Nepal: Kathmandu - Thamel
Above image: The Monkey Temple
>>> The Monkey Temple
>>> Garden Of Dreams
>>> Boudhanath Stupa (Largest Stupa in the world)
>>> Climbing / Bouldering wall
>>> Hotel Bright Star - average £8 - £10 per night per double room
>>> OR2K (Israeli / vegan friendly) The Hummus is mega and a real nice chilled vibe.
>>> Western Tandoori (amazing naan bread made in front of you)
>>> Blueberry Kitchen & Coffee shop (decent eggs beni and good coffee)
>>> Chick & Falafel - ( Hole in the wall style - Massive portions and cheap good coffee to go!)
>>> Ear plugs are vital if you're a light sleeper
>>> Scarf / pashmina to wrap around face
>>> Hand sanitizer
>>> Baby Wipes / Wet wipes
>>> Comfortable trainers / converse
>>> Ladies - respect their culture - no vests, cleavage or legs out
Kathmandu...the air here is dusty and thick, the smell of incense is strong, the tooting horns are constant and then night falls and you hear delicate chimes of bells as people are praying and the dogs seem to be nocturnal and awaken at night.
Most travellers end up staying in the rough and ready bustling suburb of Thamel in Kathmandu. The streets are full with rushing people...locals going about their daily business in a hurry, trekkers trying to get a coffee in and a few final bits of kit, bikes and cars squeezing through the crowds adamant they will fit. You must keep your eyes open in these streets and move at the same pace as everyone else in order not to hold others up - Ducking in and out of shops every now and then for a 'breather' to take a look at all the yak wool scarves and handicrafts.
Transport is easy - you can either walk everywhere (if you have the time) as its not a massive city, and a great way to see parts you would not ordinarily see. Alternatively there are little hatch back cars that are 'taxis' that are obvious and not expensive. To get to other parts of Nepal there are 'Local Buses' 'Tourist Buses' or internal flights from Kathmandu Airport.
Thamel is like a smaller version of how I imagine a crazy - hectic Dehli, India.
Everyone wears dust masks or wraps pashminas around their mouths / noses in order to not breathe in all the dust and car fumes in this built up lively place. It does appear to western eyes as pretty dirty. The streets are dirty. Every glass and cup is dirty. The air is dirty. But you've just got to embrace the dirtiness and enjoy the place.
For those with delicate stomachs I would recommend eating vegetarian and avoiding ALL meat. The food hygiene rules aren't quite the same over there as they are in the western world, I had the wrath of this several times (only when eating meat). You will understand why when you see the monkeys running through the butchers shops.
Hand sanitizer is SO good to have here just to help you feel clean and to kill anything on your hands throughout the day. This is a very Hindu and buddhist community, so women should dress respectfully unless they want to be stared at all day. Everyday. I think in the month we were touring around Nepal we saw maybe 2 women who didn't adhere to this, and flipping heck did they get stared at! Not in a good way. Pack leggings, jeans or joggers / trekking trousers, short shorts aren't appropriate and neither are string vests showing shoulders and cleavage. Simply wear t-shirts or blouses.
To get a hot shower can be rare and only at certain times of day as a lot of the hotels work on solar panels. If they have a few really over cast days this makes hot water real limited! Hotel bright star had good hot water showers every time, which is part the reason I would recommend it, as it really does make a difference to your experience. Alternatively, baby wipes are a must if you aren't in the head space to face a cold shower.
Thamel is great for shopping. Souvenirs, climbing gear, knock off jackets and cute nepali memorabilia. Bartering is completely acceptable over there, even for a massage in a salon - so barter away!
We walked to Monkey temple (Swayambhunath Temple / Stupa) from Thamel - its a decent walk, but not strenuous in any way - just long but really interesting and enjoyable if you have the time. You walk through parts of Kathmandu I doubt you would see, seeing a lot of locals getting on with their days, out doing washing, kids going to and from school or local men having work tea breaks and business chats. Its all fascinating to see.
The Tibetan name for the site of the Temple means "Sublime Trees" as there is such a great variety of trees growing in and around it. When you get to the foot of the staircase to the temple, there is a lot of vendors trying to sell paintings of mandalas or bead bracelets etc. Walk all the way to the top to experience the views and soak in the atmosphere around the stupa and temple. There are monkeys all over the place, so just watch them and keep your bags zipped up as some of them have got brave and 'test the water!'
Its awesome seeing local men playing home made gambling games on the floor with bits of rock and the etchings carved into walls that must be hundreds if not thousands of years old.
The Garden Of Dreams is a beautiful, peaceful place to simply just sit in and 'be'. Take a book, or grab a spot of lunch at the cafe there and just soak in the history of the place and your surroundings. I'm pretty sure its the only place like it amongst the hectic-ness of the rest of Thamel.
Boudhanath Stupa is quite a pensive place to visit - seeing the dedication of the buddhist people worshipping. It is said to be the biggest stupa in the world and Buddists pilgrimage from all over the world to come here. Grab a coffee or lunch in one of the 3rd floor cafes and just watch as the people come to pray. When we were there we saw a elderly woman in her eighties chanting, doing what appeared to be press ups around the entire circumference of the stupa. Its amazing seeing how dedicated and faithful these people are at all ages.
The architecture in Bhaktapur is phenomenol - the details in the woodwork blows your mind. Sadly parts have been quite badly damaged from the earthquake in 2015 - but just walking around for a morning or afternoon to see the uniformity of the place is pretty beautiful and interesting. If you have a spare few hours, hitting the outdoor climbing / bouldering wall is fun to go and do for practice or just for some fun. It is cheap and the instructors are lovely.
Make the most of Thamel and Kathmandu whilst you're there - it is usually the transit town or "gateway to the himalaya" where you spend a few nights getting your bearings. There are great yoga studios you can go to, awesome little hidden cafes to sit, drink tea and read in and lots of hidden treasures with beautiful architecture. Stock up on your first aid kit here - the little garage style pharmacy has vast supplies and you can get pretty much any medication over the counter!