Kathmandu is a chaotic, noisy and busy city not too dissimilar to other Asian capitals, but also quite perfectly unique. It is often described as the gateway to the Himilaya region, a climber’s entry point to the extreme adventures that lay ahead. As we made our way across town feeling overwhelmed (and grateful for free airport pick up) we were instantly reassured by the welcoming and friendly Nepalese culture.
The capital doesn’t necessarily give you that feeling that you’re in a popular tourist destination. The Nepalese people use it to ‘live’, a hub for trade and business, as well as staging beautiful religious temples and stupas for them.
The main tourist area is Thamel. We stayed 10 minutes away from here so it seemed a good place to head to first, empty stomachs leading the way. Thamel is packed with hiking stores, gift shops, cafes and restaurants. It’s a great area to walk around even though the pavements aren’t very clearly defined! It’s enjoyable to watch the chaos from a rooftop bar. It was here that we tried ‘Momo‘, which is described as a vegetable curry-filled dumpling, a fusion of Indian and Chinese culture. The paneer options were also fantastic. We also got very excited when we noticed there is a local beer named Everest. Cheers to that!
After lunch we made our way to Swayambhunath – The Monkey Temple. An ancient, religious stupa on top of a hill that provides the best views of the capital, with a gorgeous mountain backdrop. It’s worth the hike and if you’ve flown over for the Base Camp trek, like us, you will probably feel obliged to. We’re supposed to be walking 130km so we better not give up now! There are sellers along the steps heading upwards, and guides which we avoided. I think the best value for money in this region would be to use an organised tour company if you wanted to find out more about the architecture. The stupa that presents itself as you reach the top is breathtaking and unique! It is here that we learned to walk ourselves clockwise, and spin the prayer wheels for the first time. A traditional part of the Nepalese culture.
For dinner we tried a recommended vegetarian restaurant called Places in Central Thamel. I’d highly recommend the butter paneer curry washed down with a Gorkha beer, (actually the more popular beer brand!) Seated on floor cushions we really enjoyed the informal setting. Afterwards we ventured to Purple Haze Rock bar for a quick night cap. A girl on the plane had recommended it to us and was a returning visitor to Nepal. The place was buzzing and live music played all evening. We were even approached by a group of Aussies who had scouted the area for a week and had not seen a busier bar so we were grateful for the tip! Deciding it was probably our last evening drinking for a little while we carried on into the evening! Oops..
The next morning we took a tour to two different tourist sights. The first was Pashupatinath Temple, a renowned Hindu Temple and a UNESCO Heritage site, and the second a Buddhist stupa, the largest in the country, Bodnath Stupa. With a tour guide it’s great to learn about the two religious cultures and traditions of the Nepalis. There are the infamous Hindu holy men that spend most of their lives by the Bagmati river and incredible architecture to be admired by the Temple. And the sheer size of the stupa is an experience in itself. Walking clockwise around the stupa you will find a monastery where you can watch the Buddhist monks perform religious ceremonies. The decor inside is beautiful and unique. It is worth leaving 4-5 hours to admire both of these religious sites. There are some perfectly located rooftop restaurants surrounding the stupa for lunch also.
For dinner that night we visited a traditional Nepalese restaurant, provided by our tour company. It offered a great opportunity to meet other mountain trekkers even though it wasn’t our favourite place. Nepalese Thali is a traditional mix of curry, rice, momo and vegetables which is worth finding while you’re in Kathmandu. If you’re spending your time in Nepal on a tour I’d highly recommend the dinner anyway as we spent most of the evening asking tonnes of questions to the group that had just made their way back from Everest!! The stories, although some quite scary were incredible, and a joy to listen to! And told with huge smiles makes it all seem worth it.
After an early night we embarked on our flight to Lukla airport. The scariest airport in the world. Footage coming in the next blog so keep an eye out. I’ll also be posting a photo gallery for Kathmandu!
Enjoy, CityGirl X