A Travellerspoint blog

Nepal

Urban Nepal

Route: Kathmandu – Pokhara - Kathmandu

sunny 28 °C
View Western Népal on MAd4travel's travel map.

OCTOBER 2019

Our Nepal adventure covered three distinct environments, the rural and forest area of the west, the Himalayan Mountains in the north and Nepal’s two biggest cities.

Our arrival in Nepal was at its capital, Kathmandu. On this occasion we would only stay one day and two nights. A good night’s sleep aided the recovery from yesterday’s long flight and prepared us for a day of organising and sightseeing. With the organising completed in the morning, there was time for sightseeing in the afternoon.
A short walk from the hotel was the very impressive Great Boudha Stupa. This Buddhist monument has an amazing dome, 141 feet high and 100 feet in diameter. Records suggest that a stupa has stood on this site since 400AD, but has had many reconstructions since then. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the principal centre of Himalayan Buddhist worship in the Kathmandu valley. We joined many other tourists and worshipers admiring and exploring the whole site, which extends beyond the stupa itself.

Aerial view of the Great Stupa in Kathmandu

Aerial view of the Great Stupa in Kathmandu

The great Stupa, Kathmandu

The great Stupa, Kathmandu

The Great Stupa, Kathmandu

The Great Stupa, Kathmandu

Ten days later we were back in Kathmandu after an amazing visit to the west of the country, see blog “Western Nepal”. This time our good friends Glenn, Guylaine, Olivier and Carole were with us, having joined us during our stay in western Nepal. Our location was also different, this time we would spend two nights in the historic district of Patan.
Our accommodation was a beautifully restored 300-year-old historic Newari house called Hira Guest House. Access to the guesthouse was through a dark stooped entrance in to a courtyard, at which point could really appreciate the charm of the building. Inside the décor was a beautiful with carved wood everywhere, exposed wobbly roof beams, low ceilings that some would catch out even the shortest of people and elegantly decorated bedrooms. Two charming sisters who immediately made us very welcome run the place. We loved it so much we decided to stay again on our next Kathmandu visit.

Hira Guest House facade, our bedroom is the one with the elaborate window on the first floor

Hira Guest House facade, our bedroom is the one with the elaborate window on the first floor

Our bedroom at Hira Guest House

Our bedroom at Hira Guest House

For our one-day stay we decided to explore what the district of Patan had to offer. The town of Patan was very important in its own right before it became engulfed into greater Kathmandu. It’s been, and still is, a centre for craftsmanship, artisans and religious worship. In its centre is Durbar Square, which was the ideal place for us to start learning about its history. We hired the services of a local guide and then spent three fascinating hours visiting historic buildings and receiving a detailed explanation of the town’s 1400-year history. In addition to the amazing sites, we were also treated to various celebrations that were going on all around us, as it was the end of the Dasain Festival.

Durbar Square, Patan

Durbar Square, Patan

Palace in Durbar Square, Patan

Palace in Durbar Square, Patan

Durbar Square Palace, Guardian & Demon

Durbar Square Palace, Guardian & Demon

Courtyard in Palace of Durbar Square

Courtyard in Palace of Durbar Square

Queen's bath in Durbar Square Palace

Queen's bath in Durbar Square Palace

Dashain ceremonial dance in the courtyard of the Palace, Durbar Square

Dashain ceremonial dance in the courtyard of the Palace, Durbar Square


Golden Temple, Patan

Golden Temple, Patan

Golden Temple offering ceremony

Golden Temple offering ceremony

Exhausted and full of new Knowledge we escaped the heat and noise of Patan’s narrow streets to have a mid-afternoon siesta, before celebrating our last night all together. This would be the last time that the six of us would be in Nepal together and celebrated the occasion at a highly recommended Pizza restaurant called “Fire & Ice”, and it didn’t disappoint.

The following morning we said goodbye to Glenn and Guylaine. The remaining four of us headed for Kathmandu domestic airport for a flight to Pokhara, and the start of our mountain adventure, see blog “Northern Nepal”.

Flying from Kathmandu to Pokhara

Flying from Kathmandu to Pokhara

Himalaya mountains view from the plane

Himalaya mountains view from the plane

Terraces of farming view from the plane on our way to Pokhara

Terraces of farming view from the plane on our way to Pokhara

View of Pokhara from the air

View of Pokhara from the air

We had one night in Pokhara before our onward journey and made the most of it with a walk around its famous lake. Even though clouds had formed on the mountains in the distance restricting the view, there was plenty to see at lake level to keep us interested. One thing in particular was “Disneyland Pokhara”. Not much more than a fun fair really, but with ageing attractions that wouldn’t pass a health and safety check if in Europe. A bit of window shopping and a nice evening meal completed our first stay in Pokhara.

Pokhara Lake

Pokhara Lake

Disney Land Pokhara

Disney Land Pokhara

Disney Land Pokhara, not for the faint hearted

Disney Land Pokhara, not for the faint hearted



We returned to Pokhara at the end of our Upper Mustang adventure, see blog “Northern Nepal”, and had more time to explore on this occasion. However, this soon turned into a couple of relaxing days, enjoying the hotel comforts with Anne and Carole taking advantage of a reasonably priced half day spa treatment.

Electric work in Pokhara. The ladder looks dodgy too

Electric work in Pokhara. The ladder looks dodgy too

View from Pokhara Airport of the Himalaya

View from Pokhara Airport of the Himalaya

From Pokhara we flew back to Kathmandu and enjoyed some amazing views through the aircraft window. Olivier and Carole had left the day before but we were able to catch up with them again just before they flew back to Canada.

View of Kathmandu

View of Kathmandu

We were staying once again in the Patan district of Kathmandu and at our favourite accommodation, Hira Guest House. Our stay was longer this time, which gave us a chance to really explore all the narrow streets and hidden courtyards; it was a feast for the eyes.
Sometimes it’s very difficult to put into words the fascinating things you see in everyday life; the following photo’s will help, but I will try anyway.

The first thing that hit us when we emerged from the relative calm of the guesthouse courtyard was the traffic. On this occasion I refer to traffic as anything moving in the narrow streets that make up Patan. Namely cars, motorbikes, bicycles, carts, people, dogs and even cattle occasionally. All of which move slowly but purposely in what can be best described as organised chaos. Cars and motorbikes negotiate people, bicycles, dogs, street stalls and endless other obstacles with amazing skill and plenty of use of their horn. When you first encounter all of this you freeze and think, there are no pavements, how can I get anywhere, but very soon you join throngs of people and just walk. Providing you don’t stop and dither, the traffic will go round you, missing you by centimetres but missing you all the same.

It's not only for pedestrian but cars and motorbike also use the same street

It's not only for pedestrian but cars and motorbike also use the same street

Street of Patan

Street of Patan

Once you are on the move and comfortable in the traffic you begin to look around you and with every turn of your head something catches your eye. There is the incredible detail carved into the wood and stone that make up each building.

Patan Building

Patan Building

Eye opening design

Eye opening design

City reservoir

City reservoir

Ornate wood work

Ornate wood work

There is the abundance of colour everywhere, from the clothing worn, to the spices sold, together with the powders used during festival times.

Coloured powder ready for Diwali festival

Coloured powder ready for Diwali festival

Traders preparing for Diwali Festival with colour powder for sale

Traders preparing for Diwali Festival with colour powder for sale

Then there is the noise, car and motorbike horns announcing their presence, people shouting as part of their trade, bells ringing as part of the Hindu worship, dogs barking at anything they take a dislike to, and many more.
And if the streets weren’t narrow enough already, traders set up stalls outside shops and sell fruit and veg, and still the traffic seem to pass without too much fuss and annoyance.

Patan bakery

Patan bakery

bicycle trader with fruits, veg and scales to weight them

bicycle trader with fruits, veg and scales to weight them

Open market

Open market

Cushion Trader on the move

Cushion Trader on the move

Vegetable street trader

Vegetable street trader

Patan is renowned for its metal craftsmanship

Patan is renowned for its metal craftsmanship



With Hinduism and Buddhism being the predominant religions of Nepal it isn’t surprising to find temples, stupas, shrines and other religious monuments amongst the streets and buildings. But what is surprising is how numerous they are, I don’t think I would be exaggerating if I said there was some sort of structure every 100 meters.

One of many street little temple in Patan

One of many street little temple in Patan

Another surprise was the number of public bathing areas. These varied in size from a single spout in a small chamber in the ground to lavish bathing pools with multiple ornately designed spouts. With home plumbing becoming more the norm, public baths are being used less so many are falling into decay. However, a lot are considered historic monuments and are now being restored, a case in point is the 600 year old bath in Patan’s Durbar Square.

Public bath

Public bath

Public bath

Public bath

Patan public bath

Patan public bath

At night Patan was different again. Street lights and night markets added a different colour to the area and locals were now free to be out and about socialising. We enjoyed our evening walks, watching all that went on around us, and feeling very safe in this friendly environment, even when we got ourselves a bit lost down tiny back alleys.

Patan by night during Diwali Festival

Patan by night during Diwali Festival

Patan, Durbar Square at night

Patan, Durbar Square at night

Diwali festival dance

Diwali festival dance

Patan by night during the Diwali Festival, fight of light over darkness

Patan by night during the Diwali Festival, fight of light over darkness

During our stay it was the time of the Diwali Festival, one of Nepals most important, so this added to the activity and colour on the Streets. Diwali activities means lots of firecrackers, marigold garlands (even on dogs during one the days), painted trails and beautiful coloured emblems on the ground, usually outside a house or shop.

Diwali festival showing the way for good to enter and chase away evil

Diwali festival showing the way for good to enter and chase away evil

Day 3 of Diwali is dedicated to the Dogs, guardians of the house and are being blessed with garlands

Day 3 of Diwali is dedicated to the Dogs, guardians of the house and are being blessed with garlands

Diwali decoration

Diwali decoration

Diwali Decoration

Diwali Decoration

A decoration in front of a house during Diwali Festival

A decoration in front of a house during Diwali Festival

Even though we loved everything Patan had to offer we did venture away for a day trip to Bhaktapur. Similar to Patan, Bhaktapur was also an important town in years gone by and with a rich history. We spent time exploring its historical monuments, many of which are still showing the damage inflicted by the 2015 earthquake, together with its busy narrow streets.

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

Bhaktapur is famous for it's potery

Bhaktapur is famous for it's potery

5 Story pagoda in Bhaktapur

5 Story pagoda in Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur Nyatapola temple a 5 story pagoda

Bhaktapur Nyatapola temple a 5 story pagoda

Palace woodwork, Bhaktapur

Palace woodwork, Bhaktapur

Clay pot storage

Clay pot storage

Street scenery

Street scenery

For our last few days before we left Nepal we decided to escape the noise, dust and fumes of downtown Kathmandu and head for the hills. Just 30 minutes drive from Patan and still part of greater Kathmandu is the town of Budhanilkantha. Our accommodation here was at the Chandra Ban Eco Retreat, in an apartment perched on the hillside with great views over Kathmandu nestled in the valley below. We didn’t venture far from our very comfortable lodging and its great restaurant, except to visit the “Sleeping Vishnu” in the nearby town.

Sweet trader in Budhanilkantha

Sweet trader in Budhanilkantha

Budhanilkantha Temple sleeping Vishnu

Budhanilkantha Temple sleeping Vishnu

Marigold garland on sale for the offering to the Sleeping Lord Vishnu at Budhanilkantha

Marigold garland on sale for the offering to the Sleeping Lord Vishnu at Budhanilkantha

Religious man in Budhanilkantha temple

Religious man in Budhanilkantha temple

And that was Nepal, a country we liked more and more the longer we stayed and one to revisit sometime in the future. An afternoon flight then whisked us off for new adventures, next stop Bangkok, Thailand.

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

Nepal
Nepal is a landlocked asian country with China to its north and India to its west, south and east. It has a population of around 29 million, most of which live in the more low lying south. To the north are the Himalayan Mountains and some of the highest peaks in the world, including Mount Everest. It is also famous for having the worlds only triangular flag.

Nepal flag, the only triangular one in the world

Nepal flag, the only triangular one in the world

Earthquake
On 25th April 2015 a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal, toppling multi-story buildings in Kathmandu, the capital, and creating landslides and avalanches in the Himalaya Mountains. Nearly 9,000 people died and more than 22,000 suffered injuries. Still today, a lot of buildings and infrastructure are in need of repair. Wooden supports hold up many buildings whilst funds are awaited for the work to begin.

One of the many buildings damaged by the 2015 Earthquake

One of the many buildings damaged by the 2015 Earthquake

A Postcard from Nepal
In this modern technological age the sending of postcards is becoming a more rare occurrence. But because our family and friends express a great deal of pleasure when they receive them, we continue to send them. We tend to send around 20 or 30 from most countries we visit, depending on the length of our stay and the cost involved.
The cost of sending a postcard from Nepal is possible the lowest we have encountered any where, about 10 rupees (£0.07) for the card and 35 rupees (£0.25) for the stamp, so we took the opportunity to send a lot.
To send a postcard you first have to buy it and write it, which is the same all over the world. What is different in Nepal is the posting process, as we found out when we visited the district Post Office in Patan, Kathmandu.
Firstly you are greeted by the counter assistants, who check that you have attached the correct value of stamps to each postcard depending on their destination. Then they will advise you what additional stamps you need. Some of our postcards had stamps, some needed extra and some were without stamps, so a stamp purchase was required.
To purchase stamps you need the assistance of the cashier at a different counter. Fortunately, she had just arrived when we were there and able to help us. From the floor of her compartment she produced a small, but heavy, safe and placed it on her side of the counter. She then unlocked the safe, produced the stamps we required and we paid her.
The next task was for us to stick the stamps on the postcards. Having been caught out on other occasions we had left sufficient room this time for them to be attached.
It was now time for the third phase of the postage process. An older guy appeared and produced a wooded date stamp and ink-pad. He then aggressively stamped a date seal over our postage cards. Aggression was required as he had little ink left in his pad.
Then came the final phase. Our postcards were taken from us and thrown in a plastic bin underneath a table in the Post Office foyer. The bin did have “Postal Services” written on it, which did give us some optimism that they may reach their final destination, only time will tell.

Posted by MAd4travel 00:47 Archived in Nepal Comments (3)

Nepal - The Kingdom of Lo

Route: Kathmandu - Pokhara – Jomsom – Chele – Charang – Lo Manthang – Kagbeni – Muktinath – Jomson - Pokhara - Kathmandu

semi-overcast 15 °C
View Western Népal on MAd4travel's travel map.

OCTOBER 2019

After two nights in Patan, Kathmandu, we said goodbye to Glenn and Guylaine. Now just four of us, we headed for Kathmandu domestic airport and our flight to Pokhara. As we were flying north towards the Himalayan Mountains we weren’t surprised to be delayed by two hours due to bad weather in Pokhara. However, by the time we arrived the weather was clear, warm and sunny. This was just an overnight stop as the real adventure started the next day.

The following day was an early start, our guide CP, who we had met the night before, collected us from the hotel at 6:00 am and we all proceeded to Pokhara Airport. Our flight to Jomsom was due to depart at 7:10 am, but again bad weather delayed us, this time by a couple hours. The plane was a small propelled Twin Otter and the flight was incredible, we didn’t go over the mountains, we went through them. Sheer cliff faces appeared to be only a matter of meters from the wing tips, glacial rivers flowed beneath us, hillside tree tops were barely cleared and 8000m peaks rose ahead of us, it was a great start to our next adventure.

Leaving Pokhara for Jomsom

Leaving Pokhara for Jomsom

Inside the twin otter

Inside the twin otter

Flight to Jomsom

Flight to Jomsom

Flight to Jomsom

Flight to Jomsom

View from plane arriving in Jomsom

View from plane arriving in Jomsom


Welcome to Jomsom

Welcome to Jomsom

Once in Jomsom we were ready to start our expedition into the Upper Mustang (see below), an area only recently accessible to tourist and with permits restricted to 1000 a year. The Upper Mustang is in the Annapurna Range of the Himalayan Mountains, and from its base at 2700m in Jomsom, it stretches’ all the way to the Chinese Tibet border in the north with passes at well over 4000m in between.
Once CP (our guide) had secured our transport for the day, a Mahindra Scorpio 4x4 Jeep with driver, we headed off up a glacial valley to our first overnight stop in a hamlet called Chele. It wasn’t long before we realised what the journey had in store for us. The roads were in a terrible state, massive rocks to drive over, jeep swallowing holes and tracks shared with rivers. These kept the speed of our progress down to a sedate pace, which gave us the opportunity to soak up the scenery whilst being rattled around all over the place inside the jeep. A few photo stops along the route allowed us to stretch our legs and really see the environment we were now entering. Then by mid-day we were at our hotel for the night.

From Jomsom to Chele

From Jomsom to Chele

Road cut through the hillside

Road cut through the hillside

The Himalaya

The Himalaya

Local crop of apples in Chele

Local crop of apples in Chele


View from Chele towards Jomson

View from Chele towards Jomson

View along the river

View along the river

Our accommodation in Chele was basic and rustic, but very welcoming and traditional for the region. Our rooms consisted of twin beds with mattress and pillow, and we would sleep inside our sleeping bags. There was a shared bathroom with a hole in the floor toilet and a shower dispensing only cold water. Once you got the knack the toilet was perfectly usable but we passed on the cold shower, especially with daytime temperatures barely getting in the teens Celsius and dropping below zero at night. Food was taken in an attractive but small dining area and the options on offer were surprisingly varied and of good quality.
With most of the afternoon to spare we went for a short walk around Chele and the surrounding area, watching locals go about their business and generally being in awe of where we were.

View from our hotel terrace in Chele

View from our hotel terrace in Chele

Kitchen sink in Chele

Kitchen sink in Chele

Chele bedroom

Chele bedroom

Chele Dining room

Chele Dining room

The following day we awoke stiff from the hard beds, to clear blue skies and snow capped mountains all around us. Today we would have a longer drive ahead of us, together with a different vehicle and driver (another Mahindra Scorpio 4x4 Jeep though). The destination was the slightly larger but even more remote town of Charang. What followed was three and a half hours of challenging driving, along mountain roads barely wide enough for one vehicle and with a sheer drop to the side, across shallow but fast flowing rivers and along roads that were even worse than the day before. We even encountered herds of goats being driven to market along the same roads we were driving, careful negotiating them to ensure none were knocked over the cliff edge. The route took us through the mountains, past tiny communities surviving on the crops they grow and livestock they raised. Every so often we would pass a giant stupa’s or a temple in the middle of nowhere, positioned to provide safe passage for travellers, and all the time surrounded by magnificent scenery. Finally we arrived at Charang, shaken but not stirred and in time for lunch.

The road in the Upper Mustang

The road in the Upper Mustang

Cliff Road

Cliff Road

Changra or Pahsmina goat

Changra or Pahsmina goat

Hikers and local transport

Hikers and local transport

Mountain pass

Mountain pass

The red in the rock is fossilised coral formed many millions years ago

The red in the rock is fossilised coral formed many millions years ago

Isolated shorten or stupa

Isolated shorten or stupa

Road cut between the mountain side

Road cut between the mountain side

Colourful rock strata

Colourful rock strata

Stupa lucky totem for travelers

Stupa lucky totem for travelers

local wildlife

local wildlife

Crop terrace

Crop terrace

More changra (goats) on the road

More changra (goats) on the road

Changra, the softest and most expensive pashmina is made from the hair under the chin of the goat

Changra, the softest and most expensive pashmina is made from the hair under the chin of the goat

Stupa

Stupa

Our accommodation in Charang was similar to that of Chele, or maybe a bit more upmarket as western toilets were available and the dining area was beautifully decorated with period furniture and traditional carpets.

View from the loo in Charang

View from the loo in Charang

Bedroom in Charang

Bedroom in Charang

Hotel in Charang

Hotel in Charang

Corridor where you wash your hand in Charang

Corridor where you wash your hand in Charang

Our afternoon activity was very memorable, not only for what we saw but also for the monk that showed us around. In Charang there are two imposing buildings, both sitting on top of a small hill at the edge of town. The oldest is a 14th century palace and next to it a slightly more recent monastery. Both are under the custodianship of the monastery monks, so it is to them that we looked for our guided tour. Our guide was a monk barely out of his teens and with lots of energy to spare, even at this altitude. We first visited the palace, a pretty much ruined shell with a few artefacts in a couple of the rooms. However, the young monk’s enthusiasm brought the whole place to life. He would use the ancient, and possibly priceless, artefacts to demonstrate how the king and queen would dress and how the royalty would defend their realm, often throwing in a Michael Jackson dance to inject some energy to the tour. He also found our hats, my ponytail and belly a source of amusement.

The palace in Charang

The palace in Charang

With the palace tour complete we moved across the hill to the monastery, but not in a sedate stroll that is usual at this altitude, the young monk insisted on a conga dance for at least part of the way. Once at the temple (Buddhist) he had to become more dignified, this tour was equally interesting but far less fun.

Stairs to the monastery in Charang

Stairs to the monastery in Charang

Charang monastery

Charang monastery

The monastery in Charang

The monastery in Charang

By the time the tours were finished the light was fading and the temperature dropping towards zero degrees, it was time to go back to our accommodation and warm up before dinner.

Before we could continue our journey the next day and after a short stroll around town, our hostess insisted we look around her shop. This was not any ordinary shop, but one packed with old every day items and some exquisite local jewellery. Off course we couldn’t leave without buying something, so Anne purchased some nice earring and a bracelet and I bought a wooden tea-caddy that caught my eye.

Dzo is an hybrid between a yak and domestic cattle

Dzo is an hybrid between a yak and domestic cattle

It was a shorter drive today, with another different driver and vehicle (Mitsubishi Pajero 4x4), but with no improvement in the road conditions. Our destination this time was the capital town of the Upper Mustang region, Lo Manthang. We passed stunning scenery as usual before stopping on a hill just before the town to get an aerial view of the place that would be home for the next two nights.

Prayer flags at the pass before arriving at Lo Manthang

Prayer flags at the pass before arriving at Lo Manthang

View of Lo Manthang from the pass

View of Lo Manthang from the pass

Accommodation in Lo Manthang was at the Lotus Holiday Inn, a little more upmarket than the previous accommodation, especially when we finally got the rooms that had been reserved. We now both had en-suite room with western toilets, although there was still no reliable hot water for a shower. A short rest before lunch, then a look around town in the afternoon provided some very memorable images.
The first of those images was some rudimental dentistry being performed in the hotel lobby, it looked pretty painful but the patient seemed very pleased with the outcome.

Dining room in our hotel in Lo Manthang

Dining room in our hotel in Lo Manthang

Bedroom in Lo Manthang

Bedroom in Lo Manthang


Mobile dentist

Mobile dentist

The next was some household activities going on at the hotel entrance. In front of the hotel was a narrow canal where glacial water rushed through on its way back to the river. The speed of the flow provided an acceptable level of cleanliness, so this was where the hotel staff washed the dishes, cutlery, pots and pans. Rather disconcerting to begin with, but as all the utensils appeared sparkly clean afterwards; our fears were put to rest. However, we were less confident about the cloth washing being undertaken further down stream.

Washing cloths in the canal

Washing cloths in the canal

Further from the hotel there were more unusual sights to behold. Tucked away in the old walled quarter a small herd of cattle formed a road bloke and refused to move until their owner started to take a tougher approach. There was the elderly gentleman inviting people to see the view over the town from his roof top, no health and safety in force here, then guiding them into his shop on the way down. Cattle munched on cardboard in the street when they couldn’t find any food to steal. There was something unusual around every corner. Then once more as the sun went down and the temperature dropped we retreated to the warmth of the hotel for dinner and to reminisce about what we had seen on our tour of the town.

View from the roof over Lo Manthang

View from the roof over Lo Manthang

Street of Lo Manthang

Street of Lo Manthang

Prayer wheels in Lo Manthang

Prayer wheels in Lo Manthang

Lo Manthang

Lo Manthang

Spinning Changra wool in Lo Manthang

Spinning Changra wool in Lo Manthang

Spinning

Spinning

Street view in Lo Manthang

Street view in Lo Manthang

Windows of the palace in Lo Manthang, visits are note allowed until earthquake damage is repaired

Windows of the palace in Lo Manthang, visits are note allowed until earthquake damage is repaired

Tourist information building in Lo Manthang

Tourist information building in Lo Manthang

Street in Lo Manthang

Street in Lo Manthang

Lady in Lo Manthang

Lady in Lo Manthang

Hungry cow

Hungry cow

Lo Manthang street with cows

Lo Manthang street with cows

Prayer wheels

Prayer wheels

Tourist bus

Tourist bus

Lo Manthang street

Lo Manthang street

Delivery truck

Delivery truck

The following day we visited the near by town of Chhoser. The first stop was its famous cave dwellings. Although no longer in use these mountain homes once housed many families, keeping them warm and safe. Our visit required climbing wooden ladders to get from room to room and almost bending double to allow for the low ceilings. Cooking and storage areas were still visible as were sleeping platforms in some rooms.

Cave Dwellings

Cave Dwellings

Cave dwellings

Cave dwellings

Inside the cave dwelling

Inside the cave dwelling

Inside the cave dwelling

Inside the cave dwelling

Inside the cave dwelling

Inside the cave dwelling

Inside the cave dwelling

Inside the cave dwelling

Road in Chhoser

Road in Chhoser

From the caves we walked into town and visited a tiny monastery where a monk was reciting mantras. We listened and watched for while then left to visit a local home.

Chhoser monastery

Chhoser monastery

Monk reciting mantra

Monk reciting mantra

Monastery in Chhoser

Monastery in Chhoser

We felt extremely privileged to be invited into the home of a local lady and her daughter. Their house was quiet new as the previous one had been badly damaged during the 2015 earthquake. It was adobe with wooded supports, and had a large kitchen area, a dining room, storage room and two bedrooms. A wooden ladder led up to the roof, but we didn’t go up there. When we arrived the lady was making yogurt by pummelling a milky liquid in a tall bamboo tube. We were each allowed to have a go but unsurprising made more mess than yogurt. We were then invited to take tea and biscuits in the dining room. A simple room with nicely decorated tables and chairs, and a wood burner in the middle. Whilst chatting with the lady, via our guide’s interpretation, we drank many cups of milk tea, receiving a constant top-up until the thermos flask was empty. We then thanked her for her hospitality and continued our walk through the town.

Making yogurt

Making yogurt

Preparing tea

Preparing tea

Preparing tea in the kitchen

Preparing tea in the kitchen

Entrance of the temple

Entrance of the temple

A quick look in at a small temple completed our visit to Chhoser. It was then back to Lo Manthang and our hotel for lunch. An afternoon stroll around town with some local jewellery purchases completed our day and our stay in Lo Manthang.

Chhoser delivery from China

Chhoser delivery from China

Chhoser street

Chhoser street

Coming back from Chhoser toward Lo Manthang

Coming back from Chhoser toward Lo Manthang

Day five was the longest drive yet as our journey was from Lo Manthang all the way back, almost to where we started. Today we were back with the driver and vehicle we had the day before last. When were last with him, his Mitsubishi Pajero wasn’t in the best of heath, we guessed it was a battery problem. However, off we went, initially with no problem, but when he tried to change the 4x4 into high the car stalled. He turned the ignition key a few times but the battery was almost dead, then just when we thought about a bump start or calling for help the engine fired up, it must have been down to the sacred Stupa we passed, as they are supposed to provide travellers with a safe passage. The rest of the journey went smoothly, through the magnificent scenery, along cliff edge roads, across rivers and circumnavigating goat herds, until we reached our destination for the day, Kagbeni.

Leaving Lo Manthang after yesterday snow fall on the mountains

Leaving Lo Manthang after yesterday snow fall on the mountains


Gate to Lo Manthang

Gate to Lo Manthang

Road scenery

Road scenery

Goats on the road, view from the car windscreen

Goats on the road, view from the car windscreen

Goats herd on cliff road

Goats herd on cliff road

Our unpredictable Mitsubishi vehicle

Our unpredictable Mitsubishi vehicle

Road side cafe between Lo Manthang and Kagbeni

Road side cafe between Lo Manthang and Kagbeni

Our accommodation in Kagbeni went by the name of Hotel Yak Donald’s and it served the best burgers in Nepal, obviously a play of words directed at the famous US fast food establishment. This was the best accommodation of the whole trip and the food was very good too. Needless to say I managed to have two Yak Burgers during our short stay and they were delicious, McDonalds eat your heart out. Anne, Carole and Olivier all managed one Yak Burger and confirmed my assessment.

Yac Donalds

Yac Donalds

Yac Donalds Hotel

Yac Donalds Hotel

Although it was quite late when we arrived at Kagbeni, Anne, Carole and Olivier managed a quick look around town and visited the local monastery, whilst I took a shower and digested my first Yak Burger.

Very old monastery in Kagbeni

Very old monastery in Kagbeni

Kagbeni

Kagbeni

That brought us to our last day in the Upper Mustang, and another amazing one to boot. The plan was to visit the sacred Hindu Temple at Muktinath in the morning then travel to Jomsom, our final destination, in the afternoon. However, things didn’t quite go to plan as, surprise surprise, the battery was flat on the Mitsubishi. This caused a couple of hours delay whilst a new one was fitted and then we were off.
Muktinath wasn’t far from Kagbeni, but the unusual thing was the road surface, this was the only bit of paved road in the Upper Mustang. To reach the temple you have to start walking from the car park just outside Muktinath town. Walk through the town, then up some steep steps to reach the temple gate and finally more steps to the temple itself. Some people, who didn’t fancy or couldn’t manage the walk, were able to rent a horse at the car park and be carried up the gate.

Muktinath

Muktinath

Gate to the entrance of Muktinath temple

Gate to the entrance of Muktinath temple

Holly man

Holly man

The temple complex wasn’t very big, but was a hive of activity. Worshipers seemed to have to complete a three part activity, which, not being Hindu’s, we weren’t allowed to do.
The first, once suitably dressed, was to walk or run underneath multiple spouts delivering glacial cold water from the mountains.

Muktinath temple, holly water spouts

Muktinath temple, holly water spouts

The second, now already wet, was to wade through two pools of the same glacial water. Submerging yourself in the process to collect a lucky coin, of which there were many amongst the muck on the bottom of the pool. It appeared that men and women had to enter and exit the pools separately, which was probably a good idea as one guy had a wardrobe malfunction whilst climbing out, providing onlookers with a moony.

Muktinath temple, holly dipping pool

Muktinath temple, holly dipping pool

Finally, and after a bit of drying off, the worshiper was able to enter the main temple building. What went on in there we do not know, as rightly, we weren’t allowed in.

Temple at Muktinath

Temple at Muktinath

It was all an amazing sight to witness and again we felt very privileged to be there. We also observed two other interesting things, one we were the only westerners there and two not everyone in the complex took part in the full worshiping process.
From the temple we crossed a hillside covered in prayer flags to visit a giant Buddha and get a great view of Muktinath town below us.

Hill of prayer flags

Hill of prayer flags

Muktinath Buddha on a hill

Muktinath Buddha on a hill

Lunch in town then followed, washed down with my favourite Nepalese beer, Sherpa Red, then back to the Jeep for the drive to Jomsom. The drive however wasn’t direct; we stopped at Muktinath’s “Selfie Park”. Perched on top of a hill a platform had been constructed to allow people to take a selfie with the town of Kagbeni below them and the Himalayan Mountains in the background. There was also a strange concrete structure that you weren’t allowed to step on; we think it was supposed to be a fossil.

favourite beer in Nepal

favourite beer in Nepal

Gate to the selfie park with instruction of entry

Gate to the selfie park with instruction of entry

Selfie park, warning to photographers

Selfie park, warning to photographers

By the time we reached Jomsom the light was fading, but it was still clear enough to have a nice view out of our bedroom window. After the relative luxury of Hotel Yak Donald’s, our Jomsom accommodation was a bit basic, and with a party going on upstairs, we decided to explore the Jomsom nightlife after dinner. As you would expect nightlife is a bit thin on the ground in such a remote place, but we did find some. A bar called “Cravend” caught our attention so we went in. A local band was playing, and they were quite good, and a comprehensive drinks menu wetted our appetite. However, although the band continued to perform well, we soon found out that most items on the menu weren’t available. So we ordered some local Whisky and Brandy and settled down to an enjoyable evening, listening to the music, watching cows pass by the window and feeling part of the local crowd. We felt even more at home when a local guy invited us to try some of his homemade maize wine, it was a bit rough for our liking but we drank it to be sociable.

Jomsom shop

Jomsom shop

View from our bedroom window early morning Jomsom

View from our bedroom window early morning Jomsom


Band in Jomsom

Band in Jomsom

That was our last night in the Upper Mustang as we flew back to Pokhara the following day. We were sad to leave this incredible environment, but pleased in the knowledge that our creature comforts awaited us in the next hotel.

Flight arriving into Jomsom airport

Flight arriving into Jomsom airport

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

Upper Mustang
Mustang, formerly the Kingdom of Lo, is a remote and isolated region of the Nepalese Himalayas. The Upper Mustang was a restricted demilitarised area until 1992, which makes it one of the most preserved regions in the world. The majority of the population still speak a traditional Tibetan language, as this area was once part of Tibet. The people also appear to be more closely related to their Tibetan neighbours than the Nepalese they are part of now. In fact this is a little bit of Tibet without the Chinese cultural, political and economic influences that exist across the border.
The area is sandwiched among some of the Himalaya’s highest mountains and forms part of the Annapurna Conservation area. To the north is the border with Chinese Tibet and to the south the more lower lying Lower Mustang. Through the middle flows the Gandaki River as it cuts a path between the mountains that surround it.
Life is tough in this part of Nepal, with mostly only subsistence farming being practiced. However, with the slow arrival of tourism life is beginning to change for some. The provision of accommodation and food for the tourist, together with some artisan crafts for sell means that household incomes are improving. But it is still a very poor region and makes you feel you are stepping back in time.

Map of our route in the Upper Mustang

Map of our route in the Upper Mustang

Lo Manthang

Lo Manthang

Posted by MAd4travel 21:44 Archived in Nepal Comments (2)

Western Nepal

Route: London – Kathmandu – Nepalgunj - Bardia National Park – Shuklaphanta National Park – Bardia National Park – Nepalgunj - Kathmandu

sunny 33 °C
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OCTOBER 2019

After a busy day we found ourselves waiting for our evening flight out of London Heathrow and bound for Dubai. This overnight flight was the first leg of our journey to Kathmandu in Nepal. By early morning (very early on UK time) we were on the ground in Dubai and in the plush and spacious arrival hall.

From here we had to make our way via train and shuttle bus to a different terminal to catch our onward flight to Kathmandu. Fortunately there was plenty of assistance to help us negotiate the transfer; otherwise it would have been a bit of a challenge.
By the time we arrived in Kathmandu we had been on the go for almost 24 hours, so the extra slow queue at immigration wasn’t welcomed. Finally through, the next job was to get a taxi to our hotel. A simple task you might expect, but not so. The taxi services were eager for your custom but don’t know where many of Kathmandu’s hotels were located, due to the lack of street addresses. But after a few phone calls for directions we were on our way, and eventually very pleased to arrive at our hotel.
A good night’s sleep prepared us for a day of organising and sightseeing, before heading off the next day to the west of Nepal.

Our destination was the Bardia National Park and our transport was by plane and jeep.
First we took a 30 minute domestic flight from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj then a 2 hour jeep (actually an SUV but referred to as a jeep) ride to our accommodation in the village of Thakurdwara, on the edge of the Bardia National Park. Both sections of our journey provided not only transport but an insight into Nepali life as well.
The terminal building for the domestic flights at Kathmandu was much more basic than the international terminal we had arrived at, but operated efficiently enough. Although it was a bit disconcerting that seats had been used to cover large holes in the floor at our departure gate. Transport from the gate to the plane was by an old weather beaten coach, which also acted as a tow vehicle for the luggage trailers. What was also amusing was how the luggage was prevented from falling off the trailers during transport; basically the luggage handlers sat on the bags and were transported with them.
What followed was a short but enjoyable flight. With the enjoyment coming from the view out of the window, as the Himalayan mountains came into sight as we rose above the clouds. What was less enjoyable was the sweet handed out by the flight crew, which must have been curry flavour.

En route from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj, beautiful view over the Himalaya

En route from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj, beautiful view over the Himalaya

View from plane as we approach Nepalgunj

View from plane as we approach Nepalgunj

Back on the ground in Nepalgunj it was time to collect our bags. Here the arrivals hall didn’t have the usual conveyor belt for luggage, instead the bags were wheeled in on a trolley and you had to shout in recognition when your bag was held up. Quite a straightforward procedure you would think, if it weren’t for everybody pleading for their bag to be unloaded first even if it was at the bottom of the pile. Fortunately the baggage handlers ignored the requests and got on with it in a systematically manner and it wasn’t long before we had our bags and on our way.

Our driver then took us on a two-hour hair rising drive from the airport to our accommodation. Not hair rising due to the state of the roads, although we did have to ford a river at one point, but because of the things we had to avoid on the road. If it wasn’t for cattle and goats lying on the road it was other traffic leaving it late to complete their overtaking manoeuvre, all meaning the gravel verge came into use on more than one occasion.

Cattle on the road

Cattle on the road


River crossing

River crossing

River crossing

River crossing

Finally we reached our destination of Bardia Homestay and were able to relax for the rest of the day.

Although we would return later, this was just an overnight stay at Bardia Homestay, as the following day we were on our way again. Our next destination was the Shuklaphanta National Park in the far west of the country, a four-hour drive away. Our journey was broken up by a visit to the Ghoda Godhi Lake, a lily filled expanse of water famous for its bird life. We spent a few hours exploring its various sections before taking lunch in a local restaurant.

Godha Godhi Lake

Godha Godhi Lake

White-throated kingfisher

White-throated kingfisher

Lotus flower

Lotus flower

After lunch we continued our journey to Shuklaphanta in the usual crazy style that we were now accustomed to when travelling by road in Nepal. By mid afternoon we were at our accommodation, the Shuklaphanta Jungle Cottages, which gave us time to relax before embarking on the final activity of the day. Around five o’clock we climbed aboard a jeep, with four other fellow travellers, to visit the Dodhara Chandani Bridge. The Dodhara Chandani Bridge, commonly known as Mahakali Bridge, is a 1.5 kilometre long suspension bridge for pedestrians, bicycles and motorbikes over Mahakali River. It is quite a feat of engineering and serves as a vital link between the communities either side of the river. We spent an hour or so walking on the bridge and watching goods and people being transported backwards and forwards, before leaving as the sun went down.

Suspension bridge 1.5km

Suspension bridge 1.5km

Rock harvesting from the river

Rock harvesting from the river

Back at the cottages it was time for dinner, a very tasty Dhal Bhaat, and some enjoyable conversation with our fellow travellers.

It was an early start the next day and with a mist still lingering on the tops of the trees we entered the Shuklaphanta National Park. One of Nepal’s newest National Parks, which has a population of Tiger, Rhino and Elephant. But with the grass so tall this time of year it was very unlikely we would see any of them. Instead we concentrated on spotting its varied Deer population and abundant bird life. What followed was an enjoyable, if not a bit tiring because of the heat, ten-hour jeep safari. With our guide and driver we explored the dense grassland, where it felt like a Combine Harvester would have been a more appropriate vehicle than a jeep, and the lush forests that surrounded it. The day was very productive as we saw all five species of Deer together with a great variety of bird life.

Swamp Deer in Shuklaphanta NP

Swamp Deer in Shuklaphanta NP

Nepalese Alexandrian Parakeets

Nepalese Alexandrian Parakeets

Shuklaphanta NP

Shuklaphanta NP

Monitor lizard resting in the viewing tower

Monitor lizard resting in the viewing tower

Short Tail Macaque in the Shuklaphanta NP

Short Tail Macaque in the Shuklaphanta NP

Tall grass keeping us from having a good view around

Tall grass keeping us from having a good view around

Herd of spotted deer

Herd of spotted deer

From the viewing tower in Shuklaphantha NP

From the viewing tower in Shuklaphantha NP

The following day we retraced our steps back to Bardia Homestay to start a proper exploration of the Bardia National Park and its surrounding area. However, we didn’t travel directly, we did make a stop at the Karnali River Bridge, where it crosses the longest river in Nepal (507km).

Moving greenery on the Kanali River bridge

Moving greenery on the Kanali River bridge

The next day started a new phase in our Nepal trip, as four very good friends were joining us. The get together had two functions, to celebrate the 50th birthday of two of the party and also to explore the country together.
Anne and I started the day with a short walk in the area, before the other four arrived around mid-day. The afternoon was spent catching up, followed by an early evening walk when the heat had subsided a bit.

Modern and traditional life

Modern and traditional life

Drying crops

Drying crops

Goat herding

Goat herding

Bardia Homestay

Bardia Homestay

Bardia Homestay

Bardia Homestay

The emphasis for the following three days was to explore the Bardia National Park, by jeep, on foot and rafting through its middle. The park has a good population of iconic wildlife, but Tiger and Elephant eluded us. However, we were please with the sight of an Asian Rhino bathing in the river and a pack of six Asian Otters feeding. It was also nice to see plenty of Deer, Monkeys and a few Jackals, less so to see a Cobra crossing the river in the opposite direction to which we were wading.

Entrance to Bardia NP

Entrance to Bardia NP

Bardia NP

Bardia NP

Langur Monkey

Langur Monkey

Bird of prey

Bird of prey

d20b6040-fe15-11e9-bdd4-597009e22c24.jpegCobra crossing the river

Cobra crossing the river

Family of Asian Otters

Family of Asian Otters

Asian Otter

Asian Otter

Otter eating fish

Otter eating fish

Short Tail Macaque

Short Tail Macaque

Asian Rhino

Asian Rhino

Asian Rhino

Asian Rhino

Asian Rhino having a great time

Asian Rhino having a great time

Karnali River

Karnali River

Asian open billed stork

Asian open billed stork

Mugger crocodile

Mugger crocodile

Bardia National Park road

Bardia National Park road



Our stay in the area also coincided with Nepal’s Dashain festival, one of the country’s most important. And as we were staying at “Bardia Homestay”, highly recommended by the way, we were invited to witness some of the celebration first-hand.
We joined a parade as it passed through the village on its way to the river to give offerings to the gods. We were also able to join in on some of the activities at the rivers edge, but left the locals to party when the sun began to set.

Dashain Festival procession

Dashain Festival procession

Dashain procession

Dashain procession

Offering for Dashain Festival

Offering for Dashain Festival

Offering to the Gods

Offering to the Gods

Festival food and drink

Festival food and drink

Swings ready for Dashain Festival

Swings ready for Dashain Festival

Swing for the Dashain Festival

Swing for the Dashain Festival

A bit of fish, chicken, spinach and other stuff ....

A bit of fish, chicken, spinach and other stuff ....

Sharing food and drinks for the celebration

Sharing food and drinks for the celebration

Celebrating Dashain

Celebrating Dashain

Food and drinks for celebrating Dashain

Food and drinks for celebrating Dashain

Dashain celebration

Dashain celebration

We were also treated to some local dancing as part of the Dashain festival, a gift from our hosts Sonja and Budhi, and even got roped into joining in, good fun though.

Dashain Dancing

Dashain Dancing

Dashain Dance

Dashain Dance

In between the organised activities we took ourselves for walks around the surrounding countryside and felt privileged to witness Nepali rural life as it went on all around us.

Water Buffalo being washed

Water Buffalo being washed

Rice field

Rice field

Harvesting the rice

Harvesting the rice

Village scene

Village scene

Intrigued by what we had seen locally we were keen to see more. So when we were offered a trip up to the northern hill villages, we jumped at the chance. This trip started on the Kathmandu highway, but after crossing the Karnali River Bridge at Chisapani, the road followed the river as it climbed into the hills. From here on the road was barely passable, as this year’s monsoon had taken a heavy toll.

Hill road negociation

Hill road negociation

Goods delivery

Goods delivery

Repairing Hill Roads after the monsoon

Repairing Hill Roads after the monsoon

Karnali River

Karnali River

River Canal

River Canal

But with some expert driving, not by us I hasten to add, we were able to reach many of the more remote villages. We were able to see how hard life was in these hill villages, we saw where they lived, the crops they cultivated and the communities they lived in. We heard that they could be cut off for weeks during the monsoon, so will stock up with supplies before the rains started. We witnessed the many forms of transport used, including the battered minibuses that passed us while walking, over full with passengers but a vital link to the main town at the bottom of the valley. All the time we followed to Karnali River, paddling in it at one point and crossing it at another, via a local suspension bridge. We had lunch in one of the very few restaurants and took tea in a small café. It was fascinating, informative and very enjoyable day.

Portrait of Local Hill Lady

Portrait of Local Hill Lady

Hill Family

Hill Family

Hill scenery

Hill scenery

Local Shop

Local Shop

Drying Noodle

Drying Noodle

Hill Family

Hill Family

Hill House

Hill House

Hill village

Hill village

Suspension bridge over the Karnali River

Suspension bridge over the Karnali River

And that was the end of our journey in western Nepal. We took a jeep to Nepalgunj airport and flew back to Kathmandu, to start the next part of our Nepal experience.

Personal Observations & Interesting Facts

Road travel in Nepal
The main roads in Nepal are generally in good condition, although still being repaired in places following the 2015 earthquake. However, it was not the condition of the roads that made them memorable, it was travelling along them. Life is at its busiest close to the main road. They connect major towns, trading establishments line them and all forms of transport travel along them. This meant negotiating them was quite a skill. Proficient use of the horn is vital to warn other road users to get out of the way, because I am not stopping. Good brakes are necessary to slow the vehicle enough to swerve around the obstacle that has failed to react to the sound of the horn. And sturdy suspension is required for the times you have to leave the road to avoid on coming traffic.
So what did we see travelling on the road? The usual cars, trucks, buses, motorbikes and bicycles, but also carts being drawn by cattle, tractors towing all sort of farm produce and construction materials and even women carrying piles of grass so big that it looked like it was moving by itself.
And what were those obstacles? Well, the main obstacle is cattle, they roam freely and never seem to be in any hurry to move out of the way. This means you have to go around them or pass between them, but never hit them, as they are sacred. On several occasions a herd would block the tarmac, forcing vehicles to use the gravel verge to get by, this was usually where a tree provides a shady area lay. Other livestock and dogs were also an obstacle to negotiate, together with other road users coming towards you on your side of the road.
All in all an interesting and sometimes a bit scary experience, especially when all this happens at breakneck speed.

Posted by MAd4travel 01:16 Archived in Nepal Comments (1)

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