Monday, October 6, 2008

Room with a view

I was seduced by the location, a chance to live next to one of Kathmandu's most famous landmarks, the Boudanath stupa. The 1500-year-old, 100-meter-wide, 40-meter-tall edifice has for centuries been a major pilgrimage site for Himalayan Buddhists. The area is steeped in history and suffused with a mystical air.

It's also quite noisy.

And I knew that before I moved into my room above the Flavor's Cafe & Restaurant, the trendiest coffee shop and eatery around the stupa and perhaps in all of Boudanath. Thousands of the neighborhood's Tibetan refugee population daily circumabulate the stupa, some reciting mantras, some just chatting with their friends. Their shuffling feet are the drone over which the three temples on the stupa circle play refrains of bells, drums, horns and chanting.

I thought I could live with this. I imagined something charming and romantic, but it turned out to be just plain noisy.

The restaurant closes at around 21:30, but it's maybe 23:00 before it quiets down. A number of the neighborhood's nocturnally active members make their way through the area on their way home, and perhaps the area's biggest temple bell is struck four times at 04:00. And within an hour of the bell a huge crowd is out walking around the stupa. Even with ear plugs, it was a restless night.

Of course, I've been here only one night and it often takes a few to adjust to new environments. But I think this is perhaps one that I will never get used to.



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