Most cities of the world are not static. That is, a return trip many years later may be an entirely different experience: Such is the case with Kathmandu. If you are looking for the place that was on the Hippie trail in the late sixties and early seventies you will not find it in present day Kathmandu.
In the early seventies, Durbar Square was the center of Kathmandu. A vibrant market place centered around a collection of ancient temples and the former palace. The area around the square was a rabbit warren of activities and surprises awaited around every corner. Nearby were small backpacker hotels and restaurants where waiters carried lit chehlums of hashish from table to table. Stray backpackers mixed with locals in the markets.
The city was surrounded by fields and, in the outskirts were various Tibetian refugee camps and stupas, with white domes and golden spires with huge eyes and a symbol, similar to a question mark, in place of a nose. Also, outside of the city, was Pasu Patanah, the Hindu holy spot of Nepal where the dead were burned along a tributary of the Ganges.
Today, Kathmandu sprawls across the valley. Mile after mile of stores and houses. The temples and burning ghats still exist, but are are now surrounded by the expanded city. Durbar Square is now a museum piece, lost amongst the city sprawl. The Ancient buildings remain in a rundown state. They now charge admission to visit them and the vibrant surrounding market has given way to hawkers selling tourist trinkets.
The backpacker hotels and restaurants are gone. A tourist ghetto, called the Thamel, has now sprung up in another section of the city. Packed with hotels, restaurants, night clubs, and stores selling tourist goods - pashmina scarves, Gurka knives, T-shirts, etc.
Kathmandu may still be of interest, but do not go expecting to find that place of backpacker lore, it is no longer here.