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Living in Boudha, Kathmandu, Nepal

Written by Joshua Fuglsang on .

Boudhanath World Heritage Stupa

Introduction

For the final two weeks of my three month stint in Nepal I lived near the absolutely spectacular, world heritage Boudhanath Stupa. It is a beautiful part of the world and was a reasonable place to get some work done.

For the previous three months I had been almost exclusively travelling, so I was looking forward to some respite, especially considering my recent illness. I selected Boudhanath as the place to stay for a variety of reasons; firstly the air quality compared to the rest of Kathmandu is really quite good, if you stay in the right side street. Secondly I wanted somewhere spiritual to think about my time spent at Kopan Monastery. And finally it is just a lot more low-key than the frantically infamous streets of dusty, crumbling Thamel.

While staying here I spent most of my time getting my website up and running, and editing the articles that I had punched out on my phone while trekking in the Himalayas.

Accommodation

AirBnb near Boudhanath

AirBnb near Boudhanath

For accommodation I stayed in an AirBnb within walking distance to the stupa. I decided to stay here as I wished to have a place where I could cook by myself, and most guest houses don't have that option. I lucked out and found a place near the Tsechen Shedup Ling Sakya Tharig Monastery, which I believe is the best street to stay on for a couple of reasons. Firstly there is very little vehicle traffic, it's mostly just foot traffic, which made the experience of living in the area much more pleasant. Next this is the only major street that I found that didn't have a ticket checkpoint for you to enter the stupa ring. There are quite a lot of alley-ways and arcades to get in to the stupa without paying, but by living on this street you don't need to go out of your way to find one, you can just walk straight on in. I don't mind paying entrance fees as a tourist, but paying to enter an area that I lived in made a tad less sense.

Monks lighting candles near the stupa

Monks lighting candles near the stupa

Another option for living near the stupa is to stay at one of the guest houses; there are many guest houses available, a lot within the stupa ring itself. If you plan to stay here for an extended period of time, then I would suggest pre-booking for just a couple of nights, then hit the streets when you arrive to check out the available options. I was staying here during December and could find empty guest houses for the following day, but perhaps October (high season) would be a different story. In the last few days of my time here I booked a guest house right alongside the Tsechen Shedup Monastery; it was an awesome guest house in my favourite quite street that featured sunny rooms overlooking the walking street and a rooftop kitchen, while only costing 1500rs per night for a twin room. The only problem was the internet became quite congested in the evening. You can get rooms for 1000rs per night in the stupa ring, but a lot are tiny and don't have windows, such as the Boudha Inn Meditation Center.

Locals and travellers lighting candles near the stupa

Locals and travellers lighting candles near the stupa

Working Spaces

I was only staying in Boudha for two weeks, so didn't bother trying to find a co-working space, though there are some around but in other areas of the city. Within the stupa ring there are quite a lot of cafes that allow you to use their Wifi and occupy a table for extended durations, however consider making a reasonably-sized order for their hospitality, typically I would order a coffee and lunch. This is a tourist area and accordingly there is a figurative tourist tax (and literal service fee) applied to restaurant bills. However, in return the cafes here reward you with an excellent view of the stupa, great wifi (from my experiences), comfortable tables, and a willingness to stay for extended hours. I spent quite a few days at the Himalayan Java Cafe and most days would spend around 700rs, however the coffee here was fantastic, almost at Australian standards (😎). They also gave internet speeds of 36.2Mbps. Yikes!

Internet

4G in Nepal is really quite excellent; on Ncell I was getting speeds above 30Mbps in Kathmandu, and for 500rs (about $6AUD) you could buy a data pack of 2500mb. Also, note that Ncell sim cards cost 100rs, after that you can buy quota for them in the form of recharge cards. The recharge cards costs 100rs, 200rs, or 500rs each, which you can then spend on data packs. A word of warning: I heard of some vendors selling Nepal sims with data for more than 2000rs, so be careful. When you go to buy a sim you will need your passport and a passport photo handy. Finally make sure to get the vendor to activate your sim for you, otherwise you'll struggle as all the prompts are in Nepalese. Here are some links:

Food

Boudha had quite a few good eating options from Pizzerias costing almost as much as Australian pizza (read Roadhouse Cafe, I don't recommend it, though I realise some will relish it), to hidden Nepalese gems that cost just a couple of dollars per meal. My favourite Nepalese Restaurant in the ring, which was recommended to me by a Tibetan Monk, was called Thakali. It had really great meals without the unapologetic tourist prices of some of the western-styled restaurants nearby. You can't find this place on Google Maps, but is right next to Tibetan Kitchen, which is on Google Maps. Since this restaurant isn't listed online, it's not filled with droves of tourists, more commonly it had a gang of Monks or Nepali's eyeballing you as you entered, which I consider to be a good sign.

If you wish to cook then there are a lot of street vendors selling veges and fruit on the side streets surrounding the stupas. For 50rs (60c AUD) I could buy enough veges for 2 nights, then for another 55rs I could buy 500 grams of handmade noodles! Also, you have to try the curd in Nepal, it is excellent, but ask for an unsweetened one, it is much better. Curd, for those that aren't familiar, is similar to yoghurt. Outside on the main roads you will also be able to find a variety of supermarkets / grocery stores, just Nepali style.

Cooking up local ingredients

Cooking up local ingredients

Handmade noodles

Handmade noodle shop

Culture

Man in Patan

Man in Patan - He agreed to a photo

One of the best things about visiting Nepal is the people; they are, for the most part, extremely kind, and welcoming. This is especially the case when visiting the non-tourist areas. So, remember to return the respect and to say your Namastes.

Something to be aware of in Nepal are the beggars, you will be asked quite a lot for money while walking around. To manage this I would keep a daily budget of small notes in my pocket, as well as buy and keep food stuffs in my backpack for them. It wasn't much money, just a few dollars per day, but didn't leave me a feeling horrible when I didn't give them anything. A memorable sight is each morning a huge number of blind beggars would come out and line the footpath of the stupa, then monks and nuns from the nearby monasteries would handout food and money to each of them as they completed their morning circumambulations.

Fin!

Thanks for reading! Living in Boudha was a very special experience and quite conducive for getting some work done. It is a little more expensive than greater Kathmandu, but that is to be expected. You can keep you costs down a little by finding accommodation on foot and finding restaurants outside of the stupa ring. Overall I cant recommend staying in Boudha enough when compared to staying in Thamel. Staying in Thamel is good for a couple of days at best to experience its craziness. Boudha on the other hand is quite spectacular.

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