Here’s some of what the Lonely Planet – Nepal chapter on Kathmandu has to say about the streets of Kathmandu:
“The most interesting part of Kathmandu is the crowded backstreets of the rectangular- shaped old town. This is bordered to the north by the main tourist and backpacker district of Thamel and to the east by the sprawling modern new town.
In the centre of the old town is historic Durbar Square and Hanuman Dhoka (the old royal palace). Most of the interesting things to see in Kathmandu are clustered in the old part of town, focused around the majestic Durbar Square and its surrounding backstreets.
Freak St, the focus of Kathmandu’s overland scene during the hippie era, runs south from here. Thamel is 15 to 20 minutes’ walk north from Durbar Square. Running east from Durbar Square is New Road, constructed after the great earthquake of 1934, and one of the main shopping streets in town.
In old Kathmandu, streets are only named after their district, or tole. The names of these districts, squares and other landmarks (perhaps a monastery or temple) form the closest thing to an address. For example, the address of everyone living within a 100m radius of Thahiti Tole is Thahiti Tole. ‘Thamel’ is now used to describe a sprawling area with at least a dozen roads and several hundred hotels and restaurants.
Given this anarchic approach it is amazing that any mail gets delivered – it does, but slowly.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
There are a couple of self-guided walking tours in Kathmandu proper, one that starts from Thamel and takes you south to Durbar Square. The other starts at Durbar Square and makes a loop to the south and back again. Both routes are approximately 2km and have a suggested walking time.
We chose to start in Thamel mainly because I wanted to visit the infamous Kathmandu Guest House first. If I’m not mistaken, my brother stayed there during his ‘hippie’ phase in the 1970s shortly before he travelled on to India where he visited my in-laws in Patna, Bihar. David had great tales to tell about his time in Nepal, and I wanted to see the hotel for myself.
I’ve described the sights we encountered along the walking route in the descriptions of my journal photos, so I won’t go into more detail here. I’m glad that I’ve spent plenty of time in third-world countries, and especially in India, because this part of Kathmandu is sure to blow someone’s mind if it’s their introduction to Asia.
After three hours of wandering along the route, taking much longer than the suggested time because I wanted to locate all the sites noted in the walking guide and I like to take a lot of photos, we really appreciated the relative peace and quiet in Durbar Square. We wandered through the three connecting squares, admiring the beautiful buildings and temples and I chose to just take it all in and not focus on the camera in my backpack.
We returned a couple of days later and after depositing Anil in the comfortable Himalayan Java Café, I spent a good hour on my own taking photos of Durbar Square to my heart’s content.