IN MY HEAD, I HAD A VERY DIFFERENT PICTURE OF WHAT NEPAL LOOKED LIKE
i knew kathmandu was the capital to fly into before heading out for a trek, temple or safari – and i suppose naively the buddhism, yoga, mountains, prayer flags and overall zen vibes lead me to believe that the entire country would be a himalayan paradise. kathmandu is actually completely crazy. it feels like what i picture india to look like and kp confirmed, the only thing comparable he has ever seen was in new delhi.
HERE ARE TEN IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING:
- THE AIR IS DRY, DUSTY & POLLUTED and there is no government supported trash or recycling program. at first, we thought people were just careless, but the fact is that no one comes around to your house [ever] to pick up trash. this leaves locals with few choices and most end up collecting trash in a pile and burning it. we noticed many of the locals burning their trash on the streets – which adds to the already bad pollution problem. it's heart breaking and opened our eyes to how lucky we are back home to have this completely taken care of. it left us wanting to figure out how to make a change. luckily there are a few organizations that have started the movement. tips? wear a mask or bandana, almost everyone does [even locals] and you will be glad you did.
- THE ROAD CONDITIONS ARE PRETTY TERRIBLE ... the second you leave the airport you're immersed in the terrifying driving that is nepal. the roads are for the most part uneven, rocky and made of dirt. they barely fit two cars and buses come within what feels like inches of colliding on the regular. street lights, crosswalks or any traffic laws don't really exist – looking at your phone or not paying attention aren't safe options.
- QUIRKY POWER cuts are quite common here, so be prepared for a quick [or not so quick] black out. just looking at the power cords in thamel gave me anxiety.
- TRY THE INDIAN FOOD if you plan to trek or visit outside of kathmandu, then you will have plenty of dal bhat and other nepalese fare. you must go to this amazing indian spot recommended by a friend, western tandoori [their naan is spiritual]. we went 3 times in a couple of days... no shame.
- YOGA IS EVERYWHERE and a great way to get zen and prep or recover post adventure. we went to a couple classes at pranamaya and loved it. the coffee shop downstairs is perfect to pop into after class.
- SLEEP AWAY FROM THE CRAZY thamel is jam packed with tourists, western restaurants, outdoor gear shops and a lot of noise. we did venture to this neighborhood often, but actually stayed in lazimpat at a great guesthouse where it was a short walk to thamel, but quiet-er and very cozy.
- RELIGION & TEMPLES i was surprised to learn that nepal is 80% hindu, 10% buddhist, and the rest muslim, christian and others. we visited a few different temples and met nepalis of more than 3 different religions which was really interesting. bhaktapur and the surrounding area has a ton of history and the main temple is massive! sadly a lot of it is being rebuilt after the big 2015 earthquake. hire a taxi driver for the day for about $30 US dollars.
- NEPAL IS SAFE we never felt uncomfortable or unsafe despite the hectic nature of the city [even walking around at night felt completely fine]. nepalis are known to be really kind and welcoming people. theft and attacks are a very small occurrence, focus your energy on the traffic and pollution exposure instead.
- BUTCHERS & THE MEAT YOU EAT hide your eyes if you're bothered by any sort of animal butchering. we witnessed a goat's head being chopped off just a few feet from the sidewalk. you will see a lot of exposed meat, not on ice - as a tourist, best to stay away and only eat meat at restaurants or hotels.
- THE VISA PROCESS IS WEIRD bring $25 US cash [per person] and a small picture of yourself, otherwise you will have to get out local rupees then exchange them for USD, and wait in about 14 different lines. it's a screwy process and a huge time suck, not to mention that you will lose big on their exchange rates.
P H O T O S F R O M A R O U N D T H E C I T Y
KATHMANDU IS AN EXPERIENCE
it's cool and it is the gateway to nepal, which we absolutely loved. as i mentioned, it's maybe not what you'd expect, but that makes for part of the fun. these details aren't here to deter you from going at all, more so to help mentally prepare you. while it can feel a bit exhausting, it is also really special in its own little way. have you been to kathmandu? i would love to hear your thoughts!
P H O T O S F R O M O U T S I D E T H E C I T Y [ B H A K T A P U R ]
Y O U M I G H T A L S O L I K E: