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Kathmandu City Tour: Culture, Chaos & Serenity – Part 1

November 22, 2016
Kathmandu City Day Tour Exploring Kiwis in Nepal

Kathmandu is such an exciting city – full of heart and a little chaotic – it’s surprisingly easy to fall in love with.  Though we stayed in Thamel (along with every other tourist that’s ever visited Nepal), we got a sense for what this city had to offer right away and knew we wanted more so without hesitation, we booked a Kathmandu city tour.

Sadly the earthquakes of April 2015 caused massive damage to this vibrant city (though more still in the outlying areas where who villages were decimated) but the Nepalese people seem to have bounced back quickly making the country all the more worth visiting.

Are the temples the same as they once were?  In some cases, yes, but mostly not.  With that said, they need our support now more than ever – teachers and doctors from the villages outside of Nepal have had to move into the city to find work as taxi drivers and restoration teams work tirelessly in a bid to rebuild their gorgeous temples and stupas as quickly as possible.

If there was ever a country that needed your support, this might just be it.

The Basics of a Kathmandu City Tour

We spent USD30 for our driver for the day and another USD25 for an English-speaking guide to join us – at a total cost of USD55 between two of us we were more than happy.  The driver was easily booked through our accommodation and arrived promptly in the morning.

You could potentially just get the driver (though ours barely spoke a stitch of English so I’m not sure how easily we would have communicated) or try your luck with taxis but at the end of the day, I don’t think you could beat a tour like this for ease and cost.

Whether you’re planning to join a private tour (as we did) or navigate your own way, I’ve included a run down of our main stops below on our Kathmandu city tour…

Swayambhunath Temple (Monkey Temple)

Perched high above Kathmandu, Swayambhunath Temple (or Monkey Temple as it’s also known) was one of my favourite stops of the day.  Our driver got us fairly close to the top in the car which meant we had an easy walk to the top, but there is a lower access point (which involves a lot of stairs) if you’re that way inclined.

There are two sides on this UNESCO site and spread across them are a stupa, temples and shrines and a variety of small shops selling local goods.  Traditional Tibetan prayer flags flit peacefully in the wind, reminding you of exactly where you are.

As the name would suggest, the site is strewn with monkeys (which for this Kiwi, was one of the best parts!)  For the most part they’re friendly but be mindful of keeping your distance, especially if they’re with their babies – and to be safe, it’s a good idea to leave any food you have in the car.

From the Monkey Temple we made our way back down the hill into the chaos of Kathmandu and before long, found ourselves wandering the back streets, almost without another tourist in sight.  Though the damage from the earthquake was obvious in places, the majority of this area appeared to be unaffected (apart from a few posts propping up walls here and there), but I can’t help but wonder how far this resilient city has come over the past year.

Hiranya Varna Mahavihar (Golden Temple)

In the midst of Kathmandu City a beacon of gold sit discretely behind unassuming wooden doors.  Behind them, you’ll find a stunning gold Buddhist monastery.   The level of detail in this place was out-of-this-world – monkeys holding jackfruit, ceremonial bells, detailed carvings, countless prayer wheels and scripture etched into doorways – everything element was a delight for the senses.

Though it’s a relatively smell temple, don’t miss it!

Continuing onwards we wandered the streets, observing locals as they went about their daily lives.  There’s something magical about soaking up the mundane daily life of a different culture – to attempt a glimpse into what life might be like in a different country.

Exploring the Temples

At one point in time, it felt like there was a little temple around every twist and turn. Deities and bells were covered in rich red paint-powder as a sign of worship and intricate carvings covered buildings as far as the eye could see.  As beautiful as Kathmandu is still, I can’t even imagine how it must have looked before the earthquakes hit.

Like what you’ve seen so far?

Stay tuned to find out how we spent the rest of the day on our Kathmandu city tour – one of the real highlights is yet to come!

Kathmandu City Tour Itinerary must see in Nepal Exploring Kiwis


  • Reply Julianna Barnaby November 23, 2016 at 7:21 pm

    Great piece guys. I’ve always wanted to go to Kathmandu, will definitely bear it in mind when planning forthcoming travels

  • Reply Christine November 24, 2016 at 5:49 am

    I’ve been seeing so many pictures of Nepal lately! I really want to go now. Love all your photos and those monkey photos are so funny!

  • Reply Anastasia November 24, 2016 at 10:47 pm

    I was going to Kathmandu exactly one year ago (and taking my parents), but unfortunately had to cancel the trip last minute, because of the unclear situation in the country. It almost physically hurt me to cancel those thickets though – and you pictures remind me why! It is indeed a very special place.

  • Reply asoulwindow November 29, 2016 at 9:52 am

    I spent 15 days in Kathmandu. Thamel was my favourite area. I had almost started feeling like a local. I guess slow travel does that to people. It’s amazing I still missed out on so many places you mentioned despite my long stay there.

  • Reply Jesper, The Biveros Effect November 29, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    Nepal and the capital of Kathmandu really seem to be a fascinating place. Just sad with the destruction caused by the earthquakes. Was it still evident, or had the city started to be rebuilt?

  • Reply Adam, Bite of Iceland November 29, 2016 at 10:37 pm

    It’s my dream to go there, Nepal is definitely very high on my travel bucket list 🙂 ! Great pictures!

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    Activities Adventure Asia Nepal Pokhara

    Bungy Jumping – Everything You Need to Know for Your First Jump!

    September 28, 2016

    “Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” – Leonardo da Vinci.

    Bungy jumping.  It’s one of those things that doesn’t really ever seem to get easier – no matter how many times I jump, instinct takes over, trying to prevent me from taking the leap.  There’s no challenge quite it – nothing I’ve ever experienced that requires mind to conquer matter to the same level – but also nothing that sees you walk away feeling so elated.

    Why Bungy Jump in the First Place?

    The feeling of a bungy is incomparable; it’s totally different to sky diving and unlike anything you’ll experience in normal daily life.  The emotions you experience over the course of the jump vary from absolute fear to unabridged joy – it really needs to be experienced to be believed.

    What Does Bungy Jumping Involve?

    When you arrive at your jump site, you’ll be weighed, briefed and harnessed up.  The majority of jump sites now connect you to the bungy rope in two places – at the ankles and again by body harness and the truth is, when using a reputable provider, bungy jumping is incredibly safe.  Whilst waiting your turn to jump, your nerves will no doubt mount, culminating in the moment when you stand at the edge of the platform.  Hooked onto the bungy cord, the surprising weight of it may tug slightly on your feet but don’t hang about to think about it.

    As the countdown begins, try to calm your mind and regardless of how you’re feeling, jump on the first instruction to.  Chances are, you’ll be afraid – go with it, it’s all a part of the process.

    What Can I Expect from my Jump?  When the Time Comes, Will I Actually be Brave Enough to Jump?

    If you put your mind to it, absolutely.  Over the years I’ve watched over a hundred people I know take the ultimate leap of faith (I used to run tours where many clients would jump) and the one thing I have learnt is that anyone who decides they want to, can.

    As you stand on the edge, remember, your mind and body will conspire against you.  Chances are, you’ll second guess every desire you had in the first-place to jump and you’ll feel your bravery melt away as your nerves get the better of you.

    This is absolutely normal.  Feel the fear and jump anyway.  You can do it!  Remember, the jump itself is safe, it’s just a matter of overcoming your instincts – and boy, it is worth pushing through.

    Are you Crazy?

    Possibly!  In all seriousness though, I love the sense of accomplishment after completing a jump.  From my very first jump (at 23 years of age) to this, my 13th bungy (and that’s not to mention the times I’ve thrown myself off buildings and dropped from canyon swings), I’ve always found them to be challenging.  Bungy jumping it the supreme example of mind over matter – though I know jumping is 100% safe, there’s always a little moment when my body resists.

    Push through it though; that’s what life’s all about.

    “A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.” – John A. Shedd.

    Need a boost of courage before you jump?  Pin this post to return to it before you book your bungy!

    Bungy jumping pokhara nepal review

    A massive thank you to HighGround Nepal for having us along as their guests.  You don’t want to mess around with safety when undertaking something like a bungy jump and these guys are the real deal.  Professional, friendly, supportive and fun, they take care of all the important work so all you have to do is make the final jump.  If you’re in Pokhara when they’re offering the full-moon jump, try to check it out too – we jumped during the day to check out the stunning scenery but saw the photos of the night jumps and they looked amazing!

    1 Comment

  • Reply Sophie Nadeau October 15, 2016 at 4:19 pm

    Bungy Jumping looks so fun! However, I’ve always been too scared to ‘take the plunge’- jumping off something seems so unnatural that it just becomes terrifying. Your post may just have convinced me to have a go 😛

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    Activities Adventure Asia Nepal Pokhara

    Paragliding in Pokhara, Nepal: An Absolute Must-Do!

    September 24, 2016
    Nepal paragliding buddha review pokhara

    There are few activities that make it to my bucket-list that don’t get ticked off almost right away but for some reason, though I’d wanted to paraglide for the longest time, I’d not managed to take to the air.  Thankfully, that all changed when a friend and I visited Nepal recently!

    When we were in Pokhara, flights were offered twice a day and we made the decision to join the 11am departure to increase the likelihood of a slightly longer flight (as the pilots don’t have another set of customers to race back for, being the last flight of the day) and it was a good thing we did – by the time we set off from the Buddha Paragliding office in town, the fog was clearing, making way for a gorgeous afternoon.

    After driving for 45 minutes or so, we reached the take-off point.  On the way, we drove past another departure spot which cemented our decision to fly with Buddha; we would have been so disappointed to know that we could have flown from almost twice the hight had we gone with another company.

    A five minute walk from the road saw perched high on the mountain, preparing for our flight.  There we were introduced to our pilots and given a proper briefing.  The take-off seems to be equal part luck and skills – if you’re unlucky, a gust of wind makes things more difficult, but if everything comes together, a quick little jog is all you need to soar gracefully away from the mountain-side.

    Once you’re up in the air, your pilot will take a few moments to rearrange the harness, making the rest of the ride incredibly comfortable (which hasn’t always been the case when I’ve been under parachute after skydiving), allowing you to sit back, relax and to enjoy the view… and what a view it is!

    I can’t speak for everyone, but there wasn’t even a short point in time when I found my paragliding experience to be a scary one.  Jeetu, my pilot, was friendly, knowledgable and experienced, making the flight an absolute pleasure.  Yes, we were a long way up in the air, but there were never any sudden movements or anything else to cause concern – it was genuinely one of the most enjoyable things I’ve ever done.

    If you’re in Pokhara, we highly recommend checking out Buddha Paragliding for a unique view of this gorgeous country.  Dev at Vintage Travels was a fantastic help in booking our para-flights and the team ran a very professional (and safe) operation.  In our opinion, Buddha are one of the top choices for paragliding in Nepal!

    Pin this post for later…

    Paragliding Nepal Pokhara

    1 Comment

  • Reply Taking to the Skies over Bentota - Paramotoring and Heli Flights in Sri Lanka - Exploring Kiwis April 13, 2017 at 9:43 pm

    […] and absolute peace in the skies.  We’d both been sky diving before and I’ve paraglided in the past so between the two, we thought we had an idea of what to […]

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    Activities Asia Nepal Pokhara

    Nepal’s Best Kept Secret: Movie Garden, Pokhara

    September 18, 2016
    movie garden pokhara nepal

    Pokhara, Nepal is known for many things – paragliding, trekking, its beautiful lake, the friendly Nepalese people that inhabit the little city and, as we recently found out, one of the loveliest little outdoor cinemas in the world; the Movie Garden.

    The Movie Garden, Pokhara – The Most Affordable Outdoor Cinema Around!

    For 365 Nepalese rupees each (approximately USD3.40 – a very reasonable price) you’ll get a ticket to the movie of the night, a comfy seat, freshly popped popcorn (a movie-going essential!) and the use of blankets and cushions to help you get comfy.  Pizza and a variety of drinks are also available for purchase should you choose and if you want to stay on, happy hour extends after the movie.

    Movie Garden Pokhara nepal popcorn snacks

    Uniquely Pokhara: Preparing For Your Movie Garden Night Out

    The garden opens at 6pm, with the movie starting at 7.30 and it’s suggested you arrive any time from 6pm till 7pm to ensure you get a good seat.  If you expect the movie to be particularly popular or it’s raining and you want to ensure a seat undercover, head along earlier rather than later and enjoy soaking up the atmosphere before the movie starts.

    The night we visited Movie Garden, Pokhara, the movie was Cinema Paradiso, an Italian drama from 1988.  It wasn’t a movie that my friend of I would have ever chosen to watch ourselves (and truthfully, would probably have kept flicking past it had it clicked over on the television) but it was fantastic!

    Whatever the weather in Pokhara, Movie Garden is open.  The night we were there it was pouring with rain and lightning was going off all over the place – the following picture was actually taken in the pitch black of night but the storm lit up the lake.  It’s pretty magic sitting under cover whilst the outdoor cinema does its thing.

    Movie Garden Pokhara nepal lake view rain

    Each night a different movie is shown, so if you’re spending a few nights in town, it’s definitely worth checking out what’s on offer each night and planning accordingly.

    Also, in support of the local community, each Saturday night is ‘kids movie’ night where children are allowed in free.  Dan, the owner of Movie Garden suggested anyone working with local kids (or who had their own) can bring them along to enjoy a night out which is such a lovely idea.

    If you find yourself in Pokhara, Nepal, be sure to allow yourself a night or two to pop along to Movie Garden – it’s a fantastic and unique night out in this lovely wee town.

    You’ll find Movie Garden on Facebook (where they post the weekly movie schedule) and TripAdvisor.

    Pin this post for later…

    Movie Theatre Pokhara Nepal


  • Reply runawaybrit September 24, 2016 at 11:57 pm

    This is so cute. I think I saw this place when we were in Pokhara last year, but we didn’t go in. It looks lovely, reading your post I feel like I missed out. Also, Cinema Paradiso is an AMAZING film – the stolen kisses montage at the end is pretty much the only time I have ever welled up at a movie!

  • Reply Yamuna September 26, 2016 at 9:44 pm

    Oh wow, that sounds like such a wonderful experience and right up my alley too! I love the cosy atmosphere 🙂

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