What to do, in Kathmandu

What up.
[Some places I mention here can be a bit tricky to find. Try asking help of the locals around the area, they might give you the proper vectors because maps are largely on people's head and not on their phones]

With so much attention now directed at Kathmandu with travel-centered web staples like Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor voting the city to be a top destination for 2016, and now even more so with Benedict Cumberbatch's latest Kathmandu-Lalitpur scenes in the film Doctor Strange, things couldn't have gone any better for the capital of the tiny himalayan republic that nestles in between the, well, Himalayas. 

But for most Nepalese who reside in the city, things are just the same. I did write about how Kathmandu has changed for the better [HERE], with younger, educated generation now teasing into front lines in government and non-governmental organizations. However, changes are slow and that's part and parcel of laid back Nepali work style that even progressive people have succumbed to. As they say, bad habits die hard. 

Let's just leave the discussion to that and focus on the insider things you could actually do if you happen to pack up for a trip to Nepal. At the time of writing, Kathmandu is the only entry port through air, and unless you are stopping by India and then making your trip up, you are most likely to end up in Tribhuvan International Airport. From there on, make sure to buckle up, wear your walking shoe and explore some of the stuff that's perhaps never been documented in the internet because these places are, default, where locals go to. Not tourists. 

Except a few, of course. But you get my point.

First stop though..

1) Housing

The main meal isn't out yet?
Home-stay. I cannot stress this enough. If you are going to Nepal, stay with a Nepali family who can host you. Hotels are great but then, if you want to get a taste of everyday curries, the everyday morning teas, the everyday slurp on your face from that i-dont-think-i-know-what-breed-that-is dog, then find a Nepalese who will take you in. Airbnb will work out great. 

2) Eat Mo:Mo at Everest Mo:Mo
Learn to eat Mo:Mo like a Nepali
Everest Mo:Mo: Facebook link [HERE]

If you ever come across a Nepali and utter the word "Mo:Mo," you are most likely to become best friends-for-life sort of friends because residents go absolutely nuts for these dumplings. They are a staple fast food and every nook and corner in Kathmandu has some personal take on the local favorite. Everest Mo:Mo: in Naxal's version of hot dumplings swimming on a cold soup makes eating all the better. 

3) Touristy destination with pocket full of peanuts: Garden of Dreams

Garden of Dreams has an army of hungry squirrels
Facebook link [HERE]

Garden of Dreams near Thamel is a well documented place for foreigners. What they don't tell you though is to take a pocket full of peanuts and watch a swarm of i-dont-give-a-shit squirrels go head to head for your attention. Try it, it's probably best to lazy around feeding those hungry squirrels anyways.

They go way beyond their comfort zone
4) Take a ride in the rickshaw

Rickshaws in central Kathmandu near Durbar Marg
Just hop on one when you see one. And if you are one of those who feel bad for the person driving it, don't. You are actually helping him and his family to a better meal. 

5) Drink Soda at Ranjana Galli
Yep, he's still there
Facebook Page [HERE]

Growing up in Kathmandu, we often went to New Road to get hold of a pirated CD/DVD. In the process, while looking for something to beat out the heat, we would end up in Ranjana Galli (Street) for its unequivocally famous Ranjana Soda. The price has risen up, the flavors have ranged but the people who serve are the same old. It's quite a classic, this one and not a lot of foreigners have any clue it exists. 

6) Marathon Eat at Tip-Top Samosa
Tip-Top Samosas are to die for
Facebook Page [HERE]

Tip Top Samosa will probably be as hard to find as Ranjana Soda but trust me, it's worth it. There are a couple food to try out here; firstly, grab a samosa, bite, chew and eat it. Then move on to Pani Puri (Small puffed wheat tortillas filled with veggies and sour watery sauce). I must warn you though, it's quintessential to keep up. The rate at which you put Pani Puri in your mouth has to be faster than the rate at which the Pani Puri vendor fires out them out otherwise you will find yourself in trouble. Marathon eating? This is the real deal. 

Pani Puri Marathon
After somehow managing to survive the onslaught, make sure to take your time for Jerris (deep fried sweets). Eat them when they are hot.

Two of those Jerris please
7) Try out some cheap pseudo-chinese stick food

Deep fried beauties (buff sausage and tofu)
Facebook Link [HERE]

I am still broke but back home, I was way-way broke. To be able to sustain on minimum allowance and still be able to hang out outside the premises of home, my friends and I were always on the lookout for cheap, good eateries. Stick chinese food, a ubiquity these days, are worth the try. Check out the classic R.S Chinese Stick Food Restaurant in the link above to find the destination.

8) Drink Janakpur Dahi Lassi

Super thick, super smack-that-tongue tasty
Facebook Page [HERE]

You have all had a Lassi. Banana lassi, watermelon lassi, choco lassi, you name it. But when it comes to the simple curd lassi, Jananakpur Dahi Lassi Bhandar hits the sweet spot. Quite literally. 

9) Visit a temple, any temple

plenty of greens
Relax, deep breathe and have a tea at a road side cafe. Watch people approach and pray to one of the 330 million gods. It feels like you are back in time, in some age where people believed religion to be science and science to be religion. If you feel like it, head to Pashupati Nath (not seen here) which is THE hindu temple and is located in Kathmandu. 

10) Check out Newari Delicacies at Harati

Chatamari is a palate pleaser
Facebook Link [HERE]

While Kathmandu Valley has seen its Newar (local ethnic group) community diluted to some extent, it's still a stronghold for the minority ethnic group. And with the culture they bring to the city and it's surroundings, they also bring in their food. Now, if you go to Kathmandu and don't have a bite off a Newari meal, then, well, I must feel for you. The food has inspired the most interesting, palate pleasing and slap-in-your-face experience for me and you should do that too. Check out the local hit Harati at NayaBazar. The menus are in Nepali, so you might need local help.

And btw, don't forget to pair it up with local drinks Aila or Chhyang. Aila is stronger, more vodka like. Chhyang can be appropriately categorized as a rice wine. Koreans will find it similar to Makkeolli.

11) Touristy Swayambhu Nath and the attack of monkeys

She's a beauty, this one.
TripAdvisor link [HERE]

Mistakenly dubbed as the "Monkey Temple" due the large population of monkeys residing in and around the temple, Swayambhu Nath temple promises a gorgeous view of the valley. A great way to head up to the temple is to climb the uncountable steps and while you are at it, try not to look down. best.cardio.ever. In case you are a history buff and are into details, do check out the link above. 

A parallel would be to visit Boudha [HERE]

Can I just eat in peace?
12) Try out Buff Fried Rice just about anywhere

gorgeous carbs
Rice is the staple food in Nepal and like many residents, I crave for rice. Mostly, fried rice. The buff (water buffalo meat is shortened as buff as beef isn't common) fried rice is a big portion of rice with veggies, sauce and fried buff spread around the top. What's not to like about it?

13) Feeling adventurous? Try out Pan

Pan is basically a leaf but a leaf very much with flavors galore
Before I recommend this, I must warn you. You must eat it whole or you will be missing the point. My pals from foreign lands had a hard time chewing and eating it but I do get it, Pan can be weird for first timers. It's not a local food...it's not food at all. A mouth freshner after a meal would probably fit the bill. Available in every street corner, all you have to do is ask a local.

15) Beer?

Craft beer culture is still in it's infancy. No, fetus rather.
Seen here is the Denver Beer Co.'s Pumpkin Ale which the owner of a restaurant provided
Where? Momo Hut, Thamel. Fb Page [HERE]
Beer. Well. Adjunct lager all around. You could try out the Khumbu K├Âlsch, which they claim to be the first Nepali craft beer but I am fairly not happy with how it tastes. It's bland but hey, it's the first so let's take it easy on it. Do check it out if you are into craft beer. 

Binge drinking on Sherpa Spirits? Maybe not this time. 
There are plenty of commercially brewed beers that you can find. However, if you had to make a pick, why not just go by the name? Everest? Why not.

Sam's bar in Thamel is a nice place to sit and do nothing
There you go. Insider's guide into Kathmandu. Do check out the city, it's quite something.

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