Narayanhiti Palace, the former royal palace in Kathmandu, makes for a fascinating if slightly weird visiting experience.
After the overthrow of the Nepalese royalty, the palace, built in the 1960s, was turned into a museum, and I can do no better here than quote a brilliant description from the Lonely Planet:
“Full of chintzy meeting rooms and faded 1970s glamour, the palace interior is more outdated than opulent; it feels a bit like the lair of a B-grade Thunderball-era James Bond villain.”
There is a distinct sense of faded, dusty opulence, as you wander past stuffed trophy animals and fascinating photos of the Who’s Who of the ’60s and ’70s visiting the royal family.
The atmosphere is quite relaxed inside the palace, the guards being friendly and unobtrusive.
At the gate all visitors have to leave bags, cameras and phones with security – they give you a locker – and so you wander round the rather confusing and rambling palace unencumbered.
If you tire of the high 1960s decor, the people watching is great.
It was the run up to Diwali when I visited, and so lots of country folk were wandering round, just as interested in us as in the black and white photos of their royal family.
As I stood in front of one royal portrait, trying to work out who was who, a charming man, speaking in a mix of Hindi and English, explained the portrait to me, translating back into Nepalese for the benefit of his admiring family, who giggled like crazy.
I enjoyed the photos the most, a real lesson in contemporary world history.
The entry fee varies according to nationality, and when I visited in October 2019, it was Rs 20 for Nepali students, Rs100 for Nepali citizens, Rs250 for SAARC citizens and Chinese, and Rs500 for everyone else.
Worth visiting, for a glimpse onto a royal world that disappeared in a very violent and dramatic manner.
By the way, in case you’re wondering, the photos are not mine. Remember I mentioned that cameras aren’t allowed? I found these online.