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Busy and dusty Kathmandu will be overwhelming at first, until you realise there is method to the madness. Here are six suggestions for you to explore in this swirling , exuberant city. Advice on haggling and alcohol included. Shoes optional.
1. Visit Swayambhunath, the monkey temple
Swayambhunath Stupa, also known as Kathmandus monkey temple, sits atop a hill in the Kathmandu valley. It’s a short walk from Thamel district, plus approximately 400 steps upwards. From the top of the hill you can see Kathmandu City flowering out of the million year old lakebed. The Tibetan name for the site means ‘Sublime Trees’. I wondered how the monkeys came to make the temple their home, but it turns out that they are the original inhabitants of the hill. In the past when covered in dense forest, the hill was home to many animals. Now the monkeys remain, claiming the Stupa as their refugee inside the city. Locals pay little attention to them, except the fruit sellers who have to be on high alert.
2. explore thamel district
Shop around. Every price you get given has been inflated 100%. Start haggling by offering half the price you have been given. I wish I had brought one of the hand painted mandalas on fabric. When you are shopping look for handmade items in natural fabrics. Finding all the fake hiking gear is pretty fun too. It will get you through a hike, but don’t expect too much from your north face knock off, and obviously never buy something you are going to trust your life to.
3. spot the street art
One of my favourite things to do in cities is look at street art. There are some great murals to be found on the side streets of Thamel and Paknajol. I love street art because it represents a voice which is immediate, local, and not often acknowledged.
There is also more than one climbing gym in Kathmandu! The Kathmandu Sports Climbing Centre has an awesome set up, and a neat upstairs area to have a coffee and watch the climbers.
4. search out momo behind the curtains
Behind the blue, yellow or pink curtains on most streets you will wander are Kathmandu’s answer to the family pub. Tiny spaces, holding a couple of tables, a counter, and a Nepali family plus their neighbours. There is no menu. You can order momo, mostly. To go with it, ask for a glass of local wine; Raksi. Raksi is a distilled alcohol. It is too strong for me unless mixed with fruit juice, if you’re having it straight the clearer the alcohol the better. It will put some hair on your chest for sure and is far cheaper than beer, which is roughly western priced.
5. Discover the garden of dreams
This inner city garden is a welcome bit of green. Calm and beautifully laid out, it is worth a visit, and a beautiful place to do some writing and dreaming.
6. Dance the night away
We wondered if there was a nightlife in Kathmandu. Our new friend Daniel didn’t enjoy wearing shoes, and Jordan had taken his lead, so we were unsuprisingly turned away from the first couple of clubs. Then we saw a flood of young Nepali climbing the stairs to a tall corner building. Daniel and Jordan managed to escaped barefoot detection, and we slipped in with everyone else to a pretty dope club. There were heaps of young Nepali busting down to 2009 pop remixes. Obviously this is the best era of pop ever and I was giddy with joy to be dancing to Gwen Stefani in my Tevas. The boys sat on a pleather couch with some business-y looking suits for a bit, I met a sexy chick snapping gum who seemed very sophisticated, and as far as I could tell we were the only westerners in the bar. We left at 2am to find some street snacks.
In conclusion; Kathmandu has a POPPIN nightlife, shoes optional.
We explored more than just Kathmandu! Jordan and I spent three weeks hiking in the Annapurna region of Nepal, we visited the Pokara lakeside, and the hill station Tansen.
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