Kathmandu Swayambhunath Stupa

Life in Kathmandu

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Kathmandu scenery

Life in Kathmandu is like nowhere else. Lying under the shadow of Mount Everest, the city has managed to attract ambitious travellers willing to unlock the secrets of this ancient place.

Kathmandu is the capital city of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, the largest Himalayan state in Asia. The city was the royal capital of the Kingdom of Nepal and features palaces, mansions, and gardens of the Nepalese aristocracy. Kathmandu is named after the Kasthamandap temple, which could be found in Durbar Square. The temple was build in 1596 by Biseth in the period of King Laxmi Narsingh Malla and was made entirely of wood. However, it collapsed during the major earthquake that took place in 2015. The mayor of the metropolitan city is Bidya Sundar Shakya.

Kathmandu has been the centre of Nepal’s history, art, culture, and economy. It has a multi-ethnic population with the majority being Hindu and Buddhist. Religious and cultural festivities form a major part of the lives of people residing in Kathmandu. The city is also the gateway to tourism in Nepal, which plays an important role in the countries economy. In 2013, Kathmandu ranked third among the top ten travel destinations on the rise worldwide by TripAdvisor and first among the destinations in Asia.

Kathmandu NepalTogether with the towns of Lalitpur Patan and Bhaktapur, it is part of the Kathmandu Valley, which has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its cultural heritage. The cultural heritage of the Valley is illustrated by seven groups of monuments and buildings which display the full range of historic and artistic achievements for which the Kathmandu Valley is world famous. This group of seven includes the Durbar Squares of Kathmandu, Patan and Bahktapur, the Buddhist stupas of Swayambhu and Bauddhanath, and the Hindu temples of Pashupati and Changu Narayan. As Buddhism and Hinduism developed and changed over the centuries throughout Asia, both religions prospered in Nepal and produced a powerful artistic and architectural fusion. These monuments were defined by the outstanding cultural traditions of the Newaris, manifested in their unique urban settlements, buildings and structures with intricate ornamentation displaying outstanding craftsmanship in brick, stone, timber, and bronze that are some of the most highly developed in the world.

Kathmandu is also the starting point for numerous adventures in the rest of the country including trekking, rafting, jungle adventures, and more extreme sports.

 

Work in Kathmandu

Kathmandu has a large and well-established expat community which includes people of many different nationalities. Although Nepali and Nepal Bhasa are the official national languages of Nepal, English is widely spoken and understood by both locals and expats and is considered to be the business language in Kathmandu. In order to work or study in Nepal, a visa must be obtained through the Nepalese Department of Immigration. Working visas automatically cover the spouse and children of the applicant, and need to be re-issued each year. In terms of living costs, Kathmandu is considered as a very inexpensive city with average living expenses being significantly low compared to numerous other Asian cities.

Kathmandu street

With the increased arrival of expats living in Kathmandu, the local economy has become more diversified. As the capital city of Nepal, it is somewhat of an administrative hub with numerous secretarial, diplomatic, and official jobs available as well as jobs as aid workers or even volunteering jobs. Hundreds of travellers volunteer in Nepal every year, working on a wide range of development and conservation projects, covering everything from volunteering with street children in Kathmandu to counting the tracks of endangered animals in the high Himalaya. Especially since the earthquake took place in 2015, volunteers have been in great need.

Nepal also offers fascinating and unique internship opportunities. You can for example travel around the city and learn to capture different types of situations and motifs with a journalism/photography internship, take on a medical elective in medicine, nursing or physiotherapy in one of its hospitals, or even be involved in EU funded projects, fundraising, public relations or proposal writings with a human rights internship in one of Nepal’s NGOs.

 

What to expect

Climate

Five major climatic regions can be found in Nepal. Out of these, the Kathmandu Valley belongs to the Warm Temperate Zone, where the climate is fairly temperate. Some portions of the city with lower elevations have a humid subtropical climate, while portions of the city with higher elevations generally have a subtropical highland climate. The Valley’s average summer temperature varies from 28-30ºC and average winter temperatures are around 10ºC. The climate in the city of Kathmandu is characterised by warm days followed by cool nights and mornings and unpredictable weather can be expected given that winter temperatures can drop to 1ºC or less. During the monsoon season (June to August) heavy rainfalls reach the city with average humidity of about 75%.

 

Transport

Public transport is cheap and plentiful. Three-wheeled Tuk Tuk taxis tend to loop around the major sights and destinations of the city. Cycle rickshaws are a cheap and quick way of travelling over short distances. Buses depart regularly from the central Ratna Park Bus Station to various locations in the suburbs and surrounding villages. Taxis can be found everywhere around the city; however, after 10pm it becomes quite difficult to find a taxi outside of central tourist areas or major hotels. A fairly large network of roads has helped the economic development of the country, particularly in the fields of agriculture, horticulture, vegetable farming, industry and tourism. However, roads are still poorly maintained and due to the large number of hills travelling from one city to another takes longer than expected despite the short distance. Ropeways can thus be found in hilly terrain, with a cable car operating for example in Chandragiri Hills (Kathmandu). Also, expect to find a lack of street names and address numbers except for major roads such as Tri Devi & Ring Road. In most cases, directions are given relative to the nearest chowk or tole (an intersection or square, often with a market) or a noteworthy location or building such as a temple or restaurant.

 

Cuisine

nepalese food momos

The regular Nepali meat is daal (lentil soup), bhat (boiled rice) and tarkari (curried vegetables), often accompanied by achar (pickle) or dahi (yogurt). It is essentially spiced lentils poured over boiled rice and served with vegetables cooked with spices. Curried meat is very popular, but saved for special occasions only as it is relatively more expensive. Momos (steamed or fried dumplings filled with buffalo, chicken or veggies) are one of the most popular snacks among Nepalis as well as tea made with milk and sugar. Momos are sold by most street vendors and restaurants. Because Hindus hold cattle to be sacred, beef meat is forbidden but can still be obtained for a high price in some expensive restaurants. Pork is not eaten by upper-caste Hindus and, like in India, some communities and tribes are vegetarians and do not eat meat of any sort. Most Nepalis do not use cutlery and instead eat with their right hand, just like in Indian culture. Western, Thai, Chinese and Middle-Eastern food can all be found in the tourist districts. The growth of tourism in Kathmandu has led to culinary creativity and the development of hybrid foods to accommodate for tourists such as American chop suey, which is a sweet-and-sour sauce with crispy noodles and a fried egg commonly added on top. Kathmandu has a larger portion of tea drinkers than coffee drinkers. Tea is widely served but is extremely weak by western standards. It is richer and contains tea leaves boiled with milk, sugar and spices. In terms of coffee, despite Nepal being a coffee producing country, most coffee is of the instant-type. When ordering, try ordering “strong coffee” instead of just “coffee” to try and not get instant coffee. For those that prefer their coffee with milk, there is little difference between a latte and a cappuccino and expect the amount of milk and foam to vary from one cup to another.

 

Budget

A basic lunch meu in the business district costs around 570 RPS and a basic dinner for two can be obtained for about 1,400 RPS. Monthly rent for an apartment costs between 23,000 and 39,000 RPS depending on the area where the flat is located in. Utilities for one month will add an extra 7,600 RPS per person and monthly internet around 2,100 RPS. Taxi rates start at NPR 14 before 9pm and at NPR 21 after that time. If the drivers refuse to use their meter, negotiate a price before getting in the taxi. The blue and green buses that are constantly driving in loops around the city on “Ring Road” can be used for 20 to 35 RPS, depending on the distance. A monthly ticket for public transportation can be obtained for 1,581 RPS.

 

What to see

Swayambhu Buddha Park Kathmandu

Durbar Square is an ancient square crowded with palaces and temples, including the current incarnation of the Kasthamandap that gives the city its name. It was where the city’s kings were once crowned and legitimised, and from where they ruled. As such, the square remains the traditional heart of the old town and Kathmandu’s most spectacular legacy of traditional architecture. The architecture surrounding the square vividly showcases the skills of the Newar artists and craftsmen over several centuries. Unfortunately, several buildings collapsed during the earthquake. The Square is particularly fascinating in the very early morning as all the various merchants set up their wares and when many devotees make their offerings at the various shrines and temples. It is possible to climb the steps of many of the temples for a better look and to join others seated near the top watching the activity below. There are more than a dozen building and statues of note in this small area.

 

 

Swayambhunath Stupa Kathmandu

Located on a hill overlooking the city with a large stupa and other Buddhist and Hindu iconography is the Swayambhu (Monkey Temple). The temple is one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in the country. There are 350 steps to the top and, aside from the views over the city and the ancient cravings in every available space, it’s crowded with monkeys mingling with the visitors. In Boudha you’ll find the Boudha Stupa, one of the most sacred sites for Tibetan Buddhism and one of the largest in the world.

The culture of Kathmandu dates back thousands of years, and a lot of the art and architecture is still beautifully preserved. By visiting the National Museum of Nepal and the Natural History Museum of Nepal you can get an overview of the country’s extraordinary history and art. Buddhist and Hindu sculptures and stone carvings can also be found in almost every public space, and every private garden with some of them being many hundreds of years old. The city’s temples are lavishly decorated in extraordinary detail and give insight into its unique history.

 

Patan Nepal

Also worth visiting are the cities of Patan and Bhaktapur, both part of the Kathmandu Valley. Once a fiercely independent city-state, Patan is now almost a suburb of Kathmandu, separated only by the murky Bagmati River. Its Durbar Square remains the finest collection of temples and palaces in the whole of Nepal. As a destination for connoisseurs of fine arts, the city is filled with wood and stone carvings, metal statues, ornate architecture, including dozens of Buddhist and Hindu temples, and over 1.200 monuments. Bhaktapur, on the other hand, is an ancient city renowned for its elegant art, fabulous culture, colourful festivals, traditional dances, and indigenous lifestyle of Newari community. The city gives the feeling of prehistoric times with lots of Bhaktapur’s greatest monuments being built by the then Malla rulers. Along narrow alleys, artisans weave cloth and chisel timber, squares are filled with drying pots, and locals gather in courtyards to bathe, collect water, play cards, and socialise.​

 

Kathmandu is a fascinating and inspirational city that offers an unbeatable lifestyle to anyone interested in culture, history, and nature. Learn more about Nepal and immerse yourself in a country that remains a mystery to so many people.

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