Why are the doors so small? Did those houses used to be temples? Curious yet fascinated, I felt like a complete stranger to this city. I was in the unfamiliar. I was in Kathmandu.
This city is unlike the industrialized Singapore that Jon and I had just come from. The houses seemed to be ages old, the traffic didn’t seem to get any better and the crowd didn’t seem to stop moving around. There was so much disarray it’s easy to get distracted with every head turn. It’s also very easy to get lost!
We had a quick look for a couple of days around Kathmandu before our Ghorepani-Poonhill-Ghandruk trek. Here are some interesting places to check if you’re in the capital city:
Thamel, the Backpacking Area
We stayed a couple of nights at a guesthouse located in the backpacking area, Thamel. I didn’t know they had this kind of area like other cities in South East Asia so I was quite surprised and somehow, relieved to find some place close to the familiar. It’s always good to find these places where most travellers base themselves as it was easy to find almost anything one will need here.
Souvenir shops were located one after the other. I could have added an extra few kilos to our luggage with the range of trekking stuff, winter clothes, scarves, tea and spices from the shops here. Too bad we have limited space in our backpacks! I really wanted to bring back more of the Masala tea – which was really good! Leave some space for it when you travel here.
There was also a good variety of food in this part of the city. The Indian and Nepalese cuisine from Mitho Restaurant were the best we’ve tried during our stay. The malai chicken kebab and butter chicken are well recommended! Don’t forget to order the local tea with almost every meal like we did!
Don’t be surprised when the water gets cold in the shower, or the lights suddenly turn off – power cuts were quite common when we were there. I am not sure about the timing though, so best to stay at a place with a generator I guess.
Hanuman-Dhoka Durbar (Kathmandu Durbar Square)
The durbar squares are the main religious and cultural attractions in Kathmandu. Since we didn’t really have a lot of time, Jon and I only managed to go to one of the three heritage sites.
A few minutes-walk towards the South from Thamel, is the Hanuman-Dhoka Durbar. Also known as Kathmandu Durbar Square, the complex is the home to beautiful temples, palaces and shrines. We spent around an hour walking around the Hindu and Buddhist temples from different generations that brought the past back to life. One of the most interesting structures is the nine-storey residence, Basantapur Durbar, which offers a gorgeous view of the whole durbar square and the most of the city.
We paid 1,500 NPR each to enter the durbar square. It is possible to get an extended pass by going to the site office in the same area, just make sure you have a passport size photo with you.
Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple)
The term “monkey temple” was enough reason to check this place located at the west side of Kathmandu (just left of Thamel). I thought Jon was kidding when he said we’d see monkeys, since I thought the temple was dedicated to a creature. Yet just after stepping out of the taxi, several monkeys were already in sight. It was really amazing to see so many of them!
The Monkey Temple sits on top of a hill, visible from most of Kathmandu. To reach the temple complex, we had to go up 365 steps of stairs! The place consists of a stupa, a variety of shrines and temples. There were also a good number of souvenir shops and roof top cafés. It was a relaxing escape from the busy streets of the city. Check out the full post from Jonistravelling on the monkey temple here.
Apart from the monkeys and prayer flags, the “Buddha eyes” symbol was the most prominent figure in this area. The largest of which is painted unto the white stupa located at the centre of the whole complex. It was truly mesmerizing.
The Monkey Temple is easy to find and can be reached by taxi or foot from Thamel. The entry fee is 200 NPR, used for the conservation of the site.
Have you been to Kathmandu? What did you think of the place? Let us know!