It may be chaotic, busy and noisy but there is a great charm to Kathmandu, it is my home from home! Many people who visit want to get straight out to the mountains or yoga retreat or are recouping after a long trek - I love working there, scooting between the workshops and meeting all my producer groups again.
The tourist area is Thamel (pronounced Ta-Mel) which has many of the shops, restaurants and hotels for visitors, but Kathmandu spans out past the outer ring road into the valley, with Jawalkhel in the South of the city near Patan becoming more touristy with many ex-pats living there also.
From Thamel, a walk down to Ason, Indra Chowk and New Road is where all the local markets and shops are, which is great to people watch and buy local. I would recommend trying this walking tour by local tourism company Social Tours - to help get your bearings first. They also do great Nepali cooking courses which are very informal and run at HUB, a coffee shop/community space on the edge of Thamel. See information from Social Tours below.
Pranamaya Yoga: I have done a few early morning yoga courses over the years in Kathmandu, though not recently which I want to get back into! There are various adverts for yoga centres around Kathmandu, but I would go to Pranamaya, which has classes in Thamel and Patan.
The Walking tour: This market walk was developed to help travellers understand how the local market systems work in Nepal. Within this two hour walk, you see everything from residential areas, temples, readymade wear markets, wedding markets, rock salt, chillies, vegetables, dried herbs, bead necklaces and even a market for dentures! Definitely something that opens your eyes with something you had not noticed before!
The Cooking Course: Chefs Sakuntala and Asmita take you to the shops to buy ingredients, and teach you how to cook specialities like momo, dal bhaat, or alu paratha, amongst some other options. The course lasts about three hours and you can join any of the two classes per day, each that take six participants maximum, so the experience is very personal. This course has no price, and follows a pay what you think it is worth principle, which we think is Karmic in nature.
We start with a briefing and a cup of tea, and then continue on to the course. It is very hands on and you have to participate in the process.
At the end, the recipes are sent to you via email.
Favourite places to eat:
There is so many food choices around Thamel - Or2K is one of the longest serving restaurants, serving Israeli food and the best mint lemonade.On the Lazimpat road, north of Thamel, I love the Indian/Nepali food at Mela Restaurant and further down at Bhumi Restaurant, which is my favourite local restaurant. Simple daal baht (where you get neverending repeat servings) at a restaurant, is best at Thakalai Bhancchha Ghar and Tukche Thakala Kitchen. There are plenty of small restaurants tucked away as well, which will always be welcoming if you are curious and friendly, and will serve local food.
A visit to Bhaktapur is a must, it’s a half an hour drive outside of Kathmandu (depending on the crazy traffic) and is a working town with temples, squares, with Nepali daily life happening all around. It is a UNESCO site so you have to pay 10USD to go in but it's worth it. I always like to visit the Peacock Shop, where Aparna & Ram make paper products and have collected and commissioned some incredible wood carvings in their property. And you have to get some famous Bhaktapur curd/yoghurt - I never leave without eating a take-out clay pot there and then, with a large tub under my arm to take home.
If you drive further than Bhaktapur out East, you can visit various view point villages such as Nagarkot or Dhulikhel which can have great mountain views of Everest and the Himalayas if you fancy an early morning sunrise and the clouds are away in your favour!
And if you want to escape from it all and sit in the sun by a pool for the day, for a fee you can visit Hotel Shanker where the simple pool is surrounded by trees in the garden and really peaceful. Also Garden of Dreams (yes that is its name!) is a renovated palace with beautiful gardens that is peaceful to sit in away from the hubbub and there is a restaurant in there too.
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