In the case of Kathmandu this thankfully proved true after braving the erratic, noisy, seemingly relentless traffic that regularly turns the Nepalese capital’s roads into a metallic zoo.
Up wide steps and past a uniformed doorman, this old world charm manifests itself in a beautifully restored lobby featuring more pillars, plush furniture, crystal chandeliers and collected historical objects.
At one end, an intricately carved wooden door accesses a snug watering hole with a variety of refreshments and a quaint feel with feature 200 year-old carved windows.
While further restoration is underway in other parts of the hotel - the first four-star property in Nepal - you rarely hear the work.
Entry is via the hotel’s Cosy Kailash restaurant, which boasts a multi-cuisine menu and an intimate setting.
Some of these old world features extend to selected rooms, notably suites.
Where our standard room was more practical and comfortable than a reflection of the noble nature of the building’s exterior, some boast ornate ceilings hinting at regal past inhabitants.
Hotel Shanker’s stand-out architecture sits a 15-minute walk from the Thamel district; a bustling, hectic, at times ramshackle, tourist-thronged area where much of the nightlife unfolds.
At night, a myriad bars and restaurants offer good value eats and Western-priced adult refreshments, some smoke-clogged dens, others - such as New Orleans Cafe - a beautifully preserved courtyard with chilled music and authentic Nepalese dishes, belying the venue name.
Occasional crumbling streets and buildings are reminders of the earthquake that devastated parts of this economically challenged state just three years ago. At Manang restaurant, traditional Gandharba musicians regularly play for cash and CD sales to fund education and accommodation back in their still recovering villages, 150kms from Kathmandu, at the epicentre.
Following online traveller recommendations, we booked four days of trips in the Kathmandu valley for AED450 with Thamel travel agents Rainbow Mountain Treks.
This included major historic areas, such as Boudhanath, with its picturesque shops and restaurants surrounding a huge, revered stupa – an important place of Buddhist pilgrimage.
Other UNESCO heritage sites include those in bustling Patan, Nepal’s attractive third city, still referred to by some locals as Lalitpur, or City of Beauty. It is home to Durbar Square, a spectacular area even as it undergoes extensive earthquake repairs, cruelly having just been largely restored when the quake hit.
Tight, steep roads lead to the Tibetan Kopan monastery, near Budhanilkantha, with its stunning, peaceful views.
Pashupatinath Temple, meanwhile, isn’t for the faint-hearted. A sacred Hindu complex on the banks of the Bagmati River, it operates 24-hour outdoor cremations and is the setting for scenes of genuine grief.
With a hefty entry charge for foreigners, you may wish to re-consider should you censor your visit .
It may be wiser to instead climb the considerable steps to the Swayambhunath Stupa, aka Monkey Temple because of its mischievous residents, where panoramic views compete with religious architecture and traders selling often dramatic masks and the other souvenirs for your attention.
Following a 4am pick-up from our hotel, he guided us from sunrise at the ambitiously-named Nagakot Paradise Hotel, perched around 3000m up in mountains a relatively short driven from the capital, through rural communities with incredible vistas at every other turn.
It was certainly more successful than a previous trekking attempt. Having reached the top of Chandragiri Hills and its numerous feeding opportunities by cable car, 2547m above sea level, we opted to take what by all accounts is a stunning three-hour walk back down.
Sadly the substantial ride price doesn’t extend to providing proper signage and we, like other visitors, found ourselves two hours into a descent before realising the route wasn’t right - so had to retrace our steps.
All was forgiven on returning to Hotel Shanker with its Tranquility Spa and lush gardens to counter the seemingly continual rush-hour bustle beyond.
ROOMS at Hotel Shanker start at AED312 before tax, based on May 21 check-in. Visit www.shankerhotel.com.np
FLYDUBAI operates four services a day from Dubai to Kathmandu, including Business Class with its wider seats, upgraded entertainment system and tasty food options, plus dedicated bus transfer at DXB. Economy return prices start at AED1150 based on August 1 departures. Visit www.flydubai.com
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