|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
of the valley and the
inventors of the brilliant
civilization of 3 cities - Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur.
The beautiful tastefully-designed temples and palaces,
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
With almost half a million population,
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
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
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
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.