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.

7 Things You Didn’t Know About Everest

January 21, 2009 by  
Filed under Attractions, Mythical Himalayas, Nature

What’s in a name?
Everest, previously known just as Peak XV, was confirmed to be the highest mountain in the world in 1856. It was named after Sir George Everest (a previous Surveyor General of India) due to the fact that Tibet and Nepal were sealed off at the time, and so the local names couldn’t be discovered. In Tibetan it is known as Chomolungma (mother goddess of the universe), while the Nepalese call the mountain Sagarmatha – goddess of the sky.

To put that in perspective…
The summit of Mount Everest stands at 8,848m – the equivalent of twenty Empire State Buildings, just below the cruising altitude of a jet. The Burj Dubai will be the tallest building on Earth once it is completed, but Everest will still be over twelve and a half times its height. Even Everest Base Camp (5,300m), the staging point for attempts on the summit, is higher than any of the Rocky Mountains.

Big, but not so tough
It may be the highest mountain in the world, but Everest is not the most dangerous. About 3000 people have made it to the top of Everest, and over 200 never made it back to the safety of Everest Base Camp – it is estimated that about 9 percent of Everest climbers do not survive their journey. This may sound like a daunting percentage, but compared to some other mountains, this is tame stuff – K2, known as the Savage Mountain, claims a quarter of its climbers, and Annapurna I has a staggering 40 percent mortality rate due to its frequent avalanches.

Rest in peace…
Anyone who is climbing from Everest Base Camp to Everest’s summit must prepare themselves for the gruesome sight of the climbers who never made it back. At the higher altitudes, the corpses do not decompose due to the cold, and removing them is too dangerous. It is believed that over 120 bodies remain on the mountain, many of which are visible from the standard summiting routes. Anyone on an Everest Base Camp trek needn’t worry – all the bodies are further up in the so called “Death Zone”.

The fastest way down…
There are plenty of speed records associated with Everest, but one of the most impressive is that of the fastest descent. In 1988, Jean Marc Boivin of France went off the summit in a paraglider, making his descent in just eleven minutes.

You may kiss the bride
Couples are always trying to find ways to make their wedding day memorable, but few would think of holding the ceremony at 29,000 feet. On May 30th 2005, the Nepalese couple Mono Mulepati and Pem Dorje Sherpa became the first people to tie the knot at the highest point on Earth. Presumably, they had to find a Buddhist priest who was also a master mountain climber to perform the ceremony!

You’re never too old…or too young
Keen mountain climbers who hope to one day go beyond Everest Base Camp and on to the summit itself may be embarrassed to discover the age of Everest’s youngest summiteer. Temba Tsheri made it to the top in 2001 aged just 15. Then again, it’s never too late to make it to the top – Min Bahadur Sherchan was 76 when he reached the summit.

About the Author. Jude Limburn.Jude Limburn Turner is the Marketing Manager for Mountain Kingdoms, an adventure tour company who have run Everest Base Camp treks for over 20 years.