Western Tandoori

westernTandoori

Imagine someone telling you about a restaurant where you can get enough naan and curry to stuff two people for less then $5. Then imagine that when you get there it’s closed for the holidays and won’t be opening again until you leave for you trek. If you imagined feeling like getting kicked in the nuts, that’s how I felt too!

Luckily, when we got back from our trek, Western Tandoori was open again and it was even better than we expected. While many of the items on the menu weren’t available because of the fuel crisis, we were well contented with what was available. The menu consists mostly of breads: naan, roti, and paratha; and things to eat with them: curries, paneer, palak, and omelets.

There are many other restaurants that offer similar menus, but other than a random tandoori we went to near the US embassy (like an hour away), none have been as tasty.

Thakali Bhanchha (Kitchen)

Go here for your dhal bhat fix.

Go here for your dhal bhat fix.

Food in the Everest area is expensive especially the higher you get in elevation. Robin and I tried to hack the system by skipping lunch and eating Dhal Bhat as much as possible since we could gorge on the free refills. I must have eaten it for 80-90% of my dinners.

While most people never wanted to eat dhal bhat again…ever, I found myself craving it when I got back to Kathmandu. I found it here for cheaper than anywhere on my treks and, that’s right and, it’s cheaper here, in addition, that’s right in addition, it comes with more types of dishes plus, of yeah there’s a plus, they come around almost constantly asking if you want more of anything!

The dal bhat comes with rice, vegetable curry, pickled vegetables, greens, dal, and some amazing peanut dish (all unlimited). You also get a small dish of sweet yogurt (might be curd…not sure) for desert to cleanse the palate after such a flavorful meal. For the meat lover, you can order the dal bhat with chicken or mutton, but the meat is not refillable. On the treks, dal bhat cost 350-700 rupees (no meat). The one here is much, much better and went for 200 rupees (veg) and 300-320 rupees (meat).

Since we were there during a fuel shortage, the rest of the menu was very limited. I remember momos, and a few snacks being on the menu but I only had the dal bhat and lassi. Like on the treks, this meal is the best bang for your buck in Kathmandu.

 

Snack Shack Thingy

It looks shabby, but the snacks are cheap and tasty.

It looks shabby, but the snacks are cheap and tasty.

I would always see a lot of locals snacking here with big smiles so one day I decided to just go for it and try it out (actually, I stared at the place shyly and the owner waved me over). They serve a few snacks and tea but at very low prices. I got an omelet sandwich and a cup of masala tea for 60 rupees. They also had some spicy peanut thing, noodle soup, and a few other goodies for low prices. It’s the cheapest place in Thamel for a snack that I had to balls to try to out.

I'm not sure what's in all the pots but the egg sandwich is a quick, cheap snack.

I’m not sure what’s in all the pots but the egg sandwich is a quick, cheap snack.

Shonas

Do most of your gear shopping here.

Do most of your gear shopping here.

There are literally dozens of gear Shops in Thamel. In most of them you have to haggle about prices and the owners aren’t very forthcoming about which gear is authentic and which is a Chinese knockoff (although many of the knockoffs are pretty obvious (I mean a Northface down jacket for $@20, come on)). I did most of my gear shopping at Shonas because they are fixed priced and straightforward about what is real and what isn’t. They are also honest about the quality of the bootleg gear so can decide if you want to shell out more for quality or make due with the fake stuff.

In addition, Shona’s husband gave very good advice about what you will definitely use, and what you want in case the shit hits the fan. Several items I was unsure about buying such as crampons and waterproof hiking boots (I did the Annapurna Circuit in New Balances and didn’t want to spend money upgrading them for the Three Passes Trek), but I followed his advice and bought everything he recommended anyway. It would have been possible to do the Three Passes trek without the low-cost knockoff crampons he sold me, but they made some of the passes much easier and he didn’t try to upsell me on a more expensive pair. As for the boots, he highly recommended getting a waterproof pair even though he didn’t sell boots. After thinking about it for a night, I bought a lightweight pair at the real Northface store and was very happy I did or else I would’ve had wet, cold feet for most of the trip.

Finally, they also rent their own brand of sleeping bags and don’t charge cleaning fees. They are cheap to rent, about 70-100 npr per day and pretty good quality. They are bigger and heavier than my bag back home, but they kept me plenty warm just the same.

My only complaint is that Shona’s son sold us a map of the Everest region that didn’t cover Renjo pass even though he knew we were doing the Three Passes Trek. Otherwise I am totally happy with their shop and regardless, I highly recommend doing your gear shopping there.

New Hotel President

Not the newest hotel in town but perfect for the budget traveler who will be in Kathmandu for a while.

Not the newest hotel in town but perfect for the budget traveler who will be in Kathmandu for a while.

Applying for our Indian visa required us to stay in Kathmandu for several days so we looked for a cheaper place to stay than the Avalon Hotel. While having a snack we ran into a couple of kayakers who told us about the New President Hotel. We checked it out and were glad we did.

Positives: It is cheap. At the time of writing we were quoted a price of 600 npr per night for a large room with a double bed, a single bed, and our own bathroom and shower. We were able to negotiate a cheaper rate on top of this. On Sunny days, there are warm showers in the room, and when that is not available, the Hotel manager lets you use the gas powered hot shower in her room. Drinking water is provided free of charge. The room is spacious and has two power outlets. The owners are very friendly, you can hear the Didi cackling her laugh all day. The wifi is pretty good (much better than Avalon House) and we were able to get it in our room. The hotel is tucked down an alley so you don’t get much of the hustle and bustle of the tourists in town. Finally, the place is located smack in the middle of Thamel, so you are near a lot of good restaurants, shops, and most importantly, the climbing gym.

Negatives: It is old and dingy looking. The owners do their best to keep the place clean. They mop the stairs and the halls and clean the rooms thoroughly. However, it’s a really old place, so the carpets are stained, and the bathroom and toilet have mildew in them. Lastly, the walls are thin, so it can get quite loud if there are a lot of other guests in the hotel. We were unfortunate to have loads and loads of kayakers staying the night when we were there, so we were woken up more than once to kayaks scraping the stairs in the middle of the night.

All-in-all, if you can look past the cosmetic flaws of this hotel, it is a great value for the price and I highly recommend it for the budget traveler.

Astrek Rock Climbing Gym

It doesn't look like like a climbing gym from the outside but trust me it is.

It doesn’t look like like a climbing gym from the outside but trust me it is.

Remember, this is Nepal not the US and A. That’s what I kept repeating to myself as I walked to Astrek for the first time. I was expecting a let down like when I first entered a Korean climbing gym. Luckily Astrek was better than expected.

There is a top rope/sport climbing wall with about six anchors. Each anchor having three or four routes. The setting is so-so, similar to the setting in Korea with bigger hand holds and few added foot holds, so you need to high step onto the hand holds below for your feet. I don’t like that grades are not marked.

Decent wall, but I wasn't a huge fan of the setting.

Decent wall, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the setting.

There are two small bouldering caves as well and a couple of hangboards. The bouldering is small and there are no problems marked so you have to make up your own up. I personally don’t mind this style, but there are several blank sections on the bouldering walls so it’s hard to get variety on the problems.

The people who work there are super friendly and speak English well also. In addition, the wifi is pretty good, they have decently priced snacks and tea, and a good selection on beer including some nice Belgians since you are probably sick and tired of the light, watery beers of Asia. Astrek is cheap as far as climbing gyms go, 400 npr for a day pass and half that if you finish before 4pm.

Basically, Astrek is not enough if it was your home climbing gym, but plenty to keep you busy for an afternoon or to get a bit or training in after 20 days of trekking shrunk your forearms to normal people size.

Mandap Hotel Bakery

The baked goods are already cheap, but after 8pm they are half off!

The baked goods are already cheap, but after 8pm they are half off!

Normally, I’m not huge on sweets, but when we were trekking there were some days when we hiked 15+ miles and the temptation of the baked goods in the windows of the guesthouses overpowered our instinct to be a cheap-asses and had to splurge the 300-400 rupees on a little piece of baked heaven. In Katmandu the same cookies, pies, and cakes were available at many bakeries for a quarter of the price. The bakery at Mandap Hotel is my favorite for one reason. It has 50% off of most items after 8pm. So after some intense curry at Western Tandoori, something sweet to cleanse the palate is in order. At the Mandap bakery, I could get an Apple crumble turnover or a cinnamon roll for 40-50 cents and a brown roll or a garlic roll for 20 cents for a cheap breakfast the next morning. Just remember to get there as close to 8pm as possible as there are a few people (like me) who get there right on time and swoop up on the best options leaving you with the dregs of dessert choices.

Nabil Bank ATM

Kathmandu, especially Thamel has plenty of ATMs for you to get cash for our Dhal Bhat fix but most of them have a limit of only 100,000 rps. The 500 rps service charges for withdrawals add up quickly. The one ATM I found with a 350,000 limit is for Nabil Bank. They still have a 500 rps service charge, but at least you don’t have to use it as often. They are found all over Thamel, but here is one location to get you started. Their logo is green.

Best Shopping Center

The owners of this place didn’t waste any brainpower thinking of a clever name for this place. Instead, they used it on pricing their items lower than their competitors. There are loads and loads of marts all over Thamel. There are definitely cheaper options outside of Thamel, but for the area, I’ve found this to be the cheapest. You especially can’t beat the price for beer as big bottles of San Miguel are only 200 rps.

Shop Right

This is definitely not the cheapest option in town, Best Shopping Center just a 2-minute walk away is definitely cheaper. But Shop right is huge and has everything you need including maps, some electronics, and even small scales if you want to weigh your bags. It also has a lot you probably don’t need like DVDs. So my advice is to go first to Best Shopping Center then finish up your shopping list here for whatever you can’t find there.