Kathmandu: Home of the Hippies

Kathmandu: Home of the Hippies

The Buddha Eyes of Bouddhanath getting a face lift.


Ok, to be honest, I am struggling with Kathmandu. Up till now each place I have visited seems overrun with tourist and shops selling tourist junk. I want to give it a chance and be fare to the city. Today we took the group to Bouddhanath. This is the home of the famous Stupa with the large “Buddha Eyes”. It was overrun with tourist, hippies and Buddhist trinket shops. The Bouddhanath that I visited 15 years ago has disappeared. They say you can never go back, I guess that is true.

So as a photographer what do you do? You shoot either what you see or what you feel. Here is a little of both.


The Buddha Eyes of the Bouddhanath Stupa framed in prayer flags.


A Western Buddhist trespassing to do her yoga on the dome of the Bouddhanath Stupa.


A shop keeper and his wares with the Bouddhanath Stupa reflecting in his shop window.


A detail of a flower in the arms of a praying statue.


Street kids playing cards amidst the stupas of Swayambhunath Temple as a storm rolls in.


The hands of two devotee as they light butter lamps in the monastery of Swayambhunath Temple.

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About The Author

Matt Brandon

Matt is a Malaysia based humanitarian and travel photographer. Well known as a photographer and international workshop instructor, Matt’s images have been used by business and organizations around the globe. Matt also on the design board for Think Tank Photo, a camera bag manufacturer. In 2013 Matt founded the On Field Media Project to train the staff of non-profits to use appropriate technology to produce timely as well as quality images.


  1. Mark Olwick

    One way to approach it is to document how it is now. Show the hippies, the tourists crawling all over it, the overt commercialization, etc. That too can be powerful – to show how the sacred place has become something far from what it was intended to be.


  2. James

    Matt, it sounds like from your perspective the cultural movement called the hippies are ruining the local culture in Kathmandu. Life moves on, and wanting to preserve Kathmandu, as it sounds like your saying, in a pristine state (whatever that is, I would not even know what authority could judge that) is an impossibility. I must confess that my first reaction was to sympathize with you over the lose of something special, different, a way of life, being lost. But that implies I think a negative judgement on another culture. It seems the challenge is to overcome or understand this clash of cultures, and produce great photos/art.

    • admin

      James – Yes, I do feel the hippie are a negative thing to Kathmandu. If it was an indigenous movement, then that would be difference. But it is not. It looks to me, to be a group of societal misfits, drop outs and oddballs that don’t fit into their own culture and all meet up in Kathmandu. I have seen since 1987 when I first came, a huge change in the culture of this city. This “movement” as you call it, is not only destroying the culture but undermining any local morals. Yes, life goes on. I don’t expect Kathmandu to remain the same, it can’t. Delhi hasn’t remained the same, Srinagar hasn’t and each has had outside influences to cause many of their changes. So, maybe it is the same. But there is something offensive when I see a young Western girl wearing little clothes hanging all over a Nepali man in front of a temple. Or as above, the lady sitting on the Stupa with disregard to it’s importance to the local culture.


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