The alternative Kathmandu
If this is your second visit to Kathmandu you may be in need of a few thoughts to focus your mindful travel and explore the city further, understand it more, so you don’t just have a quick stay before shooting off to Pokhara, Solu Kumbhu etc. If this is your first visit then we hope to help you get more out of your trip and get out of the mainstream rather than following the hordes every day to Swayambhu, Pashpatinath or Durbar Square.
1 Basantapur to Thamel
This is our #1 city walk through some of the oldest parts of Kathmandu. We’re not going to give you a detailed map (Google offline download of Kathmandu should do that!) nor is this a history of the area. Suffice to say you could do this at a decent pace in 30 mins or about 90 mins if you take lots of photos and explore the shops and stalls of the locals.
My wife was born here and is one of the Newar ethnic group who were the original inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley. Most people living along this route are Newari and the majority will have the surname Tuladhar. Check it out!
Startpoint: Basantapur, New Road.
Connections: Basantapur > Indra Chowk > Ason Tole > Bangemuda > Thahity > Thamel
Begin your walk at the end of New Road facing Basantapur/Durbar Square and turn right. Initially walking along a tarmac road with shops either side and lots of parked vehicles you will soon enter the packed-earth streets, black mud after rain! Almost joined together are the crossroads of Indra Chowk and Naiken Tole with sellers of coloured beads, bangles, brass pots, carpets and electrical goods. Mostly shops for locals we have several nephews and nieces with businesses here.
Continue now to Ason Tole, a major market area of Kathmandu with stalls of fruit, vegetables, rice, pulses, spices, coloured dyes all worthy of urban street photography. Take your time, you won’t find a better market photo opportunity in the whole city. Now, don’t panic, you will not be the first foreigner to lose your bearings and sense of direction at this point. There are SEVEN exit streets here, just ask someone to point towards Tyauda or Thaihity!
Leave Ason in the direction of Thaihity and you will get back to your original straight line towards Thamel and the opportunity to see a lovely small Buddhist stupa and monastery. My wife knows this area as Seagall but Google maps shows it as Naghal just before Thaihity with a left turn down a narrow lane of Tibetan shops for about 30 metres. A small square has been well maintained by Tibetans who settled here in Kathmandu and you will be rewarded with a quiet peaceful spot for more photos.
Returning to the main street turn left and continue your walk towards Thaihity. There are now lots of locals selling cloths, saree, prayer flags, wall hangings and all at local prices. But you look like a tourist so bargain hard! Rule of thumb, whatever they ask for, half it then half it again!
Now enter Thaihity, another square with about 5 exits so look opposite and slightly right. That’s the street to Thamel, the “tourist central” of Kathmandu and, if you’re tired …. Take a Rickshaw as there are always plenty here. And remember to bargain hard!