Swayambhu which is commonly known as the Monkey Temple, is a Buddhist shrine that sits high atop a hill overlooking all of Kathmandu. One of the most sacred sites in all of Nepal, its main shrine features eyes of the Buddha painted on all four sides that look out over the valley.
The shrine is also the home to hundreds of monkeys that run freely at the temple. The shrine is reached by climbing 300 stairs to the top the hill. Along the way, monkeys play in the trees and beg for treats. While climbing the steps, we separated a mother from its baby. In return, the mother monkey ran up to Harrison and pushed him on his leg as the baby hissed at us. Our response was typical of two explorers on a world adventure: we screamed like little girls and ran up the stairs.
The monkeys were amazing creatures. We watched a clever monkey stalk a food vendor and steal a cucumber when the vendor briefly walked away from his stand. He could have been Abu from Aladdin.
Swayambhu is an interesting complex of shrines and monuments. The location has been a site of spiritual importance for more than 2,500 years. The original shrine was built in 1234, destroyed in the 1300′s and rebuilt in the mid-17th century. There is a small monastery in the complex and we saw many young monks playing outside.
I was so fascinated by the Monkey Temple that years later I Buddha statute from the temple tattooed on my arm (see below), and I now consider myself to be a monkey temple expert, so if you visit heed my advice: run fast if you are pushed by a monkey.