KATHMANDU – THE GATEWAY TO NEPAL

Stepped in more than 2000 years of history, Nepal’s capital is a colourful albeit chaotic melting pot of Asian cultures and traditions. It contains two fabled cities – Kathmandu itself and Patan City separated by the holy but extremely polluted Bagmati River.


The first impressions are much less spectacular than expected. The city is compact and surrounded by distant hills with a mish mash of buildings in different state of disrepair and overflowing with traffic.

The sweet incense mixes with more unpleasant dump smells and the incessant noise of honking cars, taxis and motorbikes is disorientating.

There are plenty of cars but they’re even outnumbered by human traffic. Many people carry enormous loads on their backs. They carry almost anything so seeing a small lean man under a massive fridge seems almost normal.

Masses of people push their way along the cobbled, narrow alleyways, with hooting taxis and rickshaws trying to overtake them.

Amongst the crowds are men in police uniforms doing nothing but standing and pointing. Not surprisingly, everyone ignores them and charges forward. It’s quite remarkable that despite chaotic scenes there are hardly any road accidents. I think it’s all to do with a chilled-out attitude of Nepalese drivers.

Kathmandu is also a dog and cow-friendly city with huge numbers of them wandering freely and feeding off the steaming piles of rubbish. In all this chaos and amongst countless rows of shops lining the streets offering their wares you can suddenly encounter mesmerising sights of beautifully carved temples and monuments. And this is exactly what gives Kathmandu its sense of mystery. You never quite know what can be found round the corner.

Most tourists end up in Thamel, a tourist-friendly area full of cheap guest houses, a myriad of shops and restaurants for all budgets. With its warren of winding lanes it’s easy to explore on foot, shop around or tuck into traditional Nepalese dishes such as dhal and curry, momos or a noodle soup. But remember to carry a torch at night as the electricity supply is rather haphazard.

The best place to start exploring is the iconic Durbar Square in central Kathmandu famous for its numerous palaces, courtyards and pagodas.

The variety of these intricate temples is astonishing and it’s easy to spend the whole afternoon there admiring the sights and,at the same time, dodging Sadhus- holy men very much intent on parting you from your rupees.

Just to confuse you Kathmandu boasts another Durbar Square just south of the Bagmati River in Patan City.

It is a more intimate place with an enchanting complex of palaces and temples.

Apart from Hindu temples there are amazing Buddhist stupas such as the Boudhanath Stupa.

It is one of the most important stupas in Asia and 40 metres tall one of the biggest as well.The all-seeing red, white and blue eyes of Buddha are painted on all four sites and surrounded by hundreds of fluttering prayer flags, prayer wheels and images of Buddha.

It’s surrounded by numerous restaurants and what’s better than admiring the views from their roof terraces with the Everest beer in your hand.

However, my favourite Buddhist temple is called Swayambhu Temple ( Monkey Temple) which crowns a hill overlooking the Kathmandu valley.

I particularly enjoyed observing red-clothed Buddhist monks spinning hundreds of prayer wheels and herds of cheeky Rhesus monkeys running around us in noisy groups. Just do not offer them any snacks or you will be left with a nasty bite. The site offers a fantastic view over the city and you can watch endless stream of pilgrims ascending stone steps up the steep hill.

Kathmandu truly throws everything together – the good, the bad and the ugly.

It will leave you both exhausted and exhilarated.

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