Some of Parakhi's favorite things about Kathmandu:
The Buddhist stupa is more than a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The stupa, along with its surrounding compound, is a fascinating, peaceful place. I like to walk around the circular compound, listening to the slow, steady music flowing out of the stores and watching people spinning the prayer wheels. When I make my way up to the upper platform of the stupa, I can look out at devotees meditating and praying there, as well as the activities around the compound.
Tip: Try laping, jello-like cold strips of cooked mung bean or corn starch brought to life with soy sauce and spices. The spicy dish can be found in Tibetan neighborhoods in Kathmandu, of which Boudha is an essential part.
The uneven landscape of Kathmandu valley creates layers of sites to look out for from afar, such as the beautiful Swayambunath temple that sits majestically on top of a hill. During the day, from Eklo Rukh (lone tree), the buildings in the valley look tiny and cartoon-like. When the evening settles in, the homes sparkle in the dark, shining gold and silver. Sometimes, it’s nice to get away from the busy city and appreciate its vastness from the mountains surrounding it.
Tip: To get to Eklo Rukh, near Halchowk, take a bus to Swayambunath. Walk about 15 minutes northwest from there and climb the hill to the top.
Every new phase of the moon seems to bring in an important festival. These celebrations include spring’s Buddhist New Year, observed by doing circumambulations around Swayambunath temple; summer’s Gai Jatra, when the indigenous Newari community pays homage to recently deceased relatives through a procession with cows and dressed up children; and autumn’s Dashain, a mix of Hindu and animistic harvest festival traditions with an emphasis on family gathering.
Tip: Because the festivals do not fall on the same day of the Gregorian calendar every year, check the date of the festivals for the year you are traveling to Nepal. Some celebrations to look up in addition to the ones mentioned above are Seto Machchhendranath Jatra, Bisket Jatra, Chhath, ropain (rice plantation), Fagu Purnima (holi), and Tihar.
Sometimes the rain is so heavy that it feels like all of the earth’s clouds have joined forces to show Kathmandu how much power water possesses. The torrential rain floods the streets, creating water rapids and puddles that bring out in me a child’s excitement and wonder. I am always surprised by how warm the water at my sandaled feet are, because the droplets landing on me from the sky is much cooler. When the heavy rain stops, the beauty of monsoon increases even more. Clouds crouch low, daring people to reach up and touch them. From the lush mountains rises up mist, like forest fires of water.
Tip: Head out to the outer edges of the city and the valley, such as Kirtipur or Jhor, to take in the breathtaking view of the mountains behind heavy clouds.
On nearly every, if not all, streets, you’ll find a Hindu or Buddhist shrine or temple. Some of them are simple structures a few feet tall holding inside them a slab of rock that represents one of the many gods of Nepal. Others are large, often in a temple complex, and with steep steps and pagodas rising to the sky. The pagoda—hand-in-hand with intricately carved windows and beams—defines the architectural style of Kathmandu’s temples. Scattered flowers, rice, fruits, and colored powder adorn the religious sites. Bringing them to full life are the the smell of incense, the sound of ringing bells, and the glow of oil lamps.
Tip: Explore the temples in the neighborhood you are staying in. At 6 or 7 in the morning, be in the look out for people carrying flowers, incense, and other offerings. They’re going to or coming from a temple nearby. For those in Thamel, head to the Ganesh temple (Ganeshthan) on the right side of the Sorakhutte slope coming down from the backside of the popular tourist neighborhood. Here, you’ll find offerings being made, fortune being told, and even vegetables being sold.