Kathmandu: it’s dirty, it’s dusty and it’s noisy. Some parts of town look as though they’ve recently suffered from an earthquake. The taxis are beat up suzuki hatchbacks. Electricity only runs certain hours of the day. Soilders with guns are not an uncommon sight. The traffic is a mess and cows freely roam the streets.
Yep, there’s definitely something special about this crazy city and if there’s one thing I can say with certainty it’s that Kathmandu will blow your mind. But for all its grittiness, there’s also a huge amount of beauty to be found in the Kathmandu Valley. Of all the religious monuments we’ve seen on our travels the Boudhanath stupa is our favourite. In fact, a canvas photograph taken on our last trip to Nepal decorates our living room back home.
Boudhanath is the largest stupa in Asia and is a joy to walk around. Tibetan monks, along with a number of other people, circumnavigate the stupa spinning prayer wheels as they go. Buddha’s eyes seem to follow you, peaking out between prayer flags at every point.
In a last ditch attempt at training before our trek we also decided to revisit Swayambhunath, a half an hour walk from Thamel. Plus 365 stairs. Also known as the Monkey Temple, it is another Tibetan Buddhist site with, you guessed it, plenty of monkeys. As with Boudhanath there is a stupa and abundant supply of prayer flags. It also has great views of the city below and a spot for devotees to light butter lamps.
We also decided to visit the Kopan Monestery which sits on a hill overlooking Kathmandu and is home to 360 monks. Here, we sat in on a session on Buddhist teachings. Our teacher was wonderful, happiness beamed out of him. We learnt about anger and dealing with discomfort as well as how to meditate and the reasoning behind it. It was such a great experience, our time there flew by.
There are two major religions in Nepal, Buddhism and Hinduism both of which are represented on the national flag. Fun fact: Nepal is the only country without a rectangular flag. Anyway, people of both religions seemingly live happily side by side here with many public spaces and festivals involving both sets of beliefs. Patan Durbar Square is one such place. In my opinion it’s not as great as Bhaktapur Durbar Square (in case you’re ever tossing up between the two) but it is still a great place to wander around and people watch. Lucky for us there was also a photography exhibition on, fundraising for a local school. It got us a bit inspired.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a weddedandwandering post without the mention of food. Our favourite restaurant in Thamel is Mitho which not only serves up good food and a cosy atmosphere but also trains youth so they can get a job elsewhere. Niall has pretty much lived on Dahl Bat sets (below) while we’ve been here. I’m a sucker for Aloo Gobi with naan. Yes, I know it’s Indian but it’s just so yummy.
And then there’s momos. Hmmmm momos. These delicious dumplings are usually steamed and served with a spicy dipping sauce. They are thought to have been introduced to Nepal from Tibet but no one really knows where the names comes from.
Anyway, it’s safe to say I love Kathmandu but I also love to leave.