Kathmandu – Top 10 to Know Before You Go

Top Ten Things to Know Before You Go to the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal

We put our heads together right after we left and came up with this list for the benefit of future travelers:

1. Everest Beer – Best alcohol deal in Kathmandu.  Around 200 rupees
(most places.. saw it as high as 475 at the Kathmandu Hyatt) for a BIG bottle.  Locally brewed.  Tastes great.  Don’t wait.

2. Power Schedule – Electricity is rationed.  Hotels can supplement with their own generators, but don’t count on full service.  For instance, we had lights on generator power, but the plugs to recharge batteries and ipods, no.

3. Bring a Mask or a Scarf ! – The air quality is so abysmal that they are even putting more space between the airplanes.. you can’t even see !!  Fires, industry, too many people and vehicles, it’s a valley and all the bad air stays below the level of the winds..maybe other factors, but it is a cough-a-matic and we have never had to clean out our noses every night before… just horrible amounts of dirt.

4. Kin-de-Nah – That is a phonetic of “I am not buying”  Memorize this phrase.  You will want it.  Dah-Nay-Bhat is helpful as well.  It means Thank You.

5. Use Licensed Guides – Guides are actually very helpful and informative, but just make sure they are licensed.  (All licensed guides will carry their license)  And , of course, set the price up front.  Our guide recommendation will be added here shortly.

6. See the Rest of the Valley -There are seven groups of monuments and buildings in the Kathmandu Valley which have been recognized as as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. They include Durbar Squares of Hanuman Dhoka (Kathmandu), Patan and Bhaktapur, the Buddhist stupas of Swayambhu and Boudhanath and the Hindu temples of Pashupati and Changu Narayan.  Yes, four of these –  Hanuman Durbar Square, Pashupati and the two Buddhist Stupas  — are in Kathmandu proper but, having visited all of them, our recommendation, in order, is below and priotitizes the out of town sites.

  1. BhaktapurThe Durbar Squares of Kathmandu and Patan are fabulous assemblages of palace and temples but Bhaktapur has not only the Durbar Square but a living breathing medieval city around it.  So if you have only time for one, get a guide and go see the whole thing.. palaces mixed with everyday life.  Amazing.  It makes the whole concept of a Durbar Square come to life.
  2. Boudhanath – This stupa is enourmous and it seems to have created around it an area of calm and peace.  Go for a (clockwise) stroll around lunch time and have a lunch at one of the many rooftop restaurants.  (See a few pics here.)   (The Hyatt is nearby if youare interested in high price beer or lunch on their terrace.) 
  3. Patan – This Durbar Squar is very beautiful and is just a short taxi rid from Kathmandu proper and the square is much less crowded than Kathmandu’s.  It also has a lovely museumin teh second floor of the palace and a lovely resturant in the garden of the palace.
  4. Changu Narayan – This can be combined with a trip to Bhaktapur or Nagrakot.  It is a bit out of the way, but it is a lovely site on a promontory above the valley floor.. a small hill town, reminiscent of Mount St. Michele or Le Baux with the historic temple at the top.  You will not find it thronged with tourists.
  5. Pashupati – If you have not been to Varanasi you will want to see this Hindu temple and crematory grounds.
  6. Swayambhunath has good views of Kathmandu (see picture at the bottom of this post.)
  7. Hunumn Durbar Square  – We enjoyed the other two much more, but certainly this one is impressive  (and very crowded.)

7. Do Whatever it Takes to See the Mountains – You may catch glimpses from Kathmandu – the smog breaking up would help.  But two options that worked for us are 1 – the Buddha Air morning flight to see Everest.  If they don’t  have a view, they don’t even go and you get your money back, as long as you have used a reputable agent to get the ticket.  It is just wonderful flying down the whole length of the mountains from Kathmandu to Everest.. and you even get to go up front to the cabin for an expanded view ( they call you up one by one.)  and 2 – Drive or hike out to Nagrakot.  The drive is about 1.5 hours. You can spend the night at one of the hotels so you can catch the early morning view ( this view does not include Everest, but it does include a nice long view of the high mountains.)   Maybe you are going elsewhere in Nepal to see the mountains, but from the Valley these are your best options.

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Our last three recommendations are about shopping.  There are excellent values to be had in the Kathmandu Valley.  These are our recommendations of what to shop for where.

8. Bodhnath for Thangkas – We found some excellent paintings at reasonable prices.  Be sure to ask to see the artists.

9. Tamal for Jewlery and Hiking Gear –  The Tamal is also good for bars.  If you find jewlery you like but it is not quite right, just ask for a custom piece, it is not hard to find someone who will do it for you.

10. Patan for Wood and Metal and Rugs  The rugs are at the Tibetan Refugee Camp on the edge of town.  The wood carvings ( like the windows) and the statues are in town.

Kathmandu from Swayambuthnath (click to see the whole panorama).

Ambleside

We got off the boat at Ambleside, the lovely town at the northern end of the lake. Wordsworth home is nearby and it is the start of many many of the famous walks in the Lake District. We had lunch , wandered in town and then I went on a walk to a waterfall nearby.

Lake Windermere

Thursday is our “day off” between sessions. Debbi, Jeff ( from Abbottsford) and I elect to take the outing which includes a cruise on Lake Windermere and a half day in Ambleside – all in teh heart of the Lake District. Here are the phots from the Lake Windermere Cruise. The boat – The Tern – has been cruising Lake Windermere for 120 years. WOW.

Vajrayogini and Bardsea

Today was another beautiful day.  Vajrayogini Empowerment in the morning.  Afterwards we walked to the tiny town of Bardsea, which is on a hill overlooking the sea, and had a nice Sunday lunch.

Play Practice

The last day of the festival (August 6) will be the play ” The Life of Buddha”.  I am in the choir !!!
After only three days of rehearsal we do a run through in the temple – because this is the only night the temple is free before the day of the play.  The choir gets to sit for the rehearsal, so I get an opportunity to get some pictures ( won’t be possible on the day of the play.)  Just imagine the costumes !

Festival – Days 1 to 5

We have certainly been blessed with lovely weather for the festival this year !
Day 0 ( Friday ) was Registration.
Days 1,2 and 3 were teachings.
Days 4 and 5 are retreat, where we have 5 sessions a day to medidate on the teachings.
Our teachers and meditation leaders are really wonderful and inspired.
When you add in 2 to 4 miles walking per day and 3 tasty vegetarian meals, you can see how it the whole event is healthy for body and mind.
Thursday we have a day off and then we return for the Empowerments (there will likely be 1000 more people as well !) .
The very last day of the Festival there is a play on The Life Of Buddha. I am lucky enough to be in the chorus and we practice every day. Our first walk through with the actors will be tomorrow ( Thursday) evening.
Everyone volunteers from some chore at the festival as well. The Canadians are on lunch dishwshing duty.. and a LOT of dishes there are.

Friends Arrive

Saturday, my friends and compatriots from Victoria arrive and Sunday morning we walk together to the Centre, taking in the sites – Laurel and Hardy, Hoad Hill, a cat in deep concentration, trees with a doorway, signs we don’t need yet ( or do we?), etc

Conishead Priory

Conishead Priory dates from the the 1100’s and is located on some 70 acres of wooded land. It includes significant beachfront and extensive gardens. You can read the early history by clicking on the first picture and then clicking on it again to get it full sized.
It is now owned by the New Kadampa Tradition – International Buddhist Union who are meticulously restoring the Priory. They have also built a beautiful Buddhist Temple on the grounds.
I am here for a 2 week Buddhist Festival which includes teachings, meditation and empowerment. It is truly a beautiful place for it and the teachings are inspiring me already. Here are some pictures of the priory. More on the temple and the festival doings in future posts.

Canal and Beach

Shaking off the jet lag on my first full day in England, I headed out at 11 am for exploration. After getting a map I headed to the path by the old canal down to the beach. I ate at the pub at canal’s end and then cross fields to the beach and down to the Conishead Priory – now the Manjushri Buddhist Centre.   Today is registration day.  More about the festival and pictures of the Priory in the next post.  (  Click on any picture that you want to see in a larger format.)

 

Ulverston

I made it to Ulverston – just 24 hours door to door.

The train was easy, at least after I found which end of it was going to Ulverston rather than Glasgow.  It’s about 2 hours and the last half hour is particularly picturesque – along the coast , sheep, cows, sand.  Great town names like “Grange-on-Sand”.  It was also an easy walk from the train station to the Bed & Breakfast.  It wasn’t open yet so I wandered on down a few blocks toward the middle of town and found it was Market Day.  A friendly local bought me a glass of tea and we sat outside in from the The Farmer and people watched.  She told me that Thursday has always been Market Day.. the farmers used to bring their cattle in on that day to trade and so the wives would come in to shop and the pubs would have special hours – altogether making a day of it for the whole family.

I got into the B&B by 1 pm.  I thought about going back out and exploring now that I could be unencumbered by luggage, but I only got as far as the thought and crashed for 3 or 4 hours.  Took a walk in the early evening before having dinner back at Farmers.

Here are some highlights of Ulverston – first viewing –  including  pubs, streets, the Barrow Monument on Hoad Hill*, and our room at Sefton House – GOOD NIGHT !!

*Sir John  Barrow was an explorer, math teacher and a great advocate of artic exploration.   The Barrow Strait in the Canadian Arctic as well as Point Barrow and the city of Barrow in Alaska are named after him.   Hoad Hill is easily seen from most of the town.