Kathmandu is used as a springboard for an array of adventures. Getting your visa upon arrival is a little confusing but once you’ve overcome that hurdle and collected your bag you’re off!
Flag down a tiny taxi and cram your gear into it. Once on the road you are immediately overwhelmed by the noise and your close proximity to other cars. Beeping the horn comes as naturally to a Nepalese driver as indicating does to the rest of us! The chaos is all part of the charm but on many occasions I was glad not to be behind the wheel.
Thamel is the backpacker hub of Kathmandu and has a great atmosphere. People from all over the world gather in hippy attire to buy yak wool blankets, fake North Face jackets and breathe in the strong aromas from burning incense. The locals are extremely friendly and unlike some cultures are not pushy sellers.
Exploring on foot is surely the best way to get a feel for any place. Small shrines and temples hide around most corners. Narrow streets and alleyways are packed with locals selling an array of goodies that give John Lewis and Amazon a run for their money! In just two days we walked over 25km (good training for the trek ahead). Our general rule was to walk out in the mornings and get a taxi back later.
There are two Durbar Squares in Kathmandu, one in the heart of the city itself and another in an adjoining town called Patan. There is a third Durbar Square in Bhaktapur (about 13km east of Kathmandu). Each has a number of temples, some of which were affected by the 2015 earthquake. Patan's Durbar square has a decent museum which explains the Hindu religion in a bit more detail.
The Great Baudha Stupa is a UNESCO world heritage site. Pilgrims from Eastern Asia, Tibet and the Himalayas flock here. There is a complex around the stupa which is made up of small local shops and several monasteries. The stupa has a really nice atmosphere as you get away from the hustle and bustle outside it's gates and quietly watch the locals in worship.
Monkey Temple (Swayambhunath) offers fantastic views over Kathmandu and as the name suggests there are lots of macaques to be found.
If I could only visit one historical site in Kathmandu it would be Pashupatinath. This attraction sits on the banks of the Bagmati river and is massively underrated. There are countless temples within the complex and a number of beautiful Hindu shrines. Cremations are performed publicly here on platforms on the banks of the river. During my visit we saw several cremations taking place. The body is covered in beautiful marigolds and after the fire the ashes are brushed into the water and washed downstream.
Kathmandu not only educates you a little in the Hindu and Buddhist religions, it also offers a glimpse into the lives of the locals. The city’s charm draws you in but every now and then you have to remind yourself to look up. The Himalayas make for a unique backdrop to any capital city.