A Journey Through Nepal
Nepal – The Kingdom of Nature
This journey actually incorporated a trip to Nepal and Bhutan but has been separated into 2 journeys.
Nepal is a landlocked country in South Asia but only has 2 countries that it borders with – China and India. It is located mainly in the Himalayas and has 10 of the tallest mountains including Mount Everest which is the highest point on earth within it. Our journey started in Kathmandu which is the capital and largest city.
After chilling out in the Escape Plus Lounge and Manchester Airport we boarded our Qatar Dreamliner for the flight to Doha. The Dreamliner was out of this world and the staff and service were absolutely fantastic. Our menu choice in Business Class was the best I have ever had on a flight and the food arrived and certainly did not disappoint. I was really sad to get off the plane in Doha where we had a couple of hours in the lounge before boarding the next flight heading for Kathmandu. We arrived early into Kathmandu and as we were one of the first off the flight the queue to get our visa, then pay at the bank and then go through Immigration was not too awful. However waiting for the luggage was a different matter! They definitely do not get the priority baggage off first – it was our welcome to the chaos of Kathmandu. After over 1½ hours wait our luggage finally came through and we were greeted by our lovely guide and driver to take us to the hotel for our first 2 nights.
What a start to our first full day in Nepal. We were collected from the hotel at 5.15am and taken to the airport where we checked in for our flight to “Mountain”. We were worried when all the other flights kept on boarding including one that was scheduled to depart 15 minutes after ours and we were still in the departure lounge but then we were called and taken to the aircraft. Everyone on the plane got a window seat (22 passengers) and we took off at 7am for our 1 hour flight to Mountain. It was sold to us as an hour of breath-taking views of scenic beauty of the mighty mountains and it certainly was. It was absolutely breathtaking and we even got to head into the cockpit to see us flying over Everest. The trip was the best way we could have been welcomed to Nepal.
Now for our first day of sightseeing in Kathmandu. We headed out to discover what it was like to live in towns in medieval times – a visit to tour around one of the ancient kingdoms of Kathmandu valley, Patan Durbar Square. Patan was badly hit by the earthquake and many of the buildings are being restored but it was still a fantastic trip. We enjoyed wandering around the Mul Chowk, Sundari Chowk and Keahav Narayan Chowk as well as the temples and courtyards.
Our second stop was to Swayambhunath which is on the top of a conical hill. It is a huge white dome with a glittering golden spire and it is visible from all sides of the valley. It is the most enigmatic of all the holy shrines in Kathmandu Valley and is commonly known as Monkey Temple. After climbing up the 365 steps we arrived at the top to see the beautiful stupa in front of us. Around the stupa are a variety of shrines and temples. It also gave us great views of the valley.
A short drive took us to the Boudhanath Stupa. This stupa is one of the largest stupas in Nepal. It sits on top of a massive mandala and there are over 50 monasteries around it. We wandered around some of the monasteries as well as walking around the stupa and spinning some of the prayer wheels as we enjoyed watching the Tibetan monks and elderly praying. We also enjoyed a visit to the Thangka School Art Gallery where we learned about the art and painters.
Our last stop was to the Pashupati Temple. The temple is dedicated to Shiva. The main temple is a pagoda shape with a golden roof. As the temple is barred to non-Hindus we could not enter but enjoyed wandering around the rest of the area. This area is regarded as one of the most important places of pilgrimages for Hindus and we actually met several people in the hotel from Bombay who had come as a pilgrimage. We went over to the other side of the river to enjoy the view of the main temple and as it was late we saw aarti (light offering) to Lord Shiva. This is the most popular area in Kathmandu to be cremated and this was being practiced while we were there.
Tomorrow we head to Chitwan…
Another early start as we headed back to Kathmandu airport for the flight to Bharatpur. Unfortunately due to lots of flights we were delayed by 1½ hours but eventually arrived in Bharatpur. Now was the traumatic part – my luggage had not arrived as the plane load was too heavy to fly so they had kindly taken off several bags! We left the airport and headed off on the journey to Chitwan where we were welcomed by a delicious lunch. Time to chill and bags finally arrived. We enjoyed an elephant briefing before taking an ox and cart ride to one of the local villages. It was lovely to wander around and chat to the villagers before heading back for a delicious Nepalese curry buffet and an early night.
Early starts are a must in Nepal so a 5.30am wake-up call and just after 6am we drove in a jeep to take a jungle safari in search of the one horned Rhinoceros. We saw some spotted deer, elephant and several birds but sadly the Rhinos were not about. After breakfast we enjoyed watching the elephants being bathed in the river and then had some time to relax before yet more delicious food. We were then due to go in a canoe to see a crocodile farm but we requested to go on a jungle trek instead.
We set off in a local ferry (which was in fact a large canoe) and crossed the river from the hotel to the park. There were 3 of us on the trek and we were accompanied by a guide and 3 rangers. It was a long trek and very hot and humid. There was no-one else around. We spotted a crocodile and lots of birds and lots of leeches (who liked me). All worth it in the end though as we finally managed to see a mother and baby Rhino in the grass. Sadly they were both very skittish and I did not manage to get a photo but I have the memory of it with me. It was a fantastic day.
Another very early morning as we went into the park again to see if we could see any animals. Not great for wildlife again today – we only saw a few spotted deer, some birds and a few crocodiles. We then enjoyed breakfast before leaving for the airport. Yet another flight delay but we eventually flew to Pokhara. Pokhara is the gateway to the magnificent Annapurna Range of mountains. It is home to three of the ten highest mountains in the world. It was drizzly so we visted the Gurkha Museum. It was interesting and my favourite section was the area dedicated to their time in the Falkland Islands and it included a picture of the P&O Cruises ship Uganda which was the hospital ship during the conflict.
Our earliest wake-up call so far as we headed off at 5.30am for the drive to Sarangkot. Sarangkot is 1500m high and we drove up the steep roads to get to it to enjoy the sunrise over the valley and the Annapurna Ranges. It was a beautiful morning with very little cloud so we had fantastic views of the sunrise and it then lit the mountains up to show them in their full glory. We returned to the hotel where we enjoyed breakfast before starting out again to explore the area. We took a boat ride on the Phewa Lake and the reflection of the mountains on the lake was fantastic. It was then time to trek in the hills to visit Damsadi Village. It was a really hot day so we did not trek as far as we had planned and returned back to the hotel where we headed to the shops – the cashmere is fantastic and a real bargain!
Time to leave Pokhara as we left by road for Bandipur. The drive through the valleys was simply breathtaking but the roads leave a lot to be desired. It was a long drive and we were all happy when we finally arrived at our simple guest house which was spotlessly clean with amazing views of the mountains and valley from the bedrooms. Bandipur is located above the Marsyandi River Valley and here time seems to have stood still. It is a beautifully preserved Newari Village and contains many traditional Newari houses. A local guide took us on a tour of the village and we climbed up to see the temple on the top of the hill. Dinner was served on the terrace and we had a delicious Nepalese banquet.
Our journey to Kathmandu continued as we took the steep road from Bandipur back to the main road and then drove back to Kathmandu. The roads are definitely an experience (and one I would not want to experience very often) but the views on the way back were truly beautiful. Getting back into Kathmandu took a lot longer than expected due to the roadworks which seem to be never ending. We eventually arrived at the Radisson Hotel and checked in before enjoying dinner in the restaurant. We were all excited as it was nearly time to head off to Bhutan.
We now headed off to Bhutan (which is featured as another blog) but then returned as below back to Nepal for a few days before returning back to the UK.
A short flight and we were back in Kathmandu with our visas already sorted so no long queues. We met our guide and drove over to Bhaktapur city. It was Dashain Festival time so Bhaktapur which is the “city of devotees” was even more special. Bhaktapur has some of the most breathtaking religious architecture in the entire country. We visited the three main squares – Durbar Square, Taumadhi Square and Datatraya Square – however this area was badly damaged when the earthquake hit. A lot of the monuments were damaged and are under restoration. Money is being spent to rebuild these monuments but it is a very slow process. Our next destination was Nagarkot for sunset views.
Time to return to Kathmandu and on the way we were welcomed by some of the locals into their home to celebrate with them the Dashain Festival. This is the greatest and most celebrated festival in Nepal and the festivities had been ongoing for 15 days. It was the final day of the festival as it was the day of the full moon. The elder of the house was blessing the family and he also blessed us and we had our heads decorated with coloured rice. We then left and headed back to Kathmandu. We spent the afternoon looking around Kathmandu’s Durbar Square which is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The massive complex consists of 3 main squares which houses palaces, temples and courtyards. The main Durbar Square was hit very badly during the 2015 earthquake and many of the temples were completely destroyed. They are gradually being rebuilt but there is still a long way to go before it is completely restored to it’s full glory. A rickshaw took us from Hanuman Dhoka to Thamel where they were selling spices and souvenirs. Due to the festival many of the shops were closed but we spent the rest of the day buying souvenirs in Thamel and ate at a fantastic restaurant before returning to the hotel for our final night in Nepal.
A late morning and we then headed for the airport for the flight home. The airport was actually quiet (due to the Festival) so it was a very easy check-in and we then enjoyed chilling in the lounge before the flight back to Doha. After a very long wait in Doha (but this was not a problem as the business class lounge is absolutely fantastic) we got back onto the Dreamliner for the final leg of the journey back to Manchester. The White Company pj’s were brilliant. I managed to sleep for most of the flight and enjoyed breakfast before arriving in Manchester. Manchester airport was the usual chaos – too many flights all arriving at the same time and not enough staff checking passports – it was actually worse than Kathmandu. Back to reality with lots of great memories of such a brilliant trip.
This trip took place from 3rd to 20th October 2018.