“You’ll like Nepal, people don’t harass you there” said my friend, as I prepared for my solo trip to Nepal, an overnight visa run from India turned week long jaunt. He was wrong. I LOVED it.
Nepal In a week
Sunauli – Kathmadu – Pokhara – Chitwan National Park – Lumbini
Did You Know: The Nepalese flag is the only flag in the world that is not a quadrangle (four sided).?
To Fly or to Crawl?
When travelling to Nepal from India, it’s possible to fly from Delhi to Kathmandu in 1.5hrs, but why do that when you can do it in 26hrs? Well because in 26 hours you see and experience a lot more than you do in 1, so I chose to crawl.
Getting there (from India)
Contrary to expectation, I love train travel in India. It’s a very inexpensive, comfortable way to watch unobserved, see day-to-life, watch the landscape change, read a book when you want, have a nap when you don’t, all punctuated by frequent shots of sweet tea delivered to you by an incessant stream of chai-wallahs. So I caught the 14hr train from Delhi to Gorakhpur (USD 25), followed by 3hr local bus ride (USD 1) to the Nepalese border, and then another 9hr bus ride (USD 9) to Kathmandu.
As I only had a day here, I made my way to arguable the most famous places in Kathmandu
Swayambunath or the Monkey Temple.
At the bottom of the hill, I’m welcomed by Lord Bhuddha, and am delighted to see a little monkey nestled in the palm of his hand. After taking my blessing, I puff my way up 365 stairs, and am rewarded with this beautiful view – a large white stupa adorned with a tall golden crown, with streamers of colourful Tibetan prayer flags fluttering in the breeze against a cloudless dark blue sky. The hypnotic Buddha eyes follow you wherever you go, looking beyond into the valley that surrounds it. This site has been sacred since the 5th century BC, and is revered by Bhuddist and Hindus. I sat at one of the rooftop café sipping a lemon soda, absorbing the serene atmosphere while watching the city below without the crowds – nice.
I then headed to Durbar Square without a map, through this gully and that alley, stopping to play a game of Carom with some kids.
There are lots of temples, palaces, courtyards and shrines you can see, but I prefer to just soak in the place. So once again, after collecting my free hug, I headed to a rooftop, and to combat the midday heat, settled down with a nice cold Everest (if I cant climb it, I may as well drink it) to watch people enjoying the old square.
The Himalaya at dawn – view from Sarangkot
A 7hr bus ride brought me to Pokhara. At 4am I was picked up from my hotel and headed to Sarangkot, a place 15km from Pokhara with the most unbelievable panomic views of the high Himalayas. Some of the highest peaks in the world can be seen here, as the morph from ghostly silhouettes to majestic megaliths painted in the golden hues of the morning sun – sublime. A picture could never do it any sort of justice. I sat there gazing in awe at these giants who where basically 7km vertically up from any beach I had laid on…staggering. I wondered what it must be like up there. These silent mountains are quite inhospitable preferring their own company. This became apparent the next day as I heard that sadly 20 people had been killed in an avalanche in the very mountains that I had just been gazing at. Nature is as powerful as it is beautiful.
Pokhara town is set on the side of a lake, with the picturesque mountains as a backdrop. It is the starting point for many treks, and is mostly full of places catering to tourists, but still retains a tranquil atmosphere.
An Elephant Safari | Chitwan National Park
From Pokhara I do a 6hr bus journey to the small village of Sauraha, bordering Chitwan National Park to see the endangered one horned rhino. While walking from my bus stop to my hotel, I pass a small hut with an elephant parked outside – an uncommon curious sight. It rained all day ad all night and a safari the next day was looking unlike. I stayed in and finished reading The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen. A very profound book, though after months of arduous trekking, he still does not see the Snow Leopard, but he is okay with that. I think this is an omen that I wont see the one horned rhino, and start to make my peace with that. The next morning I go on an elephant safari, and it’s a good thing I made my peace as I didn’t see the rhino, but the safari was no less special. Ambling along on the back of a 3 ton giant, one minute plains, one minute dense jungle, while being watched by 3 squillion ton petrified giants – very special.
Lumbini – the birthplace of Lord Buddha
When the local bus deposits you in the middle of T-junction, with a small collection of road side stalls and shops, and yells “Lumbini!”, trust them, you are there, in one of the most sacred places in the world. It’s a very small, nondescript town, some 20km from the border with India, that owes it’s existence to the fact that someone very important was born there – Lord Buddha, who founded Bhuddism in the 5th century B.C., which is now followed by almost 500 million people worldwide.
The surroundings are very tranquil – a docile lake dotted with lotuses and birds is partially obscured by the trees and shrubs that line the walkway. I enjoy the unhurried walk to the ruins of the Maya Devi temple, the place where Lord Buddha is said to have been born. Again, the serenity is palpable. There are more pilgrims here than tourists, monks, nuns and devotees praying and chanting all add to the spiritual atmosphere.
From here, a one hour bus ride covering 15km will get you back to the border with India with memories of amazing landscapes, unforgettable sunrises, and friendly people.