After an amazing two weeks of trekking to Mount Everest Base Camp in the Himalayas of Nepal, I was back in the capital city of Kathmandu, with a couple of days spare before heading to the south of the country. I had experienced a glimpse of what Kathmandu was all about when I had first arrived in the country before heading to the mountains, and I was excited about really exploring this interesting city.
After a good night’s sleep and a delicious breakfast, I left my hotel in the main tourist area of Thamel in the mid morning. I love exploring cities on foot whenever possible, so I had to kindly (and sometimes more aggressively) refuse the many rickshaw and taxi drivers that wanted to take me around the city, while also trying to avoid the shop owners that were trying to sell me something.
Dodging the cars and motorbikes that fly down the narrow streets at incredible speeds with their horns constantly honking, I slowly made my way towards Kathmandu’s Durbar Square.
Soon the touristy area of Thamel gave way to the more typical Kathmandu streets and buildings. Half paved roads with piles of rubbish on the curbs run narrowly between half built buildings with low twisting power lines running every which way. Stray dogs wander around with the odd cow making it’s way along the streets. A skinny woman came up to me waving an empty baby’s bottle in front of my face, the only words of English she seemed to know were “Please sir”. Where her baby was or if she even had one I don’t know. Beggars were common as I walked along, knowing that I had to refuse, which is a lot harder when a poor little child covered in dirt comes up to you and looks up at you with his sad brown eyes.
I figured that I was probably slightly lost, but then a kind gentleman gave me directions to where I wanted to go, not even asking for anything in return. As I walked along looking at the run down buildings and the chaos of the traffic, I noticed ancient shrines simply sitting on the sides of the streets, while holy men in their Hindu robes gave people their blessing.
Eventually, after a few wrong turns, I found myself at my destination. The Hanuman-dhoka Durbar Square is probably the biggest attraction in Kathmandu, both for tourists and locals, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site containing many ancient temples and palaces. Every second person in the square seemed to claim that they are a guide, and I had no idea how to tell if they were or not. I decided to just explore the sites on my own, meaning that I had to constantly refuse these “guides”.
The art and architecture of the temples in the square is quite remarkable. It was hard to find out exact dating of the buildings, but it is old. Every temple, statue and palace has it’s own story and history, and most seem to date back between the 16th and 18th centuries, however there are some parts that apparently date back as early as the 12th century.
I wandered around the square for quite sometime, immersed in the beauty and history of the place. Some temples I was allowed into, others I just admired from the outside, or simply sat on the steps and watched the world go by in the square.
The exquisite detail of the wooden carvings and architecture of the temples is incredible. Unfortunately I had broken my camera on the early days of my Everest trek, and was now relying solely on cheap disposable cameras. I would have loved to have taken some close up shots of some of these ancient carvings to show the incredible craftsmanship.
After spending a good part of the day exploring Durbar Square, and having had enough of being pestered by the “guides”, I slowly made my back through the crazy streets of Kathmandu to Thamel, where I sat and had an Everest Beer, reflecting on how amazing this city is. Kathmandu is a crazy and “in your face” city, but amongst the chaos there is a lot of beauty, and the city will always be in my mind.