Kathmandu – Or how to make any city a homebase

Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, was to be my first destination on my five-month-travel-adventure. I arrived in this lively, busy and loud city after many hours in a plane, spent two days exploring the town and came back to its vibrant streets to recharge my travel batteries between destinations in Nepal and again now, just two days before I leave Nepal again.

I like to to come back to places during my travels, to make them a temporary homebase, where I can unwind after busy travel- and hiking-days. And I dont ask for much: Its only four things I need to feel home in any city:

1. Find the good coffee

In Kathmandu for me it was sort of a lucky first pick: New Orleans Jazz Cafe in Thamel. Here I had my first cappucchino in this city, here i had my first (very yummy) meal after nine hours in a plane. This cafe/bar/restaurant is said to be one of Thamels oldest institutions and according to my “Rough Guides”  “one of the few that expats still visit”. I gave it a shot on my very first day in Kathmandu, when I just arrived in the city, after i just checked in at my hotel and was positivly starving. And a winner New Orleans was: I was immediatley taken in by the place, with its many lounges and tables in the backyard of an old newari-style house.  It has many cosy corners where you can relax and enjoy some tasty nepalese or western food. The atmosphere is relaxed and quiet, some people work on their laptops, some chat and plan their travels and its popular with families too. And there is life music on wednesdays and saturdays. While i stayed in Thamel i visited New Orleans various times, and even on busy new years eve, they found a little spot for me, though the place was superbusy. I had my first Nepalese Dhaal Bhat there (supertasty), and love their Fresh Mint Lemon Soda.

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2. Find a quiet place to read and relax

Just 50 metres away from bustling Thamel and next to a superbusy road lies the wonderfully serene little “Garden of Dreams. Once it has been a private garden, now it has been beautifully restored and is enjoyed by tourists and locals likewise. There is an entry fee of 200 rupies, but its well worth it. Theres a pond, loads of flowers, tall trees and elephant statues – and countless little chipmonks busy nibbling on the grass and running wild all troughout the garden. ou see people reading and chatting in the grass arena, couples enjoying some time together on the many benches, people taking selfies of themselves in front of the beautiful backgrounds. And if you feel a little hungry, theres the Kaisers Café that serves delicious snacks and meals and proper coffee all throughout the day. I had a yummy stuffed avocado there, toghether with some fresh water melon juice and a cappuccino and after my meal I spent some two hours walking through the gardens, taking in the atmosphere, and relaxing before heading back into busy thamel.
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3. Find the good bookstores
Thamel is full of little bookstores that sell you every book imaginable on mountaineering, exploring, buddhism, hinduism, nepali and tibetan culture up travel fiction classics such as eat pray love, shantaram or into the wild. Some have a large secondhand book selection, some stock books not only in english but also in german, italian, french many other languages, and some even buy your used books. I could have spent hours in the many little shops and easily filled another backpack just with all the books I wanted to buy and read. Restraining myself to a one book only in this already heavy backpack at a time, i only bough one: The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen – apparently a classic about an expedition into the mountains of southern tibet, in search of the rare snow leopard.
4. Find the good yoga place
I love taking yoga classes in new cities. You get to see new studios and try out new teachers and the amazing thing is as soon as everyone is on the mat its just instantly familiar. You know the moves, you know the commands even if teachers differ in style, you know what you want to find on the mat. Even if your surroundings are completly different – say Kathmandu instead of quiet swiss village Winterthur, the yoga is still the same. I was happy to try out a class at Pranamaya yoga studio (who also runs a branch in patan and in pokhara – lucky me, since this is my next stop) and enjoyed 75 of hatha yoga by Erin, an american expat who has lived in Kathmandu for three years. The classes are walk in mostly, and you pay 700 rupies. Mats are provided, changing rooms are available. There are various classes each day, and there are also always loads of special workshops on offer. Be sure to check out their website: I have my eyes on a meditation beginners course on the 1st of may, just a day before i leave Nepal…
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