The Heart of Old Kathmandu
Since Nepal first opened to foreign tourism in 1951, legions of flower children have lingered in Kathmandu’s history-rich Durbar Square (durbar means “palace”). With an astounding concentration of more than fifty temples, shrines, and old palaces within a few blocks, the square still has its moments of magic when not overrun with tourist groups, touts, and bicycle rickshaws.
The sights, sounds, and smells can lead to sensory overload, and hours can be spent taking it all in from the platform steps of the triple-roofed Maju Deval temple. On the south side of the square is Kumari Ghar, the three-storied residence of the Kumari Devi (Living Goddess).
Around the square, teeming modern consumerism obliterates much of Kathmandu’s medieval character as it rushes heedlessly toward the future. But it’s still a great thrill to meander the tangle of back alleyways a bit farther from the square, reeking with incense and spices and full of hole-in-the-wall shops. Here, one can peek at a lifestyle that remains relatively oblivious to the arrival of Western visitors.
The Hotel Yak & Yeti is still one of the best in the area; it’s also one of the most original and historically interesting. Ask for a room in the original wing, the royal 19th-century home of a former rana (prime minister).