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Kickin’ It in Kathmandu

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Eyes of the Buddha on a stupa in Bodnath

The tiny nation of Nepal sits tucked away in the mountains between India and Tibet. It’s a land dotted with temples, prayer flags and historic villages resting at the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. Home to some of the most stunning mountain scenery, it’s a place that has attracted us for some time.

For a country with such a mystical appeal I was surprised at how comfortable things were. In fact, the UN Human Development Index ranks Nepal 142 out of 177 countries, below the likes of India, Bangladesh and even Pakistan in terms of development. What we found in Kathmandu, however, was quite the opposite.

In Kathmandu we found an absence of roaming cows and open sewer lines we had grown accustomed to in India. Here clean sidewalks and well-manicured gardens awaited us alongside a plethora of Western eateries. A New Orleans pub cooking up spicy Jambalaya and an Italian bistro offering homemade gnocchi had our jaws dropping. But it wasn’t till we heard Lady Gaga and Pearl Jam cover bands rocking an ex-pat pub scene that we really thought we’d made a wrong turn.

We expected big things out of Nepal, but feeling at home was not one of them. From apple pie to filtered coffee, we could find virtually anything a homesick heart desired and couldn’t help but spend a few days basking in the abundance of Western amenities the city offered. Home we were not, but Kathmandu gave us some much needed coddling.

With a nation so dependent on tourism, they do a darn good job catering to the needs and desires of Westerners. This makes travel in Nepal quite comfortable, but it also makes it easy to visit the country without getting any real sense of the people and culture. We made an effort to venture outside of the backpacker ghetto known as Thamel to get to know the real Nepal. What we found were some really spectacular, medieval towns around the Kathmandu Valley, well worth a visit.

Here’s a sampling of some of the places we experienced while kicking it in Kathmandu.

Patan

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Sunset over the temples of Patan

Patan is more like a suburb of Kathmandu. There are a bunch of shops selling Nepali handcrafts, including Buddha statues, shawls and knives, however, the main attraction is the collection of temples and palaces concentrated in the Patan area.

Bodhnath

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Prayer flags around the stupa in Bodhnath

Bodhnath is home to the world’s largest stupa, a mound-like structure containing Buddhist relics, typically the remains of a Buddha or saint. It’s the focal point for Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal and is considered to be the most important monument outside of Tibet. There is an entire village around the stupa inhabited mainly by Tibetans, many of whom are in exile since the Chinese takeover of Tibet in 1959.

Pashupatinath

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Statues along the ghats of Pushpatinah

This is the location of Nepal’s most important Hindu temple. People gather here to ask for blessings from the Pashupati, the Hindu god of beasts. It’s also here, along the banks of the Bagmati River, where Hindus come to cremate their loved ones in public.

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Comments (4)

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  1. roundwego says:

    Mrs. Rhodes – certainly no need to remind me of who you are. I’m glad you found us and are following our adventures. We are having the time of our lives. Hope you are well!

    - Ryan

  2. Claudia Rhodes says:

    Christopher Rhodes just told me about your travels and blog…it is wonderful what you are doing together right now. Truly an experience you will never forget and will always refer to and draw from your travels for a richer life. Keep up the wonderful postings and pictures….they are great. Hope to see you when you come to St. Louis.

    Claudia Rhodes
    Christopher’s Mom, Chaminade, class of ’99

  3. roundwego says:

    @Abby – Great to hear from you! We thought of you and Harper on our trek in Nepal. An absolute highlight for us… So funny about Kathmandu. Yes, travel certainly is all about perspective. We realize the city is a far cry from first world but after the sights, sounds and smells of India we thought we were in heaven. We only wish we had more time in Nepal…Thanks for following our travels! Looking forward to comparing notes upon our return.

  4. Abby Luther says:

    Laura this post cracked me up and really can define the phrase perspective is everything. See…when I was in Kathmandu…not having been to Bombay or dehli all I noticed were the cows, dirty river water and congestion. However you having been to the depths of India prior refer to it as “westernized”. I literally laughed out loud. Good stuff! You guys inspire me…one of these days I would love to do the same trip. Wish you the best.