Our time in Kathmandu was short and sweet. We landed from Delhi mid afternoon during what happened to be a holiday in Nepal that equates to Christmas for the Nepalese as our host described it. This meant that traffic was low, and most shops and restaurants were closed until the following day. The lack of traffic was the best part, we swiftly moved from airport to our homestay in twenty minutes for just a few dollars.
Kathmandu is made up of small alley and stairways leading to residents, shops, and restaurants. Our host guided us from our taxi to their small compound effortlessly, but I felt like I was in a cornmaze (fitting for back home since it’s Halloween season). As soon as we walked through their gate, we were welcomed by three sweet rescue dogs, Luna, Jarvis, and Oreo, some kittens, and a few monkeys. Rose and Dan, our hosts, showed us their labor of love. Being in their late twenties they decided to move from the country and into the heart of Kathmandu. They rented out the property we were staying on and decided to do a full remodel. Rose guided us through their common area, kitchen, the house, and showed us the cottage. Each piece of the compound was a labor of love. Her partner, Dan, was an engineer so together with the entrepreneurial mindset, they were able to take a rundown place and make it into a home for so many. They talked us through the process of remodeling bit by bit, trying to use environmentally conscious options as frequently as possible. You could feel the love in this place, and they treated us with the kindness of old friends. I can’t speak enough good things about the Laughing Buddha, but I can tell you that if you ever find yourself in Kathmandu, seek out this place and cozy up with a cup of tea and talk to Rose and Dan about life. They are truly special people and we hope to run into them again somewhere in the world.
After we were shown to our room, Rose offered up some great food recommendations and the quickest ways to get wherever in the city we wanted to. The unfortunate thing is that because it was a holiday, most of the places were closed. We visited each shop, and to our despair, closed. Except one place, Best Choice Bakery, we were told they had the best lava cakes in Nepal. I would go so far to say that they may have been the best lava cakes I have ever had (except my mother’s, of course). For 44 cents a pop, you best believe Scott and I went there at least six times in our two day stay in Kathmandu. We even bought some for our 9-hour bus ride to Pokhara. The young girl at the shop giggled every time we came in and even tried to get us to buy some other items, but we were sold on those lava cakes. She even heated them up for us, the perfect gooey center to give you that cozy, smiley feeling.
For dinner, we settled for one of the only shops we could find that was open, I’d give you the name but honestly, I couldn’t find it on Google and it wasn’t listed on the shop. They had great traditional Momos and Thukpa (savory noodle soup) and were where the second main bus stop in Kathmandu is. That’s about as descriptive as I can get about location!
A little side rant on Momo because we are going to talk about them A LOT when we talk about Nepal, so here we go. The first time I was introduced to momo was when I was a teenager at the Oregon Country Fair. There is one food booth that sells these amazing, labor of love, dumplings. My parents and I both dreamed of these momos for that special occasion once a year. They usually fell apart, wrapped in a wanton wrapper, filled with meaty veggie goodness, and topped with a super spicy sauce. I thought that Country Fair was the only place that I could find these delicious treats, but a few months ago Scott and I encountered the beloved momo in Amsterdam (ATTACH POST HERE). We went to a super great Nepalese restaurant there which also had momo and Scott is a lover of all dumplings, just like me, so it was easy to absolutely endulge in Nepal. Momo is a traditional Tibetan/Nepalese dumping, filled with buff (buffalo), chicken, pork, or veggie. Each shape of momo depicts the contents inside. They can be served steamed, kothy (pan fried), deep fried, chilly or c-momo (in chili sauce), or jhol (in a curry sauce). On the side they usually have an orange curry sauce to dip in and a hot chili, kafir lime sauce to use at your liking. We tried basically all flavors and styles of momo, you really can’t go wrong.
Scott did some research and found a place in Thamel (super touristy place in Kathmandu where most use as a point of take off to go trekking towards Everest) that was supposed to have the best momo, cooked up by a sweet old lady in some back alleyway. We decided that would be an adventure for our only full day in Kathmandu.
A few more things to note about Nepal in general. It is by far one of the poorest countries we have been to, the dollar is incredibly strong here and it will have been the cheapest place we go on this whole trip. We were told that the government is incredibly corrupt and that power outages happen often. The water is absolutely not safe to drink, and you should take caution when eating street food (though we still do, always try to check for sanitation and have hand sanitizer handy). Pollution in Kathmandu and a lot of the lower lying places in Nepal is VERY bad. Most people you will see wearing masks covering their nose and mouth, or attempting to wrap shawls over their faces, this also presents a lot of smog and unfortunately makes it quite difficult to see the Himalayas. Fortunately, on our flight in we were able to see these mountains, as well as in Pokhara. There is also a lot of trash pretty much everywhere, but what made us the saddest was the rivers, which had been pretty much overtaken by trash. Regardless of this all, they are trying to make a change. The people are so friendly, and the dogs look much more well kept than in India (we still gave them biscuits of course).
We spent the next day going to the monkey temple (lava cake on the way) and wandering around the touristy area of Kathmandu. I’ve learned after encountering monkeys in the last few places we’ve been, that I am not the biggest fan. Not because I don’t like monkey in general, I think they are cute and how human-like they fascinate me endlessly. BUT they are so smart and so unpredictable I am waiting for the day that one of them takes Scott’s phone right out of his hands OR if we meet a not-so-friendly one and it bites one of us and that just throws a wrench into this whole travel thing. Scott makes fun of me every time we encounter them, but he does manage to get some extraordinary pictures of them. Anyways, we walked up to the free entrance for the monkey temple (Rose gave us insider advice) because apparently all other entrances you have to pay. After climbing up the stairs and realizing how out of shape we were, we walked around saw millions of peace flags, and watched monkeys divebomb into a pool of water to show off. Cheeky little animals, they know how to please a crowd.
After that we wandered down to the Thamil area (it’s easy to know when you’re there, badass hikers, and people trying to play the part of hikers, mostly white tourists). The streets are filled with tons of knock gear for trekkers, who locals lovingly call NorthFake for NorthFace amongst others. We were really only after one thing in that area though, and it was hidden. If you know us, you can guess by now, it’s food related. Even better, if you’ve been paying attention to my side rant, it’s specifically Momo. The place for momo that Scott found was called, Newa Momo, down an alley, down another alley, and then in a dark shop that we couldn’t tell was open or closed. We order chicken thukpa, fried veggie momo, and steamed chicken momo. They were the best we have had, absolutely perfectly cooked, and amazing sauce to match. If it was closer than a forty-minute walk from our place, we would’ve been back for dinner. They got something really good going at Newa momo, they even offer a cooking class!
The rest of our time in Kathmandu was spent cuddling our hosts rescue pups and getting ready for our long journey to Pokhara. Rose was kind enough to book our bus tickets and walk us to the area where they pick up. You can also fly to Pokhara from Kathmandu for about $50 a person, but when the bus ride is only $8, we thought we could endure that to save some money and hopefully spend it on excursions in other places. We were incredibly thankful that Rose walked with us and waited to make sure we got on the right bus because basically the system in Nepal is the bus drives through the city, men hanging out the door of the bus yell as they’re passing a “stop” the location. It’s completely informal, much like the rest of Nepal. Rose flagged down our bus, and off we went on our nine-hour journey (a flight is 35 minutes, big eye-roll here). We will opt for the flight next time.