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Travel, Teach, Live in Asia

How to Spend a Week in Kathmandu, Nepal
By:Elizabeth Smith

Eat your way around the world. Kathmandu is famous for its odd variety of restaurants. You can find the Nepalese version of almost any international cuisine, particularly along the streets of Thamel, the main tourist district. Don't expect the food to be similar to home, though, as Nepalese cooks offer their own interpretation of other cultures' foods. For excellent bread and baked goods, try the Brezel Bakery, across from the Kathmandu Guesthouse.

Explore Pilgrim's Books. This sprawling bookstore in Thamel is a Kathmandu institution. Here, you can find books of all genres, souvenirs, postcards, and stationary supplies. The English-speaking staff is friendly and helpful, and the store boasts one of the largest stocks of expedition literature in the city. Take your time, and be sure to explore the upper floors, where floor-to-ceiling bookshelves line the walls.

Shop for knock-off gear. Kathmandu is a bargain-hunter's paradise. Endless shops selling knock-off outdoor gear line the streets, each boasting a different quality level. Once you have an item in mind, don't be afraid to bargain. Shopkeepers will quote an initial price that is far higher than the item's worth and the amount for which they are willing to sell. Be persistent, and if you cannot negotiate a satisfactory price, walk out the door. Often, signs of disinterest or leaving are enough to get a good price. Be aware of the currency conversion rate, however; it isn't worth haggling for an hour over an amount that equals less than one US dollar.

Head for the hills. The smog and exhaust in Kathmandu can be exhausting; for a change of pace, take a day trip into one of the surrounding hill towns. If you're brave, you can navigate the bus system by yourself. If not, hire a guide from one of the many travel agencies in Kathmandu. Your guide will arrange transportation and tours, and will provide an interesting and educational narrative as you explore.

Make friends. Travelers who land in Kathmandu tend to be of a certain hardy, adventurous type. In cafes and at your guesthouse, you are likely to meet solo trekkers returning from the Annapurna region, or perhaps members of an expedition to climb Mt. Everest. Don't be afraid to start up a conversation with the person at the next table; the Kathmandu traveling community is small and friendly. You might just learn about a hidden gem of a restaurant, or hear stories about a grueling mountain ascent.

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