be significant and if my actions offend them because it goes against their narrow minded concept of me then it’s not my problem, it’s their problem to address, is not my burden to carry. It took a handful of amazing people to help me see my beauty just the way I am and I am so thankful to them for reminding me of my luminescence. That I am a star in the vast night sky and I WILL shine.
I think it is really important in one’s own life to take risks, be a little bit kooky, to shake things up, to draw the wild card, stand up for what you believe in, be a little bit naughty, a little bit kinky, embrace your wicked side, ravish your daring streak, push those boundaries and explore all alter-egos within yourself because it is HEALTHY and those who point the finger, tell you to shut up and sit in the corner are utter morons and nobody puts Baby in the corner! so go dance your dance, we’ve only got one life, who gives a flying fuck what people think? Go have a bash! And soar like the incredible shooting star that you are, there is nobody else like you on this planet so celebrate it, and if there is something you want to do or say but are worried people might judge? Do it anyway! don’t hide in fear of criticism. Be you (imperfections and all), make mistakes in order to grow and just live your life, don’t let anybody interfere, be fearlessly free.
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Kathmandu: Boudhanath

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Boudhanath is a 30 minute walk from Pashupatinath. I highly recommend this walk too because you wander through the streets of a local town, you meet people and watch them go about their daily life, you see women in rice fields and kids curiously approach you to speak English to you and ask if you have any chocolate. It’s a relaxed walk and you feel safe. Nearing the entrance to Boudhanath you will get pestered by a woman holding a baby, pleading for you to buy milk or food for her child, this unfortunately is a scam, A Nepali ‘mother’ plays her trade conning tourists to buy over-priced milk for the ‘baby’ (at inflated prices) which she then sells back to the grocer at normal price splitting the profit, so please be hardy and don’t let this scam tug at the heart strings.
You do have to pay to enter Boudhanath because that helps maintain the site. Boudhanath is very small but grand, on entering there is a gigantic stupa in the middle whilst curious tourists and Buddhists on pilgrimages walk around it whilst chanting mantras. Towards the outer area of Boudhanath there are numerous tourist shops offering Mala prayer beads and Tibetan paintings as well as small cafes and restaurants.
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Boudhanath is essentially the giant Stupa, there is nothing else in the area to see. However the stupa itself is extremely interesting and awe-inspiring, definitely worth visiting for an afternoon. The Buddhist stupa of Boudhanath dominates the skyline. The ancient Stupa is one of the largest in the world and so it does not disappoint. It is believed that thousands of Buddhas and heavenly Deities incarnated as Lamas in the Baudha stupa, it is said that the rays of Bodhisattvas entered in the song from heaven and the holy sound was heard in the sky. Due to being empowered by the Bodhisattvas this stupa is viewed with a great reverence. You can enter the Stupa from below and climb some steps to walk along platforms that are closer to the Buddha’s eye, here you can take marvelous photos of the prayer flags blowing in the wind and of the views below. Part of the structure houses a room for a huge prayer wheel that visitors can step inside and turn it as they walk around, you can also light candles and offer blessings or prayers to loved ones. Standing on the open, stark white platforms brings a sense of peace as you watch the world go by, contemplate life and leisurely people watch as they pray, laugh, take photos and chant sacred mantras as they hold their Mala beads.
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Stay tuned for the final Kathmandu write-up in Swayambhunath, before we head out to the jungles of Chitwan!
If you missed previous blog posts about Nepal click on the links below.
Kathmandu: Thamel
Kathmandu: Patan
Kathmandu: Bhaktapur
Kathmandu: Pashupatinath

I am on tripadvisor here
and you can now follow me Instagram
I have also updated my travel section in my Categories side bar so it is easier for viewers to find and read specific destinations.

Kitchen Yoga

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Our kitchen is pretty big, bright and airy so sometimes when the mood strikes me I use the floor and surfaces to help me stretch, even whilst making a cup of tea I prop my leg up on the counter top to do a deep standing lunge.

When I was a little girl I wanted to be like the ‘flash dance’ lady but was told by family it’s a stupid and impractical dream and told by dance schools I was too fat. I’ve always been a lover of creative movement and expression through the body and so now at 30 I’m taking back my power that was taken from me and I’ll be sharing it with children because my place has been secured on the Yoga/dance kids teacher training happening in April! I’ll be that adult that encourages children to be themselves and follow their hearts and be that teacher that guides my pupils, teaching them self love and body confidence. I LOVE these new photos of me, I felt powerful and strong just like the woman in flash dance and so I had to dance to “She’s a Maniac

In all honesty I am little scared about doing this training, it is completely out of my comfort zone and totally going against the grain and social norms (I can already hear the judgmental remarks from certain people, believing I should stay put, work my way up to management and lead a secure, boxed up existence) So I am fully aware of a number of elements against me; however on the flip side I know I have loving and supportive people around me, cheering me on and pushing me to succeed and it is that, that activates and motivates my heart to be strong willed and gregarious. So wish me luck, this is the beginning, I will change my stars!