Adventure and Relaxation can both be found in Nepal
Namaste is a commonly used greeting in Nepal that you have probably heard dozens of times but never knew where it originated from. After experiencing India, I flew over to Nepal which was a relatively short flight.
If you are a lover of Mountains and scenic walks, Nepal is heaven. The Himalayas are iconic and easy to access for hiking. There are not many places in the world where you can trek for days and find hot meals along the way. Nepal offers a little something for thrill-seekers if trekking isn’t your thing then rafting down the Nepali river or bungee jumping is just as good. Other adventurous options include:
- Mountain biking
- and much more
Before arriving in Nepal, I made a Nepali friend online called Raaz who I later found out was Prince Raaz. I wasn’t so sure if that is his full name or a royal title. We chatted for two months on the Whisper app prior to my visit. He was the reason I got into many iconic places for free (it usually costs 1,5 k Nepali rupees for each landmark). I had posted on the app where I planned to visit in Asia as an anonymous confession and asked others for suggestions. Raaz saw the post and sent me a direct message.
I had no idea that Raaz was a prince though, the fact that everywhere we went we never even got asked for tickets. Before I was initially scheduled to meet up with Raaz, I booked a hotel, but when I went to stay there, there were bugs so I couldn’t sleep. I informed staff who moved me to another room for the same rate. Raaz texted me asking if I had arrived ok and I explained the bug problem. A few minutes later, hotel staff moved me to another better suite (which included a kitchen). Coincidence? Hmmm, suspicious!
Anyway, I was flabbergasted at how Nepal was orchestrated perfectly for independent travel. I found trekking shops, bakeries and pizzerias everywhere, sweet salvation!
The greatest spots of Nepal
Kathmandu was the first city I landed in when I got to Nepal. Hotel staff quickly picked me up at the airport, and I was on my way. The capital city of Nepal is a hub for independent travellers, and the town caters to any adventurer regardless of their budget.
I supposed to meet Raaz on the day I arrived. Unfortunately, I was too tired so that I overslept. We then met the next morning in front of Garden of Dreams. Raaz is very sincere, kind and polite. He accompanied me on the day trips and adventures in neighbouring cities. Raaz wasn’t the only friend I made. I also met a super tall Spanish dude called Frederick who was staying at a nearby hotel. Frederick had this fantastic accent, he spoke with a heightened received pronunciation aka the queens English. Anytime he spoke, people who recognised Prince Williams accent would turn around and stare in awe.
It’s easy to walk around the city, provided you have adequate footwear, but there are rickshaws available in every corner. I was advised to say “no meter no pay” so I didn’t get overcharged. If you don’t want to take any risk, just use eddycab service. It’s an app to book a cab online, way cheaper than the conventional one. Anyway, I managed to get to the Monkey Temple, a site on a hill that gave a spectacular view of the city and there was a lot of cool Buddhist and Hindu iconography. I almost had my bag stolen by monkeys when I left it on the ground so be vigilant.
Freak street was my next destination, which was full of western hippies selling jewellery and offering Kombucha. I had a coffee and a snack before moving on. Spirituality and self-help courses are affluent in the city. Everywhere I walk down a street, I saw posters for classes in yoga, meditation, massage etc.
Even though I enjoyed Kathmandu, the city did have a few problematic issues; the air pollution was overwhelming at times. Iconic buildings are missing from 2015’s brutal earthquake and other places left in poor conditions. At one point, I was advised to always wear face masks because of the pollution. Check out Kathmandu real-time air pollution level here.
Day trips for adventure
One of the things I loved about Kathmandu is that there are so many options for an adventure. Day trips are not to be missed when the opportunity presents itself. A few of the neighbouring cities I went to include:
Bhaktapur is known as the city of Culture and Nepal’s cultural Gem, renowned for its elegant art, colourful festivals and traditional dances. I loved Durbar Square, a fascinating palace with a famous Golden Gate built around 1756 AD. The golden gate is also the entrance to the royal bath pond and some Artistic courtyards which I thoroughly enjoyed. Raaz and I went to an old local restaurant somewhere in Durbar Square. I assumed it was one of the oldest. Raaz recommended me to try Juju Dhau aka King of Yogurt, made of fresh buffalo milk.
Patan is one of the largest cities in Nepal. It is located across the Bagmati river from Kathmandu. Patan has a Durbar Square and famous museum. I loved this city because there was so much on offer. Masks, Buddha statues and jewelleries are available for a reasonable price. Aside from numerous temples and courtyards that you can visit, there is also the museum in Keshab Narayan Chowk which presents various artistic work with descriptions of the process of how they were made. I tried some local food in Patan, just small portions of pretty much everything. I couldn’t remember the names, but one of them was raw buffalo meat. Did I eat it? Yes. Did I finish it? No. Why? It was freaking hard to chew.
I felt energized when I discovered Nagarkot, with so many hiking trails, scenic views and refreshing weather. One of the highlights for me was going to Club Himalaya. This Resort is located on one of the highest spot in Nagarkot. I was literally in the middle of the cloud. Another highlight was Nagarkot View tower. Situated approximately in 6500 feet above sea level, it is just couple minutes away from Club Himalaya. Many tourists wake up early to do the steep climb so they can witness the stunning sunrise which is like fire ice. Definitely one of the most magnificent views of the Himalayas and Kathmandu Valley. Expect to be greeted by charming local villagers, rolling hills, thick pine forests and uncharted landscapes on the way there.
The second largest city in Nepal but its easy to walk around to get to places. The city has a fantastic lakeside trail with forests filled with monkeys and the view of mountains from a distance. The town hosts a number of many lakes, but it was the adventures I undertook that I really loved. Cave exploring, canoeing, trekking, kayaking, rock climbing, paragliding and mountain biking are just some of the things available in this city.
I learned to really appreciate life after I visited the Tibetan Refugee Camp where I learned about the hardships of the refugees and how positive-thinking they were. I bought a few gifts from them which the vendors humbly thanked.
Nepal’s Culture is all about love
As I mentioned earlier, people in Nepal salute you with “Namaste” which means I salute the divine in you. Nepal is made up of 69 different ethnic groups with unique clothes, languages or dialects.
I found the Nepali people very warm, welcoming and friendly, proud of their traditions, music and culture. They seemed to love foreigners visiting and went to great lengths in term of hospitality. At one point when I was trekking, I needed a break, and a villager appeared with a cup of water as a gesture of goodwill. Most of the other foreigners I met in Nepal had visited the country many times before. They told me regardless of where they came from or what religion, they are always treated in high regards.
Caste and status are prevalent in Nepal’s culture which affects things such as marriage, career and how they interact with each other. It’s common for extended families to all live in one house, and the elderly are highly respected. That particular time in their life is seen as a period of prayer, meditation and relaxation.
One of the most important holidays in Nepal is Krishna Janmashtami. It is an annual Hindu festival that celebrates the birth of Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu. Nepalis observe the holiday by fasting until midnight, and then they party like crazy.
Cuisine that touches the sides
I had presumed that food in Nepal is spicy, but momos (meat or vegetable dumpling) was mild. It’s often served with beer and Tibetan bread.
For dinner, I tried Pukālā (fried meat), made from water buffalo and considered a delicacy of the Kathmandu valley. Typically though, I would get served Thali. It’s a platter of different dishes which I was enthusiastic about.
The national dish of Nepal is called daal bhaat tarkaari, spiced lentils poured over rice and served with vegetables. My tolerance for spicy food was quite high after having been in India beforehand, so I had no problems consuming this meal. Sometimes, you get a yoghurt and some fresh chutney too. And you must eat this meal using your right hand (the same hand for wiping your butt after toilet).
Many of the tribes in Nepal are vegetarian. Buffalo and yak are considered cow-like and therefore out of bounds for the mostly Hindu locals. The penultimate dessert in Nepal is Buffalo Curd, a highly nutritious and thick type of yoghurt made from buffalo milk, served with raw honey.
Nepal trip was excellent, but I’m not done yet. My original plan was land in Kathmandu, meet Raaz, trek in Pokhara, then explore Kathmandu. Since Raaz had other things to do during my first visit, I only had a chance to sense Pokhara for less than 24 hours. Therefore, Raaz invites me to come back in March so I can trek and spend some time to explore the Himalayan Mountains.