Written October 26, 2012
Arriving in Kathmandu after being in Varanasi felt like arriving in Rome after traveling in Sicily. By any “normal” standards Kathmandu is a chaotic, dirty mess, but not compared to India. Driving in from the airport the city seemed clean, calm and do I dare say peaceful?
The Thamel neighborhood is a backpacker’s haven filled with shops catering to travelers heading to more remote destination. Here you can fill your belly with those western treats you’ve been longing for, stock up on trekking necessities, buy souvenirs or just find a quiet place to have a cup of coffee or a beer. This is by no means the “real” Kathmandu, and if you want to explore Nepalese culture you would be better off staying somewhere else. For those staging an up-coming trek, however, or perhaps coming down from one, Thamel has most everything you need.
The Ambassador Garden Home is a tranquil oasis in the heart of bustling Thamel. Rooms are clean, comfortable and simply decorated. The communal spaces, an indoor sitting area with a couple of computers and an enclosed courtyard, are also smartly decorated and a pleasant place to hang out. Staff is friendly and helpful. Wifi is free, although not all rooms receive a strong signal. The hotel is also a short 10 minute walk from the Greenline bus station offering tourist class buses to Pokhara.
Thamel House – This place gets rave reviews on Trip Advisor and in Rough Guide. The atmosphere is pleasant with tables generously spaced in a large brick enclosed outdoor courtyard. The service is fun with friendly waiters dressed in traditional dress. On a stage in the center of the courtyard traditional dances are performed every so often.
Unfortunately the food falls flat. Starters, fried potatoes and the local momo dumplings, are cold. The soup is both spicy and tasteless; a combination that is hard to achieve. The main dish on the preset menu is a sampling of various meat stews that range from OK to bland. But they do serve free local hard liquor in tiny flat clay pots, whoo hoo!
Roadhouse Café – Pizza that tastes like real western pizza, baked to order in a wood burning oven and served in an attractive courtyard with solid wooden furniture. What more could you ask for? See Thamel map for the location of the café.