I wanted to offer a more complete answer to the question what is Boudha like? than I have given so far. In five lines and five senses, maybe I will succeed in sharing at least what my Boudha is like…
Boudha smells like fried food, cinnamon sticks, half-rotten garbage, dust, a pile of dung, car exhaust, incense, and ripe bananas—not all at once, but in quick succession as I walk through its streets.
Boudha tastes like endless variations of rice and potatoes most days, the occasional vegetable momo (dumpling), a cup of masala tea, dust, Everest beer, hot lemon honey ginger, prayer amplified by many thousands of lips, salt and unfamiliar languages.
Boudha feels like dust or a wet shawl, depending on the season, sticky mud oozing between my sandal straps, footsteps on flat stones, hours of darkness during power cuts, circles around circles around the great stupa, sitting cross-legged, hot tea on my lips, cold water on my face, hot sun on my back, a child pulling on my hand and cotton.
Boudha sounds like dogs barking at four in the morning, mantras playing on loop at record stores, children chanting Namaste, beggars chanting Namaste, monks chanting om mani padme hum, scores of pigeons flapping wings, puja bells ringing, men hacking and spitting, motorists leaning on horns, women shouting from their windows, unfamiliar languages and low-flying airplanes.
Boudha looks like red, blue, green, white and yellow prayer flags, pyramids of apples and pomegranates, stacks of brightly patterned fabric, men carrying plates of sliced coconut on their heads, human circles around circles around the great stupa, families on motorcycles, funny haircuts, and Sakyamuni Buddha’s eyes framed in gold, forty meters in the air.