Kathmandu is a mass of dusty, winding streets with backpackers dodging rickshaws ringing their merry bells, car horns bleeping, trekking companies, and last-minute shops full of outdoor gear next to local artisan textiles, beads and brassware. Nightlife is full of rock ‘n roll cover bands and Gorkha beer. It’s madness at its finest.
After your 4-day trek, 14-day trek, or 24-day trek, it can be a bit grating once you’ve checked off all the city sights. Get a massage and head towards the Garden of Dreams.
A Place to Escape the Chaos
Hidden behind high walls in the center of Kathmandu near Thamel, a region which caters to tourism, step off the busy street and enter a peaceful, Utopian garden, aptly named the Garden of Dreams.
The neo-classical Edwardian garden with flora from all over the world encompasses trickling fountains and greenery. Saunter around the neatly trimmed hedges, plop down on grassy terraces with a cold drink in hand, or opt for a posh coffee in the Kaiser Café. Just sit back and relax.
History Your Guide Books May Not Tell You
According to the history on GardenOfDreams.org, the design of the paved pathways, six pavilions, sunken flower garden, and lily pad-riddled pond are the genius, ‘the extraordinary vision and talent of one man’: Kaiser Shumsher JBR (1892 – 1964), son of then Prime Minister Chandra Shumsher, the Maharaja.
In the final paragraph it gives mention to the architect in charge, Kishore Narsingh Rana, who also designed Singha Durbar, today’s House of Parliament. What it fails to mention is that Kishore Narsingh and Chandra Shumsher had fallen out when the prime minister commissioned the very gifted architect to design a project that would give Kathmandu its first taste of electricity. He then gave the perfectly planned task to an English architect instead. Kishore Narsingh, of a lower rank and position, was deprived of the honor and glory that would have been bestowed upon him once he fulfilled his assignment, not to mention his name in history alongside Chandra Shumsher’s. Oddly enough – but who can blame him? – Kishore Narsingh refused to use electricity until the death of Chandra Shumsher in 1929, bitterly and resolutely resorting to outdated oil wick lanterns.
Interestingly, his accreditation on the website in the section History of Garden of Dreams has been reduced to one final and very brief paragraph. The site does, however, give perhaps a more accurate depiction of Kishore Narsingh’s role on the Welcome Page.
The garden fell into ruin once Kaiser Shumsher died, being turned over to the Nepali government. After lying dormant for decades, the Austrian Development Aid stepped in to recreate and renovate the garden over a 7-year span, in collaboration with the Nepali government and Ministry of Education. Today the once-private garden is open to the public for some much-appreciated respite.
Hours: 9 am – 10 pm
Price: 200 Rupees (~$2.30)