Kathmandu is not a city to go to if you are looking for peace and quiet. Rather than being a place in which to unwind it’s a city of boundless expression. Kathmandu has the all the furious car horns and richly spiced street food of South Asia, with its narrow streets dimmed by the tall buildings that split the sunlight and create a brooding, clouded atmosphere at street level. Among the city streets there are enough things to do in Kathmandu to keep you continuously alert.
To live the local way in Kathmandu you’ll have to adjust to the noise levels. Be it constant traffic noise, the bark of street dogs, the call of temples or the wails of rickshaw drivers angling for customers, Kathmandu is boisterously noisy. This, though, is part of the charm, because being woken up at dawn gives you access to many of the countless sights in Kathmandu which are best experienced in early morning.
With there being so many activities in Kathmandu, to fully immerse yourself in the culture you could do worse things than spend your time idly strolling the streets. After watching the sun rise with bounding monkeys at the divine Swayambhunath Stupa which gazes over the city, one of the best ways to feel localised in Kathmandu is to become lost among its many side streets. Avoiding the bustle of the Durbar Square, in quieter residential areas you are sure to come across communal washing areas and you will likely stumble across a temple or shrine in a courtyard that you never expected to find. You can make tea stops here and there, find places to sit back and people watch and all the while you will no doubt be harangued by playful local children. Kathmandu was made for wandering.
If it isn’t noise that flirts with your senses day and night, it’ll be the teasing smells of the city and, in particular, the piercing spiced scent of street food. If you’re willing to be experimental in what you eat you will uncover the opportunity to try some of the finest local restaurants in Kathmandu.
Deciding where to eat in Kathmandu opens up various possibilities, but it would be a pity to look beyond the dozens of restaurants serving fresh Nepali and Tibetan cuisine. Nestled in Thamel, Newa Momo is a tiny shack restaurant that serves steaming local fare in the most basic and charming of settings, with dim lighting, wood benches and open shop front from which to watch the bustling streets while you sip banana lassi and knock back a plate of delicate vegetable momos. Indeed, there are plenty of restaurants in Kathmandu which offer the ‘local’ vibe. Helena’s is a restaurant known for serving breakfast on the highest rooftop in Thamel, giving visitors the chance to rise above the fever of street level. Similarly, Thakali Kitchen, also in the traditionally tourist focussed Thamel district but tucked behind a tea shop, attracts Tibetans due to its renowned local dishes such as dal bhat – a wholesome Nepali lentil soup with steamed rice which is effectively petrol for humans. It can keep you going through the day and keep you on your feet all night, if that’s what you need.
Finding the authentic Kathmandu might seem daunting on first impression, the trick is slowing down enough to notice what’s all around.
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Category: Expert Guides