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Kathie - How much Time in Kathmandu?

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May 27th, 2009, 05:34 PM
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Kathie - How much Time in Kathmandu?

Kathie, I am reading your trip report but can't get a feel for how long you were there. Since we both spent more time than most in Hanoi, I'm thinking that our stay in Kathmandu would be similar to yours. Any advice? Time in Phulbari (if we do it) would be in addition to Kathmandu.
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May 27th, 2009, 07:27 PM
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Hi Craig, we spent 8 nights in Kathmandu. It was the right amount of time for us. When we left, I wished we'd had time for another stop at the great fair trade crafts shop, but basically we did almost everything we'd planned. One thing we did not do (I'd done it before) was the Everest flight. While the view flying in and out of Kathmandu on the commercial flight is great (make sure you get the correct side of the plane each way), the Everest flight is really stunning.

Let me know if I can be of any further assistance.
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Jul 12th, 2009, 01:29 PM
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Hi Kathie, just looking now at the important stuff from your report and these are my conclusions:

1. We need to visit the seven Unesco World Heritage sites
2. Of the seven, Bhaktapur and Changu Narayan can be accomplished in a day with a car and driver
3. Thamel is not worth much time but "The Garden of Dreams" is.
4. The best shopping is for Thangkas around Kathmandu Durbar Square, hand-hammered Tibetan singing bowls (where?) and hand-woven textiles at Mahaguthi in Patan (Kopundol).

Can we do the above without rushing in the 4 to 4-1/2 days we have allotted?

How did you arrange your airport transfer with the Hyatt? We want to be sure we are met at the airport and will be staying on the Club Floor. Just to confirm - would you recommend the Hyatt to a first-timer to Kathmandu or is there an area that is better situated?

How far is Pashupatinath from the Hyatt - I find this site very intriguing and look forward to contrasting it to Varanasi which we will be visiting beforehand.

It really sounds like we will need to chill after visiting Kathmandu - 3 nights at Phulbari is still at the top of the list but...do you know anything about safaris at Royal Chitwan National Park or other rural alternatives?

If there is anyone else out there with Nepal experience, please feel free to chime in.
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Jul 12th, 2009, 02:03 PM
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Hi, Craig, here is my take on your questions:

I agree, you want to see the seven Unesco Heritage sites.

Bhaktapur and Chango Narayan can be done in a day with a car and driver.

Yout should see Thamel, but I wouldn't spend much time there. The Garden of Dreams is a delight. You might try to time it for a lunch or mid-morning coffee break so you can eat in that beautiful setting. You don't need a lot of time there, but you'll find it such a wonderful retreat from the noise and dust that you'll want to linger a bit.

Yes, buy thangkas at Kathmandu Durbar Square, buy the singing bowls in Patan, a short walk from the Durbar square. The guide you employ will know the place. This family has been making singing bowls for decades. Mahaguthi is excellent for textiles. They have some other things, but textiles is what we were most interested in. Later, I wished I would have picked up a pashima there, as both quality and prices were good.

The Hyatt apparently meets all incoming flights (there aren't many), so we didn't have to make any arrangements. The van driver will have your name on a list.

Pashupatinath is walking distance from the Hyatt. Walk to Borobudor from the Hyatt, then when you leave Borobudor though the main entrance, cross the street, take the street running at an angle and keep walking down hill. The Lonely Planet has detailed directions that I found hopelessly confusing. The general directions work just fine. You can ask at each possible turn, and the locals will tell you that you are still on track. All were glad to offer assistance. We took a taxi back to the Hyatt.

So, here's a idea of how you could cover all that ground in one day increments:

1. Bhaktapur and Changu Narayan
2. Boudnath and Pashupatinath
3. Patan (including the museum) and shopping for singing bowls and a stop at Mahaguthi
4. A day for Kathmandu- Durbar Square, a stop at the Garden of Dreams, a quick look at Thamel and Freak Street

Swayamunath can be seen (depending on your time) either on the day you go to Patan or the day you spend in Kathmandu. It is quite close to Katmandu.

So you can cover the seven world heritage sites in 4 to 4.5 days. It will be busy, but it is doable.

I investigated going to Royal Chitwan as part of my previous trip to Nepal. At that time, all of the info I had indicated that the Royal Chitwan area had been overdeveloped. Instead, we looked into going to Bardia, which is much less developed and where you had a much better chance of seeing tigers. We ended up deciding against it, but that is where we would have gone had we decided on some time in a wildlife area. This is old info, but if I was thinking about going now, I would check into Bardia.
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Jul 12th, 2009, 03:15 PM
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Hey, Craig: I've never written about Kathmandu - but I've spent 6 weeks there over the last two years. It's not a scary place, Craig. It's not like India - way more mellow.

I think Kathie's advice is great - her words are far more likely to help than mine. A few random thoughts:

Have you heard back from Phulbari?
Are you booking the Hyatt direct on their website?
The other place you should check out as well is

www.dwarika's.com

That's slightly closer to Thamel. Hyatt is walking distance from Boudanath. Dwarikas is closer to Patupatinath. Check on a city map. The beds are hard at Dwarikas but it's a nice place, more Nepalese. The Hyatt is more comfortable. I think you'd be happy with either.

If you want to check out jungle camps then start here:
http://tigermountain.com/?linkid=9&sublink=1

Caveat emptor. Vastly expensive. Kathie is right - I'd go Bardia - but you ain't got time, Craig.

Bhaktapur is half way to Phulbari. So it's logical to do it either on the way or on the way back. Should that not fit, I recall a day tour I took via Dwarikas - A.M.: Swayamunath/Patan/ P.M.: Bhaktapur

Singing bowls and thankas and tat are ubiquitous. Truly: they are EVERYWHERE. When you are at Boudnath find a thanka place and ask to go see the apprentices painting - usually upstairs. When/if you see a thanka you like - buy it. You'll get totally confused pretty quickly. There are NO antique thankas - lol - no matter how old it looks. If you buy them from Durbar Square, then you can assured the prices will be quadruple.

Boudnath at sundown. Delicious.
Pashupatinath late afternoon is best for pictures. I went there a dozen times. You should go more than once. Sometimes it's amazing, sometimes it's empty - depends who died that day.

Don't pay more than 1,000 rupees for your charas. Lol lol lol.
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Jul 12th, 2009, 05:27 PM
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Thanks Kathie and Dogster for your recommendations.

Kathie, seems like the itinerary is doable, I hope.

Dogster, I am not planning on contacting Phulbari for awhile as demand seems to be light. Better to be sure I am going there first. Thanks for the other recos.
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Jul 12th, 2009, 05:32 PM
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Oh and Dog - while charas might have been on my shopping list 25-30 years ago, it is not today (my better half has a slight influence on these things .
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Jul 12th, 2009, 06:49 PM
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As for purchasing singing bowls and thangkas I agree with dogster that the kinds that are tat are everywhere.

It depends on whether you want a souvenir or a work of art or fine craft. I was not impressed by the thangkas at the painting school in Bhaktapur. The shop at the Durbar Square in Kathmandu had many that were very fine quality. There are other places to find very fine quality thangkas, but in my experience it's not at the painting schools. But do buy what you like. I have a very primitive Thangka I bought years ago which I find charming, as well as a very fine one bought in Katmandu on the Durbar Marg in 1994. As for singing bowls, the traditional ones are made of seven metals and are hand-hammered (not spun brass, for instance) and the best are adorned with symbols inside and out. Yes, you pay more for these, but it depends on what you want.
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Jul 12th, 2009, 07:05 PM
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I quite agree - fine quality and painting schools do not, strangely, go hand in hand. It interesting to see - lol - not to buy. The more you look for thangkas, the more confusing it gets. I keep setting out on a mission and coming home empty-handed, utterly bewildered.

I think if you're going to buy ubiquitous tibet-o-tat [and I do, lol, suitcases of it] then have fun while you're doing it so that your ubiquitous piece has a little history.

The real deal singing bowls are a whole other thing. They are mystical - but I don't think you'll be able to tell. My desk here is covered with Buddh-o-tat from Boudnath. Scarcely antique - but I love my collection.

Craig: Pashutatinath is a very different experience from Varanasi. Kinda more - in your face. Ahhh, I love the smell of burning bodies in the morning...
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Jul 12th, 2009, 07:25 PM
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dogster, I'm sure you've heard the story (apocryphal, no doubt) of the guide turning to the tourist and pointing to a man sitting on a stair working hard on an object "Do you know what he is making?" when the tourist says "no" the guide responds "He is making it old."
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Jul 13th, 2009, 08:41 AM
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i went to Nepal in 1985 when it was not a popular destination. I tagged along with friends without knowing a thing about it and it was a very pleasant surprise indeed. Nepal reminded me of India (which i love) but did not have the chaos, the smell, the music and the colors. It was milder and much more manageable.

Besides Kathmandu, we also went to a tibetan camp (sorry, I don't remember where that was) where we spent sometime watching the women weaving. The highlight of the trip was Pokara- a paradise with spirituality. I felt relaxed the second i got there. I don't remember where we stayed but our balcony was overlooking the mountain. i felt God's and spirits presence there. Boating in the lake was great. It was serene and peaceful and we were the only people there. I had to jump in for a swim but that evening i had a stomach problem and had to cancel the trekking trip the following day. Next time I would wear bathing suit inside of my clothing and swim with my head above the water.

I have no idea what it is like now.
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Jul 13th, 2009, 08:59 AM
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Ahhh, Mohan - keep those memories. They sound great - it's kinda different now.

Yup Kathie - when I buy there now and the salesman tells me its 'old' I say 'new-old or old-old?'. Gawd, have I trawled those shops... searching for rare and unique objects d'art for Gallery Dogster.

I wonder if Craig will make it up to Phulbari. We might have to start thinking of other options.
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Jul 13th, 2009, 10:44 PM
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Craig when I was in Nepal ten years ago, I bought a beautiful thangka in Bhaktapur (where you could easily spend a day, if time allowed). There was a school where young monks studied the art of thangka painting. The piece I bought was produced by one of the senior students; its beautifully done and was not expensive (under $100 then). Maybe someone on this board knows the name of the place I'm referencing.
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Aug 2nd, 2009, 04:48 PM
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Kathie, Dogster, Robbie - thanks for your replies. As for location in Kathmandu - here's where I'm coming from: Jeane wants to be in the middle of the shopping action (high quality, but not necessarily the lowest prices) - not sure if this exists in Kathmandu - doesn't seem like the Hyatt or the Dwarikas are particularly well situated for shopping. Not a deal-breaker but for comparison purposes, Jeane would have been happier staying in the Old Quarter in Hanoi rather than at the Sofitel Metropole 15 minutes away in the French Quarter. I don't think she ever got the lay-of-the-land enough to go exploring on her own (which I would much prefer when it comes to shopping).

Also, as we were finally hanging our Vietnam painting purchase today, we noticed that there is a big space in our home that is crying out for a Nepalese painting (or something equivalent). Any suggestions?

Dog, I do intend to reserve Phulbari, probably in September. Jeane is okay with the potential lack of hot water for a few days and she has read the report from erwench...
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Aug 2nd, 2009, 05:47 PM
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When you say you have a "big space" on your wall the first thing I think of is a thangka. You'll see many, and can choose the size, style and colors you want.

Craig, I'm not sure Kathmandu has an area like that - high quality shopping clustered together. When I was there in 1994, I would say that the Durbar Marg (at the end toward the palace) was that kind of area. I purchased a very high quality thangka from a shop there, looked at some interesting jewelry, bought a Ganeesha carved of turquoise, several handmade sweaters (more like jackets), and a brass sculpture of Naga Kana. When we were there in November, I went back to that area, but all of those shops were gone. The bookstore I liked near the Yak and Yeti was still there, and some other small shops, but not the high quality arts and crafts I loved and I expect Jeane is looking for. We purchased our thangka at the Durbar Square in Kathmandu and bought the best crafts from Mahaguthi, neat Patan. You'll see some interesting crafts in Bhakatapur as well.

The most crowded shopping area is in Thamel, but the quality is highly variable, lots of cheap "tat" as dogster says. You can find some interesting items in Thamel, but it takes lots of looking and lots of fending off shopkeepers.

Maybe Dogster or Robbie has a different take on it.
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Aug 3rd, 2009, 05:45 AM
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Well, I'm a kinda 'right-there-in-the-middle-of-it' guy too. KTM ain't really like that. As Kathie has noted too, almost all the shops in KTM seem to sell exactly the same thing, lol. So you really have to set aside time to wander and compare and work oput what is complete crapola and what ain't. [Bearing in mind our differing tastes, it's still dull to buy something excitedly the day you arrive, to them see exactly the same thing at every shop from then on. I like to find the oddities.

Hyatt puts you close to about 50 interesting Tibetocrap shops aroundf Boudnath temple - and in the street outside.
Dwarika's puts you close to nowhere, except the VASTLY overpriced Dwarika shop.

'Yak and Yeti' is the closest to Thamel which is a suburb of back-packer tibetocrap shops.

IMHO better product hidden in a few shops in the main street between Hyatt and Boudnath - with a great deal of looking. There are some specialty shops in Thamel, with prices to match.
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Aug 3rd, 2009, 10:28 AM
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Craig, we stayed in Thamel at Hotel Courtyard. The owners, Michelle and Pujan, are very nice and the place is quite comfortable (nice down comforters and great pillows). They do experience the power problems that plague Kathmandu, but when we were there last December they were looking to buy a generator for the hotel, so maybe that isn't a problem anymore. Even though it was in Thamel, the hotel was quiet -- and quite convenient, easy to explore from, and walkable to Durbar Square etc. http://www.hotelcourtyard.com/
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