Exploring Kathmandu – 4 Top Attractions

You don’t need to even step foot in Kathmandu to appreciate its visions of spirituality and intrigue. First captured as the home of Shangri-la by the novelist James Hilton, then epitomized in song by Cat Stevens, it seems the world cannot get enough of this place, the capital of Nepal. It’s such an inspirational place that you’ll have no trouble finding things to do, but to whet your appetite, here are a few ideas for exploration in Kathmandu.

Durbar Square. Photo credit - LavenderStreak & JudePics.

Durbar Square. Photo credit - LavenderStreak & JudePics.

Starting in Durbar Square

Durbar Square is where most tourists start their exploring in Kathmandu. Don’t be confused by the fact that three cities in Nepal have a Durbar Square – Durbar is a Nepali word for palace, so these were the courtyards in front of the royal palaces. Some of the oldest wooden buildings are here, and the square is a lively focal point with busy pedestrian traffic, selling, and tourists. The square is lined with quadrangles hiding courtyards and more temples.

Pashupatinath Temple, one of the holiest temple of Lord Shiva. Photo credit - 3dom.

Pashupatinath Temple, one of the holiest temple of Lord Shiva. Photo credit - 3dom.

Crossing the Bagmati to Patan

Once a separate city, today the Bagmati river is simply a geographic divide between Patan and Kathmandu, now a united city. It is hard to believe but Patan is packed with even more temples than Kathmandu, as well as several Buddhist monasteries – favorites include Kumbeshwar Temple, Banglamukhi Temple, or the Hiranya Varna Mahaa Vihar. Along the eastern part of Kathmandu you will find Pashupatinath Temple lined on the river banks, one of the most sacred among the temples of Lord Shiva. You’ll also find a lot of artists here, such as metal workers, and hence why they call Patan the city of artists.

Thamel District. Photo credit by - McKaySavage & s.o.m.o

Thamel District. Photo credit by - McKaySavage & s.o.m.o

Shopping & Partying in the Thamel District

The unique experiences continue over in Kathmandu’s Thamel district. These narrow streets are abuzz with pedestrians, motorcycles, cars, and bikes. Tourists and locals both pop into the various shops, restaurants, and bars that line both sides of each lane while cheesy 80s music blares out into the air. The fun continues here late into the night (with or without electric power) so it is the perfect place to come and let your hair down.

A pond at Bhaktapur's entrance (left) and intricate carvings throughout the village (right). Photo credit - TheDreamSky & Dey.

A pond at Bhaktapur's entrance (left) and intricate carvings throughout the village (right). Photo credit - TheDreamSky & Dey.

A Day Trip to Bhaktapur

Just east of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur is a gorgeous medieval village which historically was a very wealthy town given its strategic point along the India-Tibet trading route. With cars forbidden in the city center, you can step back and look over the gorgeous architecture, such as the famed Peacock window, while making the most of the ambience. Be also sure to get up and close and have a look at the wooden carving and all the pottery which seems to be scattered everywhere.

If You Go

Despite the remote location, it’s become relatively straightforward to reach Nepal. Direct air service is available throughout Asia, including cities like Hong Kong, Delhi, and Singapore. Most visitors can purchase a visa on arrival in the airport; you’ll need a passport photo but there are facilities available in the airport. Once you’re in, it’s easy to get around – consider a rickshaw in cities to get from one end of the city to another, or an organized tour to take you further afield.

Nepal is very safe but keep an eye out for the dreaded power cuts, required because the country cannot produce enough electricity to meet demands. This means you might have to travel on streets without streetlights. Although you’ll more likely trip than be pick-pocketed, take precautions never the less – its a rising problem that you should be aware of.

About the Author. Andy Hayes. Andy Hayes is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not crossing the world to have his next Asian travel adventures, he is hitting the walking trails near home. To get in touch or see Andy’s other travelogues, visit his website, Sharing Experiences.

Glacier Exploring at Mount Cook

March 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Enchanting Oceania, Feature Highlights, Nature

Our car screeched on and the tallest peak of New Zealand loomed in a distance. We weren’t sure which one was Mount Cook, but we harbored an obvious guess – the tall, snowcapped one. Spot on. Like a ruler of its kingdom, Mount Cook stood majestic amongst the other mountains.

It was tall, serene and beautiful, yet all I could think of was the silly little fun things you get to do in the snow. All that sledding down the slope, snow-angels and snow-men, I was even looking forward to getting hit in a snow-fight.

Good fun, but as it turned out, I was sadly mistaken – it was summer, and there aren’t any snow in summer. The top of Mount Cook’s peak was snow-capped all year round, but the area allowed for tourists weren’t so. “Wrong season,” I thought, slightly disappointed.

So instead, we had to settle for second best after snow – ice. We booked ourselves a tour exploring the Tazman Glacier Lake, the largest glacier lake in the Mount Cook vicinity.

The Glacier Lake was a good 15 minutes walk away from the Tazman Valley, itself a 10 minute bus-ride away from the Mount Cook Village. We made our way through rocks and boulders with the scenic Mount Cook laying dormant to our side. As we approached a cliff overseeing the Glacier Lake, a strong draft caught us by surprise, and it took my cap away with me!

“Whatever…” I sighed. The Glacier Lake was right in front of us, and I can feel the excitement bubbling in our group as we quickly strapped on our life jackets and set off.

The lake water was pastel-colored, a slight off-white color that was quite unexpected. I thought it would’ve been clean and clear, a pure mountain water straight from the melted snow. It seemed however, that the glaciers contained chemicals which gives off this dirty off-white color.

As the lake flows seaward, the chemicals would reflect sunlight and give off a beautiful blueish color, as seen in the stunning Lake Tekapo.

The water itself was cold, ranging between one to four degree Celcius even during summer. As you can imagine, “survival time in the water isn’t very long,” our guide warned half-jokingly.

The glaciers themselves were magnificent and stunning, a jaw-dropping marvel. For someone who has been accustomed to living in the tropics, this phenomenon of gigantic rocks made purely out of ice – it was amazing in every sense of the word! I can almost imagine myself tip-toe-ing over the boat on top of the glaciers. Not allowed, of course.

Our boats went near the side as we got up-close and personal with these ice-bergs. It was crystal clear! We slowly explored the various glaciers, and we hunted for random pieces of ice laying around in the water.

At one point, we heard a thunderous roar behind us. We immediately spun around to witness a part of an iceberg breaking away! Straight down it went into the lake and our guide swerved the boat around to bring us closer.

Parts of Icebergs break away regularly due to the varying temperature. One way or another, the iceberg starts to tilt due to imbalanced weight on the sides. Come a point when the law of equilibrium takes over and it flips upside-down, the submerged part of the iceberg then resurfaces – crystal blue in hue, replacing the dirt-stained side.

After a good hour of exploration (and cold, freezing winds), we made our way back. As it turns out, this Glacier Lake trips are only available during the summer. The lake would often freeze out during the winter. I guess that’s the silver lining to our summer visit to Mount Cook – we missed the snow, but got some ice-cold fun in the Glacier Lakes!

About the Author. Michelle Lee. There is an idea behind every writing, and magic in bringing words to life. For Michelle, words create worlds beyond ours. A writer based in Singapore, Michelle seeks to inspire thoughts, ignite emotions, and explore the unfound as much as boundaries can be ventured into. Her inspirations spiral from overseas escapades filled with wild diversities of culture and traditions. “Abandoning responsibilities, work and the hustles of life to a place where everything is fresh, new and alienated. That, is sheer fascination.”