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Gap year in Kathmandu


Know your city

Gap year in Kathmandu, Nepal Few cities in the world can evoke such mysticism and excitement as Kathmandu, capital of Nepal and gateway to the highest mountains in the world. Once a shrine of the 60s ‘hippie’ generation, Kathmandu has maintained its exoticism. But these days it is a bustling capital city, home to international businesses, NGOs and a thriving tourist industry.

With a population of around 700,000, and constantly growing due to the inward migration of rural peoples, the city is in danger from both general air pollution and road paralysis. This is caused by the volume of traffic in the medieval street of this historic town which now have to cope with everything from rickshaws to buses and freight transport.

Thamel, the tourist centre, is a mass of small streets, garlanded with boutique shops selling handicrafts and with tourist ‘touts’ offering treks throughout Nepal. There are small hotels and guesthouses on every street corner, many offer a good basic quality.

Within Thamel there are Western-style bakeries and coffee shops a-plenty, and even an Italian Pizza specialist. They fight for tourist attention with delicious Tibetan, Indian and Nepali restaurants.

Travel in and out of Kathmandu is by air from India or from other international destination, but also increasingly from internal locations such as Pokhara, Jomson and Namche Bazaar. There are also bus communications to and from India.

There is a flourishing private education sector in the City, although the state sector is variable and often poorly equipped. The need for good English language skills is paramount. Nepal’s only University, Tribhuvan, is expanding fast and developing international links.

History of the city

Founded in 723 AD at the confluence of two important rivers, the Bagmati and the Vishnumati. The name Kathmandu came from the Kastamanadap temple which was built at this important crossroads. During the 14th century, the three towns of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur were unified and Kathmandu became the main administrative centre.

Following the Gorkha unification of the kingdom by King Prithvi Narayan Shah in the 17th Century, Kathmandu became the capital. Much of its medieval splendour remains but this was added to in the 19th century by the ruling Rana family, whose extensive travels abroad brought a European influence into the city’s buildings. The Singha Durba palace, for example, with its 1500 rooms, was reputed to be the largest building in Asia when it was built in 19001.

Business in the city

Business has tended to be focussed on the tourist sector; hotel building and management, trekking and mountain climbing organisations. Brick building, clothing and furniture are important sectors and there is a large carpet making industry, frequently run by Tibetan immigrants. There are signs of some outsourcing businesses moving to Kathmandu, although poor telecommunications within the City are hampering growth of this sector.

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