There is a surreal majestic feeling to be discovered deep inside Kathmandu. It’s a place hidden from smart phone maps, where one can lose themselves completely in the culture and on the streets. Just the idea that someone can wonder aimlessly around and still managed to find some of the greatest spectacles that this lovely city has to offer, shows that everyone can leave all their worries back home and embrace Thamel.
In the morning, you are awakened by the bitter cold slipping under your covers, but as you look out to see the mist resting over Kathmandu, a sense of peace and tranquility falls over you and prepares your mind for the day to come. At this time, the shops are still closed through the barren streets of Thamel, with only a few locations open for breakfast. However, once you walk into one of these restaurants, you are introduced into a paradise hidden from the world. Delima Garden Café is a prime example of one of these hidden gems. You peak your head through a small door and see a long narrow alleyway that leads all the way down to a mysterious courtyard. When you reach this courtyard, you find yourself in a beautiful garden filled with prayer flags and vibrant flowers. It feels like the kind of place one would go to meditate and enjoy the beauty of nature. With the staff all welcoming and polite, you can’t, but to happily sip on your tea and enjoying a nice breakfast, until it’s time for you to make your journey onwards.
Once the day progresses, life begins to fill the streets. Rickshaws and taxis make their way around large groups of tourists, trying to get through to the city, while the shop keepers all welcome you with open arms in hopes that you find something of interest inside. Tourists are confronted with street vendors carrying a variety of things to sell, whether instruments, knives, or the occasional hashish; and if these salesmen don’t convince you to give your money away, then you are also approached by the common beggar. Yet, as heart-wrenching as it maybe to see mothers and children asking for money, you must remember that giving them money to get off your back isn’t the way to help these people. As Ellen Christian, a fellow volunteer at VIN, mentioned, “You can do more good for them by sponsoring a child or supporting an orphanage.” It’s insanity that roams the streets of Thamel, but somehow it manages not to overwhelm the people who pass through.
Nonetheless, even with poverty surrounding you, it doesn’t take away from the true wonder and nature of Thamel. With its numerous shops, inns, restaurants, and live music, Thamel offers the most for people from all walks of life. The cafés and bars have managed to emerge themselves with other world cultures, while still holding on to their own Nepali identity. Places like New Orleans Café, offer a variety of dishes from burritos, fish and chips, and burgers to momos, both Tibetan and Nepali style, and so on. All of which are made best they can to taste as close to home as possible. When the sun goes down, the night life sets in and people begin to move from bar to bar to find a place to sit, relax, and reflect on the day. The New Orleans Café is then converted into a folk fusion live music venue, where a groovy laid back atmosphere fills the air. People sit next to smoky barrels of burning wood, while the pan flute band’s soothing flute, melodic guitar, and hypnotic bongos guides you through the night. Everyone lounges around, talking to one another as the move with the beat and applaud after every set.
Finally, as the night ends and everyone has had their fun, you can head back to the hotel for a good night’s rest. The streets of Thamel at night may seem daunting from the people around fires and rickshaws, who follow you offering an assortment of different drugs. But generally you can still make a safe passage through, back to the hotel. However, if the night is still not yet over and the weather is right, you can try to make your way to the roof of your hotel to see soak in the last of Thamel before bed. The clear blue night sky shows off all of its constellations and the city seems to stretch out far into the edge of the mountains. With the crisp air filling your lungs, peace falls right back into your mind and deep with in your heart. You can fall in love with this city; feel as if you are in a dream.
There is a lot to discover of Kathmandu, but Thamel, nonetheless is a place for people to stop by to explore its serpentine streets and experience a new way of life different from that in the western word. This being the first impression of Thamel, has made it clear that this city is a loving one, which holds it open arms to all who wish to come and rest under the sweet bosom of the mountains.