For such a small country, five days was not nearly enough time to see all of the wonders Nepal has to offer. In hindsight, it should have been a separate trip, but I thought that since I was in north India I might as well pop up to Nepal. When I leave most places I’ve visited, I say to myself that I want to return. This time as soon as I arrived, I told myself I need to return to fully explore this country. Kathmandu was just scratching the surface, but it sure was a lot of fun.
I knew the next few days were going to be a blast as soon as the taxi pulled up to the Alobar1000 hostel in the bustling Kathmandu neighborhood of Thamel. Hostel atmosphere gets me every time. I love any and all opportunities to get to know new people and I immediately felt at home chatting with other travelers at the hostel. And surprisingly, I met more Americans than I had in the past two months. Most of the people I met were in Kathmandu resting for a few days before or after a trek.
I initially thought I would try to pack in some hiking for two nights while in Kathmandu Valley, but eventually decided against it. Nothing was going to make up for the fact that I wasn’t going trekking. I simply didn’t have enough time, and I had to get back to Mumbai after five days. Then I had to remind myself, Relax, Lavi. You’ll come back to India, so you can come back to Nepal, too. Better to really cherish a few special moments than hastily checking big things off my bucket list. Although this blog is titled Lavi was here, I don’t want to just say that I’ve been to a place, I want to really explore it.
So in lieu of trekking, I did the next best thing in Kathmandu: went to a rock-climbing wall! It was my first time, and my new American amigos from the hostel plus the people at Astrek Climbing Wall were so helpful in teaching me. Man, was it a workout! My forearms and legs were feeling the burn after I triumphantly rang the bell at the top of the wall. It was much more challenging than I thought it would be and I can’t wait to give it another try sometime.
As far as sightseeing goes, I chose to visit a few of the many popular sights in Kathmandu. I visited two Buddhist temples: Swayambhunath and Boudhanath, and also visited the Pashupati Hindu temple. I’ve visited so many temples during my travels in India and Southeast Asia and though I used to think, “once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all”, I really enjoyed seeing these temples specifically. Swayambhunath is also known as the Monkey Temple because the monkeys that live in the temple are considered holy. This temple is one of the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage sites. It was beautiful; we walked around the temple grounds, spinning the prayer wheels and watching the monkeys’ shenanigans. I made sure not to look any of the big ones in the eye though; they were intimidating!
Boudhanath is one of the most holy pilgrimage sites for Tibetan Buddhists and its stupa (the round structure at many Buddhist temples) is one of the largest in the world. I spent some time sitting and observing the passersby, marveling at their dedication to their faith. Based on the recommendation of the security guard at the temple, I wandered onto a side street in hopes of ending up at the Pashupati temple. For the first time in Kathmandu, I was walking on a fairly empty, quiet street. It made me smile to only hear the sound of laughing children at a nearby school; no honking, no hustle and bustle.
I finally found the Pashupati temple, somehow wandering in from the back entrance and skipped the entrance fee (1,000 NPR, about $10 for tourists!) As a Hindu, I was able to enter the actual temple, which is considered one of the most sacred places in Nepal. I’m so happy that I was able to visit so many holy places during this trip. My spirituality is a work in progress, but these temples and the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi all gave me a feeling of peace and tranquility. I still find myself reciting the Buddhist Om Mani Padme Hum mantra in my mind because I heard it so many times in Kathmandu.
I didn’t get a chance to see the other sights in Kathmandu, but that’s because I spent the rest of the time wandering the streets, shopping, and enjoying the Kathmandu nightlife. I don’t usually enjoy shopping, but I loved all things Nepali made. I walked away with a painting of the mountains to add to my collection of local artwork collected from across the world, a beautiful handwoven purse, a pair of green pants with Nepali designs on them, a yak wool blanket, and a bunch of other random small souvenirs. This was my last big stop on my India/Nepal trip, so I went all out with the shopping knowing that I would just be flying home soon after.
Nights were spent at exchanging stories and conversation at the hostel or at a few of Kathmandu’s “clubs”. I hadn’t seen much nightlife since the week I spent in Goa so it was fun to dance and sing along to the Western music I hadn’t heard in ages. Also, two nights ended in eating delicious yak cheese sandwiches that cost about $1. Yum. I really miss those!
And how could I forget the momo cooking class! Momos are Tibetan style steamed dumplings filled with vegetables or meat that you can find them all over north India and Nepal. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to join in on the cooking class at Alobar1000, and it was so fun. The hardest part was actually wrapping the dough around the filling. I have a newfound respect for the momo makers around the world. Mine weren’t so aesthetically pleasing, but they tasted great!
And after five fun days, I had to say my goodbyes to Kathmandu. I made sure to be awake at 5am to say goodbye to two friends who were taking off on a trek while I was leaving later the same day. As sad as goodbyes can be, it’s important for me to do it. I had so much fun exploring Kathmandu with them and I wanted to wish them well on their journey.
Leaving Kathmandu was especially sad for me because this was my last backpacking destination on this trip. I wouldn’t be returning to hostel living again until I head to Europe in August, and even then, backpacking in Europe is completely different than Asia. I had to remind myself that I will be back, it’s only a matter of time. And I don’t think I can stay away for too long!
Stay at: Alobar1000 hostel – great food, vibes, and people!
Eat at: Black Olives Restaurant, Fire and Ice Pizzeria, Western Tandoori, Cookie Walla (the last two are based on recommendations from others. A girl can only eat so much!).
To do: There are TONS of outdoor activities to do in Kathmandu Valley, from hiking and rafting to bungee jumping. I just visited the temples, but there’s also Durbar Square, the nearby town of Bhaktapur, and don’t forget to roam around! It’s fun to get a little lost in this city, you’ll always find something interesting!