Kathmandu and Patan
Kathmandu, the frenetic capital of Nepal, is the first stop for most people coming to Nepal. The main reason for this is because the only international airport is in Kathmandu. The only other ways in are overland (there are no trains in Nepal). We took a local bus from the China-Nepal border to Kathmandu. Due to several large landslides we had to switch buses at one point but overall the ride was hassle-free and dropped us off right at the doorstep to Thamel, the tourist area north of the Durbar Square in Kathmandu. All the tourist facilities are centered in Thamel – restaurants, hotels, travel agencies, knockoff stores. You can get everything from crampons to tshirts in the countless trekking shops in the area. You could literally come here with just the clothes you have on and get everything you need for a long trek.
The main sight in KTM is its Durbar Square, a cluster of temples and palaces about 15 min walk south of Thamel. It’s definitely worth seeing while you’re in KTM. The other attraction I went to was the Monkey Temple on the west side of town. The temple seems nice (I didn’t go in because the entrance fee was more than I was willing to part with), but we really went there for the monkeys and the city views from the top. I was lucky enough to get the 2USD/night room at the Kathmandu Guest House, the most famous hotel in Kathmandu. It’s a really lovely place to stay and I would recommend it to anyone. Although if you can’t get the 2USD room (there’s only one) then the next cheapest room is 8USD which is pretty steep for Thamel.
Another thing to look out for is which restaurants charge VAT and service charge; the VAT is currently 13% but many places don’t charge it. The service charge is 10% but sometimes it’s included. The Italian restaurant La Dolce Vita tried to screw us over on the service charge. On the menu I got it said the service charge was included. It turns out that all the other menus said it wasn’t. They didn’t believe me so I asked to see all the menus, the waiter looked at all of them and tried to hide the menu I received. Even though he said he would take care of the bill he didn’t so we got the manager, who also tried to charge us the service charge and then accused us of altering the menu. It was a shame really because the food was excellent but the staff and management are liars and cheaters.
Patan is another city in the Kathmandu Valley. It too has a beautiful Durbar Square. Patan is much more chill than KTM. There are lots of local art shops and eateries worth exploring. Due to its serene atmosphere most ex-pats working in Nepal live in Patan. We saw several NGO offices once we got to Patan from Thamel (1.5 hour walk).
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