The Kathmandu most travellers come to see is the old city, a tangle of narrow alleys and temples immediately north and south of the central Durbar Square. It’s a bustling quarter, where tall extended-family dwellings block out the sun, open-fronted shops crowd the lanes and vegetable sellers clog the intersections. The fundamental building block of the old city is the bahal (or baha) – a set of buildings joined at right angles around a central courtyard. Kathmandu is honeycombed with bahal, many of which were originally Buddhist monasteries, but have since reverted to residential use.
Though the city goes to bed early, there’s always something happening from before dawn to around 10pm, including early morning religious rites (puja) and after-dinner devotional hymn-singing (bhajan) in the neighbourhoods of Indrachowk, Asan or Chhetrapati.