The Capital, The first settlement of Nepal, Kathmandu is famous for harmonious Hindu and Buddhist religions with temples and shrines found all over the city, Temples galore, but so beautiful, intricate and mesmerizing to see the difference in shapes, sizes, people and the traditions of each one.
I am going to tell you about the time I had here, and how I used it extremely wisely
I arrived in Kathmandu from England it was my first country on the 8 month trip, I arrived the end of September which is normally the end of the monsoon season (this year it was running late), but be prepared for humid weather, and some clouds. I was in Nepal for 10 days, and paid for the Visa when I arrived (30 dollars for 15 days)
I stayed in Hotel Buddha for £35, I chose a hotel due to location in Thamel and also convenience due to the metro system 3 minute walk from it. I relaxed in the room for the evening, really comfortable and amazing food room service!
First Day – 8 am
I was picked up by a taxi driver with a private guide that my Hotel had organized for me, because I didn’t have a lot of time I wanted to make the most of what I did have in this busy city. The Private guided tour cost me 80 dollars, but this was for an 8 hour full day with 3 destinations and hotel pick up/ drop off. I also had requested someone who new the history and information on each place because for me I want to understand the places I am seeing and the meaning behind the certain things, I also wanted to experience Kathmandu from a true local, as I was travelling solo it also gave me a peace of mind tat I wouldn’t be bothered.
First Day – 9am – Bhatsspur
We arrived in Bhatsapur after being picked up at 8am… Its around 40 – 50 minutes to get there from central Kathmandu due to traffic and where it is. You can go in 4 different gates to the old town, and pay 1500 rupees (10 pounds). We went to the 3 different key areas, firstly Datatyra temple, walking through there was gongs being hit, stalls being set up, people sitting on the quaint little Partee areas (covered platforms for the community to congregate ). secondly the central Taumadi square, the life and sole of this town with show stopping beautiful Natapola Temple, 30 metres tall, with 30 metres also below the ground for the foundation. A temple for Shiva is found on one side of the square, with candles, bells, offerings. Cafes with roof terraces around the square for a light lunch or drink.
The last stop was the Bhatsapur Durbar square (the royal square), with the Palace and a beautiful golden gate into the courtyards and inner rooms. With several different temples, some of the main ones being ruined by the 2015 earthquake which caused mass destruction and casualties to this part of Nepal as well as throughout the country. I explored the Royal Palace, with its Well and Bath , finally the golden gate, which has goddesses, gods and guardians around the door way.
Walking through the very busy pottery square also was a great experience, with options for souvenirs and to even have a go at the pottery shaping yourself for a small price. The entire town is built from the clay and brick with the terracotta orange tones running through the buildings and roads. You can really see why this is a World Heritage Site.
The people here live simple lives, happy lives, Nepalise people are so happy all the time, they are known for their positive attitudes, even when the earthquakes hit in 2015. They saw the positive side and got on with their lives, you could really learn something them. I could of walked round this working and wonderful town for hours more, but more wandering to come.
First Day – 12.30pm
We arrived in Patan, which is between Bhaktapur and Kathmandu Durbar Square. The fee to get into this old town is 1000 rupees (7 pounds). Patan is one of the other original districts of Nepal. With the grand palace which houses beautiful courtyards which the royal family used to wander through. With the Tusa Hiti Well which would be used by the King and Queen every day. It is decorated with snakes for protection, and 72 gods and goddesses are carved around the bath again to symbolise different values and for decoration showing how the royal family is sacred like the gods.
It has several different kinds of temples for different gods and goddesses, beautiful structures with some unfortunately having to be rebuilt due to the 2015 earthquake which effected many areas of Kathmandu. You can still see the people working on roofs, and some of the temples still being built up again.
First Day – 1.30pm
We also stopped at The MOMO café in Patan Square which has a 4th floor and 5th floor terrace overlooking the Patan Durban Square which is stunning with the Kathmandu houses and city behind it. It’s a great place to refresh, eat, and more importantly people watch for the next hour. I had the chicken and vegetable MOMO’s which were only (300 rupees/ 2 pounds) for both.
First day – 2.30pm
Set off for Basantpur Durbar Square, by now you may realise every traditional …..Dynasty village, city or town have one of these squares which was and still is a community meeting place of markets, temples, worship and social aspects. The entrance fee to the square is 1000 rupees for tourists and only 100 for locals. The travelling distance can be from 10 – 30 minutes depending on the city traffic from Patan. We walked later in the day from Thamel district which is north of it though and it takes about a 20 minute walk.
First Day – 3pm
Walking around the Basantpur Durban square, later in the day the crowds are normally not as hectic , but start to pick up again around 4ish. This square is very busy with it being the main shopping centre for locals around Kathmandu, but also the more tourist oriented location due to it being the main square in the old Kathmandu. There are Nepalise flags draped everywhere, this was the main location for the Royal Family Palace until 2008 when the family was overthrown by a democratic government. But the palace is beautifully preserved with monkeys running and playing along the roofs.
I found out the meaning behind the Nepalise flag, which is the only angled and triangular flags in the world. The 2 triangular shapes represent the north and south of the country as well as having moon shape and a sun shape within the centre of each. These represent the day and night, as well as representing the saying as long as the sun and moon rise and fall from the sky Nepal will stay. The White represents the national flower found throughout Nepal, redundendrums, The red strength of the people, and the blue border honesty and truth.
First Day – 4pm
It’s a controversial decision to be in the Basantpur Durbur Square at this time, but also a very unique reason too. There is a tradition and cultural myth that the Goddess Taleju is Reincarnated within a young child. The hindu religion knows of this myth and provides a time when families can send their daughters who are yet to become women to be tested by the Royal Priests to become a Kumari (the living goddess). Here she is tested in different ways to judge whether she has the characteristics of a goddess. Once one is picked, she will have several ceremonies to make her the living goddess, or in this case the Royal Kumari moving into the Durban Square house (Kumari Ghar), given education. However due to the popular stories and the tourism in Kathmandu, if you are lucky it has been known for her to come out each day at 4pm to greet people, receive offerings from Hindus , and give blessings to people who have come for luck. While taking into account this child will do this until she has her first period. I think its unusual, but unique to the Hindu culture. The child was beautifully decorated in traditional dress, with extravagant jewellery, accessories and even makeup fitting a Goddess. I was intrigued by what happens after this naïve child hits puberty and therefore Apparently it has become better in terms of education, healthcare, and financial benefits for her and the family. Once she has her duties taken away and back into society she has prospects and opportunities for a normal life.
First Day – 5pm
I was dropped off back to my Hotel after a fantastic day with my guide Raneesh whos contact details are on request if you so wish to have them. I couldn’t recommend him enough from the friendly conversations between destinations, the thorough history, facts and information I was given at each place. I s on my own in a chaotic city which is why I preferred to go with a guide and taxi. If you would like to travel by yourself and have more freedom with timings, there is options to have your own taxi, even catch a local bus but it may take 1 hour/ 2 hours sometimes for a normal 40 minute drive due to how bad the traffic gets.
I was asleep by 8pm, after a wander around the Thamel area, popular with hotels, restaurants and shops to prep you for the hiking options within the `
Second Day – 9am
Headed to the Sambhanath Stupa… Driving through the chaos of the Kathmandu streets, with cows, dogs, people, motorbikes and every other form of transport all trying to drive in one direction. Seeing the open stalls all the way down each side of the road, and horns loudly letting you know they are there. I was definitely far away from the concrete, marked out lines of a British highway, but it was exciting and so interesting to watch. What gets me are the fruit stalls, so many lined up along the same road selling the same things.
Second Day – 10am
The Sambhanath Stupa, with 2 options to arrive at the temple on the hill, either 587 steps to the main area, or a car journey and just 150 to the top we took the easy way out. On the way you will see temples and shrines as you go on either side of the steps, there is a wishing well where you can throw a coin and wish to Buddha if it goes into the pot by his feet. There a monkeys everywhere in the trees, on the pathways, the houses and the temples themselves, which gives this Stupa its nickname the Monkey Temple. In the mornings its busy, with local Nepalise Buddhist people arriving for morning offerings and prayers before starting their daily business, so a great time to see the culture and traditions of the people here.
There are flags everywhere, draped through the trees, the temple roofs, the Stupa itself, even on a rainy day there is so much colour going on, it makes you feel a sense of happiness. I walked round 3 times, (even numbers are unlucky), you are meant to rotate the prayer wheels which have prayers written all over them and begin to chant, So Buddha will hear you, to answer them.
Second Day – 11.30am
The Bouddhanath Shrine, the largest Stupa in Nepal at 30 ft tall, and a diameter of 24metres With thousands of prayer flags draped from every direction of this beautiful Buddhist site. Its lucky to walk round it once, 3 times or any uneven number of times. Don’t forget to roll the prayer clocks, and also visit the beautifully hand painted Tibettan Buddhest Monastry, which also gives you an amazing view of the Stupa in all its glory through the large balcony.
There are restaurants, shops, Mandala painting stores circling around the structure, which brings the simple white structure as the focal point in this colourful area. Not forgetting the flags which are draped from each corner of the foundation of the Stupa, which are frantically waving in the wind, which is a sign of prayers being answered and wishes being for filled. We visited the many restaurants around the Stupa, the one we chose was Boudha Stupa Cafe, which served amazing drinks, and delicous MOMO’s with a view of the Stupa to take it all in . I was interested in what is beneath the Stupa, apparently relics, martars, antique buddhist statues, offerings and books are stored but also built within the Stupa no one can enter due to know doors. 13 steps represent the processed to enlightenment on the side of the Stupa, and the all seeing eyes of Buddha give it an almost cartoon feel to it.
Second Day – 1am
The last stop on my already amazing day, was Pashupatinath Temple, famous for the holy men who are highly decorated in the Ashes, Jewellery and Clothing Of Shiva the god of destruction. The temple has a golden roof, and can only be entered by Hindu’s, but other than that tourists are free to walk around all of the areas of this large temple complex
The temple is built on the edge of the river Bagmati, Hindus see the water as sacred, and therefore Hindu temples are normally found close to one. A lot of the ceremonies which take place are normally on the waters edge. One of these ceremonies are funerals, Hindus cremate their dead, and normally do this within 24 hours. It’s a special experience to witness, a normally very private affair has been done publicly like this for centuries in their religion and within this Temple. Colourful clothes wrap the bodies, family and friends decorate the body with flowers, scents, prayers are said, singing sang, and finally the body is burnt with fire on the specially constructed platforms for people to use. After, the river becomes the final resting place for the ashes, and so they are taken into the world as fire, earth, air , sky and finally back into the earth.
As well as this the Holy Men who devote their lives to wandering the world to spread the message of Hindu. Unfortunately due to tourism they ask for money if any photos are taken and some even ask if you want to give them money for a photo? But anyways seeing their way of life and the way they try to emulate God Shive is fascinating with the ashey skin, bare feet, accessories, and simple life.
Overall this was favourite temple to visit, the cremations we saw really did shock and move me, but at the same time after leaving it gave me a sense of understanding the culture and religion here being so special.
Second Day – 2.30pm
We walked to Freak Street, with its hippie vibes, and a song my Cam Stevens named Kathmandu after the area. It’s a must do for anyone wanting some food, and to encounter the real Nepalise way of life. I walked through the chaotic, busy, loud and downright mental shopping streets, where there was Sales galore, We ended up at Funky House, which served traditional food, with a first floor table which looks out onto the small local streets galore to properly people watch. It was a great place to relax after needing to swerve motorbikes, dodge the locals, and nearly trip over stray dogs for the hour to get to it. But in all, the area is full of fresh fruit, bikes, street food stalls and so much colour! Good luck, you will need food and drinks, and some money to buy all the sparkly things you will want to buy. The artwork Mandala and the colourful embroidered shoes are what my eyes kept wandering too.
Second Day – 6pm
Cooking class – had to be done after all the MO MO’s and Currys I have been having while in Nepal, You learn how to make the MOMO’s and really see what it takes to get the great spice tastes into the curries.
A few things I didn’t get to do were;
Hope this has helped do and enjoy! Namaste!