HIMALAYAN TALES #1: KATHMANDU
001. Buckle your seatbelt, safely store all of your belongings in the overhead lockers and make sure your seat is upright, because you're about to embark on an epic backpacking trip across the east. Welcome to a series on this blog I'm calling 'Himalayan Tales', which will follow my travels through Nepal and (mainly) North India. LET'S GO!
002. The first stop on this epic adventure was in the capital of Nepal, Kathmandu. A huge bustling and dusty urban sprawl that we spent around 10 days in (once on arrival and again on our way back after trekking). Our first impressions weren't ideal- we jumped off the plane, made our way through the tiny airport and had our visas approved easily. We then stepped outside, were hustled by taxi drivers and ended up paying far too much to be driven to our guesthouse but our sleep deprived asses were just not ready to haggle with conviction. Crazy roads, the constant beeping of horns and non-existence of lanes were a clear sign welcoming us back into the Asian continent.
003. While in Kathmandu, we stayed in guesthouses in the main tourist hub of Thamel. The area is home to endless shopping and endless guesthouse options. If you're in the market for adventure gear, don't forget to shop around and haggle for prices as everything is always heavily inflated. My tip for staying in Kathmandu is to pick a guesthouse with a rooftop, which is vital to relax on when escaping the hustle and bustle below. I would recommend a place we stayed at a place called Kathmandu Friendly Home, which had really nice rooms and friendly staff. If you want an even cooler experience, ask for the room on the 6th floor- it's the only one on the whole level so you essentially have a penthouse with a rooftop area ALL to yourself!
004. Since we spent a fair amount of time in Kathmandu we found some absolute gems when it came to food. My number one recommendation is actually an Indian restaurant called Western Tandoori. The food here is SO CHEAP! I'm talking 10c for a roti and 50c for a curry. It might not look like the fanciest place but it was always full of locals and travellers eating the best value and most delicious Indian food in town. If you have a bit more cash to spend and are looking for somewhere you can sit down and take your time, OR2K is the best. It's totally vegetarian but quite upmarket with a really nice atmosphere. The falafel plate here is best I have had in my life (and I've ate my fair share of them I assure you). I also have to give honourable mention to a place called the French Bakery, which served up delicious soy chai (surprisingly hard to find), along with cheap vegan cookies and brownies. Kathmandu and Thamel in particular is a melting pot of all foods and cultures, so you can expect to find a bit of everything if you look!
005. We filled our days in Kathmandu mainly wandering around the streets, eating delicious food and chilling on our rooftop. Although, we did manage to do a couple of main tourist attractions too. One day we walked (yes, it is easy and possible) from Thamel to Swayambhunath (also called the Monkey Temple). It was pretty commercialised but did have an epic hazey view and you got to see different parts of the city by walking. If you couldn't guess by the name there were monkeys EVERYWHERE and considering I have a slight fear of them, from previous experiences, I was a bit on edge the whole time. On another day we took a taxi to and from Boudhanath, which is one of the largest stupas in the world. It was pretty beautiful to see, but neither me or Ben are Buddhist and tourist attractions like that generally don't blow our minds. A tip for if you are ever taking a taxi to a popular attraction is always search it online, then you know how much you need to haggle for!
006. A trip to Kathmandu for an avid reader, in my opinion, isn't complete without visiting Pilgrims. Prepare to have your mind blown at the best bookstore I have ever stepped foot in, all at really affordable prices too! The Garden of Dreams is also another little attraction worth mentioning to escape the dust and watch the tiny little chipmunk/squirrels running around. It does cost 200 rupees to enter, but if you have some time to kill or want to lay in the sun surrounded by something that is actually GREEN, this is the place to do it.
007. Overall, I really enjoyed Kathamndu! We did get off on the wrong foot to begin with, but by the end we had both figured each other out a little more, and treated each other with a little more kindness and understanding. Yes it is VERY dusty and a little chaotic, but there are pockets of magic (and delicious curries) hidden everywhere.
008. Next stop, an 8 hour bus to the lakeside city of Pokhara and TREKKING IN THE MOTHER-FUCKING HIMALAYAS! Appropriate language because that kind of mind-blowing nature doesn't happen everyday!