Category: Nepal Tour Blog

The following protocol has been issued on 18th March 2021 by the Government of Nepal (Council of Ministers) for managing the arrival of incoming tourist to Nepal.

THE PROCESS FOR ENTRY TO NEPAL (VISA RELATED)

  • Tourist visiting Nepal must take visa from Nepal’s Diplomatic Mission in their respective country.
  • In absence of Nepal’s Diplomatic Mission or in case of difficulty in availing visa in the home country, visitors arriving by air can get on arrival visa from the Immigration desk at Tribhuvan International Airport. However, such tourists must have a pre-visa recommendation letter issued by Department of Tourism (DOT) OR Nepal Tourism Board (NTB).
  • DOT or NTB shall issue the visa recommendation letter ; only after submission of all required documents by the concerned local agency in Nepal.

FOR TOURISTS COMING TO NEPAL

  • All tourists visiting Nepal must furnish the following documents in the Airline Check- In counter before boarding:
    • PCR negative report of swab taken within 72 hours of boarding OR report of complete vaccination against COVID-19.
      However, it is advisable for everyone to still get a PCR negative report taken within 72 hrs as the airline or rule of some countries may require the same for outbound travel.
    • Copy of Nepalese Visa or recommendation letter from Department of Tourism
      / Nepal Tourism Board.
    • Hotel booking confirmation or guarantee of accommodation.
    • Copy of Travel Insurance that covers health, immediate crisis or rescue for the duration of their travel.
    • Barcode generated after the online application of International Travel Arrival Form from https://ccmc.gov.np/arms/person_add_en.php
  • The concerned airlines shall give boarding clearance to the passenger after making sure that the passenger has all the above documents.

AFTER ARRIVING IN NEPAL

  • All incoming tourists must take a mandatory COVID test upon arrival in Nepal at their own cost in coordination with the respective local agency.
    The tourist can continue with their itinerary if the report is negative. In case the report is positive, the tourist must continue to stay in hotel quarantine until the report reads negative.
  • The concerned agency must do COVID 19 insurance of Rs. One Lakh for their staffs accompaning the tourist group.

SPECIAL PROVISION RELATED TO INDIAN TOURISTS

  • For Indian Tourists arriving in Nepal through air route, the existing provisions will remain as per the “Nepal- India Travel Bubble Agreement”. A negative PCR report within 72 hrs of boarding is mandatory.
  • Indian Tourists arriving Nepal through land routes will have to produce Negative PCR report done within 72 hrs of arriving at the immigration point at Nepal- India
  • Along with the negative PCR report, tourists also require to bring along the barcode generated after the online application of International Travel Arrival Form from https://ccmc.gov.np/arms/person_add_en.php

DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR VISA RECOMMENDATION TO BE SUBMITTED BY LOCAL AGENCY

  • Application letter from concerned Association with verification of all the documents.
  • Copy of Tourists’ passport
  • Travel Itinerary
  • International Air Ticket booking confirmation
  • Travel Insurance
  • Copy of Company Registration of concerned company
  • Copy of latest Tax Clearance of concerned company

by MEET LIA & JEREMY

Please read orginal blog by clicking below links,

https://practicalwanderlust.com/traveling-in-nepal/

also can enjoy reading as below…

Things nobody tells you about traveling in Nepal from all the places other than Mount Everest, to the food, to the spirituality of Nepal, to what's really up with squatty potties. Here's everything you may or may not need to know before you visit Nepal!

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Snowy mountaintops reaching into the sky. Gently bellowing yaks. Fluttering prayer flags. That was my mental image of Nepal before I visited. But now that I’ve been there, my new mental image of Nepal is quite different: shimmering lakes nestled in mountaintops. Dense, humming jungles. Bathing rhinoceroses. Chanting monks. Fluttering prayer flags (ok, some things stayed the same).

It turns out that all the things I thought I knew about Nepal were .. not wrong, exactly, just like … a very, very, very small portion of what the country has to offer.

And so when I received a notification that I was invited to visit Nepal as one of the hosted delegates of the Himalayan Travel Mart in partnership with Impact Travel Alliance, I was ecstatic.

Except: the trip was in 2 weeks. And I was leaving for Austria to speak at a conference in 1 week. Cue panic. Ahem: #travelbloggerproblems #sh*ttravelbloggerssay

But I would have been out of my head to turn down a 2-week fully hosted trip to Nepal just because it was alarmingly soon. So I packed 2 of the largest suitcases I owned, did absolutely no research, and hopped on a round-the-world trip to Nepal via Austria.

It was by far the most last-minute international trip I’ve ever taken. Like, y’all, I didn’t even have my return ticket booked for me until midway through my trip to Nepal. Travel blogger life, amirite? I don’t actually know, is that normal?

Prayer flag alley in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Me trying not to think about the fact that I still don’t have a plane ticket home from Nepal in a colorful alley decorated with prayer flags in Kathmandu.

Nepal has long been on my bucket list. The lure of Mount Everest has been a weird fascination of mine for years – not because I feel the need to climb Mount Everest, personally, but because I’m fascinated by the concept that other people want to do it badly enough to pay a bunch of money and suffer and maybe die just so they can say they did a thing (like, but why, though?).

The main reason I’ve always wanted to visit Nepal, actually, is my (late) grandmother. My grandmother Katy was always my travel inspiration. She traveled throughout my life, breaking every generational, gendered norm she could.

For instance, when cleaning out her home – a funny little round house on top of a hill – I found a stack of magazines and books about Mount Everest in her closet, including the 1953 issue of National Geographic featuring a cover story about the first-ever successful ascent of Mount Everest written by Sir Edmund Hillary.

While some mothers and housewives were busy trying to subscribe to the patriarchal demands of the era, my grandmother was a mathematician researching Everest ascents and generally living a “f**k you, patriarchy” kinda life.
When I found that collection, I borrowed my 93-year old grandmother’s copy of Into Thin Air and asked her if she’d ever wanted to hike Everest herself. “Oh no,” she said, “I hiked Annapurna! That was plenty for me.”

And she really did: in the early 80’s, when she was in her late 50’s, she hiked the Annapurna Circuit (like the certified badass that she always was). She made such an impression on her Sherpa guide that the next year, he flew to visit her in her home (my hometown) in Louisville, Kentucky.

Can you imagine? Flying from Nepal to Kentucky to visit a guest on your hiking tour? But that’s just how amazing my grandmother was.

The next year, my mother & father planned to hike the Annapurna Circuit too, with the same Sherpa guide. But then they got pregnant with my older sister, and the rest is history …by which I mean they never did it, and now I feel the need to complete this story by hiking it myself. It’s firmly earned a place on my bucket list.

I didn’t have a chance to hike the Annapurna Circuit on this trip, but I know it won’t be my last trip to Nepal. And the next time I go, I’ll be much more prepared. Because it turns out that there are quite a few things about Nepal hat nobody tells you.

And so, without further ado, let’s begin.

Psst: Planning a visit to Nepal? Check out some of our other posts to help you plan your trip! We’ll also have more Nepal posts publishing very soon.

THINGS NOBODY TELLS YOU …

Prayer flags on the top of the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, and exploring a monastery.
Left: Prayer flags fluttering high above the enormous Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu; Right: Wandering out of a monastery inside of the Boudhanath where I befriended some very nice monks. You can participate in group meditations here!

… ABOUT WHAT TO EXPECT IN NEPAL

Here are few random things you should know before you visit Nepal, with varying levels of usefulness.

YOU’LL DEFINITELY EXPERIENCE A POWER OUTAGE DURING YOUR TRIP TO NEPAL. OR SEVERAL.

Nepal has frequent power outages, often multiple times per day. Don’t panic: this is perfectly normal, and the power will come back on (eventually).

…And then, probably, go out again.

SQUATTY TOILETS ARE MOST COMMON IN NEPAL, BUT WESTERN TOILETS ARE RELATIVELY EASY TO FIND.

What’s a Squatty toilet? Well, it’s pretty self-explanatory: it’s pretty much just a hole in the ground with space for your feet on either side. You squat and use it to do your business, and then you clean up with the provided bucket o’ water and perfectly clean cup.

… In theory, anyway.

Nepal was my first ever experience using a squatty. They’re not terribly common outside of Asia, and we haven’t had a chance to travel much in Asia.

So, now that I’ve had some experience, here is what I have to say about squatties: I hate them.

Here’s the thing: they are not intuitive WHATSOEVER. They are NOT the same as dropping trow in the wilderness, where you can just aim any which way and your only concern is keeping your pants dry.

Like, y’all: I am still unclear on a few very basic squatty things. I have a lot of question, like:

  • Which way should I face?
  • How far apart should my feet be?
  • Where do I put all my pant fabric to keep it from getting soaked?
  • How does one aim, exactly?
  • How does one avoid falling into a gross toilet hole while trying to move one’s pant fabric out of the way and attempting to aim things?
And before you ask, yes, I brought one of these, and no, I never quite managed to figure it out, either.

Needless to say, I did not master the squatty. And because I grew to loathe them, I also developed an unfortunate habit of dehydrating myself in order to avoid them. Because on a long road trip through Nepal, your roadside options are almost always squatties.

… Almost. Thankfully, Western toilets (gloriously easy-to-use Western toilets, which I never fully appreciated until my first time trying to use a squatty) are relatively easy to find! Some rest stops have at least 1 or 2 stalls with Western toilets, restaurants typically have them, and every accommodation I stayed at was outfitted with in-room Western-style restrooms.

The only time you’ll be out of luck is if you’re doing a homestay. In that case, I suggest you start studying!

An overlook filled with shops and restaurants along the hike to the World Peace Pagoda in beautiful Pokhara, Nepal.
An overlook filled with shops and restaurants along the hike to the World Peace Pagoda in beautiful Pokhara, Nepal.

NEPALESE MONEY IS SUPER CONFUSING… UNTIL YOU FIGURE IT OUT.

All of the bills of the Nepalese Rupee are different sizes, which made me feel like I was in Harry Potter and encountering wizard money for the first time. But then somebody pointed out that the money is organized by size: like, the smaller the value, the smaller the bill, and the larger the value, the larger the bill.

So instead of just staring helplessly at the piles of money in my hand trying to complex math and divide by a few thousand at a time, I started organizing my bills by size. That helped. Sort of.

NEPALIS ARE VERY WELL DRESSED AND HAVE AMAZING HAIR.

Listen: I try not to make mass generalizations about people & culture, but I’m making an exception here.

Fact: Nepali people look amazing, like, all the time.

They all have incredible hair – and I don’t just mean because it’s all silky and healthy like a country full of walking Herbal Essence commercials, I mean it’s like, VERY COOL and carefully cut and impeccably styled.

They also all dress like, really well. Whether they’re wearing traditional clothing, religious garb, or regular street clothes, they look like they just stepped out of the pages of Nepal Vogue and are on their way to their Sartorialist Street Style interview.

These two absolutely factual generalizations are the case everywhere from Kathmandu to the smallest villages we rolled through on bumpy, unpaved roads. Seriously, keep an eye out and tell me if you don’t notice the exact same thing during your trip to Nepal!

IF YOU’RE HIP AND WITH IT, YOU CAN SAY “THAT’S SO DANGER” WHEN SOMETHING IS TOTES RAD.

This is a real thing that hip, cool Nepali youths with amazing hair say when they mean “that’s so cool.” I know, it sounds ridiculous – like a line straight out of Archer or something. But I swear, I didn’t make it up!

Sadly, neither of us here at Practical Wanderlust are cool, young, or with it enough to get away with incorporating this into our daily lexicon. So instead, we’re working on trying to get Jeremy’s high school students to adopt it. Last I heard, they were like “Mr. Garcia, stop trying to make that’s so danger happen.” Maybe next year…

THE AIR QUALITY IN KATHMANDU IS TERRIBLE.

Like, terrible. According to Yale’s Environmental Performance Index, Nepal ranked 176 out of 180 countries. The air in Kathmandu is SO BAD.

Whether you’re riding in a taxi with an open window or taking a walk down the block, I highly recommend wearing a breathing mask like this one – N95 or N99 should do the trick.

The good news? The air quality seemed totally fine everywhere else I went!

Street vendors in an outdoor market in Nepal selling fruits, veggies, spices, etc.
A colorful street market in Kathmandu. Nepal has truly incredible handicraft markets! I returned with a singing bowl, a cashmere blanket, hand-carved elephants, black rock salt, and anything else I could fit in my suitcase. Leave some room!

… ABOUT NEPAL IN GENERAL

Don’t know much about Nepal? That’s OK, I didn’t either! Here are some helpful and potentially eye-opening things you should know about Nepal in general.

NEPAL IS STILL HEALING FROM A CIVIL WAR.

The Nepalese Civil War began in the mid 90’s and lasted for 10 years, ending just 14 years ago. Like all wars, it was brutal and messy and horrible. It was a fight between monarchy and communism – and on at least one mysterious occasion, monarchy vs monarchy – and ended with a peace agreement that appeased both sides, who are each represented in Nepal’s current government. Nepal has been at peace ever since.

But y’all, “ever since” is still just 14 years. And so while Nepal is quite safe to visit, the country as a whole is still repairing itself.

You won’t see any scars from the Civil War unless you’re looking for them, but the context is important to understand.

NEPAL’S ARMY IS EVER-PRESENT.

Part of being less then 2 decades out from a civil war? A lil’ bit of uneasiness. Which is why you’ll still see the Nepalese Army throughout Nepal. There are quite a few checkpoints, which you don’t need to worry about if you’re traveling with a guide as they’ll know exactly what to do and have all the proper paperwork in place.

One place I wasn’t expecting a ton of army checkpoints? The jungle. But because Chitwan National Park spans the border of India, there are tons of army camps and checkpoints buried deep within the jungle. The Nepalese Army actually rides through the jungle on elephants (because it’s the safest and least environmentally harmful way to navigate).

Again, if you’re traveling with a guide, you’ll be fine!
Colorful buildings in Tansen, Nepal
Colorful buildings in the stunning city of Tansen, Nepal! You can stay here overnight as part of a sustainable Community Homestay program – learn more here.

NEPAL IS A DEVELOPING COUNTRY.

Some of you might be like “duh,” but quite a few people we met during our travels in Nepal seemed surprised by this.

Yes, technically the Kingdom of Nepal was formed in the 1760’s, making the country itself older than the USA (not to mention thousands of years of cultures and communities who were here before the 1700’s, which we’ll get into later).

But today, Nepal is considered by the United Nations to be one of the least developed countries in the world. Your average Nepali citizen is earning only $745 annually. And although there is progress being made, the fact of the matter is that Nepal is, generally speaking, quite poor.

That said: tourism is the largest industry in Nepal, which is why its government hosts an annual travel conference for travel media (like me!) in the hopes that we will write about Nepal and bring it more visitors. Because you, as a visitor to Nepal, play a hugely important role in the development of the country and its people.

Now, I won’t get into the details of the tourism industry’s role in economic development and overtourism much here (although I spend quite a bit of time thinking about it and studying it, which is part of my job as a travel blogger) but suffice it to say that some countries wish that fewer people would visit, and some countries wish that more people would visit.

Nepal is a country that wishes more people would come visit. What does that mean for you? Fewer crowds, welcoming locals, affordable rates, and a warm fuzzy feeling knowing that you’re doing a little bit of good for a lot of people!

The view from above of the bright blue canoes on Pokhara Lake
One of my favorite places to visit in Nepal on this trip was Pohkara, the gateway to the Annapurna Circuit and a stunning lakeside adventure town!

THERE’S SO MUCH MORE TO SEE IN NEPAL THAN MOUNT EVEREST!

Name a place in Nepal that isn’t Everest. And yes, that also includes Base Camp and the rest of the Himalayas. You too, Annapurna.

I’ll wait.

If you got Kathmandu, you get a B. If you didn’t even get that far… honestly, you’re not alone!

Before I visited Nepal, I had NO idea what else there was to see. And I have like, a weird Everest obsession: I’m forever consuming Everest-themed books and movies and think-pieces, and my idea of a romantic Friday night date is watching Into Thin Air from the comfort and safety of my couch (because while I like to learn about Everest, I NEVER want to climb it).

But, you guys: Everest is but one place in Nepal. On my trip to Nepal, I did NOT see Everest. In fact, I only glimpsed a single snowy Himalaya peak during my entire trip (although supposedly Annapurna was visible through the window of a plane one time, but I was sitting on. the wrong side and didn’t see it).

The closest I got to the Himalayas was visiting Pokhara, a lakeside adventure town also known as the gateway to the Annapurna Circuit. And there’s plenty to do there other than trekking!

So while the Himalayas are the star attraction in the east, in western Nepal you’ll find a huge variety of other places to visit and things to experience.

The chaotic streets of Kathmandu, Nepal.
The streets of Kathmandu are utter chaos. Bring a mask and be very carefully crossing the street!

… ABOUT TRAVELING AROUND NEPAL

I spent a full week traveling around Nepal in a small, cramped van stuffed with travel agents, bloggers, and Nepali guides. I watched Nepal’s countryside pass by for 10+ hours a day as we drove from Kathmandu to Chitwan to Lumbini to Pokhara.

And yes, I’d recommend it! Traveling through Nepal via bus is inexpensive and easily done – our friend Jean at Traveling Honeybird has an excellent guide to bus travel in Nepal.

But there are a few things you should know about first. Like …

MANY OF NEPAL’S ROADS ARE STILL UNPAVED.

See our earlier point: Nepal is still a developing country. And as such, it still has quite a few unpaved roads. This means that a road trip through Nepal is a bumpy, slow sort of adventure (which may or may not include A/C).

To make things extra interesting, a perfectly good, newly paved road will out of nowhere revert to a bumpy, unpaved path – often lined with obstacle courses made of giant boulders and other building materials – and then randomly revert back into a paved road a few miles later.

If you’ll be doing a lot of driving around Nepal (like I did), be sure to take plenty of Dramamine, download a few podcasts, and expect everything to take several more hours than you anticipated!

Traffic intersections and transportation in the streets of Nepal
Whether you travel around Nepal by bus, tuk-tuk, or motorcycle, one thing’s for sure: you should probably avoid renting a car and driving yourself. Just trust us on that .

DRIVERS IN NEPAL GET REALLY EXTRA ABOUT DECORATING THEIR BUSES & TRUCKS.

It feels like the majority of the vehicles on the road in Nepal are buses and trucks. And all of them are elaborately and affectionately decorated.

Drivers in Nepal, it seems, get REALLY into decorating. Like, we’re talking that neighbor down the road who has an entire storage unit dedicated to housing his Halloween set-up and Christmas display levels of decorating.

Only in Nepal, the decorations are typically spiritual words and symbols, heart-shaped cut-outs (lots of heart cut-outs), overly masculine phrases in English like ROAD KING, and, oddly, random brand names and logos, like Apple and Nike and even Facebook.

It makes for excellent road trip game material

KATHMANDU HAS ITS OWN VERSION OF UBER, BUT FOR MOTOTAXIS.

The app is called Tootle, and it’s way cheaper (and slightly more terrifying) than taking a taxi all the way across Kathmandu.

But don’t call one thinking it’s a local version of Uber when you have 3 friends who all want to share a ride in the backseat of a car, because it isn’t for cars and you just made some poor guy drive his motorcycle through traffic only for you to be confused and disappointed. Whoops!

Do, however, bring a breathing mask. You will need one. (Don’t leave your face wash at home, either.)

Girl sightseeing in Chitwan National Park and swimming Rhino.
Hark! A one-horned rhino! The first of fifteen that I saw in Chitwan National Park.

… ABOUT WILDLIFE & NATURE IN NEPAL

By far, the highlight of my trip to Nepal was the wildlife. The 2 days we spent in Chitwan National Park staying at the eco-friendly Barahi Jungle Lodge were absolutely unreal – I saw SO many animals! I had no idea Nepal had such wildlife diversity.

Here’s what you should know about Nepal’s wild side.

NEPAL IS A NATURE JACKPOT.

Nepal has it all, from icy tundra on the world’s highest peaks to exotic animals living in lush, tropical jungles. If you travel for scenery and wildlife, Nepal’s diversity is tough to beat!

NEPAL HAS THE HIGHEST PEAK AND THE DEEPEST GORGE.

And they’re both in the Himalayas! You’ve heard of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain on Earth, right?

Well, according to my Nepali guide, Kali Gendaki Gorge is the deepest on Earth. According to Wikipedia, that claim is validated “if one measures the depth of a canyon by the difference between the river height and the heights of the highest peaks on either side.” That kind of feels like cheating, but ima let Nepal have this one.

At any rate, you can check it out yourself while trekking the Annapurna Circuit – you’ll pass right by it.

NEPAL IS MOSTLY MOUNTAINS.

According to my research *adjusts glasses,* 75% of Nepal consists of giant, majestic AF mountains. Those mountains are FULL of stunning treks, like the Mohare Dande Trek, which our friends from Two Wandering Soles hiked during their simultaneous trip to Nepal.

But don’t let all those mountains trick you into skipping the rest of the country! From the valleys of Kathmandu and Pokhara to the tropical lowlands of Chitwan National Park, there is SO much else to see in Nepal.

Monkeys and a rhino in Chitwan National Park, Nepal.
Adorale cuddly monkeys and a smiling rhino in Chitwan National Park! We saw FIFTEEN rhinos during our trip to Nepal.

NEPAL IS HOME TO A HUGE VARIETY OF WILD ANIMALS!

Nepal has AMAZING wildlife diversity, and it’s home to a ton of adorable, fuzzy, cuddly animals (because all animals are adorable and fuzzy and cuddly. Yes, even the big scary angry scaly ones).

How much wildlife is there, you ask? Well, think of it this way: The Jungle Book was set next door, just a few hours away in Madhya Pradesh, India.

Here are my favorite Nepal residents:

  • Bengal Tigers: Fierce, majestic kitty cats whose bellies I want to rub.
  • Snow Leopards: Also fierce majestic kitties, but they like to play in the snow!!
  • Red Pandas: The cutest animal in existence. It looks like a fox crossed with a panda and it’s freaking ADORBS.
  • One-Horned Rhinos: Like big ol’ wrinkly hippos, but with giant horns. I saw FIFTEEN rhinos during my trip!
  • Sloth Bears: Literally Balloo. Like, just big, derpy, slack-jawed bears.
  • Marbled Cat: Looks exactly like a very fancy domestic cat. Like the kind of cat your cat would follow on Instagram.
  • Elephants: Sensitive, sweet, intelligent chonks full of love and kindness (also: the most dangerous wild animal on this list.)
  • Peacocks: Fabulous and dazzling, ’nuff said.

Obviously, you cannot actually touch, befriend, or get near any of them (and should run far away from anyone who tells you otherwise) but that doesn’t stop me from baby-talking to all of them in cutesy voices and falling in love with them from afar.

During my trip to Nepal, I spent a few days in Chitwan National Park staying at the phenomenal Barahi Jungle Lodge, a sustainable eco-lodge located on a quiet riverbank along the border of the park. We went into the park for boat safaris, jeep safaris, and even a jungle walk (our guides brought sticks to scare off any unsuspecting and unfriendly critters, which did nothing to help my anxiety).

And y’all, we saw SO MUCH! Fifteen rhinos – most of whom were bathing with families in the river, quite undisturbed by our boat silently floating by. Boars snuffling for food in the brush. A sloth bear huffalumping across the path. Monkeys playing overhead. Peacocks strutting along the riverbanks.

It was incredible.

Boat safari at Barahi Jungle Lodge in Chitwan National Park, Nepal.
Ever been on a boat safari? I woke up at 5am to hop into these boats and quietly float down the river bordering Chitwan National Park watching rhinoceroses taking their morning baths. Nepal is a wildlife wonderland!

NEPAL HAS ABSOLUTELY NO TOLERANCE FOR POACHERS.

Because Nepal has so many endangered animals and such a huge variety of wildlife, the government has instituted a no-tolerance policy for poachers.

Like … NO tolerance. Like, kill on sight levels of no tolerance. Dayum.

According to our guides, it’s very effective. Especially considering how many army camps we drove past in the jungle – it wouldn’t be easy to get away with poaching with that kind of army presence!

Elephants at Chitwan National Park in Nepal at Barahi Lodge
Two of the domesticated elephants owned by Barahi Jungle Lodge with their handler. The elephants – a mother and daughter -have worked with their handlers since their birth in captivity. Their handlers even sleep in their quarters. They are the elephants’ loving caretakers.

DOMESTICATED ELEPHANTS PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN NEPAL’S HISTORY & CULTURE …

Elephants are Nepal’s largest animal, and they’ve historically been used almost like horses were used historically throughout Europe.

For those who have lived in the area now known as Nepal for thousands of years – including Nepal’s 120+ different Indigenous communities – domesticating elephants has historically been very important and helpful, for everything from farming to navigation to, a long long time ago, fighting wars.

Today, domesticated elephants are still used for laborious tasks and are considered working animals. According to our guides at Chitwan National Park, the safest (and most environmentally friendly) way for a human to navigate through the jungle is on the back of an elephant, so the army and their park rangers, who work on conservation within the park, all ride through the jungle on elephant-back.

But wait! Isn’t elephant riding, like, super unethical?

Well, it certainly raises ethical questions – but the answer here is less black and white than you’d expect.

Here’s the thing: 1 single person riding an elephant does not hurt an elephant, physically (much like 1 single person riding a horse). And an elephant born & raised in captivity with its family is not as bad as an elephant captured from the wild and domesticated.

In most places in Nepal, many of the domesticated elephants you’ll see performing functional tasks were born & raised in captivity and are ridden only by 1 person at a time. There are laws forbidding the practice of harming, poaching, or capturing wild elephants – after all, the Asian elephant is an endangered species.

Because Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world, many of its people are struggling just to grow enough food to eat. For a small village, even one domesticated elephant is a HUGE advantage.

Add that to the fact that Nepal is a Hindu country with deeply significant spiritual beliefs and practices surrounding elephants, and you begin to understand: it’s not so black and white.

Saying that all domesticated elephants are bad and that the practice should be abolished completely would be ignoring the cultural traditions and livelihoods of the people living in Nepal.

So it would be easy enough for me to decry the entire concept of domesticated elephants as someone born in the USA, where we don’t need to rely on large domesticated animals for feeding our communities or for transportation.

But instead, I choose to see it as more of a gray area. It’s not my culture, it’s not my history, it’s not my spirituality, it’s not my starving family … it’s not my call.

HOWEVER.

Elephants at Chitwan National Park in Nepal at Barahi Lodge
Look at these sweet girls! Who would want to hurt them?

… BUT YOU MAY STILL SEE ELEPHANT RIDING ACTIVITIES FOR TOURISTS, AND THAT’S NOT OK.

Historically speaking, elephant riding as a tourist activity is VERY new. It only sprang up in the last 50 or so years. For an impoverished country like Nepal, the ability to use a resource they already have – domesticated elephants – to earn money by selling a ride to tourists is a very desirable prospect.

Perhaps that elephant could earn quite a bit more for its owners carrying you around for an hour versus performing farming tasks for the day. Everyone wants to feed their families, right? So the demand for elephant riding easily found an easy supply.

So it really so bad?

Well … yes. Thousands of years of incorporating elephants into traditional cultures, religious practices and subsistence tasks is one thing.

Groups of tourists all jumping onto an elephant’s back, all day long, just for a cool story or a picture? That is A VERY DIFFERENT THING.

You know better. Riding on the back of an elephant is not the difference between feeding your family or starving. It’s not a deeply entrenched cultural practice that your community has revered for thousands of years. It’s just a cool story and an Instagram photo.

That’s not worth it.

You are the demand factor in this equation. You control whether or not elephant riding is offered to tourists.

At our eco-lodge in Chitwan National Park, elephant riding (and bathing) IS offered to tourists. But it’s only for one person at a time, for only a couple of hours per day, with no saddle – in Nepal, that’s considered to be a more “ethical” style of elephant riding.

The elephants used for this purpose were rescued from crueler conditions and live in the nearby village (whose residents are mostly employed by the lodge, and were very welcoming of us tourists – always a good sign). Their trainers have been with them since birth, and even sleep in the same barn with the elephants – they are the elephant’s loving caretakers.

But it’s still not OK for us as tourists to ride them, or for the lodge to offer elephant rides to tourists. “Relatively ethical” elephant riding for tourists is still elephant riding. And we made sure to tell our hosts as much. They assured us that they are working on petering out their elephant riding offerings for guests – despite overwhelming continued demand.

But the responsibility is also on us: the tourists. We are the demand. Ultimately, every Nepali I asked about elephant riding said that Nepali locals don’t encourage it, but that it exists solely to meet tourism demand.

So: don’t ride elephants. And discourage everyone else from riding them, too. It’s not OK.

Sharing sel roti, kathi rolls and enjoying Nepalese food

… ABOUT THE FOOD IN NEPAL

Before I spent 2 weeks in Nepal, I had no idea what Nepalese food was like. I kind of thought it was similar to Indian food, but I wasn’t sure. Truth be told, I wasn’t too far off…

NEPAL’S FOOD IS A LOT LIKE INDIAN FOOD, BUT … DIFFERENT.

There is a TON of Indian influence on Nepali food, which makes sense: after all, Nepal is bordered on 3 sides by India (and one side by Tibet, which we’ll get into in a momo-ent). You’ll also find tons of Indian snacks for sale in Nepali convenience stores.

But Nepali food is not the same as Indian food, and if you eat a lot of Indian food, this will be very apparent in ways that are hard to describe. While I’m not an expert in authentic Indian food, I have a LOT of feelings and opinions about Indian food in the USA, which I grew up eating. And Nepali food is just not quite like the Indian food that I know and love.

What’s different between Indian food and Nepali food, exactly? Is it the taste, color, or texture of familiar dishes? Honestly, yes – sometimes.

But overall, I think the main difference is the spices. Nepali dishes just don’t have as much spice as Indian dishes. And I’m not just talking about heat, here: I mean just like, in general. Nepali food sometimes left me wishing for spices that I don’t actually know the names of.

That’s not to say Nepali food isn’t good – because frankly, it’s still better than most of what I can get back home – it’s just… different.

Honestly? If you don’t eat a lot of Indian food, you probably won’t even notice.

Dhal Bat in Nepal at Barahi Lodge
Dhal Bat is, essentially, curry and lentil soup plus a bunch of other stuff. It typically comes with rice and various sides. This was the best Dhal Bat of my trip, served at Barahi Jungle Lodge,!

YOU’LL SEE “DHAL BAT” ON EVERY MENU – IT’S NEPAL’S MOST COMMON MEAL.

At it’s core, Dhal Bat is basically just some rice with a little bowl of lentil soup and, sometimes, chapati. But a typical dhal bat in Nepal usually comes with a wide variety of other vegetable side dishes in adorable little bowls.

You’ll typically order a dhal bat according to your preferred meat (or lack thereof) and then gratefully accept whatever side dishes it happens to be served with. Sometimes they’re amazing, like stewed eggplant or paneer curry or cauliflower and potatoes. Sometimes they’re insanely spicy (you might want to also order a mango lassi, just in case).

And sometimes they’re pickled bitter melon. I’m a fairly adventurous eater, but y’all … I do not like pickled bitter melon.

  • Want to learn how to make Dhal Bat? Ethical tour operator Backstreet Academy offers a Dhal Bat cooking class with a local, where you’ll learn authentic Nepali cooking techniques while directly supporting a local family (and their community)!
The Hub is a super-hip sustainable coffee shop located in the Thamel neighborhood in Kathmandu, Nepal!
The Hub is a super-hip sustainable coffee shop located in the Thamel neighborhood in Kathmandu, Nepal! I spent a few afternoons sipping coffee & working, and even took a momo cooking class here.

KATHMANDU HAS A THRIVING COFFEE SCENE.

There is SO much good coffee in Kathmandu! As a coffee snob, this made me very, very happy.

My favorite coffee in Kathmandu is kar.ma coffee brewed up at  The Hub in Thamel, a sustainable co-op which also hosts cooking classes (and makes an excellent spot to camp out and work for a few hours!)

YOU MIGHT WANT TO GO VEGETARIAN DURING YOUR NEPAL TRAVELS.

During my time in Nepal, I ordered progressively less and less meat from restaurants. Why? Was it my neverending guilt about the climate apocalypse? My love for animals? The abundance of delicious vegetarian-friendly food in Nepal?

… Er, yes – all of the above. But also: the meat in Nepal isn’t … that … good. It’s not like it tastes bad, exactly.

It’s just that after spitting out enough tiny, sharp little bones, you might decide that maybe the small bits of meat in your curry aren’t actually worth all that effort.

Or perhaps a restaurant’s open grill is a little too close to the dusty, dirty, smoke-clogged road for comfort.

Or maybe your travel companion isn’t feeling quite well, and you start thinking of the flies you saw buzzing around the kitchen. Eek!

In any case: consider ordering vegetarian in Nepal. Because after all, there are tons of delicious veggie-friendly meals … and you’ll be doing your part for the environment!

Plate of Momos in Nepal
These are Momos: pillowy little dumplings filled with … well, anything. During my trip I had everything from meat to veggie to even chocolate momos!

MOMOS ARE A THING. AND THEY HAVE A CULT FOLLOWING.

You may have gotten the impression, reading this post, that Nepal isn’t exactly known for its food. And I would agree… with one notable exception: momos.

Momos are a BELOVED Nepali staple, with a cult-like following (at least in travel circles). Whenever I told my traveler friends that I was visiting Nepal, their first recommendation was always momo-related.

So like, what’s a momo? It’s a snack, not a meal (because in Nepali, anything without rice is just a snack, I learned). It’s a dumpling, but like … a dumpling that was born when Chinese food and Indian food had a baby. And then was adapted and filled with literally everything under the sun.

Historians (aka Wikipedia) credit Tibet with the creation of the momo, which is the Tibetan culinary influence that I promised like 3 paragraphs ago. Ta-daaaa!

Anyway, you should absolutely order momos while in Nepal. You should also consider buying one of the many hilarious momo-themed shirts for sale on any touristy street in Kathmandu or Pokhara. And if you see a momo-only restaurant or street food stall, you should make an immediate beeline and get some freakin’ momos.

  • Want to learn how to make momos? Book a momo cooking class with a local and learn from the pros! The class I took was run by Social Tours, an ethical tour operator, at my favorite uber-hip Kathmandu coffee shop, The Hub. You’ll pay whatever you’re able and learn how to make momos from scratch – including veggie momos, meat momos, and CHOCOLATE MOMOS, which are as delicious as they sound – plus a traditional peanut tomato mint and plum based sauce. You can read a full writeup of the class I took from our friend Jessie at Jessie on a Journey!
Jerri is a sweet, fried, sugary treat found in in Kathmandu, Nepal
Jeri is a sweet, fried, sugary treat! We tried a few delicious treats on the Breakfast tour by Backstreet Academy.

DON’T EXPECT DESSERT AFTER YOUR MEAL, BUT DEFINITELY TRY SOME NEPALI DESSERTS.

Although Nepal has quite a snack culture, and you’ll find everything from snack cafes to momo-only restaurants, you’ll have a harder time finding desserts. Which is probably good for my health, but bad for my raging sugar addiction.

That said: when I DID have a traditional Nepali sweet – called “Mithai” or “Guleo Khaanaa” in Nepali – it was BOMB.

Like handmade Sel Roti, Himalayan slightly sweet donut rings made from rice flour and deep-fried. Or a crunchy and sweet and sticky Jeri. Or a Jeri Swari Haluwa, which is like a crunchy sweet honey-soaked funnel cake with a dollop of soft halwa wrapped in a fried flatbread which is SO FREAKING GOOD I have been dreaming about it ever since.

  • Kathmandu Travel Tip: The Jeri Swari Haluwa I tried was at a century-old shop in Kathmandu called, according to my notes, Shree Kumari – but I can’t find anything online to help me locate it again! So you’ll just have to do what I did and take the (wonderful) breakfast tour with Backstreet Academy – it was one of our stops!
Stupa and prayer wheels in Kathmandu, Nepal.
A Buddhist Stupa (temple) and prayer wheels in Kathmandu, Nepal.

… ABOUT CULTURE & SPIRITUALITY IN NEPAL

Nepal is a deeply spiritual country, something that I – as a not-spiritual person – didn’t expect to be quite so affected by.

But the spirituality in Nepal is an ever-present sensory experience: colorful prayer flags, chanting, ritual circling, the ringing of bells and shuffling of prayer wheels, the smells of incense and burning candles made from animal fat, groups of monks chatting (and, in one case, texting, which made me do a double-take), and temples in all sizes and shapes and colors. You can’t help but embrace Nepal’s deep spirituality!

Here’s what you need to know.

YOU’LL SAY “NAMASTE” FOR EVERYTHING FROM THANK YOU TO GOODBYE.

The traditional Hindu greeting is the default throughout Nepal. It means, essentially, “the divine spirit with me bows to the divine spirit within you” because it is a Hindu belief that every person contains a bit of the universal spirit of Brahman.

Or, somewhat less spiritually and more easily palatable to us non-Hindus, it means “my soul recognizes your soul,” which is such a deep and poignant greeting that I find absolutely beautiful (and something I don’t recall ever learning despite having taken a plethora of namaste-ing yoga classes).

You’ll say Namaste to everyone, and everyone will say it to you. Unlike the end of your yoga class back home, it’s used for everything in Nepal: as a greeting, as a goodbye, as a thank you, as an “excuse me, pardon me, you’re in my way,” everything.

And yes, feel free to throw in the prayer hands and head bow, too – it will quickly feel natural. Just try not to do it so much after you return back home because chances are you’ll come off like an enlightened douchecanoe.

Outside of the World Peace Pagoda in Lumbini and the Bodhisttva Siddhattha.
The World Peace Pagoda and a golden statue of the Buddha in Lumbini, Nepal: the birthplace of the Buddha.

NEPAL IS THE BIRTHPLACE OF LORD BUDDHA.

Yes, THE Buddha. His name was Siddartha, and he was born in Lumbini, Nepal sometime around 650 BC. His mother died shortly after childbirth, and Siddartha lived here in a small palace with his high caste Kshatriya Hindu family before deciding he didn’t want to live that privileged life and taking off on the journey that would eventually lead him to spiritual enlightenment. Psst: I wrote a little historical write-up in an Instagram caption, if you want a quick summary!

Today, Lumbini is a site of religious pilgrimage. Each Buddhist country has built an elaborate temple to pay their respects to this holy place.

Although I am not Buddhist, Lumbini is an incredibly meaningful place to visit, and it was amazing to see how many of the visitors to Buddha’s birthplace were deeply and visibly moved.

25 Things No One Tells You About Being a Full Time Travel Blogger

NEPAL IS A HINDU COUNTRY.

Despite being the birthplace of the Buddha, Nepal is a predominantly Hindu country. For many years, in fact, it was considered the only Hindu country in the world – until the Civil War, that is, when it became officially secular. (It was not a religious war, though – both Hindu and Buddhism are deeply peaceful.)

About 80% of Nepal’s residents are Hindu, 10% are Buddhist, and the rest is a mixed bag. You’ll see as many Hindu symbols and temples around Nepal as you will statues and devotions to the Buddha.

Although you will frequently be asked to take your shoes off to enter a temple as a sign of respect, otherwise you’re perfectly free to practice religious freedom – in fact, pressuring a foreigner to convert is actually punishable by law in Nepal.

Prayer Flags at the Boudanath Stupa in Kathmandu Nepal
Prayer Flags at the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu. The Boudhanath Stupa is one of the largest Buddhist Stupas (temples) in the world, and is one of the most beautifully spiritual places I’ve ever visited in my life.

YOU’LL SEE PRAYER FLAGS ALL OVER NEPAL.

If your mental picture of Nepal includes tattered prayer flags fluttering in the wind in front of a snowy peak, that’s … actually pretty accurate.

Although their origin is actually in Nepal’s neighbor, Tibet, Buddhist prayer flags are ubiquitous in Nepal, from alleyways to temples (and yes, even to snowy peaks).

EACH PRAYER FLAG COLOR HAS SIGNIFICANCE, AND THE MORE TATTERED AND FADED, THE BETTER.

Each color signifies a different element and even direction. But most importantly of all, Prayer Flags should always be fluttering in the wind! The more tattered a Prayer Flag, the better.

Why? Because the purpose of a Prayer Flag is to send your prayer off on the wind, so a tattered, faded Prayer Flag shows that it has helped answer lots and lots of prayers.

You can find Prayer Flags for sale at the many souvenir shops and craft shops throughout Nepal, and you’re supposed to receive them as a gift – so bring a few back for your loved ones at home! Just don’t let them touch the ground – it’s disrespectful.

Indigenous Dance Performers from Chitwan National Park in Nepal at Barahi Jungle Lodge
During my trip to Nepal, we were treated to many dances, some of which (like this one) were traditional dances performed by Indigenous communities. Nepal has over 120 different Indigenous communities!

THERE ARE MORE THAN 120 DIFFERENT INDIGENOUS NATIONALITIES WITHIN NEPAL.

Each has their own culture, language, and history, and together they make up a whopping 35% of Nepal’s population (many claim it’s even more).

However, like many Indigenous communities throughout the world (including here in the USA), the Indigenous Nationalities of Nepal are marginalized and are fighting for rights and recognition from the Nepalese Government.

And as a guest of the Nepalese Government (who planned and hosted my trip), I didn’t have much of an opportunity to learn about the Indigenous peoples of Nepal. I’ll definitely be seeking that out on future trips to Nepal. In the meantime, I’ve provided a few useful resources with more information!

KATHMANDU IS HOME TO THE NEWARI PEOPLE, AND THEIR CULTURE IS EVER-PRESENT.

One of the most visible Indigenous communities in Nepal is the Newari people, who are the native residents of the Kathmandu Valley and still make up a significant portion of the population. Newari people are considered their own ethnicity and speak Newari as their first language, rather than Nepalese.

You’ll find traditional Newari architecture, art and food throughout Kathmandu as well as in Palpa. They have their own festivals, their own spiritual customs, their own calendar, and even their own definition of birthdays, which change from year to year.

If you find yourself in a temple filled with pigeons somewhere within Kathmandu, that is a Newari temple: in Newari culture, it’s believed that the wind from all those wings flapping at you when you run at a giant flock of pigeons is cleansing. I found it alarming, but then again, the pigeons in San Francisco are next-level aggressive.

To experience Newari culture, I recommend trying some Newari food – this blog has some fantastic suggestions – or, if you’re able, adding a Newari homestay into your Nepal itinerary. A homestay is a fantastic way to directly support a local family and community and to get to know locals. You can book a Newari homestay with Community Homestays or even on AirBnB.

THERE IS SO MUCH JOY & DANCING IN NEPAL!

One that struck me during my 2 weeks in Nepal was how much DANCING we saw! Dancing is a deeply ancient and traditional ritual in Nepal, and everywhere we went, locals performed music and traditional dances for us – and each time, we were invited to join in, too.

We never knew what we were doing and I’m sure we looked ridiculous, but we were all smiling and laughing together – the joy and music was so infectious!

That is what will stick with me long after my trip to Nepal: the welcoming people, the deep spirituality, the rich history, the joy, and the dancing.

I hope this has opened your eyes to some of the things you didn’t know about Nepal! If you’re anything like me, your mental image of Nepal was something like solemn mountains, fluttering prayer flags, and white dudes hanging off of mountainsides in never-ending blizzards.

And while all that is definitely there, there’s also SO much more to see and do in Nepal! So move that mental image over and watch this music video instead – because, y’all, THAT is what the rest of Nepal is doing!

Did we pique your interest to travel to Nepal? What was the thing nobody tells you about Nepal that surprised you the most? Drop us a comment below!

Psst: Planning a visit to Nepal? Check out some of our other posts to help you plan your trip! We’ll also have more Nepal posts publishing very soon.

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This Nepal travel guide answers questions like: What's up with squatty potties? Is Nepal Hindu or Buddhist? What does  This Nepal travel guide answers questions like: What's up with squatty potties? Is Nepal Hindu or Buddhist? What does Disclaimer: I visited Nepal as one of the hosted delegates of the Himalayan Travel Mart in partnership with Impact Travel Alliance. A huge thanks to our hosts, the student leaders of the Pacific Asia Travel Association who organized the conference, our guides and drivers, and everyone who helped along the way to make my trip an absolutely incredible experience! As always, all opinions, inaccuracies, gross generalizations about the attractiveness of Nepalese people, and under-informed facts about Nepal I got from Wikipedia are entirely my own fault.

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When the country was in turmoil and life was hit hard by the blockade in the plains of Nepal, four friends from Damauli decided to do something unexpected. They packed their traveling gears, gathered whatever fuels they could and headed out to one of the most epic journey in the Kingdom of Lo, Upper Mustang. Enjoy the video where they travel to the magnificent Zhong Caves, beautiful Dhumba Lake, the Muktinath Temple and witness the live snowfall. Epic adventure, lots of fun.

 

 

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This was my first visit and trek to Nepal.
The 20 March 2016 marked the beginning of our trek in Shivalaya, with the finish date set for 9 April 2016 in Salleri. With no expectations we began our journey wide-eyed and raring to go!

Trekking from Lungden to Namche, Beautfiul-Nepal

We endured many diverse weather conditions in a short space of time – heat, cold, hailstones, wind and clouds. We trekked up, down and around scenic mountains; viewing terraced mountainsides, vibrant vegetable gardens, raging rivers and tinkling streams. We walked across long wire bridges, passed donkey and yak trains, made way for Nepalese Cowboys and many men, women and children carrying extremely large and heavy loads.

We trekked through flowering Rhododendron forests and fields of purple flowers. We felt the effects of altitude when we scaled Renjo La Pass at 5417m. We made it!! Celebrations were in order and we feasted on chocolate, cake and other treats to mark our achievement.

Trekking up to Renjo La Pass

We experienced many different types of transportation from a 10 hour ride in a local bus, an 8 hour jeep ride with 11 of us all squashed in, including one car sick passenger and the bumpiest ride on a tractor.

Along the way I met people from many diverse countries and walks of life. Our trek was much more than a physical journey – it was a spiritual awakening.

Bibas, on the way to Trakshindo Pass

I experienced the generosity of the beautiful Nepalese people – some people who themselves had few possessions but were able to give so freely from their heart. When you are faced with and overcome obstacles, feats harder than you can imagine and you are taken out of your comfort zone each and every day, you are able to see who you truly are and for the first time in years I finally met myself.

Looking back at Gokyo!

We all have our path to walk on our journey in life – this was my journey – a most humbling adventure.

Dhanya Baad Nepal! See you in 2017.

This was my first visit to Nepal and it was beyond amazing!

by  | ghumante.com

How did it start?
This October, I did it! I finally checked off the Annapurna Base Camp trek from my wish list. I had for long been planning to take the ABC trek after one of my close friend, had done this trek almost two years back. I booked a solo Annapurna Base Camp Trek, although the cost was a bit more than joining a group, I chose to do a solo trek as my friend told me that trekking solo was more peaceful. The week before traveling to Nepal, I booked the trek with Third Rock Adventures as these guys seemed legit.

Getting there
The long flight from Seattle to Kathmandu, with multiple transits in between was tedious but once I reached and landed on the Himalayan soil, I immediately felt happy. Phurba, my courteous guide was standing there with a big smile at the arrival hall, he held a placard with my name written on it in big fonts. After a brief drive through a chaotic traffic, we reached the hotel. After visiting their office to get my permits, I came back to the hotel and slept like a log.

Adventure begins
Early the next morning, I woke up fresh and ready to start my adventure. We took the first flight to Pokhara, the beautiful city had a lake right beside it. We drove for about an hour and a half to reach a place called Nayapul, where the actual trek started. It was almost dark when we reached Ghandruk, I walked through beautiful patches of woods and at times we climbed up above the tree lines. Being a fitness enthusiast, I had already started enjoying the trek. A dash of Thakali Set (Rice/cornmeal porridge with lentil soup meat curry and vegetables) completed the day, Dal-Bhat is a Nepalese staple and it is really tasty and filling, however I avoided the hot spicy pickles. With heavy stomach we retired for the night in a teahouse (teahouses are basic dwellings in the mountains of Nepal).

The next day we headed off towards our next stop Chhomrong. Phurba was an excellent guide, his receding hairline gave an impression that he was older, but he was just a year older than me. He had stories to tell, he had led the way towards the Annapurna Base Camp for many like me. The trek was quite easy today, after we the quaint village of Chhomrong, we settled on the stone porch in front of the teahouse with some local alcohol and looked out at mighty Annapurna and Macchapuchhre mountains.

Another bonus point of this trek
After passing a few more villages and stops in the course of a few days, we finally reached the Macchapucchre Base Camp (Fishtail Mountain Base Camp) which is situated at 12,139 feet. Maybe it was my high excitement level, as I climbed a small rock to take photographs; my left foot got stuck in a small crack on the rock surface and was sprained. The pain kept me awake past midnight, here I would like to thank my guide Phurba, who massaged my foot with some herbal oil, surprisingly by morning the pain was gone. However the lack of sleep left me quite groggy the next morning.

Night at the Annapurna Base Camp
Setting that last step on the Annapurna Base Camp was an ecstatic moment. The beautiful views of the surrounding mountains are simply stunning. The 360 degree panorama of some of the tallest mountains in the world is something to die for; the mountains really make you realize how insignificant you are. The night at the base camp was even more enchanting; I looked up at the stars for a long time, how clearly they looked from up here, maybe because the air is so much thinner.

Nearing end
With a heavy heart, we descended down from the base camp; the return trek towards Pokhara was simply as stunning as it started. We trekked past many different villages and settlements in the course of another couple of days. All the while the majestic view of the mountains did not leave us.

Another bonus
On the ninth day we reached a place called Jhinu Danda, (Danda:- hill), this place is famous for its hot springs. I had the most relaxing daytime slumber in the hotspring, until Phurba woke me up and escorted me to the lodge. The hot dip after the long trek was so relaxing that I immediately fell asleep as soon as I landed on the bed.
The next day we woke up early and headed towards Nayapul, the same place where I first started the trek. A short drive later, we reached Pokhara I was very excited to try out some boat ride in the ‘Phewa’ Lake. Later in the evening, I and Phurba explored the town the lakeside area was abuzz with live music and people excitedly chatting away, many were locals but there were travelers like me from all over the globe. After 3 beers I decided to hit the sack.

This won’t be my last time in Nepal
After a hearty breakfast we headed towards the domestic airport, where we caught a small, noisy twin otter plane and flew back to Kathmandu. I walked around Kathmandu and almost got lost, however the friendly Nepalese directed me back to a place called ‘Thamel,” here you can meet and talk to travelers from all over the world; it’s a prominent tourist hub. I bought my dad a Gurkha (Nepalese) knife ‘Khukuri’ as a souvenir. Back at the hotel I looked at all the pictures of the Annapurna Base Camp and smiled to myself, for I knew that this was not my last visit to Nepal.

Be there
If you are a rugged traveler like me, you will surely fall in love with Nepal at the first glance. Tourists go to Disneyland, travelers travel to Nepal. The mountains have a mysterious pull on you, one visit and you will surely be looking to come back for more.

by  |Ghumante.com

After waiting for over a week for the inclement weather to clear up, we couldn’t be patient anymore and decided to take our chances. Our journey towards Imja Glacier (5010 masl) began at 6 am early in the morning from Kathmandu.

Crammed in a small jeep, we reached Salleri (the headquarter of Solu district) after 12 hours. Thankfully, the sky had cleared up after a week of incessant rain. After spending a night in Salleri, we kicked-off our journey towards Imja glacial lake at 06:30 am on 8th Sept, 2016. It was a tough walk on the path, mostly used for transporting goods on the backs of mules; the path was muddy due to the recent rainfall and it was difficult to find a good foothold. It took us 5 days to cross Nunthala, Jubhing, Kharikhola, Paiya and Surke – the entrance to Chaurikharka VDC – before we reached Namche Bazar (Namche VDC) to the North.

Traditional house on the way to Salleri

The trek was tough, however, the lush green pine forests, the sweet fragrance of pine, numerous waterfalls, the giggling of Dudhkoshi – made it worthwhile! We witnessed the catastrophic landslides in Surke, which had swept away 3 houses. The locals, though, quickly cleared the trail. We were also fortunate enough to have a close view of Pasang Lhamu Sherpa’s home at Surke – the first ever Nepali woman to climb Mount Everest in 1993.

Fierce DudhKoshi

Namche Bazaar

All these villages (mentioned above) have primary to secondary level schools and micro hydropower. WiFi is avaialable in every lodge and hotels, so you are always connected to the outside world. Visitors can recharge their cell phones and camera batteries at all places. But as you go higher, they charge you for all these facilities, still it’s nothing compared to the services you get at such a remote place.

Hotels and tents in Namche Bazar

On the 5th day, we headed towards Namche Bazar. But night fell before we could reach Namche, with no signs of city in sight/distant. We knew we were on the right path but since there were only two of us, we started to get scared (baffled) as there weren’t any trek route signs.  Fortunately, our friends from Nepal Telecom, Namche Bazar, came down to receive us, it was already 18:00 hours and dark.  Exhausted by the walk, we retired to our hotel straight away. As all trekkers do, we stayed for two days in Namche Bazaar to acclimatize. We explored Sagarmatha National Park (SNP) Office, Sherpa Museum, and Local restaurants, pubs and bars and monasteries. This very place – Namche Bazaar – will never make you feel as if you are in any remote village. It has everything you need!  There is a view point in SNP office from where one can enjoy the panoramic view of Mt. Khumbi Yul Lha (5765 m),  Mt. Ama Dablam (6814 m), Mt. Pumo Ri (7165 m), Mt. Lhotse (8516 m),  Mt. Nuptse (7864 m) and Mt. Everest (8848 m).

Mt. Ama Dabalam

Namche Bazar at Night

We played pool in the rock n roll ambience of Danphe Rock & Blues bar, hydrated and enjoyed our stay while our bodies got acclimatized. We began our trek (from Namche) further North after two-days of good rest. Though there was no rain, the mountains looked shy, hiding beneath the clouds while we hiked uphill towards Tengboche. Our stop for the night was Tengboche (3860 m) – famous for its Monastery built in 1916 by Lama Gulu.

Tengboche Monatry

We walked through the Rhododendron forests of Tengboche, towards our next stop was Dingboche (4410 m) in Khumjung VDC. Until we reached Dingboche, everything was going fine. But then I started to notice the signs of altitude sickness with nausea, vomiting and mild headache. Romesh was worried and somehow skeptic about me going further up (so were all the other guests at The Yak Lodge where we stayed that night). Some of the guides suggested we go down and then come up again in a day or two. But as the saying goes: “If you think you can, you can!”, I decided no matter what I shall not retreat. I felt much better the next morning and we resumed our walk towards Imja Tsho.

Pangboche

Recently fallen bridge because of landslide on the way to Pangboche

With magnificent view of Imja khola flowing below on our right-hand side, we reached Imja Tsho glacial lake through Chhukhung village (4730 m) in Khumjung VDC. Site engineers were working on the dam which is being built by Nepal Army to control the flow of excess water from glacial lakes formed by Imja glacier, Lhotse Shar glacier, and Amphulapcha glacier.  Imja Tsho glacial lake water level has risen at an alarming rate over the years. It is a project funded by the GEF and the UNDP, upon the initiation of Department of Hydrology and Meteorology (DHM). We met some people and staffs working on site for the project, took their interviews and got to know more about their work.

Imja Khola Basin

Imja Glacial Lake is one of the hundreds of lakes at high risk of Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) in the Himalayas. In the worst case scenario, the entire Everest Trek Route could collapse.  And in the absence of trekkers, the people of Khumjung VDC, Namche VDC, and Chaurikharka VDC will certainly have no jobs. The lives of thousands of people in Everest region depend upon tourists in some way or the other. Thanks to all working on the project, now they have lowered the water level of Imja Tsho by 3 metres.

Imja Glacial Lake

It was 4 pm in the afternoon by the time we were done talking to the project officers at Imja lake and  it was getting dark. So we decided to descend towards Dingboche. We reached Chhukhung at 6pm and decided to have dinner there as we were hungry. It was the only village on our journey back to Dingboche. Chhukhung lies mid-way between Dingboche and Imja Tsho. We met a mountaineer from New Zealand who was on his 16th visit to the region. What he said shattered all our hopes. Apparently,  the monsoon was delayed and it would take at least two weeks for the weather to clear up. We turned on our flashlights, and returned to Dingboche with heavy hearts.

Star Trails above Boudha Stupa

The two of us were lost before we could realize. We could see distant lights from hotels in Dingboche and decided to follow the same. But no matter how far we walked, the lights always seemed to move further away from us. To make the matters worse, all the lights went off suddenly. With no other options available, we continued walking oblivious of the direction we were walking in. After what seemed like eternity, we came across a water pipeline and decided to follow it with the hope that it would lead us to the village. Our intuition was right and we reached Dingboche village at 9 pm when everyone had already gone to bed. Later, we discovered the reason why the lights went off suddenly wasn’t a sudden power cut! While we were following the lights, it lead us to a lower elevation where the sight of the village was blocked by a hill.

The elusive Dingboche

Yak quenching its thirst

Though the trek was going well, we called off our plan to go to the Everest Base Camp (5360 m) for there was hardly any sign of mountains due to bad weather. We descended back to Tengboche and rested for the night in a lodge. The very next day, there she was glittering like gold under the first rays of the sun, the gorgeous beauty, Ama Dablam. We could see panoramic view of Mt. Thamserku, Mt. Ama Dablam, Mt. Nuptse, the mighty Mt. Everest, and many more. However, we didn’t have to regret our decision to call off mid-way as it started to rain mercilessly for continuous 18 hours before we could get to Namche. We were once again stuck in the rain for two straight days at Syangboche (just above Namche Bazar). Finally, we ended our journey by taking a helicopter from Syangboche Airport (the highest airport in the world – 3750 m) to Phaplu Airport and took a Tara Air flight from Phaplu to Kathmandu Airport on 22 Sep, 2016.

Mt. Everest and Mt. Nuptse

Trekkers on their way to Everest Base Camp

Though we had to cancel our Everest Trek midway, it was a journey full of adventures and taught me important lessons. If you are planning a trek, consider the weather forecast very carefully, seek out a friend or an expert’s advice, or research the perfect timing. Every season has its own significance. As a photographer, you have to keep your eyes open for things you can see only in that particular season.

Perhaps, I might have missed some wonderful views of the mountains and clear blue skies, I definitely grabbed the most from whatever mother nature put in front of me. “Be water my friend”, said Bruce Lee and I became the water. Witnessing the dangers of glacial floods due to Global warming to understanding the life of the locals, it was all worth it.

Mt. Thamserku

by  | Ghumente.com

Introduction

Located at an altitude of 3842m above the sea level and 150 kilometers away from Kathmandu, Kalinchowk is a quick city escape which lies in Dolakaha district, Kalinchowk VDC. It is about 132 kilometers from Kathmandu to Charikot, 18 km off road up to Kuri Village and an hour hike from there.

This way please: An arrow head board showing the way to Kalinchowk.

Kalinchowk, being one of the most visited local destinations in this winter, we also decided to give it a try. This trip to Kalinchowk was our weekend getaway. For people who want to experience snowfall, high altitude, sightseeing and light adventures with less effort, this is the perfect option. In addition to that, it is also famous spiritual or pilgrimage site for Hindus.

Day 1

Excited about the trip, we got up early in the morning and took the local bus from Kathmandu to Charikot at 6 am. However, Kalinchowk can also be reached via private vehicles or through Travel and Tour Companies with special packages. As the bus started moving, we slowly left the urban chaos and started to feel the serenity of misty hills, rivers and streams on our way. After four hours drive, the bus stopped at Kharidhunga for lunch. An hour later, we reached Charikot, which is also a beautiful tourist destination.

Snow Covered Hills: Fun times with snow around Kuri.

After having some refreshments, we left Charikot at 2:30 pm. We reserved a jeep and headed up from MakaiBaari route. A 6-7 hours hike through the forest trails is another good alternative to reach Kalinkchowk. As we were passing through the lush green pine forest, we saw traces of snow on our way.  The altitude was increasing gradually so was the chilliness. After one and half hours off- road ride,  we reached Kuri Village at 4pm. When we saw snow covered hills, wooden houses and quaint settlement, for a moment, we couldn’t believe such  a magnificent and serene place was such a short trip away from Kathmandu.

Group Photo: Trip members posing for photograph, Kuri Village in the backdrops.

Kuri is a small village located at right below the Kalinchowk hill. As we wandered around the Kuri village, we picked a local hotel for our stay and left our backpacks there. Then, we were all set to have the first snow experience. We played snow for an hour, in the sloppy and slippery hills around the Kuri village. We realized the possibility of Skiing in Nepal. We also watched the setting sun at dusk.

Dusk at Kuri: Photo delivers the mesmerizing view of setting sun from Kuri village with snowy hills.

As the temperature was freezing and it was getting darker, we felt we needed some heat to warm ourselves. We returned back to our Hotel and setup a campfire. As a remedy for the freezing weather, we tried the ‘Tongba’, a popular local millet brew and ‘Jhwaikhattey’ (local wine tampered with a few rice grains fried in ghee) with Yak’s Sukuti or dry meat. We wrapped up our first day trip after dinner. Interior of Hotels were mostly built with wood and stones which was a kind of mandatory design for the villagers in Kuri so that they withstand the weather and climate.

Snowman Alert: Found a snowman on the way!

Day 2

With the aim of watching the sunrise from the top of the Kalinchwok Temple, we got up early in the morning at 4:30 am and left Kuri by 5:30. As we climbed higher, we felt the increasing altitude was making it harder to breathe. Luckily, we were all set to beat the altitude with the medication that prevents altitude sickness. After about an hour hike in the pitch dark snow covered sloppy stairs, we finally reached our destination.

Early morning from top: Nothing beats the majestic view of rising sun from top of the Kalinchwok Temple.

As planned, we reached the top at the right time to view the majestic sunrise. The warmth of the rising sun and the cool breeze from the hills welcomed us. The temple was crowded with national as well as international tourists, some were there for religious purposes and some for adventure like us. We came to know that thousands of devotees visit the temple during ‘Janai Purnima’ festival.  Seeing the clouds floating below us, we were dumbstruck by its beauty. The destination offered a panoramic view of snow covered hills and various Himalayan ranges such as Gaurishankar, Jugal, Ganesh, Langtang etc. Surrounded with such captivating view, we couldn’t help ourselves from taking photographs and selfies. After two hours of sightseeing, we headed back to Kuri Village.

Ting Tong: the holy bells of Kalinchowk

We reached our hotel and had breakfast. We cleared our bills. The hotels at Kuri are very reasonable in terms of prices. The food was between Rs 200 to 250 and room charge per night was about Rs(400-500).  After our payment, we bid farewell to Kuri village and Kalinchowk Temple. We got into our jeep and returned to Charikot where we had our lunch. Finally, we caught a local bus to Kathmandu.

Breathtaking view of Kuri Bajar from the top.

Must have stuffs for the trip

  • A pair of Gloves, Goggles.
  • Two pair of socks.
  • Warm clothing such as Thermal Coat in winter season.
  • Down Jackets and windcheater if possible.
  • Trekking shoes if possible.
  • Medication for altitude sickness such as Garlic, Timur, ginger.
  • A thermos if possible for hot water and high calorie foods and snacks.
  • During seasons other than winter, we can normally hike with the comfortable outfits.

Missing You: A written name found on the snow as the visitors write the names of their beloved or especial ones during trip.

Local Hotel: A Jeep, parked in front of the Hotel where we stayed in Kuri village.

Conclusion

Wrapping up, Kalinchwok trip made us realize that the trending slogan, “Heaven is myth but Nepal is real” is a bonafide slogan, literally. We noticed that the number of internal tourist had increased significantly which is also a good sign for the Nepali tourism industry.

Frozen: Ice dripping off the roof of our hotel.

 

by  | Ghumante.com

Travel is my passion; I love adventure and the mountains. On this winter vacation, I chose the Poon Hill Trek. The Himalayas fill Nepal, and Poon Hill Trek is among the most popular trails in Nepal. At 3,210 meters, Poon Hill is the highest point of the trek, which offers excellent views of the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri Mountain Ranges. It was a dream come true for me to finally view these mountains at such a close distance. This trip is an excellent option if you are looking to start trekking around Nepal, and if you are short on time, as it can be easily completed in four or five days. Since this is a popular route, there are lots of hotels and tea houses throughout the route, and you will meet fellow trekkers all along the way. You can complete the trip without a guide, even if you are a foreign tourist. I did the trek in five days with my friend Sanjeev Thapa Magar. Our journey started from Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal.

Day 1: Kathmandu to Pokhara
We set off from Kathmandu to Pokhara early in the morning at 8 a.m. to catch a Jagdamba tourist bus. The tourist bus was really luxurious, with an attached European-style washroom. During the trip, we enjoyed good service and hospitality from the bus crew. We were provided hot coffee, cold drinks and a light lunch.

Jagadamba Travel Bus Crew

The drive mostly follows along the Trishuli Riverside. There were changing landscape views to enjoy from the window. After reaching Pokhara City at 4 p.m., we went to “Hotel Blue Heaven” at the lakeside village and took rest for a while. Pokhara is one of the most beautiful cities and the second largest tourist destination in Nepal. It is popularly known as the City of Lakes. Then, we went for a walk near Fewa Lake. The view from there was very nice. It is surrounded by green hills and snowcapped Mountains on the north. We could clearly see the white and diamond-like glow of the mountains. We also had a clear view of the Machhapuchhre and Annapurna Mountains. Pokhara is really a beautiful and peaceful valley. Many people come here for sightseeing and to enjoy extreme adventure activities, such as boating, mountain biking, paragliding, ultra-light flying and zip-lining.

An ultralight aircraft hovers over Mt. Fishtail

Day 2: Pokhara to Nayapul
Early next morning, we had our breakfast in the hotel and then started our journey in a Taxi, to Nayapul, 45 kilometers away from Pokhara. The trek started from there. After reaching Nayapul, we rested for some time. There we came across a small river named Modi Khola. After crossing it, we reached Birethanti (1,025 m). It’s a small village that had small retail shops and guest houses. Here, the path continues with stairs. We followed the path alongside the river, hiked steadily up the side of the valley to a hill of 1,496 meters, and after a short climb, we reached Tikhedhunga at 1,555 meters to enjoy lunch. We met many Korean travelers along the way, exchanged a few “Annyeong-haseyo” and had short chitchat before continuing on our way, climbing uphill through Ulleri, a large Magar village at 2,020 meters.

Mt Hiunchuli

We walked through the lovely forests, listening to the sounds of birds, and through the Rhododendron forest towards Banthanti at 2,250 meters. We stopped at Nangethanti, (2,510 m), for lunch. The weather was good that day, providing us with beautiful views along the way. Though we were feeling very tired, we enjoyed the hike. Most travelers take a one-night rest at Banthanti, but we kept going, and reached the more distant Ghorepani, at 2,882 meters in the evening. We stayed at “Shikhar Guest House”, where we received a warm welcome and very good Ghorepani service.

 

Day 3: Hiking to Poon Hill, back to Ghorepani, and trek to Ghandruk
We woke up at 4:30 a.m. to catch the sunrise at the top of Poon Hill. It’s about an hour climb to the top from Ghorepani. Poon Hill, at 3,210 meters, is not high enough for the trekkers to be really affected by the altitude. We reached the peak just in time to witness the sunrise and the view of the mountain ranges. It was a heavenly view, full of fogged ground surrounded by mountain peaks. When the sun rays touched the mountains, it was like seeing shining gold peaks – breathtaking. The scenery was really amazing and interesting. We got awesome views of the Himalayas, including Mt. Dhaulagiri, Mt. Fishtail, and Annapurna South. When we saw the mountain ranges, we forgot all the troubles of the journey. We drank hot tea on the top of Poon Hill and took beautiful shots of the sunrise and mountain views. We spent a good two hours at the summit trying to capture the most beautiful moments.

Sunrise Annapurna

Mt Annapurna South

Mt. Dhaulagiri

Deurali

Then we returned to our hotel and had our breakfast. After breakfast, we started walking through lovely forests to Ghandruk. On the way, we saw a beautiful waterfall, frozen because of the cold. A steep uphill walk to the village of Deurali offered more spectacular views of the nearby mountains.

We passed through more Rhododendron Forests on our way down to the river. Crossing the bridge, we headed up to the village of Tadapani. From Tadapani, we gradually made our way down to Ghandruk.

Mt Fishtail

We reached Ghandruk, at 1,950 meters, in the evening. Ghandruk is famous for its home-stays and the culture. Ghandruk is a Gurung village; Gurung people are one of the ethnic groups of Nepal who have their own cultures and traditions, costumes and lifestyle. This village is one of the most famous tourist destinations because of its cultural significance. Many tourists come here to explore the different lifestyle, culture and traditions. This was the last day of our trekking. So, I was looking all around the village and surrounding. We stayed at the Peaceful Hotel and Lodge, where we received a warm welcome and good service.

Mt Fishtail from Ghandruk

Day 4: Trek down to Birethanti and Drive from Nayapul to Pokhara
After watching another wonderful sunrise and having a nice breakfast, we walked down through the beautiful Gurung Village. After an hour of Tourist Bus Ride, we reached our hotel at Lakeside, Pokhara. My five days of trekking ends here.

Paths of Ghandruk

Day 5: Back to Kathmandu
We had our breakfast in the hotel in the morning. We headed back to Kathmandu in a Jagdamba tourist bus. We really had a great time. I am very thankful to all those who helped me in trekking, especially Sanjeev Thapa Magar for the entire journey.

I hope these photographs help travelers who are looking for a new travel destination; Poon Hill can be a good destination for an interesting adventure.

 

Tour Highlight
  • A beautiful walk uphill and downhill
  • Experience different natural experiences
  • Know how to connect with nature more intensely
  • Cultivate mindfulness with each step ahead
  • Rejuvenate yourself with energy healing

A beautiful walk uphill and downhill into the deep lush green forest into the woods, let you cultivate mindfulness with each step ahead. TravHill presents a mindful “Hike and Heal” program which rejuvenates oneself with energy healing process with different natural experiences. Tje hike helps you to relax your body, mind and soul. The Hike also connects yourself with nature and unfolds peace within. Come join us into the tranquility of peace and freedom.

Exactly a year ago, my article, Trip to Kalinchowk, was published on ghumante. The trip to Shailung was already planned at that time because, after Kalinchowk, Shailung was our preferred destination in Dolakha for winter and snow.

According to the plan, four of us, collegemates of Kathmandu University, Dhulikhel geared up for the trip, right after the awaited snowfall of this winter.

FIRST DAY:
We met up at 28 Kilo, Dhulikhel at 6 a.m. After breakfast, we caught a bus to Mudhe at 7. Because we didn’t book our tickets, we didn’t get any seats. Most probably because of the crowds of people flocking to Kalinchowk (major destination for snow fun these days). Anyways, we made it to Mude somehow. After getting there, we found out that there was direct transportation from KTM -Bhaise  (Sailung Gaupalika).

We reached Mude (72 kms from Dhulikhel) at 10 a.m. where we had our lunch. We waited for that very bus from Kathmandu for about 3 hours to go to Bhaise of Shailung Gaaunpalika. Finally, at 1’0 clock, the bus arrived and we headed our way to Shailung via Lamche-Aahal, Maga Deurali. Sailung is about 25 kms offroad from Mudhe but due to snowfall, the bus could go only 15 minutes ahead of Maga Deurali (Shailung is about 4.5 hrs hike away from here). At one point, our bus got stuck in the swampy road and we, the passengers worked together to get it out, by shoveling some dry soil and pulled the bus with a rope which was worth it. This small effort reduced our hiking time. 😀

Mude Bajaar, Sindhupalchowk ! We have to go right for Shailung and left for Charikot from here

Group photo session! Thanks to the stranger lady photographer. 😛

Shailungeswori Yaatayaat, our ride for the journey. Thanks to Guruji

Shoveling some dry soil on the muddy road after our bus got stuck in the swamp. All the hard work paid off at the end, go team work!

Our original plan was to get to Bhaise (the final bus stop during dry seasons). But the bus dropped us somewhere far nearer than our stop, Bhasie. I can’t recall the name of the place properly, Bothley probably. We immediately switched to Plan ‘B’ which was to hike all the way from there to Kholakharka. We gathered as much information as possible from commuters and locals. Responses varied from people to people, which put us in dilemma, whether we could make it to the top that day or not. Luckily, at Dhunge where we sat for our Khaja, we met this very helpful and co-operative young lad, Mr. Amit Tamang. He was heading toward his village (neighboring village to Kholakharka) with his two homies. We asked him for directions and the duration. To our relief, he assured us that we would make it and even promised to show us the way up to Shailung ( Kholakharka is 20 minutes downhill hike from Shailung).

View on the way

Hikers on the way.

FYI, “Plan A” was to get to Kholakharka via Bhaise, stay there overnight and hike to Shailung the next morning but due to the change of plans, we got to Shailung first via Dhunge, Kalapani and then to Kholakharka. There was no human settlement after Dhunge till  Shailung. However, people of Kalapani (just above Dhunge) migrate temporarily during winter.

Walking through the agricultural fields

Local aunt preparing Noodles with egg at Dhungey Bajaar for us.

As we walked up with Amit, we got to talking and sharing our stories. Amit was preparing for Second Lieutenant in Nepal Army. Coming from a military background family myself, I personally interacted with him more than anyone in our group. Just above Dhunge, we could see ongoing road construction projects which would connect Shailung to Dhunge (Dhunge is reachable via roads from Mudey too but there’s no public transportation). On our way uphill, we met some visitors returning from Sailung. We took a break at Bishauni and witnessed the majestic warmth of the setting sun. We stuffed ourselves with some Chocolates(Snickers and Bounty) and electrolyte water (Jiwan Jal) to get us going. (Pro Tip: Electrolyte water are a far better alternative to energy drinks during trek/hike). We were taking frequent breaks for photos and catching our breath. Amit kept alerting us about the long way we had yet to cover as it was already dawn. The trail was amidst the jungle and slippery narrow paths due to the snowfall. The dawn was slowly changing to darkness as we saw the fog hovering above the crystal white snow layers and we already started to feel the need of torchlight.

School children return home through the under construction motor roads at Dhunge Bajar. This road goes to Shailung.

Snowfall on the way.

Ascending from Dhunge Bajar with Mr. Ameet Tamang (First from the right)

After an hour of hike in the jungle with torch lights, we reached a small hill which was the beginning of Shailung Dada. I would like to express my sincere gratitude towards Amit who guided us all the way from Dhunge till now. Before parting ways, he showed us the correct direction to Shailung Top which would have been confusing otherwise. As we hiked up following Amit’s directions, it grew darker and paths became more and more confusing due to the snow all around the hillocks. Confused and thrilled by the darkness and the unknown, we tried to call to Chyangba Baje( owner of one of the homestays at Kholakharka, we’d already told him that we’d stay at his place the day before). Unfortunately, we couldn’t reach him. As the one who planned this trip, I was a little bit more concerned and anxious.

Into the woods and snow.

Due to the snow all around us, everywhere looked like a walking trail. One of my friends saw a narrow trail and we followed his way towards the path. I had doubts about the way, so, I asked my friend to look for footprints and there were none. It was clear that it wasn’t the right way. We stopped and searched for some hints. Luckily, we saw a small stairway and a rest stop close by, which gave us a ray of hope in that creepy darkness. At that point, we realized that these man-made structures can be really helpful sometimes and can lead us the right way. The sound of the waving prayers flag confirmed that we were just at the top. Now we had to descend via a long stairway downhill of which Chyangba Baje had mentioned earlier. (FYI: Prayers flag are generally placed by the Tamang/Sherpa/Buddhist people of Nepal). Moments later, we saw cemented stairs which made us happier than seeing our primary destination Shailung. We were afraid we wouldn’t make it to Kholakharka and seeing those stairs was so relieving. While we descended down, I called Chyangba Baje one more time. This time, he received the call though it wasn’t very clear. We heard faint sounds of dogs barking and someone lighting a torch at a distance. It was Mahila Dai, Chyangba Baje’s helper who had come to pick us up after we made the call.

Snow gathered on coniferous branches.

Tired as we were, we sat close to the Ageno(fire) and made ourselves warm with hot tea Chyangba Baje prepared for us. We wanted to have Dhido and Local Kukhura so much. We asked Baje to prepare some for us even though, he had already cooked rice for us. We had some chats with them about Shailung and its attractions. They told us that more than 100 local tourists had been there a day before. After having Dhido, we got into our warm beds which took some time to warm up. Chyangba Baje and Mahila Dai are good examples of Nepali culture of warmth and hospitality to the guests. We fell asleep listening to horses neighing and dogs barking.

Perks of village life. After going through the freezing cold, dark nights and slippery trails, we felt privileged and blessed when we sat beside the “Ageno” (fireplace), with a cup of tea.

FYI: Chyangba Baajey is one of the hoteliers among few homestays like Hotels in Kholakharka (nearest settlements from Sailung but lies in Ramechhap district) just 20 minutes below the Sailung Top.

By the way, did you notice our first-day trip? We started from Dhulikhel, Kavre all the way to Mudhe, Sindhupalchok to Sailung, Dolakha and stayed overnight at Kholakharka, Ramechhap. That’s 4 districts in a day 😀

Local kukhura (chicken), in the making.

Something delicious is getting cooked.

About our destination, Shailung( Border of Dolakha and Ramechhap):

Dumbstruck by the view.

Prayers flag at the top and himalayan ranges in the backdrop.

Sailung is a converging point of nature and religion, one more incentive of Dolakha. It is situated at an altitude of 3150m, southwest of Charikot at Saya Thumka hill. One trivial yet interesting fact about Sailung is that 20% of it lies in Ramechhap district. It is an important religious and potential tourism destination. With Sailungeshor Mahadev and hundred of pleasing green hills, this is an amazing adventure pilgrimage.

Sailung where nature and religion meet.

From this viewpoint, 80% of the Himalayan ranges in Nepal including Mt. Everest, Machhapuchhre, Ganesh Himal, Kathmandu Valley and Terai regions can be seen in a clear day. During winter, these hills are covered with snow for two months. Hundreds and thousands of devotees visit Sailung Dada on Janai Purnima, Balachaturdashi, and the Bara Barse Mela (carnival that occurs once in 12 years). It is also renowned as one of the places Gautam Buddha visited during his lifetime. Also, 13 colors of the sun can be seen in a day. The area is a famous as a Natural view tower and is rich in Tamang culture.
In a nutshell,  Sailung provides a fantastic panoramic view of the Himalaya. You can visit the place both in winter and summer seasons.
(cited from Wikimapia)

Just can’t get enough of this !

DAY 2:
We woke up the next morning at 5 and got fresh with the warm water Baje provided. After having breakfast and clearing our payment, we left for Shailung Top. The stairs which took us 15 minutes yesterday took more than 30 minutes while going uphill. We had checked for the time of sunrise(6:52 a.m.) that day in Sailung. We had estimated the time accordingly to reach the top and witness the sunrise. As we got to the top, the breeze was bone-chilling but after a moment, the warmth of Sunrise made us feel better and made it easier to click photos too. From the top, we could see a panoramic view of Himalayan ranges, manmade structures, a view tower under construction and resting points (Bishauni). The floating clouds were surreal and the snow-covered hillocks were out of this world. They are stuck in my head ever since. The astounding view of the fresh sun looked like everything was just beginning with a fresh start. The floating cloud lake was what we imagine the heaven to be like.

Sun on the horizon, ready to burst with splashing colors and rays of hope.

Chilly morning photosession at KholaKharka, Ramechhap.

  

Me and Ladies.

After taking in the sublime beauty of Shailung top, we descended the same way to Dhunge that we’d come up yesterday. At Dhunge, we had lunch at the hotel whose owner directed us the direct way to Mude from there. The road was recently constructed and it was all muddy due to the melting snow. It was easier but there was a long way still to go. I decided to cut some hiking sticks from the trees on the roadside. Despite the time constraint that we had, we enjoyed the hike. We could see the vegetation like Pines and other coniferous, Rhododendrons found in that altitude of around 2500-3000m.

A while later, we took a short break and asked a local Buwa about the way to Deurali. Fortunately, he showed us the shortcut to Maga Deurali which reduced our hiking distance. We made it up to Lamche-Aahal from Maga Deurali in 25 minutes and had some Sekuwa and Chowmein. It was already 1:30 pm. We had to reach Mudey by 3:30 pm in order to catch the last bus to Kathmandu (Dhulikhel on the way) which came from Charikot. From Lamche-Aahal to Mudey, it was 2 hours hike. We pushed ourselves to the limit to reach Mudey on time.

Under construction motor roads upto Shailung via Dhungey connecting top from Mude.

View of Maga Deurali Bajar while descending from Dhungey.

After an hours hike, we luckily got a lift from a mini truck which was going from Deurali to Mudey with some local people and farmers with their harvests. This ride got us to Mudey half an hour earlier. One thing I like about trek/hike is the things we get to experience, from rigorous walks to hitchhiking a truck and sitting in a cargo bed.

Thanks to Guruji the 10 minutes ride to Shailung.

P.S. A bus leaves from Maga- Deurali to Mudey at 12 P.M. but we missed it.
After buying some Churpi, we got into the bus to Dhulikhel without wasting any time. Unlike yesterday, we got seats today and reached Dhulikhel at 6 P.M.
DISCLAIMER: As we had to complete this trip in two days, we were in a rush which won’t be the case for everyone. So, I suggest gathering more information about the place and routes.
For anyone, who is planning to go to Shailung and stay at Kholakharka Chyangba Bajey’s place is highly recommended.

Chyangba Bajey’s Mobile Number: 9614878670

My Personal Experience:
Being a stickler for plans, it pisses me off when Plan A doesn’t work. But this trip taught me that there are other 25 alphabets and we should always be ready to switch to another one if one doesn’t work.
Also, if you want to be at serene places around Kathmandu Valley, away from the urban life, Shailung can be the best destination for you, non-commercialized and comparatively less crowded than Kalinchowk.
And lastly, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the local people, my friends who provided me information and pictures of the trip.
Thank you!

Random Shots from the trip:

Uff! Still a long way to go.

Flaunting Ghumante Tee at the top.

Bonus Information: Shailungeshori Mahadev.

We had been to Thulo Shailung for hiking and sightseeing perspectives. But we also heard a lot about Saano Sailung upon reaching there.  One of my close senior brothers, Mr. Dharmendra Ranjitkar has been to both Saano and Thulo Shailung via motorbike. And he had been there via Dholaalghat- Koshipaari routes to Saano Shailung and from there Dudhpokari to Dhungey.

I would like to thank him from the bottom of my heart for providing this bonus information. Both Sailungs are equally important religiously though Saano Shailung receives more devotees, in comparison. He also shares some of the pictures from his trip.

Thulo Shailung worship shrine. Pic, Dharmendra Ranjitkar

Idol at Saano Shailung. Pic Dharmendra Ranjitkar

Devotees worship at Saano Shailung. Pic, Dharmendra Ranjitkar

Lastly, I and my trip members would like to thank everyone for helping us in this trip, directly and indirectly. My sincerest gratitude goes to Mr. Karan Shakya (Admin of Travelling Nepal Tips)  for providing valuable information about Shailung and Chyangba Bajey’s phone number. I thank my brother Dharmendra Ranjitkar once again for the Bonus information section.

Thank you all. Your feedbacks will be highly appreciated. 😀

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