Kathmandu is right at the foothills of the Himalayas separating India from the rest of Asia because of that the people and food in Kathmandu are an amazing mix of the two. It has the intensity of India but borrows some of its food and customs from China. I will take you through my favorite ways to experience Kathmandu.
Durbar square is located in the heart of Kathmandu district, in the location of the royal palace which used to be the home of the King until 2008 when Nepal abolished the monarchy in favor of democracy. Unfortunately, most of the palace was damaged in the 2015 earthquake. The square itself though remain largely untouched including its famous pigeon temple.
Swayambhunath Temple otherwise known as the monkey temple is an ancient religious site built on top of a mountain in Kathmandu Valley. The temple is widely considered being the most sacred among Buddhist pilgrimage sites. It takes 365 steps to get at the top and gives you some of the best panoramic views of the entire city. It is best to go at dusk or dawn to get the full effect.
If you are like me, food is one reason you travel and Nepal has some amazingly cheap dishes are to die for. Because of its location, its food is influenced from all over Asia. Its most popular dish the Momo is like a Chinese dumpling but they also have Samosas and Pokhara which is like a fried potato.
The Boudhanath Stupa
This ancient stupa is one of the largest in the world and supposedly houses the remains of one of the original Buddhas. It cost about $10 but it also gives you access to some small street markets surrounding the stupa.
Thamel district is the setup for tourists. Even though it remains a popular destination, it wouldn’t even be on my list except for some areas around Thamel are really interesting. If you wander away from the heart of the market and spend about an hour or two, you can find some really cool neighborhoods real quick. Getting around can be of tricky because you don’t have a ton of options. If you are feeling adventurous locals will generally give you rides if you are going the same direction. You can also just take cabs but know that if you are not using the meter you are probably getting ripped off.
The Kopan monastery sits in the outskirts of Kathmandu and is one of the most peaceful places in the entire city. It is famous for teaching Buddhism to foreigners and they hold yearly month-long courses. Keep in mind though, if you are just visiting for a day make sure you go on Saturday because the Kopan monastery isn’t open other days of the week and don’t forget to try to talk to some monks they are friendlier than you might expect.
Despite its appearance, Kathmandu is a pretty lively city and there are tons of really cool bars and clubs you can check out. Some notable places to try are Jazz Upstairs, Sam’s bar which is the oldest and probably most popular and Rum Doodle. Sam’s bar is more like a club than a bar but either way, it’s a fantastic place. They have decently priced drinks and there are usually lots of travelers so you can meet people and have a good time.
The Asan Bazaar
The Asan Bazaar is famous in Kathmandu because six streets converge onto one square giving it a perpetual sense of bustle that stirred up the Wikipedia page. The Asan Bazaar is a pretty amazing market with an insane range of products being sold. Everything from fish to leather jackets is sold here.
When in Nepal, don’t be afraid to talk to locals and you’ll find that almost all of them have something interesting to say. Nepal is a surprisingly interesting place with a complex culture that made everything about it seem awesome, it’s a must if you are in Southeast Asia.