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frenchfrog Kathmandu - A travel report by Isabelle
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Kathmandu,  Nepal - flag Nepal
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frenchfrog's travel reports

Kathmandu, the city with a 1000 gods

  19 votes
Kathmandu city is the capital of Nepal with a population of 1.5 million inhabitants counting the suburban area. The city is a fascinating melange of old heritage and modern buildings mixing an astonishing beauty of some sites with an appalling poverty.

Kala Bhairava
Kala Bhairava
The name of Kathmandu is believed to be derived from Kasthamandap which means “square house of wood”. It is also a 1000 years old house that still stands in Durbar Square. The day starts with prayers in the temples and farmers bringing their fresh fruit and vegetables to the local markets in huge baskets. Today Kathmandu suffers from overcrowding, severe pollution and traffic congestion.
The Royal massacre of June 2001when King Birenda and most of the family lost their lives when Crown Prince Dipendra shot his family members resulted in political crisis. It is still in everybody’s mind. Today, the Monarchy is in conflict with the communist Maoist rebels, this “ People’s war” has already killed thousands in the country. Fortunately the country is safe for tourists as a peace treaty was just signed! Now Kathmandu is grid locked with cars, Tata trucks, buses, motorcycles, three wheelers and rickshaws blowing dust all over you.
1$ is equal to around 72 NPR (Nepalese Rupee), all prices given are in local currency.

Favourite spots:
This ancient reliquary, on the northeast of Kathmandu is the spiritual nerve centre of Nepal’s Tibetan and Sherpa community. The stupa is the symbol of enlightenment. Each different shape represent one of the five elements: earth, water, air, fire and sphere. Brought together in the form of a stupa, their unity reflect the structure of the universe itself. An irregular 16-sided wall enclosure surrounds the stupa. The stupa consist of three platforms, decreasing in size, symbolising EARTH; two circular plinths supporting the hemisphere of the Stupa symbolising WATER and the tower, with the four faces bearing the eyes of the omnipresent God. Between each pair of eyes is the “third eye”, symbol of wisdom. The 13 steps of the pyramid represent the ladder to enlightenment, the triangular shape being the abstract form of the FIRE. At the top of the tower is a gilded canopy, the embodiment of AIR. The spire is the sumbol of SHERE.

What's really great:
Prayer flags
Prayer flags
Kathmandu is full of colour, smell and noise. It is an exciting and vibrant city. W. Kirkpatrick wrote in 1811 “There are nearly as many temples as houses, and as many idols as inhabitants” . The people follow two main religions: Buddhism and Hinduism. The two main sights for Buddhists are Boudhanath and Swayambhunath. The main temples for Hindus are Pashupatinath (cremation site) in Kathmandu and Changu Nayaran near Bhaktapur which I will later describe in another report. I love this mixture of religions, everybody lives in harmony and peace. The city is also full of small temples dedicated to many Hindu Gods as well as smaller Buddhist stupas with all kind of architecture. You can walk virtually pretty much everywhere in the city, but if you do not feel like walking you can always get a rickshaw or taxi. If you are going a long way there are buses going to many directions from the city bus park. Comparing to western cities taxis are cheap, especially if you share.

Kathmandu travelogue picture
SWAYAMBHUNATH (also known as the Monkey temple) is situated on a hill top 2Km west of Kathmandu. It is the second largest Buddhist shrine in the valley after Boudhanath. It means "self - arisen”.
Also painted with the eyes of the omnipresent God, the stupa is the centre piece of the complex. Both Hindus and Buddhists climb the seemlessly endless stairs (365) to pray and throw grain to the monkeys and pigeons that have claimed the temple as their own. From the top of the temple you can have a great view over the city and the Kathmandu valley.
There is also the Hindu temple of Hariti Mandir dedicated to Harati, the goddess of smallpox. Many families come here to pray that their young child will not catch the illness. Behind the stupa on a smaller hill a temple is dedicated to Saraswati the goddess of learning.
The temple was first created in the 14th century and has remained unchanged since, apart from a few alterations.
The entrance cost 100NPR, paid at the top of the stairs.

View of Kathmandu
View of Kathmandu
The most convenient place to stay is Thamel in the heart of the city, It ranges from the simple guest house (over 100) to some posh hotels. You can get a bed from 3$ a night in Budget guest houses such as Hotel California, in the medium range you will find the Kathmandu Guest House, which is the best know in town (see for more info), prices range from 6$ to 15$ a night, advance bookings are essentials! Also you can stay in the Pilgrim’s guesthouse, in peaceful environment . Then you have the three stars hotels, I stayed in the hotel Marshyandi in the north of Thamel, very comfy hotel with cable TV, having booked it via a travel agent in the UK, my room only cost me 15$ breakfast included! Laundry services offered as well.
Then you have the top 5* hotels such as The Yak and Yeti and hotel de L Annapurna.

Durbar Square
Durbar Square
There are many small eateries in the city, where you sample traditional Nepalese dishes such as dal bhaat (lentils and rice) and momo (dumplings with veg. or meat). But after spending a few weeks in the mountains, you feel like having a treat! You can find nice restaurants: see my travel tips!
DURBAR SQUARE is a must. The cost is 200Npr, the ticket is valid for one day, but if you go to the offices they can make you a visitor pass and extent it for a month for the same price. The square contains more than 50 important monuments, shrines and temples. The mains buildings are the house of the Kumari (the living goddess), Nepalis worship young girls known as Kumaris. The Kumari is a prepubescent girl worshiped as a living incarnation of the goddess Taleju. The huge former Royal Palace called Hanuman Doka. (Entrance of 250 NPR on the top of Durbar Square ticket). This temple is full of wood carvings and other religious symbols.

Other recommendations:
BUDDHA NILKANTHA (meaning Old Blue Neck) is dedicated to Vishnu. It was consecrated in 642. This huge 6 meters long sculpture is carved from a black stone. Vishnu reclines on the coils of the snake Ananta whose 11 hoods form a garland around his his head.
DHARAHARA TOWER, is a tall minaret like structure situated near the post office. It was erected in 1832 by the Prime Minister Bhishem Thapa for use as a military observation point. The view from the top is excellent but it will cost you 299 NPR to get in, you will need to leave your rucksack in the lockers at the entrance.

Published on Wednesday November 22th, 2006

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Wed, Feb 07 2007 - 09:45 PM rating by antonioagui

The statue of the Buddha Nilkantha is impressive, I love of the shape of his body mixes with the other parts of the statue.

Tue, Dec 05 2006 - 01:58 PM rating by kathmandukitten

WOW! absolutely amazing report on my favourite place in the whole world. Pictures are amazing! Loved your whole site infact! Well done!!

Tue, Nov 28 2006 - 06:18 PM rating by magsalex

Great report. Love this country. Nice pics too.

Sat, Nov 25 2006 - 08:38 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Wonderful report

Sat, Nov 25 2006 - 01:20 PM rating by ravinderkumarsi

wonderful report by you ,I wish it gets the ROM.

Fri, Nov 24 2006 - 02:11 PM rating by marianne

The prayer prayer flag photo is simply beautiful. Kala Bhairava photo I like second best. I like the way you refresh my memory in the first section. I likethe practical information in the other sections. At the same time it is a very personal report and i am sure you must have had a great time.

Thu, Nov 23 2006 - 02:16 PM rating by eirekay

Isabelle, this is a wonderful report! You explain everything so well! Worth ***** for the pictures alone! Nicely Done!

Thu, Nov 23 2006 - 01:24 PM rating by rangutan

Great, this [4.3] and the ****report by kathmandukitten compliment each other quite well. I'm so pleased that peace is now part of daily life again. I prefer prices and rates in a report in rounded-up dollars or euros. Great and colourful pictures too. [The short "destination-report" for popular Kathmandu is still open, help?]

Wed, Nov 22 2006 - 06:18 PM rating by mistybleu

Simply wonderful, so much history, so mucn information; a pleasure to read.


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