BY ALEX SAIFITI
Hear the word “Kathmandu” and you may instantly think of the camping store. However, Kathmandu also happens to be the capital city of Nepal – a city with no Kathmandu stores and the first point of call for many travellers exploring all that Nepal has to offer. Here are five highlights from Nepal’s capital city.
1) Garden of Dreams – A chance to get away from the hustle and bustle of surrounding streets. Although you can still hear the surrounding traffic, this place feels like a whole world away. Despite it being filled to the brim with young locals attempting to capture their next social media post, there is a calm and tranquil feeling to this small but well laid out courtyard garden.
2) The streets of Thamel – Known as the tourist area with hostels, hotels, restaurants and bars, these streets are often covered in beautiful prayer flags which liven up the dusty roads below. The narrow streets and hidden alleys will instantly remind you of a movie you have seen, or PlayStation game you have played, as though they are straight out of a movie set. The main tourist area, which is closed to vehicles, lights up at night into an entirely different atmosphere, one that is almost Disney-esque, enriched in vibrant colours and culture.
3) Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple) – There are a number of temples scattered throughout the city, but the most popular one with both locals and tourists is one that is known for its monkeys and beautiful views overlooking the city of Kathmandu. Insider tip; if you do not want to climb the significant number of stairs to get there (perhaps you have had enough of climbing), get your taxi driver to take you to the alternative entry which allows you to bypass the stairs and still appreciate the view.
4) Kathmandu Durbar Square – I was a little underwhelmed by Durbar square and all it had to offer. Affected significantly by the 2011 earthquakes, many buildings are under construction. The square is bursting with locals, passing through as well as enjoying the atmosphere that it offers. The experience walking here from Thamel is one filled with many interesting sights and sounds. No doubt, it will provide the opportunity to get lost – if you want to or not.
5) Traffic – The moment you exit airport customs and make your way to the pick-up zone, you will hear the sounds of vehicles of all different shapes and sizes. If you have the opportunity to arrive during peak hour, you will have the chance to watch your taxi driver put his skills into action and try not to get you killed on your way to your accommodation. One thing you will notice is the majority of pedestrians and motorbike riders wearing face protection. Because the majority of the city streets are unpaved, the rubble and dust from vehicles passing can linger in the air and cause respiratory and general pollutant issues. Thus, it is highly recommended to use a facemask, buff, or something similar to keep you protected. It also helps you to fit in a bit more with the locals. Although traffic may be something of a negative in places like Auckland, it is an entirely different experience in a vibrant and lively city like Kathmandu.
Alex is a young professional working weekdays and appreciating weekends. He has successfully survived university to progress his way into working life. He’s still asking the questions that hopefully matter and wondering if money is really the answer to his problems.