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It is the first day of the new year, 2076, and Biraj and I head out on his moped to explore the city. Being in a city where street signs simply don’t exist, I am stunned as he jets around tight corners and even slimmer alleyways connecting the residential, Sukedhara streets. We pop out in Bodhnath, the center of the Tibetan community. I immediately regret leaving my sunglasses as the constantly painted Stupa beams back sunlight off of its layers sugar white paint, still dripping.

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In terms of grace, no other Stupa comes close: the monument is evenly proportioned and serves as a reminder of Buddha’s path towards enlightenment. We pay tribute and slowing pace around the circle. We hop back on the bike and head to our next location, something I wasn’t ready for.

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After making our way through the flooded entrance of Pashupatinath, we are greeted by a distinct smell, one which I did not recognize. At the historical site that is Pashupatinath, it is part of Hindu practice to burn the body after death. It is a long and sacred process. I was lucky enough to be in attendance as a body was being brought in. Wrapped in a white cloth, the deceased is carried by workers down the river to dip the feet and drip water onto the head. The family surrounds the body and grieves, but the rest of the watchers aren’t shaken at all — this practice is more than commonplace. 

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Next, we traveled to the popular Swyambhunath Temple, also referred to here as the “monkey temple.” The name is fitting as it is home to hundreds of brilliant little monkeys that roam the grounds. We made our way through an absolute flood of people. Swyambhunath is usually a crowded area, filled with locals and residents, but it was particularly packed as it was the first day of the new year — the year 2076, that is. Clambering to the top, we were greeted once again by another Stupa, this one not quite as large, and by a great view of the city.

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 We headed north to the Single Tree Hill, with an extremely fitting name. One lone tree sits on top of a steep hill giving us a panoramic view of the compacted city below.

— Issac Schmitt

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