If you have been living amidst the serenity of the mountains for more than a few days, you don't really want to return to the chaos of civilisation. Whatever beauty that man tries to build, whatever magnificence that he tries to mimick, whatever awe he hopes to create... everything will be a pale comparison to what the Nature so effortlessly (or so it seems) puts together. So when I tell you that I didn't really dig Thamel or Bhakatapur, I hope you will get the right perspective. Thamel is the place where most tourists on a budget stay at Kathmandu. It very much resembles the Avenue Road area at Bangalore or the Parry's Corner at Chennai. Narrow lanes crammed with hotels and shops, people moving about looking like they know where they are going, police keeping a tab here and there....and the inevitable dust, controlled chaos and energy typical to such places. One can't wait to get out of the lanes to the calm and comfort of their hotel room. But hey, that's my opinion - otherwise, I think, the wider world thinks Thamel is a charming little place friendly on the discerning traveller who wants to feeeeeel the 'culture'.
Budget hotels, Souvenir shops, AtoZ stores, ever willing to help local folks, 'authentic' feel and so on and so forth....what's not to like, eh? Uh, sure, if you say so. As for me, I hate being surrounded by eye candy that you can't afford to buy (not necessarily because of the price but baggage limitations and self imposed mental restraint :p). They are a constant reminder of human need to 'build a home' and 'fill it with beautiful but useless things'. Oh, the turquoise necklace there, the rudraksha bracelets here, the smiling Buddha there, gory masks here, Yak bells there, prayer wheels here, bags there, cute little woollen hats here.....oh, so tiring just to look at them all and simply admire, forget about acquiring them to 'remember my trip to Nepal' back home. One day should suffice to take all that 'beauty' in. I am staying here for five days.... you can imagine my daze!
Bhakatapur is about 17 kilometres or so from Thamel. It's a 700 year old ancient city filled with beautiful Temples, wonderful architecture, mysterious courtyards, nagging hawkers, friendly shop keepers, and selfie obsessed tourists. If you have been to Hampi or Mahabalipuram on a nice day, By seem like just a tick in the box. But it's nice. To take pictures. To feel the culture. To know the history so that you can write the thesis you have been planning for so long. To admire all that artwork and go back inspired to paint the next ravi varma. To buy Souvenirs. To taste that JuJu yogurt that you get only at Bhakatapur and no where else in the world (except in India where we call it misti dohi). God, when did I become so jaded, sigh!