Visiting Nepal was a first for me but I had heard so much about it. Lynette travelled Nepal two years ago and when we were changing our plans in Australia we knew that we had to experience the country together.
The 2015 earthquake that devastated the country was obviously still very much in the forefront of our minds. The damage that had been caused was immediately obvious in Kathmandu and what had been lost, potentially forever, was devastating to see.
Arriving in Kathmandu
We didn’t have the smoothest start. Our plane from Kuala Lumpur was an hour late taking off, therefore an hour late landing. We arrived at 8:55pm in Kathmandu; although the airport was international, it only had two baggage reclaim belts. So, after a further hour and a half wait, we were reunited with our bags and out the door.
Our pick up was waiting for us and we finally made it to our guesthouse, where Lynette had stayed before. We got our bags in and, although it was stupidly late, a friendly member of staff, known as Happy, offered us dinner. We hadn’t eaten in hours so took him up on his offer of dal bhat (rice, dal and vegetables). Then just gone midnight we collapsed into bed.
We were keen to get an early start the next day so Lynette was on her yoga mat for 5:30am; we then got out the door, ready to explore! We stayed in the backpacker area of Thamel, which is full of unique shops and restaurants – so many things you could buy and so much food you could eat! We wandered around the sprawling area and visited Durbar Square.
Durbar Square was hit exceptionally hard during the earthquake. As a result, many of the buildings needed to be supported by wooden struts; so much wonderful architecture had been reduced to rubble and destroyed. Reconstruction work was in progress at the time of our visit, but it was clear that it would take time.
Lynette found it more difficult to look around as she had seen it before the earthquake, telling me that the square had been a magnificent sight. I can sum up my first impressions from the post I put on Facebook for those back home. It read:
“I experienced Kathmandu for the first time today. This crazy place is incredible! There is so much colour and it’s alive with a buzz that you only find in this part of the world. It amazes me that people are slowly but surly rebuilding their lives and their homes and businesses after such a terrible event. But they are doing this whilst still getting on with things and making a living and doing it all with a friendly smile. Nepal is a place I have very quickly fallen in love with. I can’t wait to see more of it!”
Exploring the Kathmandu Valley
Once we had seen the main sights in the city, we ventured out to see some other places in the Kathmandu valley. We departed from what is known as the Old Bus Stand or City Bus Stand; we had to come here a couple of times. Local bus prices were reasonable but getting out of and back into the city was a slow crawl.
We first visited Patan, another town badly hit by the earthquake. There was evidence of destruction but it was still a nice place with many temples still standing.
On another day trip we visited Bodhnath, about 30 minutes outside Kathmandu. The main sight to see is Bodhnath Stupa, formally the tallest in all of Asia. Sadly it suffered during the earthquake and when we visited, only the white dome that was it’s base remained; the entire top section was destroyed. Pictures on display around the stupa showed how grand it once was. They said it would take up to 18 months to restore (as of February 2016).
The stupa is surrounded by shops selling handicrafts, traditional clothing and music albums, as well as rooftop restaurants. Having circumnavigated it’s base, we made our way into the surrounding narrow network of unmarked, confusing streets; the area is littered with monasteries and temples that are worthwhile to find and explore.
We then walked up to the hilltop Kopan Monastery. This took us some time as it was all uphill on broken roads; a very nice local man offered to show us round the grounds. The garden and views were very beautiful and there was an overwhelming sense of peace about the place.
Having seen the monastery, we continued on to our final stop, a temple on the banks of the river. Going down was quicker but we got lost a fair few times. Close to giving up, having asked many locals and taken many a wrong turn, we were finally guided there by two helpful guys. The Gokarna Mahadev Temple is a simple yet ornate wooden temple with a plethora of detailed carvings.
Other Places we Visited in the Kathmandu Valley:
- Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple)
- Dhulikhel – Starting point for the two day hike to Namobuddha and Panauti
Food in Kathmandu
Whilst in Kathmandu we had some amazing food. Breakfast was included at our guesthouse, a decent portion of brown toast with eggs (any style) and a fruit plate with tea. Dinners were something we looked forward to though!
Nepal has many refugees from Tibet so there are many restaurants serving Tibetan food, such as thenthuk, thukpa and our favourite sharing dish, momos! Places serve Nepali and Indian cuisine too, as well as Chinese and Western fare.
As Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu is loud, busy and crazy but it has an incredible energy and buzz! Its friendly people, amazing architecture and delicious food make it a place that you can’t help but fall in love with and want to explore.
Want to read more about Kathmandu and the valley? Check out Six Places You Should Explore in the Kathmandu Valley or What to do with One Day in Kathmandu.
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