A Week in Nepal – Mountains, Temples and Fluttering Flags

This isn’t a travel guide. I’ll tell you that now. I deliberately didn’t read any guides before arriving in Kathmandu because I wanted the sights, sounds and the atmosphere to seep in without any preconceptions. I had an itinerary, my camera, and my son with me, so I had all I needed. And an open mind. We were meeting up with a group of strangers who all had there own reasons for joining this trip. It was to be an adventure. A journey. A week in Nepal, followed by a week in India. A lot of travelling, a lot of new sensations, cities to explore, food to sample, and friends to make. India had long been on my bucket list, although I have already travelled in small groups before to all corners of the planet. Nepal was a bonus. I was told that this part of the world is life-changing to visit. I’ve visited poor countries before so I wasn’t quite convinced, and it wasn’t until arriving in India that I grasped exactly what was mean’t. But I’m jumping ahead. This post is about Nepal. A gentler – in hindsight – introduction to Asia.

Nepal Viewed from Monkey Temple

Kathmandu

Nepal. On the Streets of Kathmandu

On the Streets of Kathmandu

Kathmandu

Kathmandu stands at an elevation of around 1,400 metres above sea level in the bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley of central Nepal. With a population of 1.4 million, it’s the capital city of Nepal and the largest metropolis in the Himalayan hill region. It’s busy. It’s dusty. It’s noisy. As you would expect. Don’t expect the traffic to allow you to cross the road. At all. It’s also vibrant, colourful, and enormous treasure trove of art and sculptures.

Nepal. Fluttering Prayer Flags

Fluttering Prayer Flags at Monkey Temple

Swayambhunath, Nepal

Swayambhunath

The itinerary took us to Swayambhunath, also known as Monkey Temple for obvious reasons. It’s one of the oldest religious sites in Nepal and although it’s considered to be a Buddhist temple it’s revered by both Buddhists and Hindus. You won’t be able to ignore the Buddhist chant playing from every tourist stall, or the fluttering Buddhist prayer flags. Or the monkeys. It’s also a great place to look out over the city. Pashupatinath Temple was next, located on the banks of the Bagmati River. It’s a Hindu temple built in the pagoda style of architecture but we were transfixed by the funeral pyres built along the river bank. The cremations on these platforms are a common activity and several took place right in front of us. And onto Boudhanath, which is one of the holiest Buddhist sites in Nepal and the stupa’s massive mandala makes it one of the largest spherical stupas in Nepal.

Pashupatinath Temple, Nepal

Pashupatinath Temple

We also visited the famous three Durbar Squares – Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square and Bhaktapur Durbar Square. A mind blowing complex of temples, idols, statues, open courts and fountains. Sadly there is a lot of damage from the earthquake of 2015 but restoration is taking place, and I’d say this is one place not to miss. If you venture into the surrounding streets you’ll also witness a way of life that probably hasn’t changed for centuries.

Bhaktapur, Nepal

Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur, Nepal

Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur, Nepal

Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur, Nepal

Bhaktapur

Bhaktapur, Nepal

Bhaktapur

Nepal - Mount Everest

Mount Everest

The Mountain

A lot of people travelling to Nepal will be trekking to Everest Base Camp. I wasn’t having any of that, so the next best thing was to see the mountain from a light aircraft. Also something not to miss. I’ve titled this ‘The Mountain’ and not ‘Mount Everest’ because when you are waiting the flight announcements are for ‘The Mountain’. Something that just tickled us. Mornings in Nepal can be quite cloudy but we rose above the clouds to the most spectacular views. One for the bucket list.

On the Road, Nepal

On the Road

Around Chitwan, Nepal

Village Life, Chitwan

Around Chitwan, Nepal

Village Life, Chitwan

Chitwan National Park Nepal

Chitwan National Park

Chitwan National Park

This will be on the list for anyone visiting Nepal. It was the most relaxing place for us. Chitwan is somewhat of a resort town. One main street, with tourist shops, restaurants and hotels. Relaxed and laid-back. With one main difference. There will be elephants wandering down the road. We avoided any contact with the elephant tours on advice from our guide. Instead we toured the National Park by canoe and open jeeps. Nothing beats floating down a river at daybreak, waiting for the mists to clear and listening to the birds. We saw lots of crocs, birds and monkeys but sadly no rhino’s. That came later just a short stroll from our hotel. That’s the thing about wildlife, they have no schedule. If I’d got up early enough on our last day I’d have seen more. Again just a short stroll from the hotel. Prepare to make your own opportunities.

Chitwan National Park, Nepal

Chitwan National Park

Chitwan National Park Rhino, Nepal

Chitwan National Park

Chitwan National Park, Nepal

Chitwan National Park

On the road, Nepal

On the road

Lumbini

Our last destination in Nepal was Lumbini. The birthplace of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism and one of his four holy places of pilgrimage. Most visitors there were Indian or Nepalese and the site is bordered by a large monastic zone in which only monasteries can be built. The lack of shops, hotels and restaurants makes it a peaceful and spiritual place to be. Even non-Buddhists like us were tempted to sit under the Bodhi tree with the monks. It’s said that the pond beside it is where Mayadevi (Buddha’s mother) took a bath before giving birth to the future Buddha.

Lumbini, Nepal. Birthplace of Buddha

Birthplace of Buddha

Lumbini, Nepal. Birthplace of Buddha

Birthplace of Buddha

You’ll have gathered from my photographs that I’m more interested in capturing the street life than the temples. That’s for the guide books. I would rather remember the feelings I had when standing on the banks of a river, watching a sunset, or the excitement experienced when seeing a rhino from only a few metres away. For me, Nepal will be about the colours of the flags, the peacefulness of the scenery and that majestic mountain.

A week in India will follow soon.

 

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2 Comments

  1. Reply

    Sophie

    November 27, 2017

    Incredible. I joke sometimes when I’m having a bad day. Or rather I quote blackadder… “I am therefore leaving immediately for Nepal where I intend to live as a goat” I never imagined it would be such a beautiful and majestic place. I’ve learned a lot from your post. Especially about Buddha, I had no idea. Amazing, absolutely amazing. I’m looking forward to reading about India.

    You mentioned Monks. I can’t imagine how amazing it must be to see the ancient art in practise.

    • Reply

      deardesigner

      November 28, 2017

      So glad you liked the post Sophie. It was a memorable trip. 🙂

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