Tuesday, July 15, 2014
48 HOURS IN KATHMANDU
The capital of Nepal in the heart of a mountainous and snow-capped country, famed for its ancestry, magic and mysticism.
Weaving down the road between speeding cars and beeping motorbikes as you squeeze through the narrow streets, you will be greeted by keen street hawkers and the humming throng of people on every nook and corner, while your senses go into overdrive and the dust gathers pace around you… don’t be too quick to give up on Kathmandu – you will grow into this magical mayhem as you spend a few days uncovering the city’s charms. There’s more to it than meets the intimidated eye, and a whole adventure awaits you beyond the backpacking area of Thamel.
7: 30 AM: BREAKFAST AT THE COFFEE SHOP
You will need a hearty breakfast before you start your day for sure. Tucked away outside the touristy track, this delectable coffee shop at Hotel Annapurna is none too traditional in its décor and has a very upbeat contemporary feel to it. The place aims to attract the well-travelled and those looking for variety, set in elegantly cosy surroundings; it offers tasty treats with distinction. Eggs remain breakfast mainstays; a cappuccino bar churns out special coffee. You can even ask for a special Nepali breakfast if you wish to go a la carte.
8:45 AM: SWAYAMBHU MAHA CHAITYA
Arriving at the temple I saw quite a few monkeys playing around, souvenir vendors, snack wagons, and wide stairs (read 367 steps) that went straight up seemingly to heaven. As you climb the guide explains that this monastery is about 2,500 years old. One does get breathless on the way, but you can stop for a refreshment or rest. When you reach the top you are rewarded with stunning bird’s eye view of Kathmandu below and a whole village of old buildings, temples, holy stupas, and souvenir shops at the top. Housing Buddhist and Hindu relics, typically the ashes of deceased, this temple is used as a place of meditation. Souvenir vendors have stalls side by side all around the village. A lot of them have the usual tourist items, but several had things I actually considered purchasing like the prayer wheels and well-done acrylic paintings of the Himalayas. I explored around the whole monastery taking in the wafts of incense, hypnotic chants of prayers and surreal sounds of ringing bells for about an hour before heading back down. A good is to stop over for some tea and momo’s before you head to the next stop.
11: 30 AM: HANUMAN DHOKA DURBAR SQUARE
This holds the structure that gave the city its name; Durbar Square, has been alive and in use by locals for over a thousand years. Entering the square, right in front is a huge pagoda style temple sitting on top of a series of large stone steps. All around the temple people sit on these steps watching the fruit sellers, singers, touts and tourists going about their business. Given the number of tourists in the square it comes as no surprise that there were people trying to sell little trinkets everywhere. You can also witness a living goddess here who is a pre-pubescent girl considered to be the earthly manifestation of divine female energy, and an incarnation of the goddess known as Taleju, the Nepalese name for Durga. There are specific timings she comes out, so make sure you visit the square around that time. The kneeling figure of Hanuman, sits on a tall stone pedestal. To the right is the golden main door of the HD Palace, guarded by a pair of stone lions. This museum is worth exploring, unfortunately, no photos are allowed while inside.
6:00 PM: THAMEL
Thamel has been referred to as the ‘ghetto’ by some; that said most low-budget travellers consider it a tourist haven. The narrow streets are choked with rickshaws, taxis, motorbikes and humanity. All the shopping alleys with countless shops selling the famous local Pashmina, Yak, Jacquard and Cashmere shawls, are interlinked and I could never guess what is coming out at the next turn. Little temples and stupas are well hidden too at the back streets. It is more of a backpacker area wall to wall with cafes, restaurants, pubs, travel agents, foreign money exchange booths and budget hotels with tons of camping and mountaineering gear shops including pirated North Face products. A good idea is to end your day with a local meal at one of the cafes out here.
9: 00 AM: BOUDHANATH STUPA
As I stepped in, I saw throngs of pilgrims walking around the stupa in a clockwise direction. Apart from its sheer size and magnificence, this vast stupa is the epicentre of so much devotion - one can't help but be overwhelmed by it I too got swept up with the crowds and joined them in this religious procession of some sort. Some locals come here to hang out as well. I settled for Breakfast at the Roadhouse Cafe and enjoyed the Stupa from a higher vantage point.
11: 30 AM: BHAKTAPUR
The town itself is an old imperial city full of interesting sights, and Durbar Square is situated just outside the town (Nepal has 3 Durbar Squares, the other two being in Kathmandu and Patan). Many buildings out here date from the 12-15th century. Carved wood lattices and struts under the roofs are very intricate. One can get into the royal palace, through an ornate golden gate, which houses beautiful wood windows. The big royal bath in the back, where two cobra shaped statues stand is stunning. A Hindu temple inside the palace which is gorgeous is only open to Hindus. Back at the square, you can walk around and look at more temples and even shop for curios.
1: 30 PM: LUNCH AT ARNIKO
Dining at the Annapurna Hotel’s Chinese restaurant is a wonderful, wholistic experience not to be missed. First the Chinese, soup lovers, don’t miss the Traditional hot and sour chicken soup with bamboo shoots, a wholesome and tangy delight. The Cigar roll with a yak cheese filling and the Dim Sums here are a must try, they are a good representation of the quality that the kitchen upkeeps and you would love the Nepalese twist in the taste. Other recommendations including ‘Stir –fry greens’, ‘spicy pork’, ‘crispy duck with orange sauce’ etc. For a typical Oriental refreshing sweet ending go for the ‘Date rolls with ice-cream’, decadent to the core!
3:00 PM: SHOPPING ON DURBAR MARG
Just outside Hotel Annapurna is Kathmandu’s High street, aka Durbar Marg. Combining glamour with style and elegance, the place practically dignifies an entire world of high fashion. If you have the money and you don’t mind spending, this area is for you. From Zara to some spectacular local collection, this street features the extreme definition of haute couture.
4:30 PM: PATAN
Situated on a plateau across the Bagmati River Patan is eight kilometres south of Central Kathmandu, it is also known as Lalitpur aka the city of fine arts. Designated UNESCO World Heritage Site it is indeed rich in very old temples, shrines, pagodas and stupas. It is perhaps the most picturesque collection of buildings that have been set up in such a small area. This lovely little city with its well preserved glorious heritage and the history of finest craftsmanship is a must visit.
8: 00 PM: GO LOCAL AT BHUMI
If you want to experience tranquillity, relaxation and consume local delights amidst a quaint courtyard ‘Bhumi’ is the place to have your last meal in the city! The Nepali gastronomy is characterized by its variety; as a cuisine Newari which is on offer here is designed to be shared and therefore, is very much conducive with family style service. With lungs, bone marrow as well as great sekuwa, and chwoela on offer, Bhumi goes the whole buff. The momo’s are snack size, and the presentation is great. Do try ‘Kathmandu blues’, their signature drink and yes for the less carnivorous, there is plenty on offer too like the Bara and Chatamari.
· The discovery of a life size statue of King Java Verma in 1992 at the Maligaon in Kathmandu, with an inscription dated 185, is the earliest recorded evidence about Nepal’s history.
· Nepal’s population represents more than a hundred ethnic groups. Each Nepalese ethnic group carries its own identity and cultural heritage.
· Hinduism is the main religion of Nepalese people. The trinity of Hinduism- Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva- and the pantheon of numerous other gods and goddesses are devotedly worshipped in Nepal.
· To the Hindus, the most famous and venerated is the temple of Lord Pashupatinath, situated on the banks of the Bagmati.
· The Kathmandu Valley is a treasure trove of Nepalese culture, and an important side of that culture is its architectural heritage.
· The Durbar Square of Kathmandu is located in the old city and has heritage buildings representing four kingdoms (Kantipur, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, and Kirtipur), built over centuries, the earliest being the Licchavi dynasty.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
You can visit the Nepal Tourism Board which helps plan itineraries for the travellers at no cost.
P.O. Box: 11018, Bhrikutimandap
Tel: +977 -4256909
MUST SEE/MUST DO
A meal at Hotel Annapurna on Durbar Marg
Chill out at Garden of Dreams
Visit the Casino Royale
Private day hiking
Eat Thakali cuisine
Try the local momo’s
Eat Newari Cuisine
Pokhara is the country’s second city and is about a 25 minute flight or a 4 and a half hours drive from Kathmandu nestled amidst natural beauty. You can either just chill out there by staying at The Fish Tail lodge the best resort in the city where on a clear day you can get a good view of the towering Himalayan ranges or use it as a base to the incredible trekking routes in the central Annapurna region of the country.
SPICEJET FLIES TO KATHMANDU FROM VARIOUS PORTS IN INDIA
published in spiceroute