A journey to Kathmandu has the power to leave the traveller enchanted, inspired and even enlightened, however the city’s highs and lows can also overwhelm.
From the moment you step foot on to the busy streets of Kathmandu, it’s an assault on your senses. Swerving between beeping cars, motorbikes and rickshaws as you squeeze past the crowds on the narrow streets, you can’t help but get sucked into the vortex of the fast pace and chaotic atmosphere.
Kathmandu is the gateway to adventure, and the majority of tourists only visit the city with a two day pass. From Kathmandu people generally fly to Lukla to trek the Everest way, head to the adventure playground of Pokora where the famous Annapurna trek awaits or seek tranquillity in Chitwan National Park.
While it is tempting to escape the city to seek solace in a more quiet and natural setting, don’t be too quick to give up on Kathmandu. With a bit of patience you’ll learn to become a part of its intriguing turbulence. Allow yourself to get lost in the mayhem and spend a few days exploring its hidden charms, for there is more to the city than meets the intimidated eye.
Taking a walk to Durbar Square via the old city of Kathmandu cannot be missed. Within 10 minutes of leaving Thamel you reach Asan Tole, notoriously the most chaotic intersection in the city. From dawn to dusk local people sell spices, fruits, vegetables, colourful tikka powder and handmade crafts. These markets are renowned for their vibrant colour and buzzing energy. It was here that I decided to stop off and purchase a scoop of kumquats to snack on, measured out by an old man with a set of antique brass scales.
Other things that I found worth buying at the markets were handmade paper, rosewood mala beads, pashminas and thankas. Local handcrafts are often a form of community work, born out of necessity – so take the time to find something authentic and you’ll be supporting the local community. With my kumquats in one hand, rosewood beads and a roll of hand-made paper in the other, I walked for another ten minutes until reaching Durbar Square.
Fly: China Southern offers flights to Kathmandu for as little as $900 return, with just a short 3 hour stopover in China.
See: Bodhnath Stupa is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the world for Tibetan Buddhists and Nepalis, it definitely is well worth a visit. Perched atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley is the ancient religious complex of Swayambhunath - also known as the Monkey Temple – great for sunset. Then there’s Kopan Monastery, a spiritual oasis that offers various meditation and yoga courses.
Eat: No trip to Kathmandu would be complete without eating momo’s, a steamed vegetable dumpling served with fresh tomato relish. For something a bit more sophisticated, head to La Dolce Vita in Thamel and sit on the rooftop garden terrace while sipping a Caffè freddo.
Images by Claire-Maree Charters