Colourful signs and fluttering strings of bunting adorn the narrow alleyways. The shops overflow with woolly hats and Nepalese masks. Smoky plumes of incense perfume the air. Westerners in sturdy hiking boots ply the streets and internet cafés, where shared plans and apprehension for Himalayan treks create a sense of camaraderie. Step outside of touristy Thamel, however, and you will find a more traditional side to Kathmandu.
Kathmandu is named after the Kasthamandap Temple. Legend claims the temple was built from the wood of one single tree.
The central Durbar Square envelops you in a fusion of Hindu and Buddhist ritual, with its complex of exquisitely-carved pagoda temples. Holy men with painted skin and saffron robes perch on ledges, engaged in meditation. Close by, you will find Freak Street, a hangover from the hippie trail, but nowadays more of a locals’ hangout. It is the best place to feast on ‘momos’ – stuffed dumplings – and to feel the warmth of Kathmandu hospitality.