With half a million people,
Kathmandu is Nepal's biggest and most cosmopolitan city, a meeting
place of a dozen ethnic groups, and the home town of the Newars. Nepal's master craftsmen
extraordinaire. Trade indeed, created Kathmandu for at least a thousand years
it controlled the
most important caravan route between Tibet and India - and trade has always
funded its Newar artisans. Little wonder, perhaps that Kathmandu has so deftly embraced the
Orientation and arrival
Tradition has it that old Kathmandu was laid out in the shape of a
khukuri knife. Positioned at what would be the hilt of the knife is
Durbar Square -a non- stop carnival set amidst temples, monuments
and the fonner royal palace while
the city's oldest neighbourhoods stretch northeast and
south- west New Road, the city's best-known shopping street,
runs east from the square. Kathmandu's budget hotels are concentrated
in two areas: Thamel, north of Durbar Square in a new part of town, and
Jhochhen, better known as Freak
Street, immediately south of the square.
Suburban Kathmandu sprawls mainly east of Kantipath, the main
north-south thoroughfare, and is dominated by two landmarks,
the Royal Palace and the
Tudikhel (parade ground) .Most of the expensive hotels, restaurants
and airline offices huddle along Durbar Marg, the broad boulevard running south
from the palace gate. West of the Bishnumati River is not, strictly
speaking, part of Kathmandu, but the hilltop temple of Swayambhu is
close enough to be reached easily on foot.
Arriving by air
Arriving by air at Tribhuwan International Airport, 5 km east of the
city centre, you1l first have to deal with immigration.
An exchange window in the immigration hall cashes travellers' cheques.
Baggage claim is downstairs, where if you're quick you
might be able to grab a trolley. The bank, to the right as you
exit customs, changes money at rates slightly lower than those
in town. Nearby is a government tourist information desk and a
desk operated by Travellers' Nepal, which hands out free magazines
and city maps.
Taxi fares into town are quasi-fixed
buy a coupon from the cooperative
association desk and present it to one of the member drivers. Blue (Sajha) buses
offer a cheap but inconvenient alternative. They depart from the main intersection
at the end of the airport drive (a 200m walk) and drop passengers off at the City Bus
Park, a good lkm from most guest houses.
National Parks and