Kathmandu is more than just Thamel and temples. In fact, during my trip to Kathmandu I loved walking through the bustling markets of Asan and the small and narrow streets leading off to small grocery stores, secret stupa’s and squares full or playing children.
Although I did like Thamel, it was the neighbouring area of Asan that stole my heart. We discovered Asan through a socialtours market tour and it might be one of the best urban tours I ever took!
Asan is a market area in the centre of Kathmandu. Although Asan is labelled as one of the main tourist attractions of the city, you won’t see that many tourists walking around. And the tourists you do see are often explorers with great respect for local customs and local inhabitants of this district.
Asan has been one of Kathmandu’s main market areas since ancient times due to the legendary India-Tibet trading route passing through. It reportedly gained the name Asan which means “here” after a fish fell from the sky.
Villagers obviously ascribed this miracle to the gods after which the spot attracted people from all over the country to come and see the miraculous fish. We all know fish has a tendancy to rot away, so when the people came to look for the spot where this miracle happened, the locals would lead them to where the fish fell and say “Asan” or “Here”.
This is obviously just a legend – but on the square itself you can still see a fish made of stone, adorning the place where this fish fell from the sky.
You can also find many temples and stupa’s in Asan – many of which can be find behind buildings or in little courtyards. This makes Asan one of the best areas in Kathmandu to explore. Not only will you be in awe of the many amazing fabrics and clothes for sale (often at very low prices!!!) but whenever you walk into Asan, there is something new to see!
Because Josh and I love food (have you read our post about the cooking class?? It is my fave cooking class ever!!) we decided to take a market tour of Kathmandu leading us past small stores, local market stalls and provide is with info about spices, food and the overall area.
Finding Social Tours was not as easy as anticipated. Social Tours is located in Thamel Mall just off Amrit Marg. We had problems finding it as we did not see any signs or plaques pointing us to social tours.
To make your lives easier: it is located in the coffee shop on the first floor, next to Melrose Bar and Restaurant. The coffee shop is actually very nice and I am sure that when Josh and I live in Kathmandu (we are actually looking if there is an opportunity for us to move there in the next few years), I would love to hotdesk in the coffeeshop!
Anyway, we took the afternoon tour and our tour guide – whose name I totally forgot but was incredibly nice!, welcomed us to Social Tours and made sure we were ready to take the walking tour.
The market tour started off in the bit of Asan by Thamel and took us through multiple small streets, past eager but very polite salesmen, smiling children and women busy haggling the price down on their weekly shop.
It honestly was an almost magical experience. Not only the hustle and the bustle of the city were disarming, also the general politeness and smileyness of the people were something that will always stay with me.
Our guide took us to the Asan general square where she explained the legend of the fish and took us to the temples, telling us about their significance, the history behind the temples and the gods they are serving.
I have to say that on my visit to Nepal I learned a lot about Hinduism and it might as well now be one of my favourite religions!
We stopped off at a very busy lassi stall. I am not a massive fan of milk and since I once got very very ill from bad/tainted/badly stored milk, I tend to be very careful. But we let the guide buy as a small lassi and were instantly disappointed we did not opt for the bigger size.
It literally was the best lassi I ever tasted and Josh and I even came back two times to buy a lassi from the stall!
We also visited a small Buddhist monetary tucked away on a square with a massive stupa. It was so nice to see the small monks playing with their teenage brothers – to see them being kids, basically.
I absolutely loved taking this market tour. It might as well have sparked my everlasting love for Kathmandu and Nepal in general. Even much so that we might want to move here in the not so far-off future.
Walking through the bustling streets, inspecting the wares and listening to the ton of information and knowledge our guide shared with us made this tour more than worthwhile the time and the money!
I felt that although we did explore Asan before the tour, we came to see Asan in a very different light, had more confidence walking through the streets and were able to get more out of our visit to – what I might call, the best part of Kathmandu!