[Nepal Travelogue] Expect the Unexpected

Posted on 07 Jan, 2016 Category: Nepal,Travel Stories
It’s been two weeks since I returned from my one-week trip to Nepal, yet I am still unsure about what to start with the journal. Not because the memory has passed into oblivion, but because words simply fail me to describe the overall fantastic experience in that Himalayan country.

                                                - Mathilda Wu, Marketing Specialist at Odyssey Tours

nepal travel photo

We did a classic Nepal triangle trip of Kathmandu, Chitwan and Pokhara. I must admit that all have their own charm that very few places can achieve at the same time. Read on, you’ll see why I have the nerve to say so.

Kathmandu
It is in Kathmandu that the saying "the first impression is a lasting impression" holds true for me. The city is massive, nestled in a green valley surrounded by enormous mountains. A quick drive from the airport to the town left me with amazement at the red-brick houses, people’s smiling faces as well as roaming cattle and busy traffic - yes, it’s like what you saw in a movie or that while things are more sophisticated when you are actually there! 

kathmandu cityStreet view of Kathmandu. 

bus in kathmanduMen sitting on top of a city bus.

kathmandu transportA quick look at the city transport options in Kathmandu.

Amid the swirling dust and dark fumes, we spotted a riot of colors on the street walls - murals depicting symbols, people, animals and creative images, for up to the stretch of more than a mile. We were told that street art is on the rise, as local and international artists are setting up projects in Nepal to send out messages of man-made beauty. 

kathmandu street muralColorful wall murals seen in the streets.

Nepal was never colonized. Before the unification in the 18th century it was ruled under several kings, who built three splendid Durbar Squares as royal palaces, which all are now parts of the seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kathmandu Valley. The one we visited, Patan Durbar Square, is really impressive. 

Patan Durbar SquareSchool boys at Patan Durbar Square.

The peaceful palace courtyards contain various well-preserved pagodas and stone temples. Our private guide Kshitij did a good job explaining functions of the beautiful wood carving, symbols and ornaments. With his rich knowledge, the ancient site was brought to life. As we walked through, flocks of pigeons circled above the monuments, making a fascinating picture before us. 

patan durbar squareMost of the buildings escaped the earthquake in April, 2015.

patan durbar squareExquisite wood carvings and stone sculptures.

patan durbar square after earthquakeA peaceful nook of the square.

Perhaps due to the off season, Durbar Squares are not so much touristy sites as where the local watch the time away. We had the chance to interact with a group of college students who were taking a break. What they firmly believe in somewhat blew us: skill is more important than education in today’s Nepal. 

nepali peopleThe opportunity of interacting with the local is just amazing.

I was also struck by the fact that the Nepalis see death as an everyday experience when in Pashupatinath Temple, one of the seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The temple is a place where people bring the dead for outdoor cremation on the Bagmati River. Instead of feeling grisly, I found it rather calm. And most peculiarly, the family didn’t mind our being here. 

pashupatinath templePashupatinath offers more than a cremation site. The complex contains 518 temples and monuments, serving as the seat of Lord Pashupatinath, the national deity.

We ran into a few families holding memorial ceremony for the deceased, such as making unique offering and shaving the male relatives’ hair. 

offering of hindu cremationOfferings to float down the Bagmati River. 

head shaving of hindu cremation ceremonyA man has his head shaved as a mark of respect and mourning for the deceased.

Pashupatinath is where you encounter genuine sadhus dressed in colorful yellow and orange robes with ashes and long hair and beard. A photo opportunity with them is well worth a dollar spent. 

nepali sadhuSadhu is a wandering holy men that pursuits nothing but enlightenment.

Besides much history and culture, Kathmandu has earned its name for fantastic nightlife in Thamel, an active hub full of life, restaurants, shops and live houses! The area is as safe as anywhere we went in Nepal. We saw many local people hang out here, so there is no way that you would feel as in a touristy place at all. 

thamel,kathmanduRickshaws lining up the street for business.

thamel districtI can walk hours and hours in these narrow, busy lanes.

kathmandu nightlifeWe had some beautiful Nepali songs to listen at a live music house in Thamel.

9 DAYS Classic Nepal Holiday with Wildlife Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Kathmandu


Chitwan

So this is where we explored the wild jungle. Here we got close to numbers of wildlife, including single-horned rhino, a couple of deer, wild boars, monkeys and countless beautiful birds. Unfortunately, tigers haven’t been seen by decades. 

chitwan national park

Our guide is great - he knows where we can get to see these cute animals!

Chitwan National Park covers a vast area and was once the royal family’s hunting ground. Today it offers dozens of jungles activities, such as Jeep safari, canoeing, jungle walk and cycling around the village. We were the only group that did boat ride that afternoon – what a privilege to enjoy the whole tranquil view of the lake and the surroundings! 

chitwan national parkIn the comfortable canoe ride we saw crocodiles, rhino (again) and countless endangered birds.

chitwan national park countrysideJeeping to get around the countryside.

nepali peopleNice local shop owners we met in the village.

In short, Chitwan is a perfect place for physically active travelers to discover the undisturbed vestiges of wild species. The other perfect one we know is probably in South Africa (wink).

Pokhara
Oh boy - is there any place better than Pokhara in the world? Not in my dictionary anyway. Located around 200 km west Kathmandu, Pokhara offers an entirely different picture from the populated capital: clean streets, snow mountains, laid-back atmosphere and adventure choices. 

Annapurna rangePokhara is famed as “the Oriental Switzerland”.

The centre of the small city is dominated by the majestically beautiful Phewa Lake, from where we could get a clear view of the snow-capped mountains of Annapurna range. Many lakeside hotels have rooms that you can see the range even from bed - ask your travel consultant to arrange one!

phewa lakeThe crystal-clean, gentle Phewa Lake.

We stayed at Fishtail Lodge which sits on a quiet peninsula of Phewa Lake. Getting to the lodge is dreamy as the 24-hour ferries and boats are the only access.

phewa lakeSurreal morning scene of Phewa Lake.

fishtail lodgeHaving breakfast in the yard with a backdrop of snow mountains.

It seems you can’t escape Annapurna no matter where you go in Pokhara, but we couldn’t get enough. An easy walk up to a hill where the World Peace Pagoda was built atop brought us a gorgeous view of the white ranges and the entire Pokhara. Simply mind-blowing. 

world peace pagoda in pokharaThe white silhouette against the skyline offering peace on earth.

pokhara city viewLooking out over the "lake side" Pokhara and the Himalaya.

Many Tibetans came to live in Nepal since 1959. In Pokhara we visited one of their settlements to experience the culture, history and present. A middle-aged monk greeted us and a few school girls fulfilled our wish for photos. Thanks:-) We didn’t have time to eat lunch with a local Tibetan family, which otherwise could have been one of the best memories. 

tibetan refugee campThese kids have one of the most beautiful smiling faces I’ve ever seen.

In addition to trekking, Pokhara is arguably the world’s best paragliding venue, which we don’t doubt after a bold try. Soaring with birds with spectacular scenery is something I will never forget.

paragliding in pokharaDon’t hesitate to paraglide to see the incredible views from above!

We spent the early morning of the last day in Pokhara at Sarangkot, a village known as the best place to watch the breathtaking sunrise across the Annapurna Himalaya. I could never believe sunrise could be that incredible before I went here. The snow-capped mountains were painted purple pink to gold, and the whole valley downhill awoke as the sun slowly came out. 

sarangkot sunriseBreathtaking change of the mountains’ colors.

nepali peopleSweet Nepali couple.

sunrise at sarangkot The view point is great to shoot the city view and the mountains at one time.

I almost cried when the departure was due. If possible I would love to revisit in a heartbeat. Nepal is by no means a place you should avoid because of media hoaxes. And I am sure the western visitors we stumbled into on the way will see eye to eye with us. “Nepal is so safe and beautiful that we couldn’t enjoy more,” they said.

nepal travel

durbar square
foreigners in nepal
nepal travel after earthquake

 A huge thank-you to those who well prove Nepal deserves their visit. Contact Odyssey Tours at if you would love to visit Nepal in a heart beat!

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