Kathmandu: For You, Too!

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Bhaktawar, the largest of the Newa Kingdoms in the Kathmandu Valley, is known for its architecture, arts and handicrafts, and not to be missed.

By Aseem Kulkarni

NEW DELHI: I never really considered Kathmandu for a long weekend getaway. During the winter, people just naturally migrate south for a beach holiday or just to relax in a hot climate.

Even for tourists in the region, most consider Kathmandu to be a stopping point for trekking, or between India, Tibet, Bhutan, and/or China. Nonetheless, flight fares to Kathmandu from India were incredibly reasonable and I decided to take the plunge. If you only have a few days to spare, Kathmandu is a great city to soak up a different culture.

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Buffalo momos are a tasty and filling street food.

While India plays host to quite a large Nepalese community, there is still a great deal of cultural stereotypes many Indians harbor against our neighbors in the North. There’s the idea that the Nepalese are hill people and overzealous Hindus and Buddhists. I’m not here to preach, but during my short visit, I was amazed at how hospitable, welcoming, and kind many of them acted toward me. It just goes to show you how unfounded these sterotypes are. Don’t let those misconceptions stop you from visiting!

Since Tibet is Nepal’s next door neighbor, it’s amazing to see and experience their culinary influence on the city. If you’re a momo lover, Kathmandu is almost heavenly. There are numerous momo stands dotting the city, serving up delicious buffalo, cheese, or veg momos. There’s also the famous Tongba Beer, an alcoholic drink created by the indigenous Limbu people. It’s an interesting millet-based alcohol concoction, where you basically pour hot water into the container filled with red millet and let the grains ferment. If you’re a tee-totaler, Nepal has a great coffee scene. Because of its location within the Himalayas, Nepal has been developing their coffee production, with tasty and satisfying results.

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The Nepalese flag is being carried to Durbar Square.

Many are aware that Kathmandu hosts some incredible Hindu temples, Buddhist stupas, and monasteries, and amazing escapes to Himalayan towns and villages. Those certainly should not be overlooked. However, one of the more interesting sites Kathmandu has to offer is the Narayanhiti Palace.

The palace was the official residence of the Nepalese royal family. In 2001, the Crown Prince Dipendra shot nine members of the royal family before killing himself. It’s super macabre, but the events afterwards, including the overthrowing of the monarchy in 2006, make the palace one of the most interesting sights to see in Kathmandu. The palace now serves as a museum, set up by the current government.

Unlike many far flung countries to visit, Nepal is among the few close countries with no visa requirements for Indian and American passport holders. Add to that the Indian rupee being stronger than the Nepalese rupee, and is widely accepted at most establishments throughout Kathmandu.
While it hasn’t always been considered an ideal getaway, Kathmandu, Nepal offers up a wealth of new cultural insight and unique cuisines to sample—all at fairly economical rates. Look into heading there for your next quick vacay!

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Aseem Kulkarni is New Delhi correspondent for Indo-American News.