This wasn’t my first trip to Nepal but I would like to call it my first due to many reasons. To start with, the last visit happened when I was too young and I did not possess the eyes and sensibilities of a traveller. Second, my purpose of the visit was restricted only to the Indo-Nepal border so I didn’t get to see much. Lastly, the Himalayan Kingdom did not create the same impact on me as it did this time. No doubt, everything was special about this recent trip. I was not just a traveller but a travel blogger. Indeed, I saw Nepal differently! Thank you, Nepal Airlines for flying me to Kathmandu.
What took me to Nepal?
International Travel Bloggers & Media Conference (1st June), as well as Himalayan Travel Mart (2nd -4th June), which took place in Kathmandu, were two prime reasons which made bloggers and travel agents from all over the world turn their attention to one of the most popular trekking destinations in the world. NEPAL PATA CHAPTER and NEPAL TOURISM deserve a huge round of applauds for bringing in more than 100 bloggers, excellent speakers and galore of participating countries for the events, pre-fam and post-fam trips. The sessions were amazing but the familiarisation trips were the real game-changers. In fact, I relished my travel all the more because these trips helped me see the real and natural Nepal. Every day, we moved from one place to another and it was fun to do the road trips that were both thrilling and back-breaking (thanks to the roads).
What did I do in these 11 Days!!!
1.On the first day, I flew into Kathmandu from Delhi via Nepal Airlines. By afternoon, I had checked in a beautiful and eco-friendly boutique hotel – Kantipur Temple House. After gorging into a plate of chicken momos, I was already out within an hour to explore Thamel, which was just round the corner. In the late evening, I had an invite from PATA to join in the first official dinner meet along with travel bloggers from all over the world. And there, I remember eating my first authentic Nepalese thali at Utsav restaurant.
2.The FAM trips had two options – Adventure and Culture. I had chosen the latter. Even in the Culture Group, we were further divided into mini groups. On the second day, 18 of us were guided in a historical township/village called Panauti. 32 kilometres, away from Kathmandu, the main attraction of this place was to acquaint travellers with the rural life of Nepal, give them a chance to peek into the old and traditional houses and let them experience the hospitality of the locals who were trying to make a change through promoting community homestay. I wouldn’t call it the best experience but yes it was a different experience that I would want to cherish for long. I was impressed with the females of the village and I will do a story about them soon.
3.On the third day, we drove down to Chitwan. The wildlife enthusiast in me was really looking forward to this part of the trip. The drive was long, tiring and bumpy but for that one tete-a-tete with one-horned rhinoceros, we were up for everything. After the tiring day, the evening was easy and relaxing. I enjoyed the silence of the wilderness at Tigerlands.
4.Well, the fourth day was dedicated for Chitwan Jungle Activities. The activities that kept us engaged were a boat ride, bird watching session, a walk to the crocodile breeding center and safari, later in the day. We had good sightings and of course, my pictures of the monitor lizard and the one-horned rhinoceros will always remind me of the day.
5.The road drive to Lumbini was supposed to be long and we were restless about it. However, we started in time and it came out to be easy-peasy. We reached by afternoon and saved good enough time to explore the Buddha’s birthplace, the UNESCO World Heritage site and some of the famous monasteries too. I definitely wanted some more time for Lumbini but at the end of the day, I would call it a good day.
6. It was a picturesque ride to Pokhara, not because of the roads but because of the valleys and a lovely weather. We were all looking forward to Pokhara for meeting our friends who were in other groups and for the Mount Everest Day Celebrations which was an important agenda of this trip. That night, we all partied when we met.
7. We celebrated the Mount Everest Day at the International Mountain Museum. Pokhara is the place meant for trekkers. It is a touristy city but this is where all expeditions to Mount Everest begin. On the clear days, you get lucky with the Annapurna ranges. We used the other half of the day to explore the World Peace Stupa and the street market and Fewa lake. The glimpses of sunset were amazing.
8. It was supposed to be a road trip as per the itinerary but we all got lucky and escaped the most tiring ride of the trip. Thanks to the efforts of Nepal Tourism Board and PATA, the domestic airlines of the country pitched in to fly us back to the capital. It was raining cats and dogs. The flights were delayed. We were unsure of flying. But at last, we made it. This was the shortest ride of my life with Yeti Airlines but the views from the flight were amazing. Now, I so want to do the Everest flight too. (The greedy me). Back in the capital, we were all set to start the fun once again. In the evening, I walked around Thamel to explore Darbar Square which was closed by the time I reached but I was happy to discover Chota Swayambhu in the vicinity.
9. It was a free day and I opted to join a guided tour to one of the royal palaces around Nepal, Bhaktapur. In the second half, we covered Patan. And later I visited the Kathmandu Darbar Square. The architectures and historical legacy of all these three places filled me with lots of respect for Nepal. The history lover in me was elated. I will remember this day forever. For me, my favourite was Patan. I must say it was the most thrilling day in Nepal.
10. The International Travel Bloggers and Media Conference was quite an eventful day. It was good to hear from the learned and the experienced who make a difference in the industry. Such international platforms are learning pedestals. Thankfully, we had some time and I spend the rest of the evening indulging in shopping and grabbing some quick bites.
11. The Himalayan Travel Mart Conference had all the more amazing speakers if compared to the previous day. I am glad I stayed for this. There was a lot of interesting takeaway for the day and of course, it gave us a chance to share the roof with the honourable president of Nepal. It was a gala dinner for sure!!
12. It was time to fly back to New Delhi. If given a chance, I think I would have loved to extend my trip because there was still so much to explore in Kathmandu. I know I will go back to Nepal for more safari trips and culture stories.
Well, I know eleven days sound too many but as far as my style of travelling goes, I usually love to dwell in a place for months until the place grows on me. Even in India, I love to return to a certain place again and again and see it in bits and pieces. It is not important to go out every day and tick mark the list of things-to-do rather it’s more important to wander around the neighbourhood to get a hang of a place.
When you live in a country for almost 12 days, you got to find enough reasons to fall in love with it. Honestly, Nepal did not excite me instantly but as it revealed its many facets with each passing day, I was taken in by its natural charm, simplicity and hospitality. And precisely here, I must mention that if you thought that this Himalayan Kingdom is only about trekking, expeditions and Mount Everest, I think you have an itinerary (above) that completely shows you a new side of it.
This was a familiarisation trip and it was hectic too, but I am glad I got to see the best of some of the prominent places of Nepal. The architecture and whole setup of the three lavish Darbar Squares in Nepal impressed me the most. And last but not the least, what I really loved about Nepal was that it had a uniqueness about itself. Despite being a small country, it has hundreds of different tribes, culture, food, festivals and more.
We all know the Earthquake of 2015 did a lot of harm to its temples and more but I am glad we have all come together to show that Nepal is not less to anyone. It is strong and beautiful!
Thank you, Nepal Tourism Board!!