We left the terai region behind us and headed to the high altitude mountain passes, destination - capital city of Nepal- Kathmandu. With all awe and excitement we started riding on ghat roads, maneuvering around hair pin bends, curvy mountain roads and steep slopes. The sheer joy of riding through clouds with near zero visibility and finger numbing temperature plus our bullets thump tearing through the thin mountain air made us cherish the moment.
Our eyes were treated to snow clad peaks, colorful flowers and ears to the soothing sound of a flowing river. As we were admiring God's charm on planet Earth, we stumbled upon a huge man-made suspension bridge connecting two hills across a river. We walked over to the other side of the hill and man!- it was a breath taking experience. This is the best part about being on road - you can stop where ever you want and check out interesting places. On the other side of the river, we treated ourselves with a piping hot cup of chai. The friendly locals bearing a smile on their face and children waving at us made our day.
Kathmandu being a tourist hub and home for the International airport, attracts hordes of people from all over the globe making the city very chaotic and the most over crowded place in the whole of Nepal that we have seen. On reaching we realized that the hype around Kathmandu's traffic turned out to be true. Traffic jams, bad roads and pollution masks are a way of living here. Taxis are the best mode of transportation here, but be prepared to cough out exorbitant amount of money. Irrespective of the distance, the fare they seem to ask is unfair. Taxis do not ply by meter or any set tariff. Feel free to bargain heavily before boarding.
This historic town has quite a few interesting places that are a must visit, like Pashupatinath, Boudhanath, Swayambhunath, Durbar Square etc.
Pashupatinath Temple: This UNESCO world heritage site, right in the heart of the city, on the banks of Bagmati river is dedicated to Lord Shiva. Make sure you are there for the evening Aarti that is performed at 6 pm. This elaborate Aarti is performed by three priests of the temple. Again, like Janakpur, they are completely in sync. The rituals, the offerings and the bhajans are so soothing and bring peace to the mind and soul. While on one side of the river bank, people gather together and sing along with the priest to please the gods and play for a prosperous life, on the other side of the bank, the mood is very mournful as you see people performing the last rites for their near and dear ones.
Boudhanath Temple: This is one of the most popular shrines in Kathmandu dedicated to Lord Shiva. This Stupa of Enlightenment is known as the mind nature of Buddhas of the three times- past, present and future. Here, you see the eyes on the Stupa which are a symbol of Method and Wisdom watching over in all directions. This could be one of the many best places in Kathmandu to get your perfect picture. The Buddhist schools around add more charm to the place. It is believed that people residing around this Stupa will never suffer from hunger, famine or any other unfavorable conditions. It is also widely known as "The Stupa That Answers All Prayers." This would also serve as a great place for souvenir hunting from any of the numerous shops around.
Swayambhunath Temple: Be prepared to test your stamina as you are greeted by a fleet of steep 365 steps to reach the temple. It is tiring, exciting and at the same time fun to sweat out and reach the top. As a reward, there are plenty of photo ops on the way to the temple. However, there is an alternative and less tiring route where taxis will circle around and drop you only mere meters away from the temple. From this point, you climb only a few steps and reach the shrine.
Not just Swayambhunath, the huge temple complex has many a small temples dedicated to different Gods in the Hindu mythology. This temple is also known as the Monkey Temple as there are too many of them living in the vicinity. The highlight is the small monastery within the complex where one can see monks perform their daily rituals. It was heartening to see the monks play different dharma musical instruments to create a state of mind for inviting or summoning the deities.
Also, hidden in one corner of the complex is a huge 7th Century Monolithic statue of Dipanker Buddha.
Gambling is legal in Nepal and Kathmandu has a few famous casinos. We tried our luck at the Casino Royale. This casino has slot machines, blackjack, poker and roulette tables plus a dance bar to entertain the guests. The staff was very friendly and helpful. This being our first experience in a casino, the staff answered all our silly doubts with a smile on their face.
We checked into Hotel Encounter in Thamel, this property is in the heart of Kathmandu and in a bustling shopping bazaar. All must visit places are not very far. They have decent parking, good service, complimentary breakfast and a good restaurant. The rooms are comfortable with 24 hours running hot water . The corner rooms offer brilliant views. Since the place is in the heart of the city, getting in and out can be a little time consuming.
Keeping Kathmandu as your base you can do quite a few day trips and if you prefer stay a couple of nights at Dhulikhel, Gorkha, Pokhara, Chitwan, Bandipur & Bhaktapur.