Kathmandu Walking Tour

Kenny and I spent a few hours today following the Lonely Planet’s Kathmandu walking tour, which started just south of Thamel and took us to a few temples, a Buddhist stupa, and through a busy shopping area on our way to Durbar Square. We were certainly drained by the end of the walk – the combination of the heat and the hawkers constantly hassling us to buy souvenirs added up to us requiring a good afternoon nap.

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Stupa

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Mind your head… or I will mount it on my wall

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Mmm, garlic

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The LP describes Durbar Square as “peaceful.” I don’t know that I’d go that far, but it was certainly quieter than Thamel.

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Shiva and Parvati watching over Durbar Square

Everest Hardwear

The Thamel area of Kathmandu is where most tourists congregate (it’s a zoo – the only crazier tourist center I’ve been to is Khao San Road in Bangkok), and one of the main attractions here is shopping. There are only a few types of stores here: music and DVD shops; Nepali and Tibetan craft stores; clothing stores selling flowy skirts and pants; and stores selling trekking gear for tourists to stock up before heading out to Everest or the Annapurnas. The trekking gear shops feature a number of recognizable brand names, including The North Face, Patagonia, Columbia, Mountain Hardwear and my favorite, Everest Hardwear (in the style of the Mountain Hardwear logo). On close inspection, none of these items are the real deal, but the quality is actually quite good and prices are cheap. We needed a day pack for our upcoming DIY trek around the Kathmandu Valley, so we picked up a red “North Face” bag that we think will do the trick. Now we just need to pare our packing list down to 25 liters for 5 days. Eek!

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Swayambhunath

We rose early this morning to beat the heat and the crowds for our walk to Swayambhunath, a temple complex on a hill in northwestern Kathmandu. The hill’s most famous feature is a stupa that has been completely overrun by monkeys. Being a big fan of monkeys, I was excited to check it out. I had never seen a monkey temple before, although I heard that monkeys once piloted a ship from here to Monkey Island!

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The early morning walk to Swayambhunath

To our surprise, the monkey sightings started as we arrived at the foot of the hill, and continued all the way up the long staircase to the stupa. I had fun playing wildlife photographer, snapping as many action shots of the primates as I could get. At times it was even more fun to watch the tourists react to the monkeys than to watch the monkeys themselves.

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Monks and other devotees circling the stupa and spinning the prayer wheels

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Tourist kitsch for sale at the top of the hill

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This monkey seemed particularly curious about the nutrition facts on his carton of juice

We saw even more monkeys as we made our way down the other side of the hill. The staircase that we descended dropped us off directly opposite where we had started, so we walked back around the hill and then continued on to Thamel. Along the way, we passed several smaller pagodas and shrines, which exist in high numbers in this holy district of Kathmandu.

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Mischievous monkeys

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Kenny and me under the prayer flag canopy

The Monkey Temple is certainly very touristy, but definitely an essential part of any visit to Kathmandu. Tomorrow we’re planning to follow the LP’s Kathmandu walking tour, and then move on to Bhaktapur in the afternoon.

Yin Yang

Rating:

We arrived in Kathmandu this afternoon.   While the past three days of Nepali home cooking have been fantastic, we decided to change things up tonight with some Thai food.

Yin Yang is located just off the main drag in Thamel, in a garden courtyard that is a pleasant oasis from the constant noise, traffic, and hawkers outside. The chefs hail from Thailand, and the food is supposed to be authentic.

We ordered Panang Chicken and Phad See Iw “hot” on their scale of “mild”/“medium”/“hot”.  Due to our skin color, Lauren and I are usually treated with spiciness kid gloves in Asian countries (much to our frustration). However, tonight the Panang Chicken had a decent amount of kick to it, on par with a Thai Tom 3-star. The clay pot kept the curry piping hot throughout our meal.

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The Phad See Iw was served in the same manner as in Thailand, i.e. “spice it yourself”. Just like our noodles experiences in Thailand, our Phad See Iw was quite bland initially and we asked for the spice rack. Four spices later (one each for salty, sweet, hot and sour), the noodles were excellent.

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There’s nothing better to wash down your spicy food than a cold Everest Beer! Everest tasted like most other Asian beers I’ve had (Tsing Tao, Chang, Singha, Tiger, Saigon).

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Overall a delicious Thai meal with attentive service in a lovely setting. What more could we ask for?

Yin Yang
Kathmandu, Nepal
4425510