Kathmandu Top attractions – My trip to the City of Temples

I frankly admit that the impression that I had formed of Kathmandu, until recently, was solely on the basis of the scenes of some of the Hindi movies (such as Hare Rama Hare Krishna, and more recently Baby) and Indiana Jones movies that I had seen. That was before we (husband and me) packed off for a short trip, leaving our cat in the safe custody of my daughter, who has come home on vacation. The destination obviously was Kathmandu – an offbeat place but well suited for a short summer getaway, especially for heritage lovers like me.

Arrival at Kathmandu

Taking a morning flight from Mumbai, we landed in Kathmandu by noon. It had rained in the morning, due to which the temperature had dropped and the weather had turned pleasant.  A huge poster of Deepika Padukone with an Oppo phone greeted us at the Tribhuvan International airport, where I was expecting to see posters of people in their traditional Nepali costumes. Repair work was being carried on at the airport escalators, which made me a little sceptical while using those.

The hotel Annapurna was not very far away and we reached the hotel in half an hour. While entering, we could see the Narayan Hiti Palace Museum, which was at a five minutes walking distance from the hotel gate. We decided to go there after we had rested for some time.

NarayanHitiNepal
Narayan Hiti Palace

However, on reaching the Narayan Hiti Palace Museum, we found that it was closed. So we kept walking towards the Thamel shopping area. I saw that most of the people on the road had covered their nose with a dust mask, which I later found is a common practice all over Kathmandu.

Garden of Dreams – A historic garden in Kathmandu

On the junction at the start of Thamel, I spotted a café and we decided to go in. As we entered, we saw that there was a garden adjoining the café, for which we had to purchase entry tickets. What we found inside was a serene, green, beautifully landscaped garden, with a lotus pond, colourful flowers, trees, and fountains –the garden of dreams.

We came to know that the garden was originally created in 1920, and was the most sophisticated private garden of its time. After the death of its owner Kaiser Shamsher Rana, the garden was handed over to the Government of Nepal. Over the decades, it had deteriorated due to lack of maintenance, but it was later restored over the period of seven years from 2000 to 2007.

GardenofDreamsKathmandu
Garden of Dreams, Kathmandu

A cafe designed in European style was overlooking the garden. We had light snacks and tea in the garden café and then strolled leisurely in the oasis of greenery that surrounded us, appreciating the variety of flowers and seeing the squirrels running around. By the time we left the garden and the café, we had spent a couple of hours and felt completely rejuvenated.

From the road, we took a taxi and headed towards Durbar Square

Check out here to see pictures of Garden of Dreams. 

Durbar Square – Hanuman Dhoka

The taxi dropped us right in front of the ticket counter. The ticket price was Rs 150 (Nepali currency) for tourists from the SAARC nations. For tourists from other nations, the tickets are priced at Rs 1000.

Right at the entrance, we saw a flea market, where trinkets, jewellery, purses etc. were being sold by the local vendors. It was saddening to see that the place where the city’s kings were once crowned, bore the look of a lost legacy. The effects of the devastation caused by the earthquake in 2015 are still visible as many of the sculptures are in the ruined condition and the monuments are supported with props, while the renovation work continues at the UNESCO World Heritage site.

DurbarSquareKathmandu
Durbar Square, Kathmandu

DurbarSquare

We walked through the squares, looking the crumbling temples, palace structures. The presence of the statue of Hanuman at the entrance of the royal palace gave it the name Hanuman Dhoka. A building called Kasthamandap was the first building to be constructed in Kathmandu. Many people were hanging around and sitting on the steps and the platforms of the temples. I saw a sadhu in a saffron garb coming towards us, his forehead adorned with sandalwood dots. So colourful was his face painting that I was tempted to click him. My husband offered him a ten rupee note and asked if we could take his picture. He willingly obliged and posed for the clicks.

Sadhu

Next, I said that I would click a selfie with the sadhu, but this time my husband pulled me away. We came across a large deity of the God Kalbhairav in the open. From the design of the structures and the intricate carvings on the ruins, we could make out how beautiful the place would have been in its prime.

After spending an hour or more in the square, we went back to the hotel, where we enjoyed a sumptuous dinner with a live music show. Early next morning we would leave for Pashupatinath, which according to the local residents is the first place to visit when you are in Nepal.

 

Pashupatinath – The most sacred Shiva temple 

At 7 AM next morning, one of my husband’s friend Mr RK Thakur came to meet us. He insisted that his driver Birbal would take us around Kathmandu in his vehicle. By 7.30 AM, we started for Pashupatinath, which is considered to be the oldest and the most sacred Hindu Shiva temple in the world.

In front of the temple is the street lined with shops selling religious stuff. Birbal took us to a shop from where we purchased some flowers garlands and offerings and took off our shoes before we entered the temple complex. The entrance to Pashupatinath was flocked with devotees. Only Hindus are allowed inside the temple.

Pashupatinath
Pashupatinath, Nepal

The door opens to a courtyard at the centre of which is the square shaped ancient pagoda temple. It has four entrance doors in four directions, which are opened for the devotees to catch a glimpse of the God. A huge statue of Nandi bull is built facing the main temple. As photography is prohibited inside the temple courtyard, many people were seen clicking at the entrance. See more pictures of Pashupatinath here

Inside the temple, there was a buzz of activities. We lined up for the darshan, as the priests started opening up the four gates located on the four sides of the temple. Incidentally, the priests of the temple happen to be from India. Monkeys were perched all over the temple but they were not troubling the pilgrims. Standing in one of the most ancient temples and making offerings was a rare experience for us.

After making the offerings, we went to the other side of the temple, where river Bagmati was flowing by. Bagmati is considered as a very sacred river though it is also very polluted. Across the river are a series of small shelters from the medieval times, which were mostly occupied by the yogis, who moved around dressed in saffron and their face smeared with ash. While walking over to the other side, we saw funeral pyres burning as cremations were being performed on the ghat along the river. It made us contemplate on the notions of life and death.

 

Boudhanath Stupa

From Pashupatinath, we went to the next UNESCO World Heritage site of Boudhanath Stupa. This is the largest stupa in Nepal and supposed to be the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet.

This heritage zone, believed to have been built in the 14th century has been restored after the earthquake with donations from Buddhist groups and help from local volunteers.

BoudhanathNepal
Boudhanath, Nepal

Over the sprawling white stupa, is a gilded square tower with 13 steps that represent the Buddhist path to enlightenment. Below these steps are the omnipresent Buddha eyes gazing at the city from all four sides. Some school children had come with their teachers to visit the stupa. They rejoiced in spinning the prayer wheels.

As we did the circumnavigation of the stupa, I watched the colourful prayer flags flying around the stupa against the bright blue sky. Here I was in a space so very different from mine, relishing the visuals, sounds, and vibes.

Within the Boudhanath complex, there were a number of restaurants. We had Nepali thali for lunch, sitting at the open part of a restaurant from where we had a direct view of the stupa.

We went back to the hotel for some rest before we started off for the other heritage sites.

The vivid imagery of the sites is still playing in my mind and I wanted to chronicle the trip before the memories start fading. Yet, I shall stop here to continue with the remaining part of the trip in the next part. Please stay tuned.  I have been posting the pictures on Instagram. If interested, you may want to have a look here.

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    By: Somali K Chakrabarti

    Hi there! Welcome to Scribble and Scrawl! Here, I delve into themes related to positive lifestyle – from making smart-living choices, savvy financial decisions to nurturing the mind, body and soul. I share my travel experiences, explore facets of art and culture and highlight inspiring stories. Hope you enjoy reading my posts.

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32 thoughts on “Kathmandu Top attractions – My trip to the City of Temples

  • May 26, 2017 at 1:25 am
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    Excellent description of your trip to Nepal.

    Reply
  • May 26, 2017 at 2:28 am
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    I appreciate your reflections about your trip Somali. It is nice to note down all the feelings and emotions to revisit them along with the pictures. A lot of thoughts fade with the passage of time but you are preserving those moments of delight and enjoyment very well! Loved your description. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Reply
    • May 26, 2017 at 5:07 am
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      Thank you Balroop. I truly value your support in appreciating my attempt to preserve the memories in words and pictures. 🙂

      Reply
      • May 26, 2017 at 4:24 pm
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        Memories are only treasures we have eventually…all relationships drift away to face the heat of the world…the tide of time sweeps everything away yet we have the best of all if we preserve those lovely moments. 🙂

        Reply
  • May 26, 2017 at 5:02 am
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    So nice to know about your Kathmandu trip. It’s my long cherished dream to visit Kathmandu. Let me see when it gets fulfilled. Best wishes for this and many more such trips. And thanks for sharing your experiences with us all.

    Reply
    • May 26, 2017 at 5:13 am
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      Thank you Jeetendraji for reading and sharing your thoughts. I hope you realize your dream and plan a trip to Kathmandu and Nepal. I am sure you would love to see these sites. I would like to go back once more to see the other places in Nepal, such as Pokahra, Lumbini etc.

      Reply
  • May 26, 2017 at 5:49 am
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    Nice one…add some humour to the blog..I am sure you and Kanchan must have experienced some fun moments too..

    Reply
  • May 26, 2017 at 11:18 pm
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    Loved your vivid description of your Kathmandu trip.
    Pictures are beautiful.

    Reply
  • May 27, 2017 at 8:47 am
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    Sounds like a lovely trip for a few days for you just you and your husband, Somali. Such a lovely shot of you in the Garden of Dreams and it sounded like a great getaway from modern life – lovely start to the day although the palace was closed 🙂

    Very kind of your husband to tip sadhu for a photo. I wonder if many visitors do that, or just take a photo without giving him a tip? I’d be sure to give him some for it and not everyone is okay with photos, especially around religious buildings.

    Magnificent stupa and and very nice to know the significance behind it 🙂

    Reply
    • May 28, 2017 at 6:39 pm
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      Thank you, Mabel. Yes, a wonderful getaway it was, away from the humdrum of modern life, into the world of heritage and religious places, The palace has a very intriguing history behind as many massacres have taken place there.
      Photography is prohibited inside the temples, so I did not attempt. Though I have seen pictures of the prohibited areas and even cremation being posted on blogs, but I find it intrusive and feel that we should respect their privacy. Also, whenever we did take pictures of monks or sadhus, we gave them some small tips. That was the least we could do.

      Reply
  • May 27, 2017 at 12:15 pm
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    I mus admit Somali, the way you have captured the journey right from the moment you left the city of Mumbai and a hour by hour commentary of every movement in the beautiful place of Nepal, yes things have changed after the earthquake…it was literally making me feel part of the voyage. It reminded me of your Jaipur trip which was a solo journey and in both places your eye for detail is intact and your way of capturing those little moments and describing it in a manner that always fascinates any reader and I am no exception. I like the way you took the photo of the sadhu and your attempt to take a selfie and rightly so your hubby pulled you away from such face offs. Looks could well be deceptive. The garden of dreams, the name conjures wonderful world of nature, to nurture our soul and we all look for that special place where we can soak in peace and reflect in serenity.

    Pasupatinath, the oldest Hindu temple in the world where only Hindus are allowed, it reminded me of our Jagannath Temple in Puri where only Hindus are allowed and there are so much in common in between this little country in the backdrop of Himalaya and the country of India matching upto the mighty of Himalaya…I am sure your next post will be on the Himalaya sojourn and your thoughts will be Mighty high like the Mount Everest.

    Have a lovely stay and wonderful weekend.
    😀

    Reply
    • May 28, 2017 at 6:46 pm
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      Thank you very much, Nihar for your valuable comment. I am now back in Mumbai. Though we had planned for the flight over Everest, we could not take it due to certain reasons. Which means that this trip of ours was confined to Kathmandu and the surroundings, and we have a valid reason to go back again. 😀 😀
      Btw, I still haven’t been to Puri. Am yet to see the Jagannath Temple but as they say one goes there only when the Lord calls. So will wait for his call. 🙂
      Hope you had a lovely weekend. Wishing you a great week ahead.

      Reply
      • May 29, 2017 at 2:16 am
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        I have never gone to Nepal and the urge to see the mighty Himalaya from the foothills of Mount Everest will always a moment of reckoning…as described by you, it must have been a very peaceful place to pause and reflect, things we are unable to do in our cities.
        Puri you must go Somali but if you have gone to temples in South then you have to moderate your expectation as regard the cleanliness and discipline…the pundits have their say and they do it their way. Otherwise as you enter the sanctum sanctorum you will experience a world of divinity. I agree we visit the lord when there is a call and it has happened always me.
        This time it was excessively hot in Hyderabad and the weather has just started to change, hopefully the rain hits early.
        You too have a great week ahead.
        😀

        Reply
        • May 29, 2017 at 6:58 am
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          Nihar, this time it is quite hot in Mumbai too, but yes Hyderabad would be much more. Yes, let’s hope for early rain so that the weather cools down a bit. 🙂

          Reply
  • May 28, 2017 at 3:59 pm
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    Somali it was pleasure reading your travelogue, compliments Happy travel and memerizing shoot !

    Reply
    • May 28, 2017 at 6:49 pm
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      Thank you, Krish for reading and for your encouraging comments. The sites are very picturesque, due to which most people go on a clicking spree, 😀 😀

      Reply
  • May 29, 2017 at 4:20 am
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    Sounds like a short and nice trip. I’ve heard of hotel Annapurna before. One of my friends stayed there while visiting Nepal. From your narration and pictures, it’s evident that the place has completely revived from the disastrous earthquake of 2015. Wonderful travelogue, Somali… 🙂

    Aami tomar ei last duTo post-er email notification paini. I tried to subscribe again but it’s saying I’m already subscribed! Ke jaane ki holo…

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    • May 29, 2017 at 7:10 am
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      Annapurna is very well located. The hotel is around 50 years old. Though the service is quite good but inside the room you may find it too plain, and some basic amenities missing ( bathroom e kapod tangabar jayega nei 🙂 ) Some of the sites like Boudhanath have been completely revived however the renovation is still on and at a rather slow pace at Durbar Square.

      Eiye self hosted site e move korar por roj kono notun jhamela hoye…kokhono google , kokhono plugin. Not sure if all that jhamela is worth it. Can you unsubscribe and then subscribe once more whenever you have time and let me know if it works.

      Reply
  • June 3, 2017 at 9:59 am
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    What an amazing time you have had.. Such wonderful temples and attractions.. So beautiful in how you have described them and in seeing them, Loved the photo of you sitting in front of the Garden of Dreams.. 🙂
    Many thanks for sharing your journey..
    Sue <3 🙂

    Reply
    • June 4, 2017 at 7:38 pm
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      Thank you Sue for taking the time to read and drop in your words on the posts. Wanted to jot down the pieces and layout the pics so that these memories remain with me for a long time. At the same time, I hope that if anybody planning to visit Kathmandu finds this post on the net, he/she gets a good idea of the key places they can cover during their stay. 🙂

      Reply
  • June 23, 2017 at 1:47 am
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    Wonderful narration and beautifully illustrated. You sure got off cheap from the sadhu. They generally demand 50/- minimum for a pic! These sadhus make their money modelling for tourists I think. 🙂

    Reply
    • June 23, 2017 at 6:51 am
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      Thank you very much for stopping by. The sadhu didn;t ask us for money or maybe they have a different rate for tourists from SAARC nations. 😀 😀

      Reply
  • October 6, 2017 at 10:27 am
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    Very Beautiful and detailed description Somali ji . I am lucky enough as I can read your post again with your flavor of writing . I was expecting some more pictures of Narayan Hiti palace and garden of dreams . Thank you for sharing and I will return here again 🙂

    Reply
    • October 8, 2017 at 11:16 am
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      Thank you very much Yogiji, for your visit. I had posted many pictures of Kathmandu on Instagram. I have missed out on your travel posts for quite some time. So will jump on to your wonderful blog right away. 🙂

      Reply

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