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Last updated : Nov 2009
 
Kathmandu Travel Guide
Kathmandu Travel Guide and Kathmandu Travel Information - TravelPuppy.com
The valley of Kathmandu sits at an altitude of 1,336 metres or 4,423 feet above sea level and covers an area of 218 sq miles. The rich mix of the cultural heritage of Nepal is synthesised in the Kathmandu Valley, home to the ancient and sophisticated Newari culture. The Newars are the original residents of the valley and the inventors of the brilliant civilization of 3 cities - Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. The beautiful tastefully-designed temples and palaces, carefully-engraved stone and metals images, carved wooden pillars and columns, and the history laden shrines and chaityas of these 3 historical cities stand testimony to the Newar's achievements.

The 7 World Heritage Sites in the valley - designated by (UNESCO) - the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation - are the highlights of the valley.

There are many different Kathmandu's, all layered and dovetailed and piled on top of one another in a marshland of disarray and sophistication. With almost half a million population, Kathmandu is far and away its largest and most cosmopolitan city : a melting pot of over a dozen ethnic groups, Nepal's master craftsmen and traders extraordinaire. Trade created Kathmandu - for 1,000 years it was the most significant caravan route between Tibet and India. Trade has usually funded its Newar craftsmen and their work so skillfully embraced the tourist business.

Thamel is one of the areas most visitors experience. It is like a thumping, Third World Theme Park with many hotels and guest houses and promises with croissants and cakes on display from restaurant windows, and touts flogging tiger balm and hashish to holiday hippies. The old city is squeezed by traffic and financial pressures, and there are a lot of ageless temples and brilliant architecture. Its narrow lanes are filled with a fabulous crush of humanity, echoing with the sound of bicycle bells, religious music, construction and car horns, reeking of sewage, incense, spices, and exhaust fumes. Sacred cows roam the streets, as do holy men, street urchins, beggars and coolies. Then there are the outcaste shantytowns down by the river, the old and creaky ministry buildings, the very fashionable and expensive 5-star shopping streets, the isolated suburbs and the many bazaars.

But the predominant scenes of contemporary Kathmandu are those of progress: traffic jams and pollution; a skyline of rooftop water-storage tanks and satellite dishes; cyber cafés, discos, neon signs, power cuts and backup generators, chauffeured Land Cruisers, families on motorbikes, advertisements for kitchen appliances. Kathmandu is merging with the global village at lightning speed. Still, it has not deserted its traditional uniqueness, but the rapid pace of change has produced an intense, often overwhelming, urban environment.

Kathmandu is likely to be your 1st port of call in the country- all international flights land in Kathmandu, and most roads lead to it - and so you will probably be spending at least a few days here. It is the location for sorting out your affairs: it has all the embassies and airline offices, Nepal's better-developed communications facilities, and a number of trekking and travel agents. Kathmandu is the relaxed place to get your initial bearings in Nepal.

If you are planning to do any sightseeing around the valley, the healthier destinations of Patan or Bhaktapur are great for it, or even further out in Nagarkot or Dhulikhel. Today the smart money is on staying outside the capital and making day trips in, not vice versa.