Beyond the Ring Road, the countryside gradually emerges from the recently built industrial overlay. Smells, sounds, and sights are thoroughly rural by the time you reach Thankot, an unattractive little town perched on the Valley rim 10 km from Kathmandu. Highlights include a police station and a King Tribhuvan Memorial Park enshrining an ill-proportioned statue.
Cross the prayer flag-strung pass behind Thankot and you're out of the Valley. The road abruptly drops and drops and drops; the hairpin curves twisting far below give a taste of what's to come. Guardrails are practically nonexistent; this route is not for the squeamish. The road twists and turns a total of 52 times before arriving in the village of Naubise, 29 km from Kathmandu. The teashops here are among the few places to eat before Daman.
Here the road forks: the Prithvi Rajpath follows the Trisuli River to Mugling, while the Tribhuvan Rajpath branches off to the left. It's narrow and twisting, and far less trafficked than the busy stretch up to Naubise would suggest. There are no villages along the way, just some scattered homes of Buddhist Tamangs marked by prayer flags. The road climbs slowly to Tistung Deorali (2030 meters), 34 km from the turnoff, and descends into the broad Palung Valley, an intensively farmed Newar settlement since Licchavi times. Cross the Palung Khola on a suspension bridge and pass through several pleasant bazaar villages. There are a few hotels here if you conk out before the final ascent; signs are in Nepali, so ask.
The road climbs a final 10 km through pine forest. About three km below Daman is a strange clearing with gigantic concrete benches lined up facing the Himalayan abandoned campsite for giant tourists? Then comes Daman (2322 meters), a handful of houses strung along a ridge and several dozen people carrying on their daily lives in front of one of the most incredible views in the world.
The new Everest Panorama Resort is three km beyond town, just below Sim Bhanjyang. At the moment it features deluxe safari tents, but bungalows should be under construction soon; the site has excellent mountain views. Rates are US$56 per person, meals included (possibly negotiable for walk-ins). The restaurant, with its outdoor garden, is a much better place to eat than Daman's daal bhaat diners. The resort's Kathmandu office is in Lazimpat, tel. (1) 415-372; the Daman telephone number is (57) 21-346.