it's summertime and the livin' is easy. Monsoon in Kathmandu: it's hitting 30 degrees and the air is so thick you can slice it with a cocktail stirrer. The most effort one can muster is to signal a passing waiter that you need a refill. Nepali Times takes the legwork out of bar-hopping by offering you a comprehensive guide to the best monsoon watering holes in the Valley. Chin chin.
ALL ROADS LEAD TO THAMEL
The brightly lit heartland of tourist tack offers a bonanza of bars for a casual night out that's easy on the wallet.
Past the main chowk, into one of the narrow alleys and up one flight of narrow stairs is Maya Cocktail Bar-a little piece of Mexico that does not make idle boasts of mixing the best cocktails in town. Get in between 4-10PM, a generously long Happy Hour, and you'll score a free drink for every one you order. Maya has genuine Mexican tequila, the worm is optional. Knock back enough of those and you may find yourself on a Tijuana-bound flight.
Just around the corner warm candlelight bathes wreaths of corn and chili on adobe walls and rough furniture at the Roadhouse Caf?. For the slightly more upscale hombre, the bartender rustles up the best daquiris and martinis. They have a decent wine list-guaranteed nothing from those icky cardboard 'casks'-liqueurs, draft beer, cocktails and the rest of the usual suspects. Excellent nibbles too. The satay, humous and woodfired pizzas are divine.
An illuminated blackboard on a Thamel street says "Tom and Jerry Pub two flights up", not that the regulars need directions. An old favorite where travellers and locals mingle, the pub is never empty. In the tradition set by Rum Doodle, many a visitor has felt compelled to leave a souvenir at Tom and Jerry. Some return to reminisce over extra stout Guiness or a special creamy cocktail.
Far from the well-trodden path of Lonely Planet toters, Sam's Bar is the sort of place you stumble upon and want to keep among a select few. It's casual, laid back and has enough (nice) graffiti on the walls to fill a book. Saturday evenings is Reggae Night-Bob Marley and Peter Tosh all washed down with whatever is your pleasure. The terrace tables, shrouded by young bamboo, are highly coveted and if it rains you needn't relocate thanks to a spanking new retractable roof.
Then, there is the legendary Rum Doodle, the highest-located bar situated at 40,000?ft. It recently relocated to much larger premises on a quiet Thamel sidestreet. Rum Doodle is an unofficial museum to mountaineering, trekking and adventure tourism doodads that have been bequeathed by visitors who drop in for a drink and stay till dawn. Fittingly, it hosted a big dinner for the who's who of mountaineering on 27 May as part of the Everest Jubilee Celebrations. Tall tales abound.
Another noteworthy tavern is Tantra in Jyatha. Its intimate ambience makes it very appropriate for a little down time. The fusion menu is a delight and the new cocktails are fast becoming the toast of the town. For sheer novelty, seat yourself on their unique saddle bar stools and pretend to be a cowboy. Between 4-8PM, the second drink is on the house.
At Paknajol, the quieter end of Thamel, is a little Nepali house that has been reborn as Via Via, the living stone travellers caf?. Philip Henderickx mixes an exotic number of drinks, including the Via Via Special, rakshi fused with lemon, sugar syrup and soda over ice. If you stumble in late enough on the right night you'll find DJs from around the world spinning some bumping beats.
Just a stone's throw from Thamel but a world away in ambience is the original Lodging Part. If you're looking to jazz up your evening, make your way to this street where a bouquet of bars could be just the thing.
The new avatar of the Jazz Bar in Shangri-la Hotel, scheduled to reopen in the first week of June, will be known as Not Just the Jazz Bar and they're flying in international artists who will perform jazz combos, modern pop and blues. On alternate Friday nights come salsa with Kathmandu's resident salsero, Diego Saenz. Oh, yes, all drinks half price in June.
Upstairs Jazz Bar is home to Nepal's hottest contribution to the world of jazz. On Wednesday and Saturday nights Cadenza's music flows into the sidewalks below. Kumar, the barman, mixes a mean cocktail and has been known to redo one if it doesn't meet his personal standards. The menu is limited, not that it matters because everyone homes in on the melt-in-the-mouth momos.
At the end of the road is The Red Onion Bar. In its four years of operation it has earned a reputation as one of Kathmandu's best bars. The wine list has an array that spans whole continents and features more than 150 cocktails. The bar gets its name from the traditional red onion trade between Nepal, Tibet and India, and displays a scooter that was used to ferry onions 80 years ago. The regular clientele is a sober crowd from business houses, banks, development agencies, embassies and the like. They let their hair down on Wednesday and Saturday nights when live bands introduce a little shake, rattle and roll.
Just next door at the Radisson is the six-storey-high Splash Bar & Grill with great sunset views and the Lazimpat forest. It is gaining a Friday following with a live band, innovative drinks and their Cajun Chicken Salad.
No bar crawl would be complete without dropping into the Rox Bar at Hyatt Regency. The trendiest bar in town, on weekends the blond wood and marble floor is teeming with life from wall to granite studded wall. Drinks and food are on the pricey side but that's only to be expected because this is where Kathmandu comes to see and be seen-and don't mind paying for it either. The Friday nights cover charge alone is Rs 300 for ladies and Rs 500 for gentlemen. The Rox has a dress code too so make sure you don't rock up in your chappals.
If an evening among sophisticates is what you desire then look no further than the Piano Lounge Bar at the Yak & Yeti Hotel. The resident in-house Irish band An Fainne is the perfect accompaniment to comparing the merits of perhaps the largest collection of single malts in the kingdom.
ACROSS THE BRIDGE
Patan used to be a back water. No more. Now Patan residents don't need to cross the sewer to go to Thamel.
Tucked into a quiet corner of Pulchowk, is a place where art, music, food and drink come together beautifully at a price that won't break the bank. Enter the peaceful premises of Moksh run by Dolly Yakthumba, former fashion model and present restaurateur. Mukut Bar offers special summer drinks like non-alcoholic celery punch. If you like vitamins with a bite try the carrot punch spiked with vodka. Music is always on the agenda with Dolly's husband Nirakar holding impromptu jam sessions with his hugely popular band 1974 AD. Regular gigs feature jHola on Tuesday nights and Abhaya and the Steam Injuns on Fridays.
The Red Onion Bar
Splash Bar & Grill