Since we'd come down from the mountains a few days earlier than we'd expected, we were happy to take advantage of the extra time to explore the greater Kathmandu Valley. We hired a taxi for the day to drive us around. Our first stop was Swayambhunath, a Buddhist holy place also known as the Monkey Temple after the monkeys that guard the temple, and feast on the offerings of food that are brought for the gods.
Our last destination of the day was the neighboring town of Patan. Only 20 minutes away from Kathmandu by taxi, Patan was once a separate kingdom, and has its own Durbar Square (Palace Square). Patan’s Durbar Square is intensely atmospheric, which much more architectural diversity than Kathmandu’s, and it’s more peaceful too, a good place to grab a shady spot and people watch.
The next morning, our flight was delayed three times by the heavy brown smog that had settled in the valley; when we finally took off we both strained to see the mountains in the distance but the air pollution obscured everything more than fifty feet away. But we finally spied dozens of snow-capped peaks framed by dazzling blue sky to the north after our plane rose above the cloud cover. I hope that Nepal is able to sort out its political and economic challenges without compromising its stunning natural beauty and rich cultural history.