There comes a time when you need to change; you need to get adventurous, you need to take control. So one day, me and my best friend, Mariam, decided that 2014 is the year we get adventurous. So we planned to spend 213 days in Asia – starting from Nepal, Kathmandu, before working our way down to South East Asia.
Traveling is said to boost the adrenaline, and on October 27, with only one backpack, we departed for Istanbul to catch a flight to Kathmandu.
The airport is quite small with a bit of greenery at the entrance while friendly staff helps us out to fill in the Visa Application form, costing $40 for 30 days. After stamping it in your passport, you even get an email notification confirming its validity. How nice!
After successfully finding our luggage, someone stopped us at the exit. The lady checked the sticker on our bags to make sure we didn’t take someone else’s. ‘Strange’ I thought… That was the first cultural shock for me.
We then discovered that there was no public transportation from the airport to the city. The only way is to take a pre-paid taxi for 700 Rupees (roughly $7). When we get in, a guy suddenly jumps into the car. He begins to pitch trekking and tourist services offered by his company. He jumps out of the car as soon as he realizes we are not interested.
While driving through the city, we notice that there are more bikes than cars; there is no pedestrian, and the road is jammed with both people and vehicles. Chaotic!
The city lacks street signs. The only way we to navigate is via addresses written on advertisement banners on each door or window. Narrow streets and the vast amount of such ads makes you dizzy.
Almost everyone wears surgical-like masks due to the dust and smog in the air. According to Yale’s 2014 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), Nepal’s air quality ranks 177th out of 178 countries; only Bangladesh ranks worse…
The only thing that annoys me here is the spitting, and I mean full-scale, full-volume spitting. Yikes!
Lastly, but not least we found the Nepalese to be a happy and cheerful people, where random passersby greet you with a huge smile and ‘namaste,’ a customary greeting.
Generally speaking, food is very cheap even in touristic restaurants, costing roughly $3-5 per meal.
After settling down at the hotel, we went to get some local food in a tiny restaurant with only four tables. I had Chicken Thendruk soup with handmade noodles and Vegetarian Momo (dumplings) for only $2 in total. Surprisingly, it was quite delicious with excellent portions!
What to see in Kathmandu
The most of the Kathamdnu attractions are far from the center. However, to feel the vibe of the city, we decided to walk to Monkey Temple and Kathmandu Durbar Square.
Walking through the city is not easy, as there are no signs for directions. And if you are lucky enough to notice one, it’s written in Nepali. Also, everyone walks and drives as they desire, so you need to be cautious and look in every direction.
After 2 hours of slow walking, we finally hit the destination – Monkey Temple (Swayambhunath), an ancient religious complex on top of a hill, named colloquially after the holy monkeys living there. The area consists of a stupa, a variety of shrines and temples. To get there you nee to walk 365 steps, which gets steeper and steeper as you walk upwards.
Being nearly out of breath at the end of the stairs, you feel the burning sensation in each muscle of legs. However, as a reward, you get a 360-degree view of the Kathmandu. Unbelievably beautiful!
Later, we went to Kathmandu Durbar Square – a plaza in front of the former Kathmandu Kingdom’s royal palace. Unfortunately, we could not see it properly. There was a concert.
Kathmandu hides a spectacular historical garden in its center. The Garden of Dreams, surrounded by tall walls is a bit hard to locate. However, as you step inside, it does justify its name. Built in 1920, it consists of three pavilions, an amphitheater, and ponds covering 6,895 square meters. A peaceful environment together with birds and squirrels, relaxes you completely, making it a favorite place here.