Pickled rhinos, toothache gods and mountain treks: Just another weekend in Nepal
You don't have to spend a fortune on guided tours to get a taste of trekking in Nepal. Hail a taxi (NRs 800-1,000 (US$11-14) return) and head out to the Nagarjun Forest Reserve, a 25 minute ride from the city center. The park is open from sunrise to sunset, and you'll be asked to leave your ID with the guards at the gate. (Admission: NRs 250 for adults)
Heading up the stairs, the burn in your legs and lungs will show you what walking in this country is all about. As the saying goes, Nepali flat is a little bit up and a little bit down. The drastic ascent will have you wheezing, but it only takes you five minutes to enter a world apart from the chaotic Kathmandu traffic below. You suddenly find yourself immersed in an environment reminiscent of what the valley looked like when the city was founded 1,000 years ago.
The ascent takes about two hours. Once you reach the 2,095m top you can congratulate yourself for having summited a mountain just a smidgeon lower than Australia's highest. The top is dominated by a temple sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists, a nice testament to Nepali tolerance. Take in the views -- they're the best in the valley. On clear days you can play spot-the-summit with many of the world's highest mountains laid before you.
Pickled baby rhino
On the way back to the city, you'll want to stop by the Natural History Museum. They've got a pickled baby Rhino in a jar. If that doesn't do it for you, what will? Admission: NRs 30/person.
Shivapuri National Park
After dodging the horrid traffic in central Kathmandu, you'll think we're crazy when we say that Kathmandu Valley is best seen by bike. Look just beyond the city center and you'll find thousands of obscure trails waiting to be explored by the intrepid biker. Our pick? The Shivapuri National Park, just north of the city.
Respect the teeth
Everyone knows that nothing hurts quite like a bad toothache. Stop and pay homage to one of Nepal's many roadside toothache gods in Thamel, a tourist haven within Kathmandu.
Where to crash
To rest your trek-worn feet in comfort, check out the Gokarna Forest Resort. This top-of-the-line resort is located in a former Royal hunting reserve. Double rooms start at US$140. Telephone: +977 1445 1212
Alternatively, if you want to stay at tourist ground zero, book a room at the legendary Kathmandu Guest House. This institution couldn't be closer to all things tourist related. Forgot your toothbrush or favorite trekking gear? No problem! Everything you need is just outside your door. Room rates range between US$2 and US$200, so there's something for everyone. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Telephone: +977 1470 0800. Nearby watering holes like Sam's Bar and Rum Doodle offer plenty of opportunities to meet people over a cold one.
If hippie history is your thing, a stay at the Monumental Paradise on Freak Street is a must. The 1960s era 'freaks' that gave the street its name have all but disappeared, but the hotel boasts an unbeatable rooftop restaurant. Their rooms are also great on the ol' wallet, starting at just US$6 for a double. Telephone: +977 1424 0876.
Whether it's walking, trekking or mountain biking that you're into, one thing's for sure: you'll work up an appetite. Fortunately for you, Kathmandu offers a huge range of cuisines.
The Yangling Tibetan Restaurant offers arguably the best Momos (Tibetan dumplings) in town.
We like the Tandoori Fast Food Cafe, a place where locals come for Nepali and Indian favorites. Telephone: +977 1443 3854.
Whatever you do with your Kathmandu weekend, it is bound to whet your appetite to see more of Nepal.
If you're keen on some climbing, check out this CNNGo post.