We arrived in Kathmandu late on a Friday, so the next day was a free day. What to do, what to see? Not to worry – we were in good hands. The lovely Pratima, marketing director of our partner cooperative there, took us on a tour of the Nepalese capital.

Kathmandu is in a valley surrounded by mountains, and our first stop was atop one of those mountains: the Swayambhunath temple complex, one of the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the world.

Immediately upon arriving we encountered monkeys! They are considered holy and live up there on the temple grounds. Some people like to feed them bananas.

Team Mata consisted of me, our former intern Mallika, our designer Kristin, and our financial director Scott, who took the photo below. You can see his smiling face in front of Swayambhunath’s 1,500-year-old stupa just below that. Mallika traveled with us on a research grant she was awarded through her school, the University of Chicago. If she looks familiar, it’s because she’s modeled in several of our catalogs: Spring ’12, Fall ’12, Spring ’13, and Fall ’13.

Left to right: that’s me, Pratima, Mallika, and Kristin

What is a stupa, you ask? It’s a dome-shaped Buddhist shrine used for meditation and prayer. Surrounding the stupa were shops and vendors, and we did a little shopping.

Check out the view from up there overlooking the city.

On our way up, Pratima hooked us up with special treatment. We were driven around back, the long way up to the top.  On our way down, we took the most direct route – the stairs (all 365 of them).

On the way down, we came upon an artisan carving stone, and I bought this beautiful carving for my dad.  I paid $10 for it, which was the price he had asked.  Although bargaining is the custom there, I thought it was a good price.

Our next stop was this park with three large Buddhas near the base of the mountain.

Then we were ready for lunch, and Pratima took us to a rooftop restaurant in the Tibetan refugee community of Bouddhanath.  They also have a very impressive stupa.

In fact, it’s even more impressive when you see how it dwarfs all the buildings:

Looking right

Looking left

Just like at the Swayambhunath stupa, people walk around it spinning prayer wheels, and there are lots of shops and vendors along the way.  There’s also a spot where people feed pigeons.

Kristin was brave and went in for a picture.

Wondering where to get those cool striped aprons the Tibetan women wear?

Right here:

Kristin’s heart melts for doggies! This street pup is being cared for by volunteers from an organization called Street Dog Care.

You can help care for the estimated 25,000 stray dogs in Kathmandu by making a donation here or here.

After strolling around Bouddhanath and doing a little more shopping there, we were exhausted and called it a day. Special thanks to our amazing guide, Pratima! Stay tuned to this blog for upcoming posts on Nepalese street style and traditional Nepalese food.  If you’d like to learn more about the co-op we partner with in Kathmandu, check out these posts:

Mix and Match Tibetan Fashion
Your Handmade Garment Start to Finish
Life After Bonded Labor