Nepal may not be a go-to choice when Thais think about travel destinations like they do Japan, Hong Kong or South Korea. We’ll go as far as saying that the landlocked country is a bit of mystery. But if you’re up for diverse cultures, natural beauties and a little adventure, Nepal is it!
We recently joined a trip to Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital city, for a comfy stay at Fairfield by Marriott Kathmandu and did some sightseeing. It was truly something different.
It took about 20 minutes on a car from Tribhuvan International Airport to the hotel and we passed many interesting sights; the sacred Bagmati River with buildings on both sides of its banks; the city’s green lung or Bhandarkhal Jungle garden; the large Kamal Pokhari pond where locals stroll; the colourful shophouses and the utility poles with entangled wires that can put Bangkok to shame.
The modern-looking Fairfield by Marriott Kathmandu is a just short walk into an alley off the main road Tridevi Sadak. The main and perhaps biggest plus we noticed from the get-go is its location in Thamel, the capital’s tourist area. This means there are plenty of activities and things to enjoy within walking distance. We checked into one of the 115 Deluxe Rooms, which are basically the same but you can choose between a king bed or twin beds.
A stay here is no-frills. You have all the basics for a comfy stay but don’t expect bells and whistles. The contemporary room averages at around 18m² in size and each unit contains everything to make yourself feel at home (well, unless you’re high maintenance). The desk faces a large window offering a view of the city and a mountain range on the horizon while the bathroom has a marble interior for a touch of luxury. Local motifs found on pillowcases, bed covers and curtains brighten up the room. The most important thing is a quality and comfy bed, and we slept soundly throughout our stay. What the room lacks in space, is made up by attentive service and friendly staff.
Get your big breakfast buffet at the all-day dining Kava restaurant and bar, the hotel’s main FB outlet. Order pancakes, dosa, uttapam, puri bhaji, stuffed paratha to your heart’s (and stomach’s) content. You can also put together your own bowl of congee with garnishes and toppings of your choice. If you feel peckish at anytime of the day, you can grab a snack at The Market corner, which is in the lobby, too. The hotel also helps you stay healthy with a 24/7 fitness centre.
We noticed that many guests were there for leisure but the hotel provides facilities geared towards business travellers as well, namely two meeting rooms and a business centre.
The hotel is within the Thamel area — toward its periphery to be more exact. This means almost everything is an easy walk away. You can spend a day in the neighbourhood shopping for nice (or naughty) souvenirs. A pashmina scarf for your ma. A mini prayer wheel for your pa. A cute DIY tika powder kit for your niece (or yourself — we don’t judge). And a deck of Kamasutra playing cards for your “friend”. Traditional five-coloured prayer flags hung over our heads from one side of the road to the other, making the walk even more pleasant. Ride a colourful rickshaw. It may not look strong enough, but we tried it and it survived the weight of two people (one thin, one chubby).
Of course, do take time browsing through different shops for the best bargains. You’ll meet many street vendors, too and some maybe “very persistent” in their sale tactics. If you don’t want to engage don’t make any eye contact. The sheer multitude of sights and sounds before your eyes is awe-inspiring and you’ll be camera happy. Those who like street photography will have a field day.
The Great Boudha Stupa
We also highly recommend the Garden of Dreams. It’s just around the corner from the hotel — like walking from your home to a 7-Eleven in front of your soi. It’s a really nice garden with a gallery, bar, restaurant and beautiful structures inside. Obviously, every corner is Instagram worthy. Don’t be early though if you prefer a clear shot as staff may still be watering the plants. In the late afternoon leading up to the evening, there are some couples displaying mild PDA on the grounds. We say late mornings should be the best time to get beautiful shots and to chillax on the grass. Was it worth 200 Nepalese rupees (around B64) to get in? Definitely.
After a long day of exploring the neighbourhood, you may want to book, in advance, a relaxing sesh with a blind masseur at the Seeing Hands Clinic. The blind masseurs speak English well and are friendly. If you’ve filled your quota of local flavours, there are many restaurants and bars to check out. Pasta and pizza fans should stop by Fire and Ice for a hot slice. Or enjoy a proper dinner with live music in the enchanting atmosphere of New Orleans restaurant.
Fairfield by Marriott Kathmandu fares well in our books given its hospitable and attentive staff and very central location that automatically comes with easy access to many attractions. If you want to expand your horizons in Kathmandu without forgoing the comfort of a hotel, Fairfield is a good and affordable choice.
Fairfield By Marriott Kathmandu, Tridevi Marg, KMC — 29, Thamel, Kathmandu / www.fairfieldkathmandu.com / Approximately B3,500 per night.
We had an opportunity to explore well beyond Thamel, thanks to Fairfield by Marriott Kathmandu. Here are a few activities we recommend during a visit to Kathmandu:
Garden of Dreams.
Be a good Buddhist and stop by The Great Boudha Stupa, a Unesco World Heritage site. The famous giant stupa stands tall at 141 feet in the centre with a row of shophouses that forms a circle around it. The grand stupa contains nine elements, each of which has its own intricate symbol and meaning. There are other sacred sites within its precincts and we stopped at Guru Lhakhang Monastery to receive blessings from the local monks and circumambulate a red big prayer wheel. Pro tips according to the locals: do it once for a long life and do it 108 times to attain Nirvana. Obviously, we didn’t have enough time to walk around it 108 times because we’re still here. A good spot for souvenir shopping.
Take a rickshaw ride to Unesco-site Kathmandu Durbar Square to marvel at the ancient temples, palaces and shrines. The damage caused by the 2015 earthquake is still apparent but these structures are still sights to behold.
Patan Durbar Square.
The other Unesco-site we visited is Patan Durbar Square where we checked a former palace complex. One of the pieces de resistance is Tusha Hiti, a sunken bath lined with stone carvings in Sundari Chowk courtyard. Given its sheer and intricate beauty, it’s no wonder it served as a bathing pool for the kings. The Patan Museum is next door and houses many beautiful artefacts.
For people who spend most of their time at their desks (probably you, too), the closest (and safest) way to get to the top of Mount Everest is to board a Buddha Air plane to check out all the famous peaks. Have your camera ready, while the air hostesses guide you through the sights on this short flight. Bonus: You get to be in the cockpit with the pilots, too.
From left: Thamel; Tusha Hiti