James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

Where did you come from—Kathmandu?

This week Roads & Kingdoms takes you to the city of temples, the valley of gods, and a land with hundreds of buffalo meat dishes.

This post originally appeared on July 20, 2018, in Anup Kaphle’s weekly newsletter. Read the archives and subscribe to the newsletter.

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The first time I heard someone sing an English song about Kathmandu, my home country’s capital, was when I listened to Bob Seger on the radio. He was thinking about going to Kathmandu if he ever got out of here.

Nobody really knows if Seger ever made it to Kathmandu. But you can.

And we are here to ~guide~ you.

Yesterday, we launched our latest destination on R&K city guides—and it’s K-k-k-k-kathmandu.

There are many reasons to visit Kathmandu, but the easiest one to convince yourself might be this: it’s one of the most magical and welcoming cities in the world. But there is no doubt it will also overwhelm you. We have this excellent list of things you should know before you go. Most important suggestion: Buy a really good dust mask. We also have a thorough piece, by one of the country’s most experienced pilots, on navigating the country’s only international airport, often ranked as one of the world’s worst airports. But as Vijay Lama writes, “Kathmandu offers plenty of adventure and zen, but to get to those, you’ll have to first go through a few hours of agony.”

Every piece in the Kathmandu guide is unique—both in delivery and tone. This killer walking tour of the city’s designated tourist quarter, by Rabi Thapa, is one of the most authentic guides you’ll find on Thamel. Yukta Bajracharya tells you about the secret place to hide in Kathmandu when you want to escape from Kathmandu. Prawin Adhikari’s love letter to raksi makes a strong case for why drinking the fiery Nepali homebrew is nearly a civic necessity. And one of Nepal’s young transgender activists writes about her perfect dish: a pocket of buffalo tripe stuffed with bone marrow and then deep-fried—and how the dish is disappearing, just like the ancient structures in her historic city, Patan. You also don’t want to miss this epic playlist for Kathmandu, masterfully put together by Amish Mulmi, with songs that tell the story of the city and its people.

What about food and booze? Sophia Pande has an excellent list of places to eat, drink, and wander about in the city. Start with a cup or two of smooth aged Newari homebrew at one of Kathmandu’s finest boutique hotels, followed by a dinner of boar belly and beans at Le Sherpa. Then wash it all down with a glass of refreshing pastis. It’s an evening well spent.

We hope you enjoy the full guide. We hope the images of Kathmandu’s people and its dishes will entice you. We also hope you plan your trip to Kathmandu.

A reminder: we’re also giving away a free culinary trip to Tokyo. Don’t forget to sign up.

Before I take off, let me tell you about the last time I think I heard someone sing an English song about Kathmandu. I had freshly arrived in the United States, nearly 15 years ago. I was inside a bar in Knoxville, Tennessee, and there was a song playing in the background:

Where did you come from, where did you go? Where did you come from—Kathmandu?

I hummed the song to myself for a few days before finally asking a friend if she knew who’d sung the song. She asked me to hum it. I did it again: Where did you come from, where did you go? Where did you come from—Kathmandu?

“He’s not saying Kathmandu,” my friend said. “He’s saying Cotton-Eye Joe.”

Happy Friday. See you all next week.

[Cover image, by Ashish Bajracharya, shows the 12th-century Golden Temple in Patan.]

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