One of the closest towns from Kathmandu often feels like one of the farthest.
Like all peaceful places, Dhulikhel, especially at night, creates the effect of being a distant place; the 30 kilometers that separate it from Kathmandu can feel like 40 years. The silence, the high perch, the view—everything takes it further from the city, seemingly making it impregnable to the outside world. Sitting in the balconies marketed (rightly) for the splendid views they offer, you drift into reveries. And if you arrive for a stay from Kathmandu, like most people do, every effect is amplified. Dhulikhel is charming because Kathmandu is losing most of its allure. Perhaps it is this contrast to Kathmandu that alarms you when at night gazing at the light shimmering in the distance between the cleavage in the hills, you suddenly realize, somewhat distastefully, that those are of Kathmandu. You are reminded that you are not that far from what you have come to get away from.
But there are enough sites to visit and ample activities to engage the mind of the escapist in Dhulikhel. On a hill south of the town, reached by climbing almost a thousand steps, a giant Buddha statue sits cross-legged, its gaze fixed northwards. In the direction of the Buddha’s gaze, you can see, on clear days, a girdle of white peaks. Below them in the valley, mist rises like fumes from a cauldron full of a simmering concoction. At night, the droning of the planes you hear in the city is replaced by those of insects.
The town is a snug settlement of closely built traditional Newari houses. Old timers chat and their grandchildren play in the main square of the old town. The houses, most of them built by Newar merchants who used to trade in Tibet, enclose a traditional way of life. Perhaps in some sit elderly men, the last of those trans-Himalayan traders, reminiscing about the arduous journey to Lhasa. Lingering, too, with those old timers are fantastic fallacies: “You know Tibet was once part of Nepal.”
Surprisingly, Dhulikhel is as much a hub for those seeking an escape from the monotony of the indoors and the claustrophobic city as for those who come for the confines of a room. A good number of people come to Dhulikhel not to enjoy its sights or environment or the languor, but to sit in large halls for seminars, workshops and trainings. Sometimes you are outnumbered by a group of employees of some Kathmandu-based company at lunch in a hotel. After dinner, the same group is singing and dancing, relaxing after a day of work in a place where you have come to get away from work. Dhulikhel is far enough from the city to avoid its impact, but something of the city still spills into it. Looking at these groups you realize that going to Dhulikhel is not an escape but a trip to trade the kerfuffle of city life for the languor of the quiet town. It’s a good thing the destination is so close by.
Where to Go
A little higher up the hill of the giant Buddha is the Kali Temple, which affords a panoramic view of the Panch Khal Valley. For aficionados of long walks, a graveled road goes all the way to the road to Namo Buddha from the easternmost part of the town.
Places to Eat
The old town has ample Newari eateries. The matter-of-factly named Café Behind The House is one of the best places for Newari food.
Where to Stay
The Dhulikhel Village Resort
(www.dhulikhelvr.com.np) is located on a small hillock, providing an unobstructed view of the mountains. The aptly-named Langtang View Resort is in a secluded place with a great view of the mountains