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What It's Like Living as a Local in Kathmandu, Nepal

Catch a glimpse of the local scenes as we traverse through the different aspects of living in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal as a local

Bhaktapur building and mountains

by Yashika CG

24 de oct de 2023

We are all unique and travel means so many different things to each one of us. Some of us like to experience luxury, soaking ourselves under the twilight sky in the infinity pool of an exotic resort, while some might want to conquer unexplored trails in the mountains. Some might find peace immersing themselves in spirituality while some might enjoy exploring as a local. These could be just a few of the plethora of experiences we seek. I belong to the latter category. The one that enjoys experiencing the people and places by being one among them.

The picture from the time my flight was preparing to land at Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu is still so fresh in my mind. I was excited to be in a country different from my own, I was open to the varied experiences that this place would bring. The valley appeared to be a Lego land from the sky with even-looking buildings made of bricks evoking a sense of simplicity. I remember sitting in the taxi on my way to Thamel wondering if it was a government agreement to have the buildings constructed to follow a theme. The shades of brown and maroon dominated the city giving it a vintage allure.

Living as a Local

Thamel, a buzzing commercial neighborhood in the city, has been my home for over a month now. The streets become more and more familiar every day. I have gotten myself familiarized with the energy of this place. The sight from the fourth floor of the apartment that I live in makes me believe that everything is alright. 

A shop with hand painted wooden masks and string puppets

Thamel neighborhood in Kathmandu | Photo by Laurentiu Morariu

The mornings begin with the sounds of devotional songs played aloud at the Ganesh Temple at Thahity Chowk around 5:00 am, local women set up their vegetable markets around the chowk at around 6:00 am. The taxi drivers and cycle rickshaws soon line up looking forward to the day in anticipation of some good business.

The garbage collection truck arrives around 7:00 a.m. with a loud alarm waking the whole city up. Distinguishing between the alarm sounds of police, ambulance, and garbage trucks takes real skills. In no time, people gather around the truck with bags of all sizes ranging from large sacks to small ones as they toss them aiming at the top of the truck.

The chowk is a square with a central garden or a shrine and buildings and streets surrounding it. Thahity Chowk is filled with bakeries, restaurants, small eateries, pharmacies, souvenir shops, a garage, small apartments, and a Temple. The streets come alive as the shop owners begin setting up their displays a little later in the morning as the women wind up their vegetable displays.

Local Connections

The tea shop owner downstairs now knows that I will show up with two paper cups to carry milk tea every day. A five-minute walk to the Kaathe Swyambhu Stupa and spending some time slowing down, observing the pigeons that flock in and out in large numbers to grab a few bites of corn kernels that the devotees offer has become a morning routine. The small grocery shop owner within the stupa complex tells me that the Buddha statue is said to have been brought from Kashi (an ancient pilgrimage town in India). The laundry guy now randomly walks to me offering a high five. “Let me know if you need any help around here, consider me your brother”. He says with a beaming smile.

A Nepali Temple

Photos by Yashika CG

Shopping Destinations

Asan Bazaar, one of Nepal's oldest markets, has become the new shopping destination. Nunn dekhi sunn samma (you’ll find everything from salt to gold), says a local friend.

The market has a central square from which the streets radiate outward. That’s a common structure across the valley. A square with a central garden or shrine with streets radiating outwards. Each street is dedicated to a certain category of items. Clothes and shoes, metal items and artifacts, masks and wooden artifacts, spices and groceries to name a few.

I no longer need the GPS to navigate my way to Kathmandu Durbar Square and the maze-like streets don’t overwhelm me anymore. Rather they make me feel safe. Being part of local festivals seems like a natural thing to do. Be it joining the community processions during Indra Jatra or visiting Durga temples during Dashain.

Local Culinary Delights

Chenna and Aloo (Boiled brown chickpeas and potatoes seasoned with spices) or sel roti (a ring-shaped fried dough made of rice flour) is now a breakfast favorite. Lassi (sweetened yogurt topped with dry fruits) at Indra Chowk is no more a fantasy, it’s just a part of everyday life.

Back from my evening walk to Durbar Square, I see a street vendor finely chopping carrots, capsicums, and thin strips of buff (dried buffalo meat). She tosses them on the frying pan with hot oil along with a handful of boiled noodles to make chow mein while her daughter is busy wrapping the stuffing into the momos. Buff is the city's hot favorite. Buff momos, buff fry, buff soup, buff curry, buff in all forms. She makes me a plate of veg chow mein excluding the buff.


The city begins to shut down by 8:00 p.m. as the shop owners pack up their displays and pull down the shutters as they return home. In my opinion, living as a local gives the real taste of a place, that which goes beyond what a tourist gets to experience. A glimpse into people’s lives, their concerns and priorities, and their basic need for connection that shows up in so many forms. Sometimes loud and sometimes as subtle as a familiar eye contact.

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