I can't recall when I really felt the urge to go to Nepal, it is just a feeling I have felt really strong in the past two years, probably most likely emerged as I did so much more hiking, which would make sense.
Alas after a bit of planning I was on my way and I have to say Nepal is one of my favourite travel destinations.
The Nepalese people are some of the kindest people you will meet, they have such a relaxed way about them and they aren't pushy like in some places in south east Asia, if you don't want to buy something they don't bother you.
As my plane descended into Kathmandu airport you are flying amongst the mountains which is a bit scary to begin with, and all of the houses were coloured and very tall also reminded me of looking down on pieces of lego, we were so high up. Once sorted with visas and hopefully getting your bag, you are accosted by a barrage of taxi drivers so it's worth pre arranged a transfer which thankfully I had arranged (this was the only time I felt accosted in Nepal by the way).
I was joining a tour group for this trip and subsequently onto India. This is something I wouldn't ordinarily be keen to do but considering the short time I had to plan the trip and insecurity I felt as a women travelling alone in India, I felt it was the only option.
Once I met my group we had our first taste of traditional Nepalese on our first night in Kathmandu (the capital). Albeit slightly expensive we had our first momos which is like a steam dumpling with veggies in sautéed in a curry and then dal baht. Most Nepalese will have dal baht twice a day, it is what can be described as a Thali or an individual tapas of dishes. You get rice, curried veg (or meat), curried pickle, salad, Dal and sometimes a roti. Also all the brass dishes are refillable woo winning!
Veggie momos :)
I have been eating momos and dal bhat non stop, they are delicious and I have no desire for anything other than local food. I can always have a cheeky toblerone if ever I'm feeling weak!
Worth noting some times we had to wait 2 hours for food, this is because we were a large group of 17 and they make everything fresh and from scratch, so important to be patient and bring cards with you
Dal Bhat made from our cooking class
Getting that flavour!
Kathmandu is a pretty chill place, once you get used to the pollution and dust. There are a few backpackers hostels and lots of bars and restaurants often playing some good live music. Activity wise ther
e are a few things to do in Kathmandu. I flew in and only spent a night there but there is lots of shopping for fake NorthFace clothing and hiking equipment, a monkey temple, viewpoint to some river cremations (not for the faint hearted). Most people I was travelling with only took about 2-3 days there which they say is enough.
Pokhara, is the main base town for the Annapuruna mountain range of the Himalayas. It is
a very really relaxed vibe with lakeside bars. You seen lots of paragliders cruising over the lake, some of our group were going to go paragliding but ran out of time. You can also take boat trips on the lake which is nice.
Some of us managed to squeeze a cooking class in which was lovely and I would really recommend it. We went to a local women's house and picked vegetables from her garden and made the dal bhat which was great to learn how to make as this is something I would love to recreate. The best thing was her grinder or large pestle and mortar for grinding the spices, garlic, ginger, chills etc… the fragrance is insane and made a huge difference. We had a really nice chat with her afterwards discussing women's role in her culture versus ours, it was quite sad as she is restricted in what she can do as a women in Nepal.
White water rafting
At the beginning of our trip we left Kathmandu for the river Tulsa to go white white rafting for 2 days. This was good fun, although previous experience rafting in Borneo taught me not to swallow the water so we were all keen not to fall in. In addition the water was freezing, and needless to say we got drenched in the process. This was the beginning of me realising I would be quite cold the next few days in Nepal! As soon as the sun goes in its gets very chilly and the temperature differential with the day time gave a lot of people the chills.
We spent the night at a lovely campsite which I would really recommend, but a sleeping bag is needed. We each had riverside tents and they put on a bonfire for us in the evening. We left that morning to raft further down the river. The rapids weren't massive but apparently ‘technical’ so there were a lot of twists and turns of rapids +3 and +4.
We left the rafting to go to trekking for 4 days which you can read about here.
After our trekking, we heading back towards Kathmandu for a second time and picked up our new group of travellers to become a group of 7 and said goodbye to the rest of the group.
Our first stop was Chitwan where there is a big national park for safari. We stayed in the Royal Park Hotel which I can't recommend more, although you may see me in their future promo video! We have a great videographer on our trip who shot some footage for them and in return we all got well looked after, the food was insane, lots of nibbles, curries and some of the best momos!
We headed out for safari pretty early (7.30am) as the animals are more active in the morning and evening. Unfortunately it was quite a misty morning which can be quite common in Nepal, so visibility was a challenge. We did see lots of deers, bird, crocodiles, some boars, sloth, and a rhino as well as domesticated elephants which was quite sad. You see elephants carrying up to 4/5 persons on their back, which is not natural for them.
We spent our evening with a bit of entertainment at the local culture centre where over an hour we experienced lots of local dances, it was an experience in itself. Chitwan is quite interesting as many years ago the Chitwan tribe, the Tharu people, became famous for being immune from malaria, after contemporary studies this is understood to be because of genetic factors where Tharu peoples have genes for thalassemia which is an abnormal hemoglobin production.
We did a bicycle tour of a Tharu village where we saw the buildings and their traditional techniques as well as modern biomass facilities.
We left Chitwan for Lumbini approximately 4 hours drive away. Lumbini is believed to be the birthplace of Buddha. Buddha is a figure of such importance in Nepal and India so it was really nice to spend some time learning about the stories. Guatam Buddha was born a prince into an indulgent life, only once he left his surroundings and saw the community around him with its ills did he seek to have a minimalist life. Through his discovery for enlightenment though he found his path for teaching what is called the middle way, between indulgence and severe abstinence.
There is a temple in Lumbini to mark his birth place which we visited. It is an odd looking white building built by the British to protect the original building. The grounds are really peaceful, there were a number of monks praying and the Buddhist prayers flags fluttering in the breeze with the intent of spreading the positive mantras through the air.
We stayed in the Lumbini Buddha Gardens hotel which had great food again and really clean and comfortable rooms. There is not much to eat or do in Lumbini so we were restricted to the hotel somewhat.