KATHMANDU Jan 18 Nepal's capital of Kathmandu
is an ancient town dotted with Hindu and Buddhist temples, a
riot of colour and dust with clogged streets where stray cows
and dogs vie for rotting leftovers beside swanky malls.
Ringed by rolling hills, the city has many satellite towns,
of which Patan and Bhaktapur are popular with tourists. The area
has seven old monuments that are listed by the UNESCO as World
Heritage sites, all within less than two hours' drive.
Reuters correspondents with local knowledge suggests how
visitors can get the most out of a 48-hour visit.
7 p.m. - Thamel, known as "a city within a city," is the
tourist hub of Kathmandu. Look for one of the many rooftop
restaurants for dinner that offer a fantastic view of the city
skyline. If you are fond of music, there are others that offer
food and drinks with accompanying live concerts.
9 p.m. - If you wish, pop into one of the many discos,
mostly frequented by young and well heeled Nepali youths, before
retiring for a sound sleep.
7:30 a.m. - Step out after breakfast on a "heritage walk"
through the ancient parts of Kathmandu. A few minutes takes you
into the 14th century, with narrow alleys and rutted streets,
shops with carved doorways so low you have to stoop to enter and
pigeons sitting on a maze of telephone cables that swirl
overhead from utility poles.
The walk takes you below the balconies jutting out of brick
and mud houses. Women with copper and brass trays of auspicious
offerings such as vermillion powder, rice, sandalwood paste and
incense sticks for figurines of Hindu and Buddhist gods rub
elbows with street vendors selling fresh vegetables and fruits.
Pass through the Ason, Indrachowk and Makhantole
neighbourhoods, which are lined with mum and pop shops
displaying wares that range from golden ornaments to brass and
aluminium utensils. Finally, you reach the Monkeygod Gate
palace, ancient seat of Nepal's kings.
9 a.m. - The palace has many tile-roofed temples sitting on
high brick terraces. On the one side is an old white palace
where Nepal's kings used to be enthroned until the monarchy was
toppled in 2008, and on the other is the cavernous Kasthamandap
hall, reportedly built from the wood of a single tree. Kathmandu
is believed to have derived its name from this.
Next door is the Kumari Ghar, the house of the virgin
"Living Goddess" or Kumari, a major tourist attraction. Enter
from the low door and you are in a courtyard waiting for the
Kumari to appear in the second-floor window of an elaborately
carved red-brick building. She is a virgin girl selected from
Kathmandu's Shakya clan to serve the divine role until the onset
of puberty, when a new one is selected. Buddha, the founder of
Buddhism, also hailed from the same clan.
The girl, with a third eye painted on her forehead and the
black kohl paste around her eyes, is worshipped as a power
goddess. Before the monarchy was abolished, the king of Nepal
sought her blessings, a ritual now performed by the president.
11 a.m. - Get a taxi and head out for Swayambhunath, a
magnificent monument sitting on top of a forested hill full of
monkeys. It has a stupa, or temple tower with the ever-watching
eyes of the Buddha painted on top of a white dome. If you are
hardy, you can climb about 200 metres (yards) of steep stone
steps to the top of the hill, or the taxi can take you up.
Swayambhunath is a complex of monasteries and temples,
giving a view of the ancient part of Kathmandu. You can find
monks jostling with locals to spin the prayer wheels, chanting
from Buddhist texts to accumulate wisdom and merit, and purify
themselves. Devout Buddhists believe spinning a wheel can have
much the same meritorious effects as orally reciting the mantras
or religious hymns. You should walk around a clockwise direction
and can spin the wheels by a slight rotation of your wrist.
12 p.m. - Head out for lunch at Thamel. A short stroll will
give you a wide selection of restaurants to suit your taste of
local and Indian cuisines as well as Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese
and Japanese food.
2 p.m. - It's now time to discover Thamel. Spread over 2.5
square km (1 sq mile), Thamel has about 3,300 shops selling
everything from salt to smart phones, restaurants, book shops,
bars, discos and shops selling climbing gear for mountain
You can find Tibetan Thankas, or wall paintings, hand woven
carpets, huge curved knives carried by Gurkha soldiers, and
singing bowls - brass vessels that produce soft sounds when
struck with a wooden rod. These bowls are souvenir pieces and
are also used as decorative items. Bargaining is advised.
6 p.m. - Do some window shopping in Kathmandu's fashionable
Durbar Marg, or the King's Street, lined by posh hotels,
shopping malls and fast food shops including the KFC and Pizza
Hut, the only international fast food chains in Nepal.
8 p.m. - After a tiring day, a dinner of juicy momos, or
steamed dumplings served with pepper-hot sauce, can be a welcome
change. There is also "Fire and Ice" in the vicinity of Thamel,
which serves pizzas and is popular with tourists.
7 a.m. - Hail a taxi and head out to Patan Durbar Square, a
complex of medieval temples and fabulous palaces built during
the reigns of the Malla kings, between the 10th and the 18th
centuries. It is also known as the art city because of its rich
collection of arts and architecture.
9 a.m. - Head to Bhaktapur, an ancient town 14 km (9 miles)
east of Kathmandu. It is known for crafts, pottery, magnificent
temples, culture and festivals. It lies by the side of a highway
linking Kathmandu with Tibet.
Noon - Now proceed to Narayanhiti palace museum, back in
Kathmandu, by taxi. It was a royal palace that housed the office
and residence of the King of Nepal.
A tour takes you through the bedrooms of the former royals,
their meeting hall with stuffed tigers and massive crystal
chandelier, guest rooms, royal kitchen and the massacre house -
the building where in 2001, then-Crown Prince Dipendra mowed
down his parents and seven other royals before turning the gun
That fateful family dinner marked the beginning of the fall
of monarchy in Nepal, which once revered the king as the
incarnation of the Lord Vishnu, the Hindu god of protection.
Bullet marks can still be seen on the wall of a nearby building
and only the brick outline remains of the house itself.
2.30 p.m. - After a quick lunch take a taxi to Lord
Pashupatinath temple. It is a famous Hindu temple dedicated to
Lord Shiva, the god of destruction. Non-Hindus are not given
access to the actual temple but you can see the artistic shrine
roofed in pagoda style with brass plates from a hill across the
sacred but polluted Bagmati River and smell the smoke from
nearby cremation grounds.
(Reporting by Gopal Sharma, editing by Elaine Lies)