A Journey Through the Streets of Nepal
By Rama Darwish
If you are like myself with a natural tick, an itch, a need to get that fix, traveling from somewhere to anywhere new at least 2 to 3 times is a must! So cities began popping up here and there but organically we landed in the arms of Kathmandu followed by our next stop Lhasa. This is not a diary about hiking or trekking but a discovering the cities and culture journey. Our first stop is Nepal followed by Tibet.
First Stop: destination Kathmandu, Nepal:
For our first stop my travel partner & myself agreed on a 3 day visit in Kathmandu which was absolutely sufficient especially when you aim to hit the City not a hiking or trekking journey which might need more time. Trip launched in the early month of June whereby we got struck by the magic wand of luck as we dodged the excessive monsoon rains that hit by night followed by the bright rays of light that shone bright by day! If you live in the UAE and wish to stay on a budget book via FlyDubai or AirArabia they have direct flights to Kathmandu a mere 4 hour flight which is great! For most VISA is not an issue you can obtain upon arrival or no need for one at all (needless to say please do check prior).
Pick a place in which most recommendations fall in Thamel street since it’s within the popular downtown district but then again you can go slightly further out for a more quieter venue as we did. If you are a fan as we are of boutique hotels Shambaling Boutique Hotel was our pick the price is relatively decent, clean and the staff are incredibly kind and attentive!
Travel light as a feather, believe you me you don’t need anything fancy, if you’re a fussy eater then get your energy bars/nuts/dried fruit what have you as the climate is hot and humid so energy boosters are a must along with buckets of water NOW if your tummy runs as free as your spirit then definitely indulge in the local cuisine, my all-time favorite was the vegetarian platter which includes dhal, butter masala, veggies (with some red sauce), white rice and butter nan!
Kathmandu: the Himalayan kingdom makes a great weekend getaway. The Nepalese people are beautifully charming and solicitous; they are extremely helpful yes even the guy who picked my pocket was not without redeeming points. So don’t be timid allow yourself to be generous in every way possible, turn that frown upside down. Yes, again you will need to be alert and aware, haggle rates but a piece of advice take a second in your head and do the math you will realize once the currency conversion is made that it wasn’t even worth the hassle! Give back with an open heart as guaranteed they will smile back and be gracious for your ‘foolish’ generosity as many may say. In the chaotic streets of Thamel street (a must stop) you will be showered by an abundance of invites into little gem shops for some shopping don’t resist or hesitate; from pashmina’s, to accessories or local apparel definitely worth a look and a purchase if not yourself for your family and friends back home! For a quick day rest to post some Instagram pictures pop in any hole in the wall restaurant (go with your gut to sit or not to sit) for some good food or tea/milk too. Unlike the rest of the country where dahl bhat is the normal fare, the chefs of the capital – long inured to catering to western whims – so, if need be will whip up any dish you want.
Kathmandu the city itself is crammed with culture, adventure and amazing sites from it’s narrow streets that open out into large palace squares that still exude much of the feel and charm they had when they were first built. It couldn’t be more different from the UAE’s high-rise, high shine streets-capes. But with just a few days to explore the vibrant city, here were my five must-sees while in the Kathmandu Valley (one already listed above Thamel district).
Boudhanath Stupa It may be close to the centre of Kathmandu but life at Boudhanath Stupa runs at a calmer pace. As it’s the focal point for Buddhists in Nepal (core religion), you’ll see many monks going about their daily lives here but tourists are still welcomed into the monastery. The stupa itself is also open to tourists although you are advised to give a donation on entry or exit. The surrounding shop sell a variety of traditional Tibetan jewellery, as well as locally hand-made clothes and souvenirs – but things here are generally more expensive than in the main shopping district of Thamel.
Swayambhunath also known as Monkey Temple which is far more easy for us tourists, Swayambhunath is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, offering uninterrupted views over Kathmandu Valley from its hilltop position, again like I said EXPLORE don’t hold back don’t be intimidated by certain sounds and sights, if anything switch your senses and instead I promise all will sparkle around you!
If you’re a book worm like myself & need your dose of words then to disconnect head to the Garden of Dreams – set yourself in the grounds of a colonial-style residence it’s a rare patch of green in the middle of the city, for some reason the minute you step in all that polluted city noise are automatically parked right outside the doorsteps of this serene palace.
Pashupatinath is Nepal’s most important Hindu temple it has a distinctive gilded rooftop, intricately carved rafters featuring members of the Shiva’s family (Lord Shiva was one of the primary forms of God, one of the three most influential in contemporary Hinduism). However, tourists cannot enter the temple itself nonetheless a lot to see roaming the exterior and its surrounding buildings are definitely worth a look!
A heads up though for the faint hearted, in front of the temple it’s solely reserved for the open viewing of cremation ceremonies, and to add to that well basically there is a constant cremation in progress, followed by a ritual bathing in the river adjacent to log fire.
Only when lost one can discover the power of sight, from the streets of Nepal to the spiritual altitudes of Tibet