Its very name conjures images of adventure, history and authenticity. Yet only those who go there are fortunate enough to truly understand Kathmandu. The hustle and bustle of the Nepalese capital...
As a true melting pot of cultures and ethnic groups, Nepal’s culinary offerings vary between different communities and geographical areas. However, the staples of lentils, rice and curried vegetables are consistent across most groups. Strong flavours like coriander, garlic, ginger and chili are also common in Nepalese cooking. Meals are generally quick, simple, and packed full of flavour.
One of the first things many visitors to Kathmandu sink their teeth into is chatamari, a rice crepe resembling a pizza, commonly served in restaurants as an appetiser or by street vendors as a snack. Chatamari can be topped with all sorts of different ingredients but the most common are chicken, egg, onion, garlic, tomato and ginger.
Those dining in the Thamel district will find themselves spoilt for choice. Most restaurants here are targeted at tourists and thus are generally a little cleaner but also more expensive than those outside Thamel. That said, the average main meal in Thamel will still only cost around five dollars. Cuisines on offer range from traditional Nepalese, Indian and Chinese to Mexican, European and beyond.
Most hotels in Kathmandu have their own restaurant, commonly on the rooftop. These are often very highly regarded, with not only excellent food and service but also great views of the city below and charming garden scenery to compliment the meal.
Kathmandu’s best shopping opportunities are presented in Thamel, the city’s main tourist hub. The variety of items here is mind boggling - trekking gear, clothing, DVDs, jewellery, handicrafts and everything in between. Look out for unique locally-made handicrafts such as paintings and statues, as Nepal is well known globally for the quality of such products.
There are literally hundreds of trekking shops in Kathmandu, ranging from big brand outlets like North Face and Mountain Hardwear to local manufacturers and of course the rip-off shops selling cheap imitations (some of which are actually good quality). Bargain hunters can also pick up quality used items for a fraction of their original price.
Kathmandu is also a popular place to buy silver jewellery, thanks to the quality of craftsmanship, abundance of silversmiths and low price of silver in Nepal. Handmade pendants, earrings, bracelets and necklaces are all relatively easy to find, though be on the lookout for fakes. A strong prior knowledge of silver jewellery will make the search a lot easier and in most cases more successful.
Taking advantage of Kathmandu’s fantastic (and very affordable) tailors is also strongly advised. Whether its trekking clothes, a suit or a cocktail dress on the shopping list, there’s sure to be a tailor with the skills and materials to create the perfect number. The streets and alleys of Indra Chowk, about a kilometre south of Thamel, are a great place to start.