This article around my Nepal trip was originally published in Sakaal Times on 3rd September 2017. Come lets fall in love with our neighbour country.
If you have ever wanted to go to Nepal and have yet not been able to convince yourself, let me sort it out for you, right away. A perfect blend of adventure, Nepali hospitality, gorgeous Himalayan landscape, mid-hills scenery, world heritage sites and bountiful villages amidst traditional roots awaits you there. After indulging in the beauty of the Himalayan Kingdom for twelve wonderful days, I can only say that it is just the right time to be lost in the simplicity and magnificence of Nepal.
When I reached Kathmandu, I was in two minds. I was not sure if my idea of choosing the culture tour over the adventure one was a great idea because I had only known Nepal as a paradise for trekkers and a gateway to the mighty Mount Everest. I was further worried if I would find enough stories to take back home because in the first few hours, the capital city seemed like just like any other crowded Asian city. But after checking in a beautiful eco-friendly hotel, gorging on delicious dumplings, exploring the colorful lanes of Thamel (backpacker’s paradise) and indulging in authentic Nepalese thaali, I had found my peace by late evening. I knew I was in for a different kind of adventure. Trust me, the road trip that happened for next couple of days will always make me look back at Nepal with a mixture of fond memories. And more than I had expected, I was touched by its different terrains in different ways.
NEPAL AND ITS MANY FACETS
The capital city of Kathmandu enjoys the architectural brilliance of 7 UNESCO World Heritage Cultural Monuments. The historical village of Panauti basks in the beauty of traditional hospitality and homestays. Chitwan is the land of wilderness which promises an enriching jungle experience in the company of one-horned rhinoceros, elephants, tigers and more. Bhaktapur is famously known as the ‘living heritage’ or a ‘living museum’ for preserving amazing architectures, art, mythology and cultural vibrancy of the Newari tribes. Lumbini is the birthplace of Buddha, the one who spread Buddhism in the whole world. Pokhara makes a picturesque city of tranquil lakes. Annapurna is definitely one of the best trekking region of the world. The city of Patan is best known for its finest traditional crafts and artists.
In my trip, I visited all the above mentioned places except the Annapurna and there is no doubt about it that Nepal is full of diverse landscapes and countless cultures. The unique combination of mountains, peaks, pagodas, stupas, national parks, world heritage sites, endless festivals, hundreds of tribes, daal-bhaat power and its other delights makes it a country full of many wonders.
IN CONVERSATION WITH THE PEOPLE
For me, the first authentic and rich local experience in Nepal happened when I traveled to Panauti, a village 32 kilometers from Kathmandu. It gave me a chance to stay with the locals andgrow look into the traditional houses, shops, sitting platforms and old temple. And most importantly, I loved the fact that the local people had all the time to stop, smile and talk about their village.
“You must have the Laakhamari”, said the owner of my home stay in Panauti and in no time she offered me a big and round sweet dish made from wheat flour dough and pure ghee. The intricate patterns looked very interesting and when I tasted it I could make out that a heavy coating of thick sugar on the top made it delightfully relishing. It is a special dish made by the Newari families.
My guide ‘Monika’ from Royal Mountain Travel was one amazing woman. I had a fabulous trip and I will give all the credit to her patience and smart planning.
Unlike other places where I stayed for only one or two days, it was only in Kathmandu that I got a chance to stay for four days. My hotel Kantipur Temple House definitely deserves a mention here because it followed every practice that made it a perfect eco-friendly heritage hotel. I would also like to mention that the owner of the hotel greet all the guests every morning and I never missed to notice his traditional attire and the Dhaka topi. Later, I learned that it is customary to wear a Nepali topi (cap or hat) on special occasions and the bridegroom always wears one on the wedding day.
Shopping for souvenirs is the best time to interact with the locals and appreciate the art and culture of the country. I took a fascination for the products made from Nepali Paper (Lokta), Hemp bags, the Thanka Arts, the puppets of Kumari, Ganesh and Bhairab, the statues of Buddha, masks of Green Tara, White Tara, and the ceramic and wooden crafts while walking around the shopping streets of Pokhara and Kathmandu both.
You cannot say you visited Nepal and departed without noticing the vibrant warm smiles, heartfelt handshakes, helping gestures, hospitable acts and friendly banters. Nepalese people are extremely polite. With more than hundreds of tribes in Nepal, you have a beautiful cultural story waiting to be discovered almost every day.
RISE AND SHINE
Nepal was hit with a devastating earthquake in April and May 2015 but the country and its people have proved that nothing can stop you from rising and shining if you have the will, intent and positive force with you. Though the damage of life and its historic buildings was heart rendering, the repairs have helped to rebuild the confidence that nothing has been lost and Nepal is as beautiful as any other country. I was there in Nepal to attend the Himalayan Travel Mart and International Travel Bloggers and Media Conference along with 100 bloggers around the world. The two events were organized by Nepal Tourism Board and Nepal PATA Chapter and the aim was to show us the real and natural Nepal. I feel they nailed it by taking this positive step towards their tourism and leaving no stone unturned in making it a big success.