Rarely am I keen to follow the city walking tours in the Lonely Planet guides, however I had a feeling the one from Thamel to Durbar Square in Kathmandu would be interesting.
As I left the tourist area, I soon found myself passing Buddhist monasteries, stupas, and Hindu temples left and right. Walking through the older part of the city, you felt as though little had changed over the centuries. Daily life was on display, up close and personal, whether it was the butchering of goats, sale of vegetables, or praying of Hindus.
Every now and then I'd spot a tourist having as much trouble taking photos as me. There was simply too much going on…to many amazing shots. Eventually, I just gave up. It didn't help that my camera had been having technical problems since the end of my trek, making quick shots more difficult.
After about an hour of winding my way south, I arrived at Durbar Square. Durbar means palace so there are actually several Durbar Squares in the Kathmandu Valley. Sometimes it pays to be completely unaware of the sights you're going to see because it means you leave yourself open to be completely surprised (usually in a good way, though not always).
I studied a bit of architecture in college, though mostly Medieval and Modern. I was blown away by the pagodas in the square – their shapes, intricate woodwork, everything! After saying “no” to about five guys who wanted to be my guide, I sought food on a rooftop restaurant overlooking the square. The midday sun was intense, so I had some fruit with yogurt (known as curd over here).
Then it was off to Swayambhunath Stupa (aka the monkey temple) because in the Kathmandu Valley, one World Heritage Site per day is child's play!