Getting Lost in Nepal

Last week, I wrote about my journey exploring the South Caucasus region. I had wonderful memories of Tbilisi and the countryside of Georgia. The next stop was Kathmandu, Nepal.

One-way revenue ticket between Tbilisi and Kathmandu was quite steep. I decided to redeem 27,500 Turkish Airlines miles in Business Class. It was a pretty good deal considering the total flight time was over 8 hours.

The aircraft flew over the Himalayas on the descend into Kathmandu. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see anything on the right side because of the sun. I regret that I didn’t assign myself the window seat on the left side of the plane because the view was spectacular. A few moments later, we touched down and parked at a remote stand.

Arrival in Kathmandu

The arrival hall before passport control was chaotic. Many travelers, including myself, didn’t complete the visa form online. Instead, we attempted to get a visa on arrival. The problem is that there were only a few functioning kiosks where we had to all the questionnaires. There was a separate booth to pay the fee – In my case, it was five dollars payable in cash only. I took advantage of the transit visa since I only spent 15 hours in Nepal.

I have T-Mobile as my cellular service provider. While it works in most countries, unfortunately, unlimited data coverage does not include Nepal. Luckily I have a local friend who helped me arranging transportation.

The easiest way to explore the city is to hire a driver and car. It cost me roughly $50 all-in. I also booked a day room at Thorong Peak Guest House in Thamel to store my luggage and take a shower. As far as I know, there isn’t any luggage storage facility at Tribhuvan International Airport. So the best bet is to get a room for the day, which costs around $10-30.

Boudhanath Stupa

The first stop was Boudhanath, the biggest stupa in Nepal, and one the largest stupas in the world. In 1979, Boudhanath Stupa was added to the Unesco World Heritage Site.

The stupa located is surrounded by temples, shops, meditation centers, cafes, restaurants, and multi-tenant housing.

One thing I noticed. In Nepal, prayer wheels are everywhere. They are basically metal cylindrical wheels on a spindle with Om Mani Padme Hum mantra written around it.

Pashupatinath Temple

After walking exploring the complex, I then headed to Pashupatinath Temple, which was only about a 10-minute drive. Pashupatinath is a sacred Hindu temple in Kathmandu. This temple was also added to the Unesco World Heritage Site in 1979.

Inside the Pashupatinath complex, there is a temple only Hindus are allowed to get in. From a distance, you can view the statue of Nandi, Shiva’s bull.

I also had the opportunity to witness something rather emotional – an open cremation. Traditionally, Nepalese perform cremation of the ceased family member on the Bagmati River.

Also, don’t forget to get a blessing from the Sadhus.

Pashupatinath is a big temple, and definitely, a must go. The site is not only educational but also rich in history. If you go in the summer, I recommend you to drink plenty of water as it could get very hot during the day.

Swayambhunath Stupa

My next stop was Swayambhunath Stupa, a 30-minute drive west. The stupa is located on the top of the hill. The driver dropped me off in front of the main entrance, which was probably the easiest since parking was a challenge.

To reach the top, I had to climb up the staircase. Those flights of stairs are steep and narrow. I had to take a break a few times, which included a shopping break. I pledged myself not to leave Nepal without a singing bowl. It cost about $10. I don’t think it was a bargain, but I’m happy with my purchase.

I continued climbing up the stairs, and by the time I reached the top, I thought I had died!

At the top, you can see a 360-degree view of Kathmandu.

When traveling, I love buying little pieces of art. Something to be said about collecting these items and bring them back home. I ended up getting a small water-based painting.

There is another way to exit the temple, which doesn’t have staircases – the driver met me there. I started to feel hungry and asked the driver for a recommendation. He took me a local Nepali food.

Nepalese Cuisine

I wish I remembered where the restaurant was, but the food there was delicious! I ordered something called Dal Bhat Tarkari. Basically, all-you-can-stuff-your-tummy steamed rice served on a round stainless steel plate, accompanied by many side dishes. The sides included vegetables, pickles, ghee, and yogurt. There were also two kinds of proteins: fish and mutton. What a feast!

Bhaktapur Durbar Square

My adventure continued – I headed to Bhaktapur Durbar Square. Durbar means a court or a formal meeting place of a kingdom. There are three Durbar Squares in the valley, which are all part of the Unesco World Heritage Sites.

There was still construction going on from the 2015 earthquake, but most buildings have been beautifully restored.

And don’t forget to have some lassi at the famous Janakpur Dahi Lassi Bhandar!

Shopping

And finally, something I had been looking forward to – shopping! As mentioned previously, I love buying pieces of art when traveling. Near the Lassi place, I stopped by an art vendor who sells a variety of paintings – particularly Om Mani Padme Hum Mantra Mandala hand paintings. I managed to buy one for myself and a few for gifts.

It’s such a beautiful and precious piece of art. I really wish I bought more. So y’all – just remember, if you visit Nepal, I highly recommend you to get these paintings.

Farewell

After a long day exploring the city, I headed back to the hotel for a shower and pack. I headed back to the airport around 7 PM to catch my Etihad flight to Abu Dhabi.

Conclusion

Nepal is a magical place. There are so much history and culture. This trip was very educational and had broadened my views about unique places on earth even more. I am very grateful for the opportunity to visit this special place, and I never take it for granted.

That said, Kathmandu can be a bit overwhelming. Unlike my crazy self, visiting Nepal for 15 hours. Spend at least 2 or 3 days in Kathmandu, and venture out of the city. There are a few things I would recommend when planning your visit to Kathmandu:

  • Arrange your transportation in advance.
  • Research about places you want to visit beforehand.
  • If possible, travel with friends or locals who can show you around.
  • Enjoy the cuisine because the food is fantastic!
  • And finally, Shop! This is very important. You will thank me later.

I will revisit Nepal in a heartbeat, but next time I will sure be trekking at the Himalayas!

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