Impressions of Kathmandu

It was my first time in Nepal – or the Indian sub-continent for that matter – and I was filled with a mix of apprehension and excitement as the plane embarked on its final approach into Kathmandu airport. I’d seen many photos of Kathmandu (map) before and they always gave me the impression of an overcrowded city, with horrible roads, clouds of dust, chaotic traffic and the odd cow – not exactly a place that would be high on my list to visit. After several days there, I concluded that my initial impressions of Kathmandu were spot on, however, there was something extraordinary about this city that made me enjoy my trip way more than I thought I would. Scroll down through my photos of Kathmandu to see what it was about this city that I truly enjoyed.

36 photos of Kathmandu

Flying into Kathmandu

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My excitement grew as the plane made its final approach into Kathmandu, passing mountains on both sides.

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The plane basically followed the line of the Kathmandu Valley on its approach.

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My first glimpse of Kathmandu traffic just before touchdown.

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Yep, it’s a crowded city! But notice the colours.

My impressions of Kathmandu

I stayed at the Fairfield by Marriott, a comfortable 3* hotel tucked away in a quiet lane in the district of Thamel. Thamel is where most tourists congregate in Kathmandu, perhaps because of its central location and a plethora of historic gems scattered throughout its maze of streets. The hotel staff were absolutely lovely! I was greeted with genuinely big smiles and friendly chatter – something I experienced again and again at other Kathmandu hotels and restaurants. I checked in, freshened up and went for a stroll – I couldn’t wait to explore Kathmandu!

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It rained the night before so the streets of Thamel were muddy. I was glad I brought my oldest pair of walking shoes!

Thamel is packed with shops selling all sorts of souvenirs, from handicraft to clothing, carpets, paintings and gemstones, as well as small hotels and hostels, restaurants, bars and cafés. I carefully paid attention to every step I took, wary of stepping into a pothole filled with mud, but every so often, I looked up and I was always met with a splash of bright colours! Another thing that caught my attention almost immediately was the constant scent of spices in the air.

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Various streets were draped with colourful prayer flags.

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And the streets were indeed busy. Pedestrians jostle with rickshaws, motorbikes, cars and cows in the city’s busy streets.

The photo above was one of the first Kathmandu photos I posted on my Instagram account. Along with the photo, I wrote:

Strolling in the streets of Kathmandu is a crazy, multi-sensory experience. The colours, scents of spices, temples, shrines, flags, honking taxis, cyclists, rickshaws and the odd cow greet you as you explore the city.

And then there were temples! Lots of temples!

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A shrine inside the centuries-old Bikramshila Mahavihar Buddhist temple.

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It seemed like there were temples and shrines around every corner. Many of them are centuries-old and have withstood wars and earthquakes.

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Many shrines and temples feature both Buddhist and Hindu references.

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Hidden behind the main thoroughfares in Thamel are courtyards surrounded by beautiful old houses. Many of these courtyards also have shrines.

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A gorgeous gold-gilded temple in Kathmandu.

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Another beautiful temple, almost hidden behind a jumble of cables.

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Passersby often stop by at the shrines to pay their respects or say a prayer.

After two days, I was quite literally ‘templed-out’. Haha!

Colours, street scenes and ancient monuments

There was always a surprise around every corner: a bustling market, an ancient monument and most of all, a burst of colour! The bright colours in the streets simply blew me away!

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A street market.

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Ladies selling vegetables.

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Loved this row of shops with brass pots and pans.

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A craftsman at work in a little alley in Thamel.

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The old houses, with their intricate woodwork, were just beautiful!

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Just another colourful street scene in Kathmandu.

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I risked my life to take this photo! Haha! That stunning monument was worth it!

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A shop selling all sorts of masks.

Kathmandu Durbar Square

The Kathmandu Durbar Square is one of the city’s main historic attractions. Home to the old royal palace and various temples, the square is one of three royal squares in the city, all three of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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Stalls selling flower garlands at Durbar Square.

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The Great Earthquake that struck Kathmandu in 2015 caused much destruction in the city. Some of the city’s historic monuments have since been restored but many, like this temple in Durbar Square, are still under construction or waiting to be restored.

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The temples of Durbar Square.

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The Kalbhairav shrine.

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Temples at Hanumandhoka, another name for Durbar Square.

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Pigeons flying off at Hanumandhoka.

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Sadhus (holy men) at a temple in Hanumandhoka.

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Part of the Royal Palace at Durbar Square. This complex was the Royal Residence for centuries up until the 19th century.

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This courtyard is inside the Kumari Chok, a gilded ‘cage’ which houses the Raj Kumari, a girl chosen through a mystical selection process to become the human incarnation of the Hindu mother goddess, Durga. She makes an appearance every day in one of the windows on the top left. Taking photos of her is strictly prohibited.

The story of the Kama Sutra and bird poo

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Indrapur Temple with its intricate woodwork.

The Indrapur Temple is one of the many temples in Durbar Square. It’s especially famed for its intricate wood carvings depicting the Kama Sutra. Its rooftop is also a favoured resting spot for the hundreds of pigeons that can be found in the square. As I looked at the explicit sexual scenes carved into the wood, a big blob of bird poo landed on my shoulder. A local couple who saw it happen smiled at me. They clasped their hands together and greeted me with “Namaste!”. The guy added, “You have been blessed!”.

I guess I have. 🙂

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Wood carvings in the Indrapur Temple depicting scenes from the Kama Sutra.

The Great Boudha Stupha

I didn’t have much time to see more of Kathmandu but one place I didn’t want to miss was the Great Boudha Stupa, or Boudhanath, one of the largest stupas in the world, and a true Kathmandu icon. Situated on the ancient trade route from Tibet to the Kathmandu Valley, the stupa was the resting spot for Tibetan merchants and a pilgrimage site for centuries. The stupa suffered severe damage during the 2015 Earthquake but it has since been restored.

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Getting to the Great Stupa was a bit of a challenge! I crossed this muddy road and lived to tell the story! Haha!

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The Eyes of the Great Boudha Stupa.

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A panoramic view of Boudhanath.

The stupa is surrounded by smaller temples and buildings which house art galleries, cafés, hotels and restaurants. I recommend having lunch or dinner on the rooftop of one of the buildings to get this beautiful panoramic view of the stupa.

A serene, spiritual feel

I guess because of the countless Hindu and Buddhist temples and shrines, I sensed, despite the madness of the traffic and the chaotic streets, a somewhat serene, spiritual feel in the city. It could also be the many smiles I encountered. I’m not sure how to explain it – another place I can think of that exudes this same feel is Bali. And it’s this feel that keeps drawing me back to a certain place. I was enraptured by the vibrant colours in the streets, the wonderful people, the fascinating history and architecture, and that calming feel. After several days in Kathmandu, I knew I wanted to return one day and see more of Nepal.

I hope you enjoyed my Kathmandu photos! Before I left Kathmandu, there was one more thing I knew I had to do: see Mt. Everest from the air! Read about my flight tour to Everest.

 

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5 Responses to “Impressions of Kathmandu”

  1. Keith Jenkins 05/07/2018 4:46 pm
    #

    Hi Harinda,

    Thanks for your comment! Yes, Boudhanath has been fully restored and is very popular. Funny, because I felt exactly the way you did in the middle of that chaotic, crowded city. Absolutely enjoyed my stay and hope to return one day!

    Cheers,
    Keith

  2. Bama 30/06/2018 12:55 am
    #

    Yes, Kathmandu was chaotic, crowded and polluted, but somehow being in the middle of all that was actually one of my most memorable travel experiences. It was such an atmospheric city, and despite going there just a few months after the big earthquake struck I still very much enjoyed my visit. Unfortunately when I was there Boudhanath was under renovation, therefore I decided to visit Swayambhunath instead which is closer to the city center. Glad to know that the former has been fully restored to its former glory!

  3. Keith Jenkins 29/06/2018 10:14 am
    #

    Hi Tim,
    Likewise! It was great to meet you – hope we can meet again some time and chat a bit more. I’m glad the photos capture the madness of the city! Haha! Thanks for your comment.

    Cheers,
    Keith

  4. Tim 28/06/2018 10:00 pm
    #

    Great hanging out with you a bit and seeing your talk in Kathmandu. I think you captured the madness of this city well!

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