I was wrong about 3 things.
- That Kathmandu was a hilly city on the mountains. It’s in a valley. Kathmandu Valley. Mostly flat, surrounded by snowy mountain peaks.
- That Nepal and India were the same-same. A bit like saying an Indo descent from Trinidad is the same as an Indian from the motherland. Of course, it’s not the same thing. They don’t do baigan surwa in India! Nepalis and Indians are two different lots.
- That to keep away from Thamel. The word on the traveller circuit is to stay very away from that place.
A small area in Kathmandu; tangle of streets, inner lanes and alleys packed with hostels, hippie shops, restaurants, cafes and overstocked stores selling fake Northface jackets. An area with whiffs of incense and weed floating in the air. Agreed it’s not a real reflection of Nepal but it would be like telling a tourist in Fiji to keep away from Denarau because it’s not the real Fiji. Sure it’s not but what would a tourist do in Navu anyway. Hell the people in Navu don’t want a tourist peeking onto their verandas on a hot Monday evening!
So not heeding to the naysayers and stepping aside from the whole traveller/tourist politics, I stayed in Thamel. And I loved it. Actually I love places with nostalgic remnants of the authentic hippie days. Sometimes I do wish I was born in the 70’s with flowers in my hair….
Kathmandu (KTM) is the gateway to Himalayas treks and while many step on and away thinking it just might be a metropolitan city – to the Hindu pilgrims, it’s a very important destination.
The centuries old Pashupathinath (Shiva) temple still sits on the banks of the Bagmati river today where millions of people make the pilgrimage every year.
Behind Pashupatinath, is Kathmandu’s Crematorium or the Burning Ghats. Last year, I wrote a totally unrelated blog post where I embedded a photo of this very burning ghat just to emphasis on the magnitude of the phase I was rambling on about then. Never for one second did I ever think I was going to be standing in that very place 6 months later on the other side of the world. Paulo Coelho wrote in one of his books, that sometimes what you seek, starts running towards you long before you can even think about it.
And sitting on the cold steps overlooking some high profile person’s funeral rites, I bowed down my head in gratitude for this trip.
While majority of the population follow Hinduism, Nepal is also home to many Buddhists. Temples like this giant stupa, Boudhanath is one of the largest in the country.
Parliament, administrative houses and corporate head offices make KTM the only metropolitan town there is in Nepal so it can be look very modern with 3 lanes and street lights but venture in and Durbar Square entry to the once King’s palace is still stands as a protected UNESCO heritage site.
There are plenty of other places to visit in KTM but when you wake up to the rains 5 out of the 7 days you spend in Kathmandu, there is no better place to be than Thamel. Accommodation here is hit and miss. I booked into a place that was ranked in the top 10 on Tripadvisor and got the filthiest room ever.
Endured it for 3 days then went looking for another one and found a wonderful corner place with it’s own balcony, cheaper and it wasn’t even ranked anywhere close to the top 100! After all this time on the road, I have discovered that where you stay makes the most impact on your travels to a place.
So things to do while waiting on the rains to clear in Kathmandu
Find a Cosy Coffee Corner
If you look hard enough and you could be sipping some very good brews in Nepal. Team it with a good book that you scored on an Indian train and you’re good for half a day
Tuck into the Amazing Nepali Food
While you can eat momos anytime of the day, tucking into deep fried chicken Nepali dumplings and sipping hot masala tea on a cold afternoon looking at the rains with a live band in the background is pretty good stuff. Now every time I will hear ‘Have you ever seen the rain’, I’d be automatically transported in milky swirls to a roadside café in Kathmandu one rainy day…
Yoga with Tibetan Singing Bowls
Look, don’t laugh but I’m into my chakras and all. And teaming a chakra balance with Tibetan singing bowls and your weekly yoga session is like getting free cherries with crushed nuts and hot chocolate fudge sundae! The beautiful crowd from Sydney’s Kundalini Sounds also have a setup in Kathmandu and the price is like 1/8 of what I would have had to pay in Sydney – so all for the win!
The rains were a perfect order to put up my travel weary feet, indulge in some comfort food and sleep in.