It’s amazing how well I always knew what kind of areas in the world I would like to see in the future. Nepal was on my list as a very first country to visit since I was very young. Something was always telling me that it is probably one of the most fascinating and astonishing places in the world. What I wasn’t sure about was the wonder, if I will ever be able to go there. Fortunately, I did get a chance to visit this truly diverse land with the highest mountain range in the world. I wasn’t mistaken at all, as I found there everything, I always imagine I would find. Even that I was in Kathmandu during the earthquake didn’t change my experience in any way. I witness how Nepalese truly helped each other during and after the disaster. For this, and loads of other reasons, I consider Nepal as a small Asian country with the big-hearted people.
Landing in Kathmandu and getting around
When it comes to the international airport, it is probably one of the oldest and smallest I’ve ever seen, but then the size makes it easier to find your way around. I arrived in April from not so warm Europe, so the heat struck me straight away. After 2 hours in the long queue to get a visa, I was finally able to see the other side. I picked my bag from the floor somewhere, and I left happy and glad it didn’t get missing. Stepping outside, I quickly spotted how overcrowded and chaotic this city is. This helped me to make a quick decision on not trying to work out how buses run, but just to take a taxi. The situation on the road can be really shocking for someone who has never been in Southeast Asia before. The jam, noise, unclear driving rules and no traffic lights makes you wonder how on earth Nepalese getting around on a daily basis there. The car or motorbike can drive everywhere where it fits, even through a tiny tiny streets, so better have your eyes around your head. Watch out also for what locals transport on their motorbikes or bikes, as It can be something four times of a vehicle size, so be aware of the situation around you to avoid being knock down by something. I wouldn’t recommend walking while listening to your music either to avoid any accidents. I would definitely suggest to get your accommodation in Thamel. It is the most touristic area in Kathmandu. I am always trying to stay away from this kind of places, but there is just way different. You can meet loads of amazing backpackers, trekkers, travelers and volunteers to talk to, to share your experience with. Locals are very friendly too, so you definitely won’t get bored or lonely there. Shops and restaurants are on every possible corner, but always have cash with you. It’s very unlikely to pay by card, maybe just in posh hotels and restaurants. Also if you will see a cash machine, use it. There’s not so many of them around. Some of them may not work and some may not accept your card. I’ve had a Visa and MasterCard, and I wasn’t always able to use the first one, but with the second I’ve had a better luck.
Try to sample as many new things as you can. For me everything was very delicious and packed with wonderful flavors. It is a heaven for Asian cousin lovers, like myself. People who sell meals on the streets really mastered their cooking skills. They make it very local, very unique, always fresh, and usually made in front of you. I have to add that I’ve met few travelers that complained about experiencing some stomach problems after, but not me. So maybe try to find a golden line between cleanliness and vibe of authentic local street food. Momo`s are definitely must eat there. They are very traditional and you can have them with many different fillings and sauces.
I am from Poland, and they do remind me of our dish called pierogi. I wonder if that’s how they came to us through the Russia first. Apart from them, rice and noodles are probably most popular. It’s like a fusion of Indian and Chinese food. They all come in good vegetarian range too. If you like a late meal you will get even a better choice, as loads of street stands are open only in the evening. It’s good to have a supper around that time, as you will meet loads of travelers around. The only problem there is lack of the streets light, so visibility depends only on shops and restaurants neons. It could be a problem sometimes, as often on some streets, I’ve had to walk in total darkness….alone…brrr.
If there are loads of things you want to see in one day, hire a motorbike. It really is very cheap, around 10£ for a day, and can save you loads of time. You can get a bike too, but it can be difficult to ride it on all these small streets full of people. Otherwise, not much for me to say about public buses in capital, as I haven’t used it at all, relying just on my private transport – my legs. However, three main bus station are present with buses that connect cities and towns in Nepal. All a little bit chaotic, but by keep asking, you should eventually find the one you need. No worries if you will take a wrong one, everything is worth seeing in Nepal :D. More or less, Nepalese are good with English and always happy to help! First bus station (also called the Kathmandu Bus Terminal, or simply ‘new bus park’) is located at Ring Road, Balaju. It is basically for all long-distance buses, including the one to Pokhara and destinations in the Terai. Kantipath bus station (if you can call it like that, as buses are just parked on the side of the street) seems less confused (but still a bit!), and is located very close to the Thamel area on Tridevi Marg Kantipath, the main road running north-south at the junction where the Garden of Dreams is. There`s not so many buses leaving from there, so makes it easier to find your way around. I took my bus from there to Pokhara that leaves everyday around 7 am. You do not need to book in advance, but can be busy sometimes, so you may, just for the peace of your mind. This bus station is only in use early morning. Later in the day there is zero buses around. Green Line Bus station is a private company that provides better comfort at higher price. Usually they operate minivans with aircon and include a meal. Terminal can be found at Greenline bus park opposite the Garden of Dreams on the edge of Thamel.
If you are looking for some trekking experience or any other trips, you can find all you need in Thamel that is packed with agencies. You can book your bungee jump, see some caves, discover the area around Kathmandu Valley, book a plane to see some of the 8000 high peaks. I did buy few, but they all been cancelled after the earthquake. Especially I am sad that I`ve missed a fly around the Himalayas. If you have a few spare days, go to see the Chitwan National Park, a World Heritage site since 1984. Its is a jungle with rich range of fauna and flora species, also a Bengali tiger. Loads of Nepalese, I’ve met, were pointing this wildlife area as a number one to see. You can stuck up on proper gear too there. If you like a good brand staff, they are a little bit cheaper in less touristic areas.
For more about what to see in Kathmandu please click here, otherwise pack your back, book your fly, and off you go!