Published:
10 May 2017
Duration:
6 min read
Words:
766 words
Segment:
Travel
From the Archive (Feb, 2016): Take a stroll around the labyrinth of densely packed alleys in Boudhanath, where reality seamlessly blends with spirituality

In the early mornings and eveningsthe alleys that connect Bouddhanath to the surrounding parts of Bouddha are flush with the religious walking towards the stupa to get in some circumambulation time. On the sides of the alleys are serene, ornate monasteries, restaurants serving fist-sized dumplings, pan-sized pizzas and modest shops selling everything from incense to the latest fashion wear: a miscellany of sights, sounds, smells.

The first alley, you could explore, to the north of the main gate of the stupa circle, you can get to by walking clockwise, right next to Khasyor Bazaar. In the mornings and evenings, vegetable vendors sit on the ground here, behind stacks of bright red tomatoes next to deep green capsicums. Perhaps the most famous establishment in this alley is the nondescript Xin Chang restaurant, popularly known as Yak, a Chinese restaurant. The restaurant walls are decorated with kitsch posters of dreamy landscapes and baskets of fruits. Order a tofu curry, spicy pork ribs, shredded potato with a bowl of rice, or a steam bun.

From the restaurant, head straight to a junction nearby, head left, a little further to a two-way, then to the right, a little further: Here is the Shechen Monastery, where rows of trees line the compound and squirrels scuttle around during the day. On the tenth day of the second month of the Tibetan calendar, the monastery holds its annual sacred dance, called the Cham, in its courtyard, wherein monks in masks and colourful costumes showcase their dance. This year’s festival is on March 18.

The next alley is to the south of the entrance, the first right just after Kori’s Café and Garden. It extends all the way to Fulbari and beyond, and on the way there are several eateries, a spa, shops that sell shoes, bags, jackets, traditional Tibetan cloth, Buddhist ritual items. The air is suffused with all kinds of sounds: shoppers haggling over prices, the faint chants emanating from the nearby monasteries, the chaos captivating the men and women present into a sort of a lull. On the left side a few metres into the alley is Lotus Sky Jewelry, which sells handcrafted urban bohemian jewelry—dreamcatchers, earrings, necklaces and so on. If the sounds get overwhelming, on the first floor of the same building is the Harmony Spa, where you can go in for a massage at a moment’s notice.

Back near the stupa, the alley that opens up below the Himalayan Restaurant and Terrace houses shops that sell casual wear, trekking bags and Chinese goods. At the end of the alley is a treat for lovers of Tibetan food: a row of restaurants, all specialising in Tibetan dishes. Most of these restaurants seat their customers outdoors, and are jam-packed during the day. In the evenings, the restaurants are occupied by the young populace, and the ambience is laidback. A steaming bowl of thenthuk, tingmo and potato curry, and shyabhaley awaits you here.

When the sun rises, the first rays of light that hit Bouddhanath refract into a slow, quiet stream of luminescence that stays alive even amid the hustle and bustle that filters in slowly at first, and then all at once. Long after the sun has set, elderly Tibetans mumble mantras into prayer beads in their left hand, shoppers bargain with unrelenting shopkeepers, teenagers lose themselves in conversations, and the alleys of Bouddha stay right where they are, in an amalgam of reality and spirituality.

Xin Chang Restaurant (Yak Restaurant): 9813171558
Lotus Sky Jewellery: 9808157042
Harmony Spa: 01-4915642