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shinjuku omoide yokocho

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Shinjuku is known to house one of the biggest the Red Light district of Tokyo. But you wouldn’t guess it just walking around- it all goes on underground.  By day it’s a government district, with lots of shopping and a the world’s biggest and busiest metro hub. By night, the neon lights go on and it’s a lively and colorful nightlife.  Follow the grilled smoke of  Izakaya shops at Piss Alley or try to get into one of the Member’s Only bars at Golden Gai. Here’s some things to know before you visit Shinjuku.

Shinjuku at Night

Watch my experiential version of Shinjuku [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_4ozxyfcJw?enablejsapi=1&autoplay=0&cc_load_policy=0&iv_load_policy=1&loop=0&modestbranding=0&rel=0&showinfo=1&fs=1&playsinline=0&autohide=2&theme=dark&color=red&controls=2&&w=800&h=450]

 

12 things to know before you visit Shinjuku

My first trip to Tokyo, I thought Shinjuku was a boring government district and being a solo traveler, the bar scene wasn’t attractive to me. I shopped at an outdoor street fair and stayed at a manga kissaten. That was as close as I cared to get to what I considered a bland district. This time around however, I learned so much more about it through locals – its history, complexity, and instagrammable qualities opened up a more dynamic and jaw-dropping view of Shinjuku for me.

Shinjuku has a a riveting history, for sure.  So I’ll not only share what to do there but a bit of insight behind the scene so you can appreciate it much more.

1. Shinjuku Station

 Shinjuku Station is the largest  and busiest metro station in Tokyo (see a map here). An estimated 3.64 million people pass through this station daily and there are over 200 exits! That’s seriously a lot of exits. There is an attached JR station too.  In 2007, it was recognized as the world’s busiest transport hub according to the Guiness Book of World Records.  This station will lead you to many top attractions of Shinjuku from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildling to the places on this list and more.

Tip: It’s super easy to get lost and overwhelmed here and it’s best to know what Exit Gate to look for. The exit gates will let you out to where you need to go. If lost, ask one of the station guards. Usually they are near the toll booths.

2. Omoide Yochoko (aka ‘Piss Alley’)

I you want to feel like you’re traveling back to post war Japan, head over to Omoide Yokocho  or what locals lovingly refer it to as either Memory Lane or Piss Alley. It’s a picturesque alley of red and white Japanese paper lanterns and crammed izakaya shops large enough to fit 10 people and less.  It got it’s nickname due to the fact there was only one bathroom and drunken locals would urine in the alley. Omoide Yokocho houses over 70 izakaya shops, seducing you through the aroma of barbeque yakitori ( or grilled chicken skewers). Another specialty is motsuyaki (grilled animal organs). It is not far from Shinjuku Station’s West Gate.

shinjuku omoide yokocho

3. Robot Restaurant

Tokyo has a lot of fun theme restaurant bars. The robot restaurant is no exception. It is a live performance, with colorfully bright neon lights and lit up robotic characters. If you have 8000 yen to splurge on nightly entertainment, this spot would be a great option. You can buy a ticket for a cabaret show or for a dinner and show combination. Arrive 30 minutes before the show, as faiilure to do so may result in the cancellation of your reservation.

The Robot Restaurant is a short walk (about five minutes) from the JR Shinjuku Station East Exit or Tokyo Metro Shinjuku-sanchome Station Exit B12.

4. Kabukicho

Kabukicho is the most infamous district in all of Tokyo, where you’ll find restaurants and bars, host and hostess clubs, love hotels and if you know where to look, adult services. There’s more than meets the eye to this colorful and riveting area of Tokyo. With its headquarters in Kabukicho (I saw it!), the Yakuza or Japanese mafia run these streets. Although Japan is relatively safe, this is one district where you might want to be just a little on your toes. The yakuza tend to leave tourists alone from what I’ve heard and are primarily concerned with their own business. I have a friend who rents an apartment from them- he said, they’re like normal landlords. So there you have it. But I mention this because Shinjuku is big on nightlife and some tourists can get rowdy, punchy, disrespectful and careless (not saying that’s you, but I’ve seen it happen with travelers).

First, the Japanese are very private and quiet people. So anything in the red light sector is not going to blare at you like Amsterdam’s red light district- no neon signs or girls in windows. As I mentioned in my video and in this post – a lot goes on underground (I’m not just tossing that word out haphazardly).  In order to find “red light activity” you need to know where and how to look for it. Sex services are sold in this area .There are “concierge services” which will help you find your preference from girl type to sex service type.

Tip: There is no soliciting in this area- it is unlawful for boys to approach you to try to get you to eat or drink at their restaurant. That is what you will be hearing spoken in Japanese over the PA system in the streets. There is a scam in this area (I”m not sure how it runs as I wasn’t told the intricacies of it; just that it’s to the effect of how bar scams run of getting an extremely high bill).

5. Host & Hostess Bars

In Kabukicho you’ll find a healthy amount of host and hostess bars to entertain and woo lonely locals. They are like companion bars. No sexual services are exchanged at these bars but will pay large sums of money to spend time with a host and woo them in exchange for temporary companionship or even attention. The popularity of some hosts have raised them to celebrity status In this area as well as, it has made lucrative careers. The clientele of these bars vary. For male host bars, 60% women are from the sex entertainment industry looking for a way to blow off steam from their daily grind and psychological stress. Hostess bars on the other hand, can be frequented by businessmen and occasionally high profile clientele.

The mural signs of good-looking Japanese hosts and hostesses may lead you to believe they are popular boy or girl bands but they’re popular hosts and hostesses. Interestingly, there is no stigma about being a host or hostess in Japan.  If you’re interested in taking a peek at one, here’s some things to know before you go.

shinjuku host bars

Shinjuku hostess bars

6. Love Motels

Love motels in Tokyo operate similarly to love motels in Korea. The Japanese prize secrecy so some of these hotels won’t require you to book in person. Instead, they will have photos of the rooms outside with a number and you can order it from a machine.  Hourly packages are sold and facilities can be okay to tres chic. Prices range (see my video) but can cost less than your standard hotel. You will find many of these in the Kabukicho area.

7. Godzilla Road

Above Toho Cinemas, you’ll find a giant replica of Godzilla peeking over the building next to Hotel Gracery. This is called Godzilla Road.  During the day up until 8p, it exhales smoke and roars. The famous monster reptile is part of Toho Cinemas (below it) which is part of Toho Studios, which owns the Godzilla franchise. Here’s a self guided Godzilla tour for those who want to catch sightings of this celluloid monster.

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8. Golden Gai

Japan has always been known to be closed to gaijin (aka foreigners). Golden Gai was no exception, however these days, you’ll find more bars welcoming foreign travelers. Golden Gai consists of six tiny alleys filled with almost two hundred hole-in-the-wall bars filled with lots of character and ten seats or less. Some of these are exclusive members only bars for regulars. Each has its own policy from members only (for regulars) or open to foreigners , cover charge or not, tax or not.

The vibe of this area feels similar to the 50s-ish post war Japan vibe of Omoide Yokocho. But Golden Gai is much quieter and feels just a little more secret.

Tip: Members Only bars are for “members” (regular clients of the bar). Usually it will say this on the door and if the signs are only in Japanese, then its safe to assume they are only for Japanese locals. If you see menus in English, there is a higher probability it welcomes foreigners.

Golden Gai, an area of alley bars

9. Manga Kissaten

Manga kissatens or manga cafes are internet cafes with libraries dedicated to manga magazines and animations. You’ll find chairs and computers there to console stations where you can relax and lay back.  You rent your spot by the hour and they are offered at different hourly packages. I’ve used these joints to sleep at night when I was on a budget. It’s certainly interesting and facilities can range. Some cafes even have showers, sell ice cream and more. There are really chic manga cafes to kinda gritty and basic filled with the scent of cigarette smoke. Always check the facilities in advance before booking.

Popular cafes with better reputations are Popeye Media Cafe (read my experience ) and Manboo.  This is my manga cafe stay in Shinjuku a couple of years ago.

10. Shinjuku at night is electric

Shinjuku at night is electric! With all the japanese signs lit up to catch your attention towards their business, it can get pretty bright in certain places. Although Kabukicho area has a gritty reputation, i’ve found the lights there are so bright, you could wear your sunglasses.

Shinjuku at night is electric

11. Don Quijote

If you’re doing souvenir shopping or even if you have travel needs or wanna pick up a Japanese snack, Don Quijote is your one stop shopping store for anything you can imagine.  From souvenirs to anything from household supplies, beauty, medical, clothing, electronic, food and entertaining Japanese products which will make shopping feel like an amusement attraction.

12. Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building has one of the best 360 degree views of Tokyo and it’s absolutely free! The building also houses a Tokyo Tourist Information Center where you can get maps and information about walking tours (some of them are free!). Getting There: The builiding is a ten minute walk from JR Shinjuku Station, west exit. You can also take Tocho-mae Station on the Oedo Subway Line which lands you directly underneath the building itself.

Safety for Solo Travelers

This post is not meant to make anyone fearful of this area; Japan is one of the safest countries on the global list. Despite the fact Kabukicho is run by yakuza, the yakuza are like businessmen or landlords and most of the time you won’t know they are there. They generally do not pose a threat to tourists. However, as mentioned, there are people who will try to get you to go into their bars and there may be intentions to hit you with an extremely high bill.  For women, if you can’t pay it, you might be asked to pay it off by working in one of the entertainment bars.

You should always trust your gut, look out for scams and read my Safety Tips for Solo TRavelers

Where to Stay in Shinjuku

Nine Hours Capsule Hotel Shinjuku  If you follow me on YouTube, you know one of my favorite capsule hotels is Nine Hours, a chain of capsule hotels in Japan with a unique twist towards space themed pods.  Watch my video below for the review! Located 3 minutes from Shin-Okubo Station (Tokyo’s Koreatown)

Hotel Gracery Watch out for Godzilla!!! This hotel is 10 minutes from Shinjuku Station and is in the heart of Kabukicho, Shinjuku’s busiest nightlife area. This hotel comes with the Godzilla view (if you’re a fan, be sure to ask for the room facing Godzilla Road) and is next to the cinema.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-4sl3rVp2E?enablejsapi=1&autoplay=0&cc_load_policy=0&iv_load_policy=1&loop=0&modestbranding=0&rel=0&showinfo=1&fs=1&playsinline=0&autohide=2&theme=dark&color=red&controls=2&&w=800&h=450] Looking for travel insurance?

American travelers often pay a premium on travel insurance.  World Nomads offers economic solutions for travelers who seek security and peace of mind.  It covers 150 countries.

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Budget travel for Tokyo

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things which will shock you about Tokyo

 

Ohayo gozaimasu! Tokyo is a sprawling cosmopolitan city a polite and orderly culture steeped in traditional and culinary arts it also has a history of mixing tradition and innovation and although I’m half Japanese, like any other country, Tokyo can present some fun culture shock for travelers like myself.

Tokyo Culture Shock! 19 Things Which Will Shock you about Tokyo 1. Tokyo’s Dense Crowds

I’ve always assumed China and India would have dense crowds due to the outstanding size of these countries and measured populations.   But upon arrival what really surprised me was Tokyo’s dense crowds. Tokyo and its prefectures has a population of up to 13 million people and while there’s plenty of space per person, these are some of the biggest crowds I’ve seen in a city, let alone crossing streets. If you ever want to see how bad it can go to Shinjuku Station just before midnight and you’ll see Japanese converge upon the station to make their last train.

2. Vending Machines

Vending machines are ubiquitous in Tokyo. They’re virtually everywhere which is good when you’re looking for a cold drink. The going range for these type of drinks are probably at roughly around $1 USD, but they even have vending machine restaurants and I think this has to do with Tokyo folks being busy and needing quick convenience. Despite the fact this is fast food, food in these restaurants are still prepared by hand and made with care. Some has pictures on the buttons, so that you can see what you’re ordering or what the the dish is. Meanwhile, others may have a display case of numbered plastic food which correspond with a numbered button.

Read 15 Things to Know Before you Go to Japan 

3. Toto Toilets: Japanese luxury throne

Japanese luxury toilets or Toto toilets are something you might find in public restrooms. They’ve got a remote on the side , where each button has a feature, such as bidet, front or back… there’s even a button for flushing sounds, so you can have a bit of privacy when you do your business.

4. Motherhood, Seniors and Family Priority

What I loved is that Tokyo seems to think about motherhood. In Tokyo, you’ll occasionally find mother and child stalls with special seats for the child. Sometimes they even have their own private family bathroom. On trains, you’ll see seat reserved for seniors, handicapped and pregnant mothers and while you might find that in other countries, Japanese folk do reserve that for those categories and will only use it if there is no one of that category there.

5. Rush Hour Traffic

As part of Tokyo’s dense crowds sometimes pedestrian traffic during rush hour can be a challenge. When you’re arriving early in the morning when all the businessmen or the business folk are like passing through the Metros, it’s kind of hard to cross. You have to wait to kinda like zig your way, zagging through. Um, like joining the pedestrian flow in a metro is another thing I found challenging. It’s almost like trying to figure out when to jump in when you’re skipping rope, because the flow can be pretty continuous and in one direction. It’s almost people streaming in a line. It’s a fairly organized line. One directional stream.  I’m gonna have to either wait for the flow to die or I’m gonna have to zip!

A lot of my initial excitement happening in Tokyo metro stations because you’ll need them to get around. Yes i think i’ve got the stream of traffic right now, because I was coming in and a lot of people were coming towards me. If you’re going counter traffic I think you just hug the outside. That’s what I’m getting. The people who are going counter (traffic) just kind of hug to the outside or I don’t know… maybe that’s the flow of direction. Okay, let’s let’s just merge… just like a little tadpole swimming… merging with the pod.

Culture Shock Tokyo

6. Orderly

Another thing about Tokyo and Japanese culture is that it’s very orderly. Take for instance standing in line while waiting for your train. There’s definitely no pushing and shoving.

7. Escalator etiquette

Escalator etiquette is an unspoken etiquette you’ll find in other Asian countries like Taiwan and Korea. The left side is for standing right side is for passing. Do not stand in the passing lane. In cities such as Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, the reverse is true- left side is for passing and right side is for standing.

8. Pedestrian culture and walking

Tokyo is a pedestrian culture and you can get around by foot, bus or metro. If you ride the Metro be prepared to walk, stand and climb, as escalator and elevators can’t always be relied upon.

9.  Signs, Directions and Large metro stations

In Tokyo you always find directions and signs. The only problem is sometimes, it can get to be a bit much. Okay, so this is going to Akihabara. You’ve got that side that’s going down. You’ve got this side that’s going up. It’s also color-coded to some level.

Some metros are big… like, really big. You can almost certainly get lost, due to the fact they’re hub stations with many connections. The most famous station for getting lost is Shinjuku Station, which is the largest station in Tokyo. The station has over 200 exits with subterranean walking paths which connect to nearby stations. If you get lost, take a deep breath. Even locals can get lost in some of these large metro stations. Whether you’re looking for trains, a JR line or an exit just to get out… large metro stations can be confusing. If you need to get anywhere in a timely manner, factor in time to find your way to the correct exit. You can also enlist the help of information booth guards, who will point you in the direction you need.

10. JR trains may have same names as local trains

One thing to always check is whether your train is a regular train or a JR station. JR stations and trains are owned by a private company. So they may have the same stop name as a regular train/station, but their location may be separate from the local station.  If looking for directions or asking for help, always check if it’s a JR first.

 11. Jobs for Smaller Details

In Akihabara, I saw a patrol man helping guide the crosswalk intersection but it was for a very small and tangential intersection, which barely held legitimate traffic. Even though there was a crosswalk and a traffic light nearby, he was still there to direct small traffic. Some folks have mentioned Japan finds odd jobs for the unemployed people and this may be true, as I’ve also seen uniformed trash pickers walking down the sidewalk scooping up small street trash to keep the neighborhood clean.  In either case, there are jobs for some of the smallest details of society.

12. Public Restrooms but not trash bins

Very similar to Korea,  metro stations in Tokyo have restrooms! This is handy to know. So while you might not find many trash bins commonly available on the streets, you’d at least know that there’s restrooms that are in the train stations. I feel like in the United States, it’s a different story. You’ve got a lot of trash bins everywhere and no restrooms in sight. Note: Paper towels and soap can occasionally be hard to find in the restrooms.

13. “No smoking on the streets”

In Tokyo culture, there’s no smoking on public streets ,except for where smoking is actually allowed. Fine for getting caught is 2000 yen or $20 USD.

14. Clothing Store Dressing Rooms

I was very excited to visit one of my favorite clothing shops- Uniqlo which originates in Japan. But there are some cultural differences… Shoes are left outside the rooms and when trying on clothes in Japan, they give you a cloth mask to protect their clothes from makeup.

15. Japanese Sizes

Although we have a Uniqlo in the West, it doesn’t mean our sizes run the same as Japan’s. The sizes in Japan run small.. very small.  In Tokyo,  I was between a large or an extra-large blouse, whereas normally in the U.S.,  I’m a medium-small.

16. No public seating

In a pedestrian city like Tokyo, sometimes you just want to sit. Unfortunately, one of the challenges of Tokyo is finding free public seating. In Tokyo, seats are generally reserved for patrons. Aside from parks, restaurants and cafes are the only establishments you’ll find seating and to use it, you’ll need to be a patron. If you’re with a partner and think you’ll purchase a snack or dish and share the cost so you can have an excuse to sit in an establishment, think again.  Some of these places enforce a ‘one order per seated patron’ rule. Whether the dish is big or small, you each need to buy one if you both want to sit.

Furthermore, in establishments where there is limited seating, one is expected to eat and leave. Dilly dallying around or leisurely splitting your time between chit chat and bites is seen a bit as rude. This is because while you are wasting time, the establishment is losing money when it could be ushering in the next patron.

If you enjoyed this video or post, give it a share and if you’re new to my channel please subscribe for more of my solo travel adventures as I take you inside and knock off my bucket lists of travel. Let me know what you think of my video what you would share to things which will shock you about Tokyo.

Read Budget Tips for Japan

17.  Kawaii culture

From cute animal mascots per prefecture to being the makers of Hello Kitty, anime and just cute-cute things, Japan has a strong kawaii (aka cute) culture, holding innocence in prized regard.  You’ll even hear the word kawaii as a catch-all word when expressing sentiments like pretty, beautiful or cool or nice, etc.. 

18. Japan is a polite culture

Most Japanese will keep to themselves and if they speak, most of what is said is polite. Gomen-nasai and Sumi-masen which both sorta mean- “excuse me, I’m sorry“. If you are their guest, they will be very hospitable, thoughtful and attentive to the details of your stay.

19. Sick masks

Often you’ll see Japanese walking around wearing sick masks. This happens for a couple of reasons: 1) Either someone is sick and wants to avoid infecting others, 2) It is spring and one wants to avoid pollen.

Watch Culture Shock Tokyo! 15 First Impressions of Tokyo [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rif-EL98J0o?enablejsapi=1&autoplay=0&cc_load_policy=0&iv_load_policy=1&loop=0&modestbranding=0&rel=0&showinfo=1&fs=1&playsinline=0&autohide=2&theme=dark&color=red&controls=2&] Looking for travel insurance?

American travelers often pay a premium on travel insurance.  World Nomads offers economic solutions for travelers who seek security and peace of mind.  It covers 150 countries.

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exploring boudha grrrltraveler

 

Bodhanath Stupa is a famous UNESCO and as the largest stupa in the world, is a featured attraction of Kathmandu. But most tourists don’t know much about Boudha, the neighborhood surrounding it, so they visit the stupa and within 45 minutes, they leave.

If you think Bodhanath Stupa is all there is to see and do in the area, you’re missing out. There is much to see, do and eat in Boudha and I’m going to share it with you. Thanks to the Himalayan Travel Mart conference I was there to attend as a delegate, I stayed in Boudha for several days and it’s a place I just want to keep returning to!

.Best Things to Do at Boudhanath Stupa | Boudha Travel Guide
Watch Boudha Travel Guide Video
Must Eat Foods of Boudha
Where to Stay in Boudha
Getting to Boudha

Boudha Travel Guide: Best Things to Do at Boudhanath Stupa

Located six miles from Thamel, the stupa’s complex is surrounded by over 50 gompas (aka Tibetan monasteries), Tibetan-Nepali cafes, parks and a strong Buddhist community.  From the outside, the streets of Boudha feel like a string of shops, homeless street bulls and dogs, clothing stores, a mall, laced with dusty air from the roads.  It doesn’t appear very attractive. But exploring this area may be of interest of travelers looking for deeper finds.

If you’re wondering how to explore the neighborhood, start from the stupa and take any one of the side alley streets leading out and it will take you into something different. There’s many things to do at Bodhanath Stupa:

Boudhanath Stupa

Originally part of a trading route between Llhasa and Kathmandu, Boudhanath Stupa was a popular stop for Tibetans to make for prayer. Today, it’s the largest stupa in all of Asia, a UNESCO site and a popular pilgrimmage spot where Tibetan Buddhists in Kathmandu come to worship. Boudhanath is among the largest in the world and serves as a center of pilgrimage for Nepalese and Tibetan Buddhists. Viewed from above, the stupa creates a mandala. More on the size and layout here.

The stupa is circled by devotees at all times of the day, with the all-seeing eyes of the stupa following 360 degrees. Monks and devotees circle the stupa, doing occasional prostrations on their stroll. Walking the perimeter is like walking a race track. Heaviest times of activity are around 4-6 pm. Towards the evening, the stupa lights up and you’ll find Tibetan yak wax candles come out in memory of loved ones past.  You’ll find souvenir shops and restaurants in the perimeter area for exploration. Meanwhile, explore the side streets to find more restaurants, monks dwellings and parks.

Admission : SAARC: 100Rs, Foreign travelers: 400 Rs

boudhanath stupa nepal grrrltraveler

Things to do boudha: Bodhanath Stupa

Bodhanath Stupa at night has an electric glow as devotees continue to make their turns

 

Turn the Giant Prayer Wheels

It won’t be far from after entering the stupa grounds, you’ll come upon an quiet worship area where you see devotees  step into the stupa for a prayer, ringing of bells and tikka self-annointment. Off to the side, is a room with two giant prayer wheels where you can follow the flow and push the wheel so it keeps turning. Incidentally, this area is also the entrance onto the stupa’s terrace and to the inner lining around the stupa where devotees may choose to do prostration rituals.

 

things to do boudha: View from Bodhanath Stupa

 

Tamang Gompa monastery

An easy and beautiful monastery to visit at Bodhanath Stupa is the a two story monastery, Tamang Gompa monastery  (you can see it in my video). The tamang are an indigenous mountain tribe of Nepal and is one of the populations that live and influence Boudha. Step past the monastery gate, you’ll find a Giant Prayer Wheel located off to the side. Remove your shoes before entering the main monastery. The main room houses chanting seats, giant Buddha with a photo of the Dalai Lama, butter lamps and an inspirational interior design. It’s hard to keep your jaw from dropping. I’m not sure if the second level is open to the public , but I always see monks up there hanging out. The temple is more visible from the viewing terrace of Bodhanath Stupa. More information here.

Location: The monastery is located to the left of the main entrance and it’s easy to miss if you’re just walking by, as it’s tucked in through an archway. 

Ghyoilisang Peace Park & Pond

Ghyoilisang Peace Park sits tucked in the neighborhood around Bodhanath Stupa. It is said the pond is a holy pond and its soil was used to make Bodhanath Stupa. Today it’s a tranquil and small park, with a giant statue of Guru Rinpoche in the middle of a pond filled with orange carp. You’ll find monks and elderly visit for a rest.

Things to Do at Bodhanath Stupa: Visit Ghyoilisang Peace Park

Things to Do Boudha: Ghyoilisang Peace Park

Kopan Monastery

Kopan Monastery is a famous Tibetan Buddhist Gelug monastery which houses Buddhist teachings, courses, retreats and inexpensive temple stays (you can reserve anything from a dorm bed to a private room).  The monastery was founded in 1969 and bought from an astrologer. Hours: Open to public on Saturdays, the gate of the monastery is closed from 5 pm onwards, so if you are staying there, check in earlier.

Getting to Kopan Monastery:  It takes 45 minute walk from Boudhanath Stupa or you can take a taxi to Kopan Gompa for 300-350 ruppees.

Monasteries & Temple Stores

There are over 50 gompas (aka monasteries) in this neighborhood and you can easily visit some of the temples and appreciate them. As a result you’ll find many interesting Tibetan Buddhist shops in the neighborhood, selling all types of curiosities, from incense to singing bowls, horns, photos of the Dalai Lama to temple instruments necessary for carrying out rituals

Phulbari or Fulbari Street

Phulbari Street (or Fulbari Street) initially appears like a quaint rustic streets reminiscent of the old West. But proceed a little further and the rustic buildings turn to normal buildings and a small alley street which is an endearing foodie street lined with street food snack vendors, shops and restaurants. You’ll find a lot of laphing shops and the recommended restaurants listed below.  Location: From the main entrance, turn right and it’s the first off-shoot alley street . However, you might not want to walk counter to the counter clockwise flow of devotees circumnabulating the stupa.

 

boudha phulbari street kathmandu

Thangka Shops

Thangkas are intricate artwork hand-painted upon a canvas. they can be anything from mandalas, the Wheel of Life, depictions of Buddha’s life or deities.

Prayer flags

One thing I’ve long taken for granted are the colorful prayer flags blowing in the wind in religious spots.  The colors have a meaning and represent the five Earth elements of water, earth , fire, air and wind.  It’s said that the more faded and blowing the flags are the better, as it signifies the wind is taking the prayers to the heavens.

Statues with colored powder

Around the stupa and certainly closer to the temple and worship area, you might see statues generously dusted with colored powder. This is tikka powder is used by devotees after worship, for self annointment and receiving blessings.

Prostrations

Occasionally while circumnambulating the stupa, you’ll find some folks doing full-body prostrations in the open in a surrender and show reverence to the Buddha, his teachings and the spiritual community, and dissolving negativity and bad karma.  Behind the stupa’s walled surroundings  devotees will also prostrate before it. A devotee may choose to undertake anywhere from 100 to 100,000 prostrations as part of their ritual cleansing (see how it’s done).

Homeless dogs and bulls

You’ll notice a lot homeless street dogs and bulls (male cows) in the area and if you’re an animal lover, it can be a bit heartbreaking.  Being that Nepal is a country that does not believe in killing cows, the cows are kept for their usefulness and the bulls are discarded to find their own survival in the streets.  But aside from the dangerous threat of busy street traffic (some of these animals get hit), the prayer wheels and monasteries of Boudha might be the best place for them due to the monks and devotees’ occasional practice of dharma. Still, while many of the animals appear peaceful here, some may get wounded or sick. If you see one of these animals needing help, contact Sneha’s Care.  The non-profit does amazing work saving these animals from some of the most tragic cases of human violence to disease. Some of the miracle stories are truly worthwhile a look and if you are inspired, please donate.

Watch the Boudha Travel Guide video

To get a better idea of what it’s like around Boudha, watch my experiential version of the Boudha Travel Guide video.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1_2fN-tRUk?enablejsapi=1&autoplay=0&cc_load_policy=0&iv_load_policy=1&loop=0&modestbranding=0&rel=0&showinfo=1&fs=1&playsinline=0&autohide=2&theme=dark&color=red&controls=2&] Must Try Foods of Boudha

 

There’s many must try foods in Kathmandu.  But due to its Buddhist neighborhood community, Boudha foods have a distinct Tibetan Buddhist influence, which has roots in Northern China. Thus, one of the best things to do in Boudha is to eat. You will find flavored dishes you’ve never tasted in Kathmandu or other parts of Nepal. Most of my recommendations of Boudha foods are noodle-based, but do not underestimate the flavor. The simple flavors of these must try foods of Boudha will floor you, before can even process itu.  Personally, these flavors are some of the best I’ve tasted in all of Asia.

Phulbari, one of the offshoot streets not far from the entrance of the main gate to the stupa.

Must try foods of Boudha

Laphing

Laphing is one of the best must try foods of Boudha.  Laphing is originally a Northern Chinese cuisine known as Liangfen, translating to cold noodle. This dish travelled to Nepal with Tibetan and Chinese people who later settled in Boudha.

 It is a light and super tasty savory cold noodle dish flavored with spices, such as onions, coriander and sesame oil.  Nepali folks like to eat in summer and you will find this surprisingly addicting. You can order it dry or as soup.  Laphing  noodles are distinct noodles, they come in a  round mound like stacked rice paper, in either yellow or white. The cook spreads red chili paste, soy sauce, Szechuan pepper, a squeeze of vinegar , before rolling it up and cutting them. When Laphni noodles are made, they are seasoned by being dipped in a sauce of vinegar and dried chillies.

Location: Tibetan  Top Tasty Laphing Center, Fulbari (map– located across of Khawa Kharpo Noodles Factory)

embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGh7szzrVzs&vol=0&width=800&height=450[/embedyt]

laphing boudha nepal

Thukpa (or Chowmein)

Thukpa is a Tibetan or Sherpa dish and is a social experience.  It is similar to Sichuan Dan Dan noodles in appearance and you can buy it in half or full dish , but either way it comes in a heap, which is why it often takes two or more people to finish it. I’ve seen as much as three girls working on one plate. I tried this at Khawa Karpo Noodles Factory in Fulbari (located across the street from Tibetan Top Tasty Laphing), where noodles are made fresh in the back room and this place is a must.The noodle dish comes sprinkled with meat (or vegetables) with a sauce base of soy, chili paste and garlic.   In order to activate it, you need to mix the sauces into the noodles, as if mixing a spring salad. The noodles are super long and stretchy. As a solo traveler, initially I felt uncomfortable ordering alone (watch my video to understand why). But the experience and flavors are highly worthwhile.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKLY7Mxq0Dk?enablejsapi=1&autoplay=0&cc_load_policy=0&iv_load_policy=1&loop=0&modestbranding=0&rel=0&showinfo=1&fs=1&playsinline=0&autohide=2&theme=dark&color=red&controls=2&]

Thukpa in Boudha

Thenduk

Thenduk is made from hand-pulled noodles that can be eaten traditionally, as a soup or just dry noodles. The noodles are popular during winter/fall seasons. I had the best thenduk at Sky Cafe ( right off Fulbari street), where they serve deep fried dry Thenduk as one of their house specialties (the other is a giant momo which comes with a dipping sauce). My thenduk was fried with onions, chili pepper, carrots, and I could not stop eating it. They have a meat and vegetarian versions; the vegetarian thenduk is made with a soy meat product.

Thenduk at Sky Cafe

 

Getting there: Sky Cafe, Kalimpong Street  (not far from Khawa Karpo Noodles Factory and the Tibetan Top Tasty Laphing Center. Turn left into a street alley going towards a residential sector.  When you get to the base of the slope, take a left. Sky Cafe will be on the left in a walled residential area (or watch my video for directions).

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXxEuCErDnI?enablejsapi=1&autoplay=0&cc_load_policy=0&iv_load_policy=1&loop=0&modestbranding=0&rel=0&showinfo=1&fs=1&playsinline=0&autohide=2&theme=dark&color=red&controls=2&] Where to Stay in Boudha

Planning to visit Boudha?  Despite the dusty streets the neighborhoods is quite peaceful and safe, with monasteries and a huge central stupa where folks are chanting Om mane padme Om trillions of times throughout the day. You can’t get more elevated than that.

There are small budget guesthouses surrounding Bodhanath Stupa as well as hotels outside the stupa.

Tibet International. Boudha, luxury. Read review. Big sister to Hotel Tibet, this four to five-star business luxury hotel is like the Nepali version of a Sheraton. It is conveniently located about a half a block from Bodhanath Stupa’s main entrance.  Its rooms have an international feel to it with little flourishes of Tibetan influence and craft. The hotel lobby and building is always air conditioned which will keep you feeling pampered from the heat.

Getting to Boudha from Thamel

Boudha is actually closer to the airport than Thamel and is about a 10-15 minute taxi drive to Thamel. Taking a taxi by day may set you back around 500 Rs one way, but in the evening expect taxi costs to bump closer to 600Rs and higher.

Enjoy this post? Share it or my Boudha Travel Guide video. What are your best things to do at Bodhanath Stupa? What would you add to this Boudha Travel Guide?

 

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48 hour travel guide Perth: London Court

 

Penned under our expert traveler series, this guest post is written by Claire of Claire’s Footprints. Two months in Perth, where she stayed with family and lived in a hostel in Fremantle, helped her see the very best of the world’s most isolated city – and she has sung it’s praises ever since.  She will be your travel guide to Perth travel tips.

Perth Travel Guide

Perth often gets overshadowed by its larger and glitzier Eastern cousins – Melbourne and Sydney – but I think it’s a fantastic city worthy of much more attention, and a great spot to visit if you’re backpacking Australia. The centre is compact, and yes, there’s not as much going on here as the sprawling capitals of Victoria and New South Wales, but there’s more than enough to sink your teeth into for two days or even longer.

Perth is the most isolated city in the world, cut off from the eastern side of Australia by thousands of kilometres of outback. Some people find this as an excuse not to visit, but I think this adds to the intrigue of the city – I find it fascinating that the city developed in the most unlikely of places. I was also one of the crazy people who drives from the eastern side of the country, over the Nullarbor Plain – so once I reached Perth, I was overwhelmingly grateful to see tall buildings again!

Perth is Australia’s sunniest city, and the summer it basks in 30+ degree heat every day and absolutely no rain. Even in winter, the days can be mild and bright – which is less that what can be said about other Australian cities (looking at you, Melbourne).

Another reason I love Perth is the community feel there. This might not be something you’ll pick up on with just a couple of days in the city, but it might be something that inspires you to return and spend a bit more time here!

Perth is often a gateway for travellers to Australia, especially if you are flying from Europe or Asia; a lot of flights from Asia go to Perth for a lot cheaper than the eastern suburbs, and the first non-stop flight from England to Australia has just started running from London Heathrow to Perth.

So if you find yourself with a layover in the world’s most isolated city, don’t rush off straight away – take some time to see exactly what makes this city tick.

Best Things to do in Perth
What to Eat in Perth
Safety Tips for Solo Travelers
How to Get Around
Where to Stay in Perth
Travel Essentials for Australia

Best Things to Do in Perth Things to do in Perth City Centre Elizabeth Quay

The modern area in the heart of Perth, Elizabeth Quay is a great place to people watch, sit with a book or enjoy the water shows. Or if you are visiting at night, enjoy the bright glittering skyline and the lit-up Elizabeth Quay Bridge behind you. It houses the BHP Water Park, the Bell Tower and restaurants/cafes. Getting There:  It’s a short walk from the Elizabeth Quay Train and Bus Port, the Transperth Ferry terminal is located in the inlet and the free blue CAT bus stops near the Bell Tower.

 

The Swan River

Perthites are very proud of their two rivers. The Swan River is a natural masterpiece, stemming through the city centre bust still managing to stay impossibly blue. There are lots of spots around Perth city to walk along the river – and it’s possible to go boating or stand-up-paddle boarding on the waters as well.

Swan River

Cottesloe Beach

Perhaps Perth’s most famous beach, and for good reason, Cottesloe Beach is a complete charmer. The suburb, located about 20 minutes from Perth city centre and easily accessible by public transport, is dotted with beach houses, ice cream shops and open air cafes – all that you could want from a beachside town! The beach gets rather busy in the summer, but there are lots of great spots for sunbathing and swimming. Time your visit with the end of the day to see a spectacular sunset over the Indian Ocean.  Getting there: See map

Read What to Pack for Summer Travel

Perth travel guide: Cottesloe Sunsent

London Court

A street built in the style of Elizabethan London, London Court is a arcade retail area with very instagrammable architecture! It’s an interesting spot to visit in the middle of a modern city; it was built in 1937 by local Mr Claude de Bernales. It’s worth strolling down to admire the replicate architecture; and purchasing some Perth souvenirs at some of the local shops!  Getting There: 647 Hay St and Georges Terrace.

Cultural Centre

Located in the heart of the city, a short walk from Perth train station, the Cultural Centre is home to Perth’s Art Gallery, Western Australia’s state library and is the site of the main Western Australia Museum – although this is currently closed for redevelopment and will reopen in 2020.

The art gallery is still open and is free to enjoy, with exhibitions ranging from modern art to Aboriginal pieces. There are also several temporary galleries at any one time. In the summer, there are often open air events and concerts in the outside area of the cultural centre.  Getting There: Conveniently located within easy walking distance from the Perth train station.

King’s Park

There are so many activities to do in King’s Park, but if you have limited time in the city, it’s worth checking out for the viewpoints alone. As the park is slightly elevated, many spots within offer spectacular vistas over the city below. There is a war memorial which pays tribute to Australian soldiers who lost their lives in various wars, as well as botanical gardens and lots of cycling and short walk trails. Getting There: Take Transperth bus route 935  from St Georges Terrace into the heart of the Park at the Fraser Avenue Precinct

Perth travel guide, ANZAC Memorial King’s Park

Things to do in Fremantle

Some say it’s a suburb of Perth, some say it’s a completely different city, but one thing’s for sure – Fremantle, or ‘Freo’ as it’s affectionately known – is a must visit while you’re in Perth. Located about 30 minutes by train from Perth centre, there are a variety of great things to do in funky Freo.

48 hour travel guide Perth: Fremantle High Street

Fremantle Markets

Head to the Fremantle Markets on a Friday night, Saturday or Sunday to eat locally sourced food, purchase one-of-a-kind gifts and find some super Australian memorabilia! There’s often live entertainment as well. Getting there: Located on the corner of South Terrace and Henderson Street . (see map)

Fremantle Markets

Fremantle Prison

The Fremantle Prison is a fascinating spot; with tours taking place daily. Tours will tell you all about the building’s intriguing history – from being the place of internment for British convicts to ghostly stories of the past. You’ll have the opportunity to see various jail cells as well as the recreation and dining areas.  Hours: 9am – 5pm, 7 days a week, Closed Good Friday & Christmas day. Website.  Getting There: See Map

Roundhouse

Set against the backdrop of Fremantle’s best beach, the Roundhouse is another historical spot to enjoy in the town. Be put in the stocks and learn about the history of the building; it was used as a gaol before the larger Fremantle prison was built. It’s also the oldest building in Western Australia – and below is the oldest tunnel in Western Australia – so it’s well worth checking out, especially as entrance is free!

Roundhouse Fremantle

Fremantle Harbour and Waterfront

The oldest part of Perth and the city’s historic port, Fremantle Harbour is absolutely beautiful. Spend some time walking around the waterfront looking at all the boats, or take a seat on one of the beaches. There’s also beach huts and other seaside features; lots of photo opportunities!

Perth travel guide: Freemantle Harbor

Rottnest Island

This is a whole day trip, so if you only have 48 hours in Perth it will take up a chunk of that time. But nobody ever regrets a trip to Rottnest Island; it has some of Western Australia’s best beaches (which, if you’ve seen any other beaches in this state, you’ll know is a huge praise), and it is home to the cutest resident animal, the quokka. Get a selfie with these friendly locals, hire out bikes and comb the island, or kick back on one of the many beaches and go snorkeling.

Rottnest Tip – it’s expensive to get the ferry over there on most days – around $80 – but on Tuesdays it’s half price. If your trip coincides with a Tuesday make sure you book your ferry tickets in advance!

 Must Try Foods in Perth

While Australian food itself isn’t all that inspiring (apart from a summery Aussie BBQ, of course!), Perth’s proximity to Asia means that lots of global foods have been introduced to the city.

Annalakshmi

Looking out over Elizabeth Quay and the Swan River, Annalakshmi is a restaurant that makes a difference. The Indian buffet is self-serve and it’s pay what you wish. It’s a non-profit, so is good option for budget travelers, but remember to be fair and remember that they have to cover not just the cost of food, but the normal costs of running a restaurant as well. By the way – the food is delicious.

Annalakshmi, Hours: 12 pm- 2pm, 6pm – 9pm. Location: Barrack Square, Jetty 4 Riverside Dr

Annalakshmi

Seafood in Fremantle

I’m vegetarian, so can’t vouch too much for Fremantle’s seafood – but I’ve heard it’s delicious. Restaurants nationwide source their seafood from Fremantle, but of course here, it’s all local, so is one of the more sustainable places in Australia to consume seafood. There are lots of seafood restaurants lining the harbour.

Moore & Moore Café Fremantle

Australia is known for its keen interest in coffee making, and Moore & Moore Cafe Fremantle is my favourite spot in Fremantle to grab a fix of caffeine. Offering coffee, snacks and delicious meals – with lots of vegetarian and vegan options – this café, with a scenic outside garden, is the perfect place to soak in the atmosphere of Fremantle. There’s even an attached art gallery!

Moore & Moore Cafe Fremantle, Hours: 7am -4pm. Location: W D Moore & Co Warehouse, Building 46/42 Henry St.

48 hour travel guide Perth: London Court

Getting Around Perth

A rail network serves the city and suburbs and is pretty reliable. Take free CAT bus around Perth City centre and Fremantle centre to see the highlights of each area. See a free downloadable CAT bus map. You can also use traditional taxis or Uber.

Hiring a car is not necessary unless you’re staying a little longer and want to check out some of the other great spots in Western Australia.

Best Places to Stay or Where to Stay 

There are a variety of great neighbourhoods to stay in in Perth, depending on your tastes and budgets.

For those who want to be in the heart of the action, Perth City Centre is a great spot to enjoy the highlights of the state capital.

Northbridge is a vibrant area with lots of cafes and bars. It’s not the safest area after sundown though, so caution should be exercised when travelling here. Billabong Backpackers is a great option for solo travellers.

If you’re visiting in the summer months, accommodation in Cottesloe will enable you to be close to the beach and enjoy some spectacular sunsets, right by your accommodation. This suburb also has the benefit of being located midway between Perth and Fremantle.

Fremantle is a wonderful place to stay, especially for solo female travellers, as there are lots of hostels and plenty of backpackers around. It’s about half an hour by train from Perth, so it still is very feasible to see all the highlights. Fremantle’s Old Fire Station Hostel is one of the best hostels in Australia and is a must-stay for any solo travellers in the town.

Safety Tips for Solo Travelers


Perth is a very safe city, with a low crime rate and not too many of the scary animals that Australia is famous for! Take care walking around Northbridge at night – muggings have been known to occur in this area.

Read  Solo Travel Safety Tips

You won’t find any snakes and spiders in Perth centre, but if you are exploring the suburbs or surrounding nature and are unlucky enough to be bit, get to the nearest hospital asap – snakebite antivenin is nearly 100% effective when administered quickly.

Although attacks are very rare, sharks have been known to be in the waters in Perth beaches. Observe the signs and don’t go swimming if it says a shark has been sighted – in the summer, helicopters constantly watch for sharks and they are great at ensuring that people and sharks aren’t in the same swimming spot!

Conclusion

So many people skip over Perth, but I think it’s a really special city with an amazing atmosphere. Built in the middle of the desert, yet with beautiful surrounding nature and a warm community calling the city home, it’s a city that really pulls you in. Twin that with the history and culture of Fremantle and the paradise island of Rottnest, and you’ve got a perfect layover destination. Stay a few days while you adjust to life in Australia, or spend a bit longer and see some more of what the amazing state of Western Australia has to offer.

What do you think of this Perth Travel Guide? What are your best things to do in Perth? 48 Hours City Travel Guides

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Best things to do Nepal after 2015 earthquake |Ultimate Nepal Travel Guide

 

When the 2015 earthquake hit Nepal, the media documented the earthquake’s aftermath of ruin and devastation. It was said it’s main UNESCO sites were destroyed.

How did the 2015 Earthquake affect Nepal?

When I visited Nepal a second time – last year- as a guest of Nepal Tourism Board and PATA Nepal, I realized the media focused on one part of a story.

If you visit Nepal, you can see some of the aftermath of the 2015 earthquake. There’s occasionally ugly wooden support beams supporting buildings and houses. In some places you’ll see reconstruction efforts on temples or even gated off remnants of a structure. But has it hindered a tourist’s sightseeing? No.  After an hour of sightseeing temples and monuments in Kathmandu, Patan or Bhaktapur , I was templed out.  As lovely as temples are, how many temples can you really see ? It’s like temple hopping at Angkor Wat, Bagan or Ayutthaya.  Nepal is abundantly templed and not even locals visit all of them.

2015 earthquake took 67 of the 112 heritage sites in Bhaktapur

 

Nepal’s top ten UNESCO World Heritage sites (and its damage):

For the record, Nepal has three Durbar Squares and the one in Kathmandu and Patan has suffered partial damage.  The Durbar Squares were once considered noble courts or palace squares and are the heart of the three ancient Kingdom cities (below) which house them:

  1. Kathmandu Durbar Square– Parts of the city’s oldest palace, Hanuman Dhoka and its 183 year old Dharahara Tower, which loomed almost nine stories as a watchtower and heart of Durbar Square.
  2. Kathmandu – Boudhanath Stupa – No major damage
  3. Kathmandu – Pashupatinath Stupa – No major damage
  4. Kathmandu Swayambunath Stupa – No major damage
  5. Patan Durbar Square–  Patan Durbar is a 17th century royal palace complex.  Parts of the temple are undergoing construction. The main temple Krishna Mandir is untouched ( but only open to Hindus).
  6. Bhaktapur Durbar Square
  7. Changunarayan – Unknown
  8. Lumbini – No damage
  9. Chitwan National Park – No damage
  10. Sagarmatha National Park  – No damage
17 Ultimate Best Things to Do in Nepal after the 2015 Earthquake

According to the media, Nepal tourism was reduced to its UNESCO sites as its main attractions. Forgotten were the other aspects of tourism:  culture, food, natural landscapes, outdoors, etc..  In many ways, Nepal is an ideal adventure destination and this is largely why I love it.

This is my ultimate Nepal travel guide and a resourceful list of things to do and the parts of Nepal that are under reconstruction.

Read Things to Know before you go to Nepal
.

Best Things Do in and around Kathmandu

There’s three historical cities – Kathmandu (Thamel is the heart), Bhaktapur and Patan. Each city has their own vibe and specialties.  Kathmandu Valley is a country-like valley resting on the outskirt of the city; offers the first peek of the lush and beautiful landscape Nepal offers.  Panauti and Nagarkot are overnight getaways if you want to experience villages towns which are closer to the natural landscape.  All of these can be reached by public bus or taxi/hired driver.

1. Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur is an old Newari Kingdom, known for wood craftsmanship and its preservation of old Newari traditions and lifestyles. From wood temples to buildings, it’s got a rustic and heritage feeling that you might find in older and rustic villages like Dhulikhel.  This was one of my favorite cities to film and explore.  Popular attractions: Dattreya Square, Nyaptole Temple, Durbar Square, 52 Window Palace, etc.    For foodies:   Juhu Dhau, or King Curd, a large yogurt. It’s a must try food in Bhaktapur.

Bhaktapur

2. Patan

Of the three Old Kingdom cities, Patan houses the most temples and the largest Durbar Square. Neighboring Thamel, its known for its metallurgic and traditional arts city. A visit to the Golden Temple took my breath away with its variety of golden statues and metallurgic artwork.  The main parts of Patan’s Durbar Square are under reconstruction, so the square isn’t very pretty to film (see my video). But there’s still a lot to do…

Impressive attractions: Golden Temple, Molchok and the Royal Baths.  Patan Museum is the best museum I’ve come across in all of Asia – it houses beautiful art with descriptions that teach travelers about its iconography and symbolism. Want to experience singing bowl therapy? Check out Lotus Crafts for their collection of singing bowls. They offer demonstrations and vibrational healings using the singing bowls. It’s $30 for an hour’s session and you can get your chakras aligned or just use it to cure ailments. Some of the bowls are specially crafted on auspicious nights of a full moon. It’s said to be made with the moonlight!  (visit them on Facebook).

3. Thamel & Kathmandu

Thamel is the most popular and well known city by travelers. A convenient location in the heart of Kathmandu, its lively streets are lined with restaurants, cafes and lots of shopping, shopping, shopping.  Popular attractions: Kumari Ghar ( Kumari residence; she’s said to give blessings from her window twice a day), Asan local market, Bhairav Temple, Freak Street .  About five minutes in the upper outskirts of Thamel, you’ll Swayambunath Stupa hovering over the city and offering the best city view.

Ten minutes from Thamel, there’s the Boudha district of Tibetan monasteries and the Bodhanath Stupa. Boudha is one of my favorite places. For foodies:  you’ll love Phulbari street, where you can sample laphing, thukpa, thenduk, momos and more.

Kathmandu accommodations I stayed at :
Hotel Tibet  (review) . •  Tibet International  (review) •  Kantipur Temple House (review) • Hotel Vajra (review ).

Swayambuth Stupa

pashupatinath temple

Boudhanath Stupa, Boudha

 

4. A Helicopter tour of Everest

A popular activity, for travelers short on time or who want to catch drop dead view of Everest, is to take a jet plane tour with a carrier such as Yeti Airlines. Cost ranges around $200 for one hour and you get to see the cockpit. Best time for viewing is September and May. I wasn’t able to take the tour but Keith Jenkins of the travel blog,  Velvet Escape was! Read his review/photos for more details.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezZ6PGBeMpA?enablejsapi=1&autoplay=0&cc_load_policy=0&iv_load_policy=1&loop=0&modestbranding=0&rel=0&showinfo=1&fs=1&playsinline=0&controls=2&autohide=2&theme=dark&color=red&] Video by Keith Jenkins, Velvet Escape 5. Kathmandu Valley

Ring Road in Kathmandu goes in a complete circle leading from Kathmandu to the countryside of Kathmandu Valley. Take a pilgrimage out to Dakshinkali Temple or explore smaller cities such as Kritipur or wander. Ten years ago, I stayed at Chobhar village . While the resort lodge that connected travelers with Chobhar village, no longer exists, the surrounding area is peaceful, lush and beckons to be explored.

6. Kathmandu Valley Rim hikes

I only had two days for a trekking adventure from Kathmandu, so I opted to explore the Kathmandu Valley Rim.  Here’s the top three I was told were the most visually beautiful:

  1. Bhaktapur to Nagarkot (my very first trek in Nepal and in my life! Rustic charm of Bhaktapur’s wooden temples, scenic with hill villages along the way)
  2. Panauti – Dhulikhel – Namobuddha  Monastery. (Scenic mixed with farming villages along the way. Dhulikhel feels similar to Bhaktapur but is in the hills.)
  3. Sundarijal – Chisapani – Nagarkot Hike
7. Panauti

Pantauti is a quaint rustic town in the foothills just two hours from Kathmandu. Surrounded by farm lands of rice, wheat and potatoes, the valley surrounding it is green. Its Old town is bustling with heritage buildings, temples, old-fashioned streets and a busy urban section, which occasionally sees motorbike, foot and tractor traffic. This is where I experienced a wonderful homestay experience with Panauti Community Homestay.  I was lucky to be staying with Anee-ta and her mom, who owned a house on the outskirts of the town amidst the potato and wheat farming community (that’s where I got that beautiful photo view below!). The chill vibe felt like a trekking homestay experience, where my lullaby to sleep were crickets and a dog barking far off in the distance.  The town is two hours by bus from Bhaktapur and is a refreshing getaway.

Read my city guide post for more details about Panauti.

Experiencing Panauti through a homestay

8. Nagarkot

Approximately three hours from Kathmandu, Nagarkot is a hillside village that feels world away from Kathmandu. Nagarkot is known for its trekking routes and its hillside village community. It was one of my favorite spots on my first two-day trekking tour to wake up and see the sunrise.  Nagarkot doesn’t have a lot to explore in a city, as it’s known for its nature and small village community. The village has some cafes and snack shops.  It’s a lovely place to unplug.

Nagarkot has some hotel lodges with exceptional views of the Himalayan Mountains.  A popular lodge for most short trekking trips is  Hotel Viewpoint Nagarkot; it’s got a phenomenal view of the hills (when it’s not hazy) and at 4am or 5am you can step out of your room and view the sunrise. I’ve stayed here too over ten years ago, so I can’t comment on how it is now.  Community Homestay also offer a homestay in Nagarkot.

Best Places to Visit in Nepal beyond Kathmandu

Nepal isn’t only Kathmandu. There are many, many cities, towns and villages stretching through the country. I’m listing the top three most traveled destinations in Nepal.

9. Pokhara

Pokhara is considered Nepal’s loveliest city with Phewa Lake and it’s lush surrounding hills. Just the drive alone can be scenic.  You can chill and go shopping, visit the Mountaineering Institute, ride a lake boat or hike to the Peace Pagoda. This city is also a hub to famous trekking routes like Annapurna (ABC) or Poon Hill. You’ll find many travel agents ready to help you with your itinerary.

Read my 48 Hours in Pokhara Travel Guide

View of Pokhara Valley and Phewa Lake

 

10. Chitwan National Park

Ever wanted to see a one-horned rhinosaurus up close?  Chitwan National Park was on my bucket list for years and when I finally visited it, it exceeded my every expectation in wildlife spotting. It is great for family fun to solo adventures.   There are eco lodges to luxury resorts (this is where I stayed) and homestays.

Read my Chitwan National Park Guide  and how to get there from Kathmandu.

Chitwan National Park Rhino

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11. Lumbini

Known as the birthplace of Buddha, Lumbini is a famous pilgrimage spot for Buddhists. Lumbini is a park with many temples and monasteries. The most sacred site is the Maya Devi temple, where Buddha was born. The drive from Kathmandu is well over six hours, so it’s advised to see other places nearby, like Chitwan.

maya devi temple (exterior), lumbini

 

Popular Activities in Nepal

 

12.  Souvenir and Apparel Shopping

Shopping is an easy and fast hobby for travelers to Nepal. Prices are inexpensive and craftsmen/seamstresses are really good. Be wary of trekking apparel shops as most of the name brands are knock-offs; the quality or stitching may not be like the branded design (i.e. NorthFace) but they are decently well-made.  Thangka artwork, singing bowls, masala teas, pashmina scarves… many big cities offer lines of souvenir and trekking apparel stores for basic needs and to bring souvenirs home for the family.

13. Cultural and Heritage Tours

If you’re staying in and around Kathmandu, popular day tours to take are to Kathmandu, Kathmandu Valley, Bhaktapur and Patan.   The culture and history of Nepal, it’s architecture, art and cities are all fascinating and eye-opening of a culture nestled between India, Tibet, Bhutan and the Himalayas. A mountain loving country, it is rich with unique Newar , Buddhist/Hindu, sherpa cultures with fascinating practices and has both a urban and rural country lifestyles.

14. Trekking

Nepal holds eight of the world highest mountain peaks about 8,000 meters, with Mount Everest being the world’s highest. That said, Nepal is known for its mountain climbing and trekking (visit HoneyGuide apps if you want to plan your own trekking trip. They connect you with vendors and accommodations). Not everyone has to hike Everest though.  There are a small handful on my bucket list from Annapurna to Mustang to trekking routes around Kathmandu Valley. Some routes present interesting village rest points and farming; and all present breathtaking scenery. The average time needed for a good trek runs around 7-10 days. But you can ask for appended versions if you’re short on time.  I took a three day trek of Panauti-Dhulikhel-Namobuddha and had it customized because I only had two free days in my schedule. You’ll find many treks for travelers launch from either Kathmandu or Pokhara.

Trekking in Nepal with Wanderlust Himalaya Adventures

15. Wildlife Safaris

Not many folks know but you don’t have to go to Africa to experience a wildlife safari. As mentioned on #10, Chitwan National Park is over 360 square miles of wilderness park settled in the Terai Lowlands. Through a foot or jeep safari tour, you can spot the one-horned rhino, monkeys, deer, maybe even a tiger.

Note: There are elephant tours, but this blog does not support animal tourism exploiting captive animals, where tourists are unknowingly responsible for the subjectivity of animals to cruel and harmful conditions. 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EU90QZ8gIu8?enablejsapi=1&autoplay=0&cc_load_policy=0&iv_load_policy=1&loop=0&modestbranding=0&rel=0&showinfo=1&fs=1&playsinline=0&controls=2&autohide=2&theme=dark&color=red&] 16. White Water River Rafting

White Water River Rafting is a popular sport in Nepal. Who knew? There are at least five top rivers if you want a good challenge.  Trishuli River, Bhote Kosi, Sun Kosi, Tamur. The Trisuli River is the best if you are short on time, as you can do a river rafting trip for as short as three hours. Keep in mind, the drive from Kathmandu is about five hours (Trisuli is north of Chitwan National Park) I took a three hour white water rafting tour with Adrift Adventures. Between occasionally rough and bumpy currents there are moments of calm where you drift through a scenic view of the valley. Caution: you will be prone to a gaping mouth.  The ride to the location was bumpy and made me a little sick but the rafting was worthwhile. Apparently bouncy waves are far better than swerving bus drivers.

16. Homestays

Nepal has been embracing homestays as a way for village communities to be sustainable, empower women and encourage cultural sharing with foreign travelers.For travelers, it’s a way to gain a good home cooked meal, learn some Nepali cooking skills, stay with a Nepali family and learn about their lifestyle. This is a wonderful way to feel connected with the Nepali culture and community.

Recommended: Community Homestay (read my Panauti Homestay experience)  is a regulated program supporting sustainability for small communities.

My Nepali homestay meal

 

17. Nepali Food Tours & Culinary Experiences

Yes, there is a raging foodie culture in Nepal (check out the Nepali food blog, The Gundruk and Instagrammers,  foodnomics or nepal.food for food inspiration). I discovered Boudha has a thriving foodie street, which has retrained my tastebuds- they will never be the same! Also, there’s an endless various types of momos, which puts a new spin on the term ‘dumpling’ (keep an eye out for my videos!)

Street food is said to be a little sketchy in Nepal, so it’s always best to start out with a food tour with a reputable agency like Backstreet Academy.  I took two street food tours through them ( tour one, tour two), which many viewers on YouTube loved and wanted to try for themselves.

Thukpa in Boudha

Nepal Travel Resources

Wanderlust Himalaya Adventures (my 2 day trekking trip and city tour; they do custom packages)

Backstreet Academy  (culturally sustainable tours, food tours, cooking class- you can special request my guide, Kanti when booking but you will only get her if she is available )

Panauti Community Homestay (the homestay I experienced in Panauti)

Communityhomestay.com (local homestay program in various locations throughout Nepal)

HoneyGuide apps (app to help plan your DIY trekking trips )

Adrift Adventures (white water river rafting tours I used)

Watch my Video about Nepal Now:

I met up with my friend of ten years, Nabaraj (tour operator of Wanderlust Himalaya Adventures) . This is what he had to say about the state of Nepal tourism~

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