Nepal trip report

 

Nepal



Flanked by China and India, it is home to eight of the world's highest mountains including Mount Everest, making it a trekkers' paradise. With its ancient culture and the Himalayas as a backdrop, landlocked Nepal was closed to the outside world until the 1950s. Since then the country has seen the creation of a multi-party parliamentary system, a decade-long Communist insurgency and the abolition of its monarchy. As one of the world's poorest countries, Nepal's economy relies heavily on aid and tourism. A devastating earthquake in April 2015 killed thousands of people, flattened villages and reduced numerous heritage sites to ruin. Since then political infighting has delayed much of the reconstruction despite billions of dollars having been pledged.
I flew to Nepal in the middle of the day, and there were some great views of the Himalayas from the plane:


 

Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur is how cities looked like during the medieval periods. Glorious architecture, sky-high temples built in pagoda style - which is believed to be the stairway to the heaven, fine clay pottery, and massive royal courtyards. Bhaktapur used to be the ruling throne of the Kathmandu Valley until the king in 1482 divided the kingdom between his three sons, eventually fading the strength of unity and losing the nation to the Shah dynasty.
Bhaktapurians are proud inhabitants of their city and culture. They are often seen in their traditional Newari attire. Many farmers are about too, as the city is also known as Bhadgaon, which means the City of Rice.


 

Kathmandu

Kathmandu is a very historic city that is incredibly dusty. Countless people wear facemasks, that's how dusty it is. The city is like a living museum. The grandeur of the past is on display everywhere ie carved wooden frames, centuries old sculptures and stupas. Like any big city, Kathmandu has seen rapid expansion in the last decade, but despite the hustle and bustle, its people remain friendly {discounting the touristy Thamel area}. The city is a warden of its ancestral value "Atithi Devo Bhava" meaning "Guest is equivalent to God". Retaining its ancient traditions, Kathmandu is supposedly blessed by a "living Goddess" called Kumari and there are many ceremonial processions and events that often take place. Kathmandu is where I developed my addiction to Nepalese masala tea.


 

Bus Kathmandu -> Chitwan

I took the "tourist bus" from Kathmandu to Chitwan, they call them tourist buses because unlike local ones you are guaranteed individuals seats. The bus had a sticker at the front that said "slow drive long life" - which our driver took in jest, as he boasted that he's in charge of an "iron horse". The journey is very picturesque and some of the roads very bumpy. A Chinese lady tried in vain to sleep at the back, she kept bouncing like she was on a trampoline. When she complained to the driver about the bad state of the roads, he just smiled and said "don't worry eat curry".


 

Chitwan National Park

In the southern region, Chitwan National Park is full of exotic wildlife such as tigers, rhinos, elephants etc. It used to be a hunting ground for Nepal's ruling class until the mid-century. Then the Tharu people moved in searching for arable land, until they were "relocated" outside the park to protect the wildlife. You can trek the jungle on foot, on an elephant's back or on a jeep safari. I was walking around the area just outside the entrance, and came precariously close to a rhino. We had a bit of a staring contest, except rhinos have very poor vision but amazing hearing and smell. So he could hear me and smell my breathing. Since the odds were definitely not in my favour, I made a fairly quick retreat behind the tree.


 

Sauraha

Sauraha is the town at the entrance of Chitwan National Park. It's where all the Tharu farmers are now living after being moved out of the park. You might see the occasional elephant dung on the streets, which interestingly locals make paper out of. Every night, there's a performance show demonstrating some of the Tharu culture ie sticks dance, local folk songs, human peacock dance, fireshow, etc.


 

Nagarkot

Nagarkot is a village on the rim of the Kathmandu Valley, that is especially popular for incredible sunsets and sunrises. There's also lush green rice fields, little hamlets up and down the hills, stray cattle, and many winding roads. I rented a motorbike in Kathmandu and rode to Nagarkot. I didn't have my licence so I used a library card instead though they didn't even look at it. The only time I got stopped by a policeman was when he jumped on at the back, ordered to drive a few kilometres, then made me drop him off on a side street!