I write this separately because i admit i have a special connection with Kathmandu. Despite that this is the city where trekkers from all over the world gathered, this is also the first city in South Asia i visited, and the last is because Nepalese usually would have a big smile when they analyse my face and know my name; “Are you a Nepali ?” or “Gita Saraswati is a Nepali name” are so hilarious questions, now i discovered those connect my heart to this messy but missed -sweet but bitter- city. Enjoy!
Just about before landed i had chance to see Kathmandu from above, high buildings reflect the city development around even though it is not too well organized but this attracts me. Kathmandu is located in a huge valley, flanked by mountain ranges in North and South. I am impatient to feel the atmosphere of a “trekking country “, why trekking country ? because 50% tourists are coming here for trekking, for me it’s like Christian going to Jerusalem or Muslims going to Mecca therefore being here made me part of the mountaineering religion.
Arrived save and sound in Tribhuvan International Airport, with Doris -our new German lady friend we share taxi to go to Thamel -the tourists and backpacker area in Kathmandu. Gilles, my husband always said “Nepal is a soft landing before you go to India, especially for the people” i keep this words until i get the meaning. In taxi queue, the guy offered us an old car for our taxi, i mean very old that i thought he was joking. Doris screamed “hell, no!” immediately and the guy calmly replied; “okay pick as you want” as his previous offer is like . We picked the a -quite old- van as we were three with big luggage. The van went in speed to the center of the town, passing crowded Pasuphati Temple and in a rush passed dusty road, horn as loud as possible in a way to get rid of the pedestrians and motorbike. The ride was joyful for me, pump my adrenaline, too excited to see this city. The dusty and the pollution remind me to Jakarta however. Also i kinda familiar with some ignorance people on the traffic, suppose i would not have culture shock here, wouldn’t i ?
I could recognize when we were arriving in Thamel by overload outdoor gear shops, from the fancy one to daggy one and souvenir shops complete with Buddhists accesories around which were the loveliest play ground for me in Thamel. After saying goodbye and thanks for the ride to Doris (in fact she paid the taxi, not sharing with us, 600 nrs) who will stay in Shanker Hotel, a luxury hotel a little bit north from Thamel, we were welcomed by a charming restaurant in the garden which is the front area of Kathmandu Guest House (KGH), the oldest hotel around Thamel.
Here, i couldn’t take my eyes off the shops who sell all new age and Buddha thingies, you mention it; singing bowl, prayer flag, essence for praying, books of Ayuverdic healing, Tibetan healing and all handmade stuff displaying Buddha eyes, and many more. These, you should be careful otherwise you will become to an impulsive hiker just like me.
The prices! overall there is such thing as ‘So expensive’ in Thamel (a guide, maybe? We don’t know). We knew, we were lucky a bit because during June is low season for Himalaya. Noted that monsoon is normally coming in June then summer during August to October, then winter from November to February and the last is spring from March to May. But in the end of the season could be the transition to good or bad weather. As we were running around in low season, we didn’t try so hard to bargain, we keep bargain but they gave up easily. Maybe for a restaurant that will cost you a lot because you don’t bargain in a resto, do you? What we did is, we tried to find a local resto which the price is more reasonable. Well, it’s not always a matter of price actually, we just love to eat what locals eat. And there you go, we saw more local workers, employees, even family eat there. Local resto what i talked about here is a restaurant but where locals prefer to go there instead of tourists. Luckily, it’s also located around Thamel, you just need to look around more because as it’s not a fancy resto so sometimes it looks hidden. Good luck!
However, Kathmandu became a civilization that you will missed especially after our 13 exhausting trekking days in Langtang. There are few special bars where you can celebrate your Everest / Annapurna trip with other hikers which is very sympathic i imagine, but we didn’t go there because we didn’t do those famous trek.
Talking about outdoor shop in Thamel. If you are planning to buy some serious mountain equipment, such as gore-tex, shoes, etc which are very significant in your trip, make sure you check the quality because you don’t take shitty things to mountain, NEVER, especially to Himalaya. I don’t say those thing were crap but i can’t say it’s a good quality either. What we did when we bought gore-tex is we test it under the shower, yeah!! we did. Lucky we found a friendly lady who doesn’t mind if we test it first.
Well, this is the end of our story in our firts encounter with Kathmandu. Of course, we always planning to go back there.. but maybe not this year because our new member of the family will coming this summer, hopefully (crossed finger!) 🙂