From St. Louis to Nepal
Johnny’s Journeys: Kathmandu, Nepal
Kathmandu, the surprisingly temperate capital of Nepal, offers more than an airport at the foot of the Himalayas. The temples are ancient and the people are friendly in this city rich with history, culture and flavor. Nepal’s isolation and geography stemmed modernization for many years; travel is still somewhat challenging. It’s the dearth of Starbucks and other familiar brands, though, that actually makes it worth visiting. The stereotypical traveler in Nepal is a weathered, outdoorsy backpacker, but elegant accommodations, interesting shopping and memorable meals can be found with a little bit of searching.
Where to stay: The streets of Kathmandu are a swarming maze of noise, dust and mayhem. Dwarika’s Hotel is a refuge. A step through the heavy, intricate, wooden doors transports a visitor to another world. Select international hotels are available in Kathmandu, but Dwarika’s offers traditional British service with beautiful Nepali touches. The courtyard provides a lovely setting to enjoy an afternoon tea and the in-house Krishnarpan restaurant offers the best introduction to Nepali cooking in Kathmandu.
Where to shop: Baber Mahal Revisited isn’t expansive, but it’s designer boutiques, tranquil atmosphere and dream-like architecture make this the best shopping experience around. Originally built as palace grounds in the early 1900’s, what stands today is a series of art-filled courtyards surrounded by shops.
Where to eat: Opposite the President’s residence in Northern Kathmandu, Le Sherpa offers a fine-dining experience with Nepali flair. Local produce showcases the Kathmandu Valley, but most dishes are European. The mountain climate and unfamiliar varieties of familiar ingredients lead to the sensation of experiencing something familiar from a new perspective.
Where to visit: The many Buddhist and Hindu temples are worth visiting, especially the Buddha Eyes at Swayambhunath Temple. Nepal was a monarchy until 2001 when the King, Queen and Crown Prince were murdered at the Narayanhity Royal Palace in Central Kathmandu. Today, the palace is a museum and must-see stop.
Outside Kathmandu: Get outside the city to explore the stunning grandeur of the world’s highest peaks. Hikes and tours abound for a variety of fitness levels and schedules. While Everest’s peak may be out of reach, intrepid climbers can take a 14-day trek to Base Camp, standing at 17,590 feet above sea level.