Travel: Finding Calmness in Kathmandu, Nepal
You’ve been to India, Sri Lanka and all the regular nearby pit stops, so where next? If you haven’t swung by Nepal yet, you’re in for a treat. Just a four-hour flight from the UAE, it’s an affordable and convenient getaway that you can easily squeeze in over a long weekend (or even weekend, if you feel like packing in a power trip).
And while Nepal has variety of internal destinations on offer, its capital city Kathmandu is a great place to start exploring the culturally rich country.
Kathmandu is an incredibly diverse historic city with breath-taking Newari architecture, centuries-old sites along with dedicated tourist-friendly accommodations and restaurants. In fact, stepping into Kathmandu is like stepping into another world that everybody should experience at least once.
Kathmandu, like any big city, has seen rapid expansion in the last decade, but despite the hustle and bustle so typical of metropolitan cities, it remains a spiritual city famous
for its yoga and meditation facilities.
Yoga classes contribute to the development of a healthy body, a healthy mind and healthy thought. It also helps people achieve balanced, harmonious and integrated development of all the aspects of their personalities. In fact, many believe yoga is a pathway to true, happy, and healthy living.
To most people yoga means postures (Asanas) to develop flexibility, general body health and of course, awareness. However, this is merely the beginning. While yoga’s central theme remains the highest goal of the spiritual path, yogic practices can give direct and tangible benefits to everyone regardless of their spiritual aspirations.
There are many classes from which to choose. Kathmandu has many practitioners/Ayurvedic healers who hold yoga as a primary source for the treatment of illness. Kathmandu is where most of the yoga institutions are concentrated and they have generated considerable interest. There are yoga centres everywhere and particularly around Thamel, the tourist district. Keep an eye out for notices on the bulletin boards of hotels and restaurants where you will find flyers and brochures detailing classes and courses.
There are plenty of opportunities to experience meditation sessions in Nepal, too. You can join a retreat in a local or private centre and practice the teaching that has enlightened so many, or find a peaceful spot near one the famous sites, like Boudhanath or Swayambhunath.
It is believed that meditation rejuvenates your energy level and zeal, hence its popularity. A meditation course will help you relax and explore the spiritual side within yourself. There are many specialised centres offering meditation courses. Some of these institutions provide accommodation and food along with the classes while others only provide classes.
Nepal Vipassana Centre runs 10-day courses on meditation. A strict regimen is followed here throughout the course. Daily meditation begins at 4.30am, and silence is kept for the entire 10 days. To register or pick up a pamphlet on the course, visit the centre’s Kathmandu office (Sun-Fri 10am-5.30pm) in the courtyard of Jyoti Bhawan, in Kantipath.
All courses are funded by donations.
SHORTCUT TO EVEREST
Taking a mountain flight is one of the most exhilarating things you can do in Nepal. It’s easily arranged, and you can go eye-to-eye with Mount Everest and the world’s highest peaks within minutes!
Nepal is the home to the greatest range of mountains in the world and understandably, many visitors come to Nepal to see them. However, not everyone is a trekker or a mountaineer, or has the time to walk into the mountains. So mountain flights are the best option for these visitors to still enjoy the highest points on the planet.
Leaving Kathmandu domestic airport early in the morning, passengers take an hour’s flight around the Everest region with stunning views of all the major peaks, glaciers and lakes. As a result of the configuration of the seats, passengers
will all have a window seat. Should the weather not be suitable, you will be either offered a refund or the option to fly again.
For visitors who want to take a mountain flight to the extreme, there are options to charter helicopters and fly into the Everest range. You’ll take a short tour around the Everest valleys before landing for breakfast and then returning to Kathmandu.
You’ve seen the majestic Himalayas, you’ve spent endless hours doing yoga and you’ve found inner peace doing meditation. What’s next? Party, shop and eat, obvs! Fortunately you can conveniently do all of these things in one spot – the lively Thamel neighbourhood.
Thamel has been the centre of the tourist industry in Kathmandu for over four decades, starting in the hippie days, when many artists came to Nepal and spent weeks in the area.
These days Thamel is distinguished by its narrow alleys crowded with various shops, restaurants, bars, clubs and vendors. Although, be warned – prices here are significantly higher than in non-tourist areas of the city.
But, you’ll be able to shop for souvenirs, enjoy dinner and drinks, and dance the night away, all in one exciting district. Best of all, it’s an Instagram hotspot thanks to its vibrant atmosphere and colourful flags decorating the bustling streets. And you won’t have to wait to post your pics either. Thamel was declared a full Wi-Fi zone, the first Wi-Fi zone of Nepal, back in 2011.
WHERE TO STAY
The Dwarika’s Kathmandu
Kathmandu is colourful, busy and exciting, but if you seek peace and serenity in the middle of all the madness, look no further than the one-of-a-kind The Dwarika’s Kathmandu.
This stunning heritage hotel takes its inspiration from the architectural grandeur of Newari royal palaces. The hotel houses an extensive collection of artefacts from the 13th century onwards and preserves the aesthetic sensibility of a unique civilization. The elegant courtyards, buildings and rooms contain some of Nepal’s most immaculate craftsmanship, capturing the beauty and spirit of an ancient city.
The commitment to heritage conservation dates back to 1952, when the founder of the hotel, the late Dwarika Das Shrestha, witnessed carpenters sawing off the intricately carved portions of an old wooden pillar for use as firewood. Struck by a sense of anguish at the destruction of his own heritage, he salvaged the old pillar and gave the men new lumber.
Faced with the problem of storing these works, he decided to construct a building in the ancient Newari style of Kathmandu using the rescued carvings. He envisioned that this new building, which would operate as a guest house, would allow more people to appreciate Nepal’s ancient cultural history, giving the restored treasures a new lease of life. And that’s how the vision of The Dwarika’s Hotel as a living museum was born.
With 83 meticulously designed rooms and suites, The Dwarika’s Kathmandu offers an unforgettable regal experience. Each room is spacious and has been individually designed to blend intricate Nepali design motifs with a contemporary lifestyle. Scattered with original artworks that are centuries old, the rooms are a tribute to Nepal’s artistic history. Remaining true to the earthiness of traditional life in the valley, the rooms and suites capture such an essence of this history without compromising on quality and luxury. The flooring is either handmade traditional Nepali terracotta tiles or individually laid wooden panels. The furniture is custom designed and handmade by carpenters whose ancestors created the works that make up the essence of the hotel. The upholstery is hand woven and locally produced, and even the linen is organic.
If you’re not in the mood to stray far, The Dwarika’s Kathmandu has more than enough to keep you occupied on the property itself (although it would be a crime not to explore the city itself).
Thanks to its three restaurants, poolside bar and Friday night barbecue, you won’t go hungry, and will be able to experience the best cuisine the region has to offer.
The Pancha Kosha Himalayan Spa, an integral part of the hotel drawing on the ancient Ayurvedic philosophic and medicine, offers a variety of unique and exclusive spa treatments to keep you relaxed.
That’s not all. The yoga centre is open to all guests who are interested in practising the step-by-step methods of yoga. The yoga session starts at 7am for an hour in the morning and is located on top of the Ram Palace building.
And if you’re feeling completely lazy, simply head for the Instagram-friendly swimming pool. Reminiscent of the 12th century Malla dynasty baths that were fit for kings, you’re sure to feel like royalty.
And considering actual British royals like Prince Charles has stayed at The Dwarika’s Kathmandu (plus the likes of Selena Gomez, Demi Moore and Hilary Clinton), you know it’s going to be a next level kind of experience.
INFO: For more information and bookings visit dwarikas.com