January 30, 2009 / 1:23 PM / in 9 years

Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Kathmandu

KATHMANDU (Reuters Life!) - Got 48 hours to explore Kathmandu?

<p>Girls get ready for "Ihi", their first marriage ceremony, in Kathmandu January 30, 2009. The Newar community in Nepal observes the tradition where girls get married to a sacred Bel fruit (wood apple tree), which represents the Sun God. Such a marriage is believed to prevent them from becoming widowed in future. The ceremony is generally performed in a courtyard and involves girls who have not entered puberty. REUTERS/Gopal Chitrakar</p>

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors make the most of a short stay in the capital of the Himalayan nation of Nepal, which is seeing a surge in tourism less than three years after the end of a long and bloody civil war.

SATURDAY

6.45 a.m. - Start your day trying to get rid of any jetlag by visiting the New Orleans Jazz Cafe in Thamel where you can relax in a quite haven out of the back street frenzy. The farmer’s omelet or the “absolutely brilliant British” choices are recommended to give you enough energy for the day ahead.

7.30 a.m. - Grab a taxi and head off to Swayambhunath Temple, famous for the bands of red monkeys that have made it their home. With fantastic views over Kathmandu, when the morning mist has lifted, remember to walk around in a clockwise direction spinning the prayer wheels as you go. Many locals visit the site on a daily basis to make odd-number laps of the temple.

10.00 a.m. - On the return journey, have the taxi drop you are Freak Street where you will find a local market of commonplace offerings like singing bowls, prayer wheels, and carved animal statues but bargaining here can get you lower prices than elsewhere. Browse the many stalls and try to avoid being swamped by offers for tiger balm, chess sets and flutes.

10.30 a.m. - Work your way back northwards toward Indra Chowk through the hustle and bustle of the narrow streets past the dentists, butchers, hardware stores and clothes stores that each seem to be tucked into impossible alcoves. If your time in Kathmandu is prior to a trek in the Himalayas, take advantage of the many outdoor clothes and equipment stores. Your route should take you via the Seto Machhendranath temple, one of the most ornate in Kathmandu.

11.30 a.m. - Arrive at Tahiti Tole and the Nateshwar Temple, whose door plates are covered in creatures playing musical instruments. The temple is dedicated to Nataraja, one of the five forms of Shiva, the Lord of Dance.

12.00 p.m. - Take an early lunch in the Weizen Bakery which serves freshly baked bread and cakes along with a lassi or ginger tea, which you can enjoy in the neighboring outdoor restaurant.

1.30 p.m. - Drop-in at the Pilgrim Bookshop, a local landmark, which has the largest array of books on Nepal and Tibet imaginable and where Western names such as Michael Palin and Peter Matthiessen sit alongside local publications such as Tsering Wangmo’s Tibetan Cookbook. The inexpensive restaurant at back is a great place to sit with books over a hot coffee.

3.30 p.m. - Take a break and a trip to one of the many reflexologists in Thamel where 400 rupees will see you suitably pampered and kneaded.

5.00 p.m. - Head out early for dinner to ensure that you avoid the crowds. A great location is the Third Eye restaurant for real Indian food. The upper floors allow you sit at low tables with your shoes off while you enjoy a butter masala curry.

8.00 p.m. - Depending on how you feel, either head to the young and hip Shisha Bar, almost above the Kathmandu Guest House, where local bands cover Western songs or, for a quieter evening, a hundred feet further north is a new unnamed Thai restaurant on the top floor of a shopping complex.

SUNDAY

7.00 a.m. - Hail a taxi and head out to the Boudhanath temple. Although in a slightly less scenic setting that Swayambhunath, this temple is in a better condition and more frequented by locals than tourists. You can make your way up onto the side of the temple for a better view of the surrounding plaza. When done, climb to the top floor of the Saturday Cafe on the north side of the plaza for a bird’s eye view.

10.00 a.m. - On the way back to Thamel, stop at the Garden of Dreams. The garden, also called Swapna Bagaicha, was built in 1895 but fell into neglect. In 1990s, it was restored over a six-year period. Inside there is a cafe.

11.00 a.m. - On foot, head in a direction away from Thamel, toward the Royal Palace (public entry not allowed) where you will find the start of the long shopping street with more Western clothes and electronics shops. At the end of the street, or when your feet become tired, take a taxi to lunch at Chez Caroline, a French restaurant which lies completely hidden inside a maze of courtyards within the restored Rana palace.

2.00 p.m. - You can use the afternoon to see as much as possible of Thamel as well as doing any gift shopping of typical items such as prayer flags, blankets, pashmina scarves and Darjeeling tea or more unusual things like authentic Ghurka knives. Or, if you’re trekking to the mountains the next day, this is a good time for last-minute preparations.

6.00 p.m. - Before heading off on a trek there is no better place than the Rum Doodle, whose walls and ceilings are decorated with Big Foot (or rather Yeti Foot) cut-outs covered with quirky remarks from the returnees of previous Everest, and more recently Annapurna, treks alongside the occasional sobering remembrance for those who never made it back.

8.00 p.m. - As a final cocktail to build up the team spirits before the trek begins, a visit to the newly opened and relatively peaceful Russian OQO gives you time to talk before heading to bed for a final night of sleep in a real bed.

Editing by Miral Fahmy

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