The Asia Series - Part One - Kathmandu, Nepal
"Travel is the discovery of truth; an affirmation of the promise that human kind is far more beautiful than it is flawed. With each trip comes a new optimism that where there is despair and hardship, there are ideas and people just waiting to be energized, to be empowered, to make a difference for good.”
― Dan Thompson
It is no secret that Nepal is one of my favourite countries to visit and is definitely my favourite in all of Asia. I first explored Kathmandu at the tender age of 18, where I volunteered at the most incredible children’s home in Talamarang, courtesy of “Team Nepal”, Neel Shahi and the amazing group that was Draoicht in NUIG. Most people went out in groups, but I was a lone wolf on this occasion due to the time of year I picked to travel. It was my first solo adventure and I am pretty sure I picked a wild one to start!
Jumping forward a few years and I travelled to Nepal twice more, on different expeditions, but always paying a visit to the childrens’ home I first visited. I travelled over with a bunch of friends as our starting point to the rest of Southeast Asia, and another with a friend post the earthquake in 2015. The April 2015 Nepal earthquake killed nearly 9,000 people and injured nearly 22,000, with a magnitude of 7.8Mw or 8.1Ms
I have so much admiration for the people of Nepal, and the tragic events the have had to overcome in the past years. From government turmoil to ongoing fuel crisis to the natural disaster of 2015 which devastated the entire country and to this day they are still recovering. In all of my travels across the world, I have never met a kinder, more open group of natives. The Nepali people welcome you with open arms and make you feel at home, no matter how far you are from your reality. It is the people that bring me back time and time again. They ground you, make you appreciate what you have and make you realise what you really don’t need. The Tim Mc Graw song echoes in my head, “Always be humble and Kind..” if ever there was a description for the Nepali people it is humility and kindness.
I could talk all day about Kathmandu and its surrounding townlands that you should visit and why, but in this part one of my Asia series I am just going to list my top eateries and stays in Thamel and my Top places to visit in Kathmandu city!
My Top places within walking distance of city centre
- Durbar Square – the traditional heart of the old town, Kathmandu Durbar Square in front of the old royal palace of the former Kathmandu Kingdom is one of three Durbar Squares in the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Although deeply affected by the earthquake, its historic remnants stand tall and strong amongst its own legacy.
-The Garden of Dreams, also, the Garden of Six Seasons, is a neo-classical garden in Kaiser Mahal Kathmandu, Nepal, built in 1920.It is the perfect place to go and get away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Its peaceful gardens and adorable café allows for a few hours of relaxation, to renew the soul.
-Boudhanath is a stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal. Located about 11 km from the center and north-eastern outskirts of Kathmandu, the stupa's massive mandala makes it one of the largest spherical stupas in Nepal. Although the top the stupa was damaged by the earthquake it still stands beautiful and its surrounding rooftop cafes provide you with the perfect midmorning relaxation point.
- The Pashupatinath Temple is a famous and sacred Hindu temple complex that is located on the banks of the Bagmati River, approximately 5 kilometres north-east of Kathmandu in the eastern part of Kathmandu Valley. A nice leisurely walk from “town” /short taxi journey away. It holds the ancient burial ceremonies of the local people and really immerses you into the traditions of the lands. Be prepared to witness an actual funeral service which may include the public ceremonial burning.
-Swayambhu is an ancient religious architecture atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley, west of Kathmandu city. The Tibetan name for the site means 'Sublime Trees', for the many varieties of trees found on the hill. A little tip for visiting this beautiful temple, - don’t leave anything down. Monkeys like shiny things, and this is known as the “monkey temple”.
Restaurants – If like most people travelling to Nepal volunteering, you have endured many meals of delicious Daal Bhaat, then check out my favourite restaurants! Although personally, I think the street cuisines and smaller deli’s are always a win, especially if you are on a budget!
Or2K- Mandala Street, Kathmandu 44600,
KTM steakhouse - Chaksibari Marg, Thamel, Kathmandu 44600, Nepal
Gyoung Bok Gung
Himalayan Yak Rastaurant
Top price but right in the centre - The Dalai La Boutique Hotel, 3 star luxury, hot water and fantastic food and entertainment on Thamel’s doorstep. A definite recommend.
Moderate price – Kathmandu Guest House. Historic and well known amongst tourists. Maybe I was unlucky, but I had a family of monkeys outside my window.. a window that did not close. I love animals… but those tiny little hands appearing through the mesh would freak anyone out after a night on the town!
Budget price Hotel Friends Home/Friends Hostel – for a very budget but memorable experience. Perfect for large group just looking to bed down for the night!
Random Kathmandu Tips
– The laundry service is in abundance in Thamel and surrounding areas and definitely worth using. Save on carrying excessive clothing and you can cheaply get everything fresh and folded ready for your next adventure!
-If you are a volunteer, - get a volunteer card directly from your organisation, they work like student cards and will allow you access to some discounts on larger tourist attractions.
-Drink bottled water
-Most reputable hotels will store your luggage/equipment at a small fee if you are going trekking/further into the countryside. Try to use a larger chain hotel to ensure safety, but then again, you can never really be sure!
-Depending on what time of year you travel, be prepared! I have never really known what the word “Monsoon” meant, until I went to Nepal. Flipflops are a must! Easier dry your feet than shoes while travelling.
-Garlic! – When I first travelled to Nepal, it was during Monsoon season and I was very rural. I got attacked with bed bugs, flying bugs, bugs bugs bugs. My legs looked like I had permanent chicken pox and I couldn’t wear a dress for 6 months! I then researched some travel blogs and found the solution. I wish I could remember where I first saw it to thank that person, but I discovered that taking garlic capsules (Holland & Barrett- very reasonable) for about a moth prior to my travels, and then at least one or two a day while I was there, prevented the little bug sucking vampire like bugs from biting me ! I was so surprised! They also have a very good effect on cardiovascular system so it’s a win from me! Make sure you get the odourless ones though…..oh no kissing for you!
-Be Polite! No matter where you hail from, nobody is as polite as the Nepali people, - respect their tradition, and respect their culture. Remove your shoes when entering a house or shop and be mindful of religious artefacts especially around holy season.
-Beware the cows! – They are everywhere, but they are sacred creatures, - not for selfies.
-Be wary of opportunistic robbers, they come in the form of cute “homeless” children the majority of the time. Never put your hand on your purse. – But this goes for everywhere in the world!
-Ladies, - do not be out too late at night. Most reputable touristy bars close at a decent hour and you should take that as a hint to return to your hotel. The police do enforce the law and do patrol the streets. That would take banged up abroad to a whoooooooooole other level.
-Know where your embassy is. They are quite obvious due to the amount of travels partaking in hiking and trekking.
-Buy local, - but shop around, and do not be afraid to bargain.
-Share a taxi! The fuel crisis is still ongoing!
Learn some Nepali, it will go a long way!
Stay tuned for Part Two!