“The mountains were so wild and so stark and so very beautiful that I wanted to cry. I breathed in another wonderful moment to keep safe in my heart.”- Jane Wilson Howarth
Nepal is a mecca for each and every traveler for it’s myriad of reasons. The thought strikes of it’s jaw dropping Himalayan mountains that offer some of the best trekking opportunities in Asia or that it boasts eight of the 10 highest peaks in the world. More than that the Nepalese people are incredibly warm, polite and compassionate towards every distant people, no wonder they are one of the most resilient individuals in the world. This was noted after the 2015 earthquake, the way we brushed us with faith and courage and strived towards unified happiness. Thus, making this place by visiting once never enough! Today, as not only a travel enthusiast but also a Nepalese local citizen, it is easier to comprehend visitors on Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal famous for it’s lush landscape, willing culture and thriving religious sites and not to forget an outlandish extent of modern living.
Temples and holy sites are rampant in Kathmandu and date back to some of the oldest Buddhist and Hindu temples in the world. No wonder, it is named as the Land of temples. However tempted you maybe not to temple every shrine or sanctuary, I insist in visiting these four major sites- all diverse and intriguing in it’s own aspect.
- Pashupatinath Temple – A sacred site for Hindus, this is the holiest temple of Lord Shiva in Hinduism. It lies on the banks of holy Bagmati River and as a Westerner you can look at the temple from the other side of the river. Also a UNESCO site, you can watch from above as they regularly perform ritual cremations in the Ghats, as it is believed that getting cremated at Pashupatinath purifies your soul and you get a place in Heaven. Hundreds of people from all around the world visit Pashupatinath to witness the pious sanctuary and participate in the Arati around 5:30 pm (chanting of holy mantras and dancing to the reverberation of your soul with the Gods).
- Bodhnath Stupa- A UNESCO site and home to a lot of Buddhist monks chanting Om Mane Peme Hum with prayer wheels in their hand, it is likely the largest Stupa in the world. Consider this the mac-daddy of all Buddhist sites. It’s enormous and bustling with activity all day long.
- Swayambhunath, aka Monkey Temple- There are literally hundreds of monkeys here and tons of statues to the various gods, including monkey god Hanuman. From the Stupa, one can see the entire Kathmandu Valley and surroundings with bliss. Light, prayer wheels and prayer flags make the Stupa iridescent in the nighttime. Meanwhile, it is a must to try one of the best local dumplings and Laphing in the nearby cozy restaurants.
- Hanuman Dhoka as said by locals aka Durbar Square- Another World Heritage Site, this series of temples and buildings was once used by royalty, the really fascinating part of the square are the elaborately carved doors to where the Kumari lives. The Kumari is a living goddess and it’s worth some research to see if you’ll be in Kathmandu during one of her handful of appearances. You can sit on the steps like locals and watch the pigeons, people, and sadhus wander. Not to forget to immerse in this ancient Square with myths and legends of living Goddess. Lastly, do make a stop to try Newari sweets and dishes including the famous Ju Ju Dhau.
Besides the temples, you can always expect bustling fun in Thamel. It is the Kathmandu Downtown and almost every foreigner visiting Nepal stays/goes around this place. It has innumerous hotels, hostels, travel agencies, bars, pubs, and souvenir shops to branded outlets for trekking/mountaineering gears. You will find people from every country in the world in Thamel, as it is the most happening places in Kathmandu. Wander around Thamel famous for it’s place where Hippies stayed in 1960s. With narrow gullies, stone paved roads, prayer flags, smell of local incent sticks and traditional folk music playing in the background, it definitely makes a very enriching experience. It has many restaurants offering delicacies from all over the world, many live music places, bars, pubs, money exchangers and travel agencies. Its recently been vehicle free. You can also buy or rent trekking/mountaineering gears and souvenir/gifts for your friends and family back home.
This is the perfect compilation to understand and enjoy Kathmandu and the Nepalese people in 2 days.
Lastly, by the time you go home you will definitely learn the most endearing term; Namaste meaning the light within me bows to the light within you.