Kathmandu (Nepali: काठमाडौं) or KTM is the capital city of Nepal. Kathmandu valley includes Kathmandu metropolitan city along with Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Thimi and Kirtipur areas. It was listed on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 2006.
Measuring 49.45 km2 in total, Kathmandu is a geographically smaller city compared to many other important cities of Nepal and its history goes back 2,000 years only. Over time, this small city attracted best minds from around the country and helped it build socioeconomically, making it the most accessible place for living, working and traveling in the whole country. Today, almost 2.5 million people reside in Kathmandu (Census 2012).
If you are to visit old settlements around Kathmandu, you ought to find numerous narrow alleys, mud-built houses conjoined together like ‘making love’; inhabitants clad in their native costumes, with rich and vibrant architectures dominating the locales.
The legend has it, a famed meditation deity, Manjushree, brought the city to life by making it habitable. Following the first ascent of the Everest in 1953, Kathmandu became a popular hub among climbing enthusiasts and representatives of nations wanting to spot their flag on the top of Everest. Later, Cat Steven’s famed song “Katmandu” helped promote the ancient city among many young westerners. The influx of Hippies in 60s’ technically opened the gates of the city for future foreign tourism.
- History (Before 1960, 1960-1990, After 1990)
- Culture & Arts
- Places to Go
Insight on Kathmandu’s recent history.
Freed from anarchic Rana regime and aristocracy, inhabitants of greater Kathmandu region tasted democracy for the first time, with a monarch still as the head of the state. Thus, The modernization of city begun, so did the lifestyle.
The decade of 1960 marks the moment when Kathmandu became a global city. The influx of Hippies through Bhakti movement first arrived in Kathmandu in 60s’ via silk route. Their unconventional lifestyle brought a wave of westernization and liberalization among locals. Kathmanduties started building pop joints, selling drugs, donning western attires, where branded apparels and automobiles became a taste of the group. The government’s move on banning Hippies’ movement and stop on free trade of drugs diminished their existence. (Slideshow: Kathmandu in the 60s’)
A famed filmmaker and actor, Dev Anand’s, film ‘HARE RAMA, HARE KRISHNA’ based on Hippies trail is shot entirely inside Kathmandu valley. The old art, craft and culture can vividly be seen in the film.
The wave of western tourism didn’t end there. 80s’ started with a bang, when Travel agencies and tour operators first started selling trek and tours in the unexplored regions of the country to the world. It made Nepal an ultimate adventure travel destination. Commercial expeditions of Everest and other Eight-Thousander peaks flourished. The concept of trekking in high altitude regions of Himalaya took over like a storm. Vacationers craving for adventure and holiday in the Himalaya started flooding the city.
The resurgence of national media and establishment of FM radios and cable TV helped the inhabitants absorb the world lifestyle and music. Listening to Michael Jackson, Madonna, Rock music and boy bands was common among teenagers in the 90s. International movies started flooding the local theaters. People became aware about the media power of the West and globalization.
KTM is a surreal place, where ancient culture lives together with western lifestyle. The next decade saw the opening of franchises of international brands in Kathmandu; Pizza Hut, KFC and Baskin Robbins etc. Today, posh diners and star hotels light this city up.
Home to the only international airport in Nepal “Tribhuvan International Airport,” visitors make their first and last stop in the city.
∞Culture & Arts∞
Historically, Kathmandu sheltered inhabitants from varying religions and identity, which is mainly because of its open policy towards practice of religion and living free.
In its history spanning 2 millenniums, many monarchs of Hindu and Buddhist clans established their domain in the city. Home to the native tribe of Newars, the Indo-Aryan Hindus and Tibeto-Mongol Buddhists settled and helped build the city in its latter phase. Many of the older architectural relics around the city can be seen inspired by the medieval lifestyle of the people; rich and vibrant with contrasting textures on ceilings, paintings and walls, which was common in almost every households. Many of the medieval Buddhist monasteries still populate the city.
Houses built by mud and brick, with extensive use of woodcraft, can still be seen dominating the old settlements and bazaar. Many of their rituals and religious festivities still follow the medieval practices, where, music, animal sacrifices and dancing is common. Hindu festivals are the major tourist attractions in Nepal.
∞Places to Go∞
(Full Article –Thamel, a Hipster town)
Thamel may be the most recognized place in Kathmandu since last 4 decades. A popular tourists’ hub (Tourists’ mecca or Hippies’ den), Thamel is where most tourists spend their time. Posh diners, bars with live band performances and curio shopping are all located inside this place.During 70s’, Thamel was known for the hippies’ hangout; a place where you could freely buy psychedelic drugs and spend time with like-minded friends with a least hassle. Most of the diners and bars in Thamel were established back then. Today, the area is populated with many bars and restaurants, curio shops, outfitter shops and trek agencies.
(Full Article –Swoyambhunath Stupa) Swoyambhunath is a Buddhist Stupa located atop a hill. Believed to have sprung from the Earth itself, devotees, both Hindus and Buddhists, make pilgrimage to the site. One can enjoy the 360° panoramic view of the city, sunrise/sunset and so on from the top.
- Historic Royal Palaces
Home to various dynasties and monarchs, Kathmandu valleys is grossly populated with the medieval palaces. 4 of the most popular palaces found in Kathmandu are; Hanumandhoka royal palace, Patan Malla palace orPatan Darbar Square, Bhaktapur Darbar Square andNarayanhiti royal palace.Most of these palaces date back 100 years. Seeing the reflection of local art in the buildings is evident. Most of these complexes are easily recognized by the amass of red bricks used, large compounds, wooden windows and doors, huge exteriors and majestic toppings.
∞Hotels & Accommodation∞
- Star Hotels -Many of finest establishment in hotel industry are found inside Kathmandu. Some of the worth mentioning hotels are;
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Hotel Dwarika, Hotel Annapurna, Hotel Yak n’ Yeti, Hotel Radisson, Soaltee Crown Plaza and Hotel Shangri-La
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ – Hotel Shankar, Grand Hotel, Hotel Royal Singi, Hotel Himalaya and Summit Residency
☆ ☆☆ – Tibet Guest House, Hotel Friend’s Home, Summit Hotel, Hotel Shambaling and Hotel Manang
- Non-Star Hotels -There are thousands of hotels and lodges to be found around Kathmandu. The rates may vary but are reasonable. The standard of accommodation and food is reliable. Tourists considering to stay at cheaper residences can find many options, mainly in and around Thamel.