Kathmandu, A Tranquil Oasis Or A Lavish Cosmopolitan?
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Kathmandu, the flamboyant capital city of Nepal is an enticing blend of traffic rush, clanging temple bells, cooing doves and fragrance of incenses. It is really hard to define Kathmandu as it is lavish, chaotic, mesmerizing, fascinating and exhausting, all at the same time. Being in Kathmandu for quite a while, one might feel the need to get out of the fast cacophonic city lane and be out there, somewhere tranquil. But luckily, beneath the busy, noisy, modern and dusty crust of this prudent conurbation, there are plethoras of oasis where one can find the peace of mind.

Kathmandu is literally dotted with several tranquil spots to reenergize, both in the surrounding Kathmandu Valley and in the city itself. These are special places: ancient towns, spacious artistic squares, walled gardens and breezy hilltop temples -- all havens of calm amid the flurry of city life. While some of these have been recognised as UNESCO World Heritage sites for their cultural and historical values, others are lesser-known, quiet spots. Here is a collection of the best:

The Garden of Dreams

Just outside Kathmandu’s tourist hub Thamel, off busy Tridevi Marg, a tiny entrance in a tall brick wall leads into perhaps the most unexpected experience in the city. Step inside and you will find yourself in a neoclassical historical garden, embellished with ponds and lily pads, green lawns, whispering palm trees, and most importantly, quiet. This is a magical place, especially when lit up at night. A succulent tea at the Kaiser Caf� would complete the experience.

Swayambhunath

On a hilltop just west of Kathmandu’s centre, this World Heritage Buddhist stupa sits under fluttering prayer flags with views of the Kathmandu Valley laid out before it. Come here to look down on the city, orientate yourself and breathe Kathmandu’s freshest air. You can watch sacred monkeys skit through the trees and vultures soar above the valley. This nearly 1500-year-old site is a place of breezy contemplation and blissfully open space.

Boudhanath

For a breath of the tangibly spiritual, come to this vast Buddhist stupa at sunset. This is when the red-robed monks and Tibetans in traditional dress walk their daily kora (pilgrimage). Although the pedestrian square around the stupa is thronged, the orderly clockwise flow of devotees has a hushed, reverent feel. Order your tsampa, a Tibetan snack of roasted flour, at one of the restaurants overlooking the square and watch as the stupa fades from sunset orange to ghostly white.

Bhaktapur

When you are a bit too overdone with the hullabaloo and the cosmopolitan way of life of Kathmandu city, driving or perhaps even cycling to the nearby historic city of “Bhaktapur” would be a welcome diversion. This beautifully restored Newari town -- also a World Heritage site -- is a place to stroll quiet cobblestone streets between temples, hidden courtyards and spacious squares. Bakhtapur has a vibrant cultural life: you will see potters drying their work in the sun, carvers working as they have for centuries and weavers crafting intricate designs. You can soak yourself in history amid a slow-paced, timeless ambience.

Changu Narayan temple

Crowning the hilltop above Changu village at the eastern end of the Kathmandu Valley is Nepal’s oldest Hindu temple, founded in the 4th century and dedicated to the Hindu deity “Lord Vishnu”. Despite its proximity to Bhaktapur, this sacred Hindu shrine sees only a few visitors and has a pleasingly out-of-town feel, surrounded by fields, forest and rural views. The architecture and sculptural details are sublime, and the atmosphere is serene. The exceptional artistic merits of Changu Narayan Temple have won it the UNESCO World Heritage status.

Nagarjun Forest Reserve

One of the last areas of undisturbed forest in the Kathmandu Valley, this tranquil reserve feels far from the city, though it is only about 4kms north of ‘Thamel’, a bustling tourist hotspot in Kathmandu. The reserve, also known as ‘Rani Ban’ or ‘Queen’s Forest’ is an abode to some interesting wild lives like deer, pheasants and monkeys etc. The Nagarjun and neighboring ‘Shivapuri National Park’ have recorded some 318 bird species of birds, so they are actually a heaven for the bird lovers. One can walk the footpath to the summit (2095m) for wide valley views or relish the experience of mountain biking in the soothing milieu of the reserve, anything is enough to keep the city exhaustion at bay!


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