Nepal

Glimpse of Nepal

Since I’ve been asked quite frequently for some pictures of our trip, but considering we’ve taken over 150gb of pictures, it’s pretty hard to do.
Here’s a quick glance at our trip through Nepal. Looking back at the pictures, it really reminded us what a great trip it was and we miss it already…

Enjoy.

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Day 151: Boudha/Flight (Nepal) – November 15th

Our last day in Nepal, and one last day to look around for some souvenirs as this place is filled with awesome things to take home. Bhaktapur craftsmen are great with wood carvings, paper making, and pottery (in addition to yogurt!). The day was nice, but we had to make one last tourist stop before heading our way to the airport for a red-eye flight into Guangzhou. Taking the local bus, we stopped at Boudanath to take a look at the world’s largest stupa! We budgeted our cash very diligently, so we didn’t have much extra spending money. Lucky enough, we found a side-door into the stupa and avoided the hefty 600Rs entrance fee. By the time we got there, it was already dark and we took a few very uninteresting pictures of this massive thing. And just our luck, we somehow managed to find a vegatarian restaurant that served some pretty nifty bistro fare! Spending the rest of our evening there for a nice meal, dessert and a few beers overlooking the stupa was our last experience with Nepal, and it ended up in a high note. Continue reading

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Day 150: Bhaktapur (Nepal) – November 14th

Waking up to the sound of drums and cymbals, I jumped out of bed to take a look at the raucous. It was 8am, but a parade of sorts was passing by the square outside, with groups of people banging on large drums and cymbals, with no particular organization or purpose except to have a good time. Most people were dressed in beautiful traditional dress, and dancing to the beats. There were others playing the flute and even violins, but the sounds were comfortably drowned by the loud beats of the drums. About a dozen groups passed by, each playing similar tunes before it finally ended.

Originally, we planned to head to Nagarkot, a mountain-top village with spectacular views of the mountains. When we told our graceful hotel owner’s wife of our intentions, she quickly changed our minds as the festival was still going on and there would be a lot of festivities going on all day long in Bhaktapur. Being a predominately Newari town, she said they still preserve most of the heritage so we should, and definitely did, stick around for another day. Continue reading

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Day 149: Bhaktapur (Nepal) – November 13th

Sleeping in the comforts of our sleeping bag, we dared not venture out into the chilly and darkly lit room until 9am. We were very lazy. Walking outside, the hotel chef greeted us and we ordered breakfast. There, sitting atop a balcony overlooking the centre of the hotel where woodworkers were busy putting some final touches on some delicate wooden tables they spent the last month working on. This hotel may lack some of the amenities others have, but it makes it all up with pure local charm and comfort. And the food is great!

Spending the morning curled up with a book on the balcony, we had some local Newari cuisine for lunch. Despite being in Nepal for so long, we’ve pretty much stuck to a western diet with the exception of dal bhaat and momos. This time though, we were in for a treat! We had a ‘Nepali pizza’ called charapati, and a dish of bitten rice (fried and flattened rice, crunchy and chewy!) with a multitude of sides. Not only was it cheap (compared to the tourist-prices you pay elsewhere) but it was very good too! In general, there aren’t many ‘restaurants’ around the cities we lived in which catered to locals, and if there were they don’t look appetizing or even sanitary enough for our stomachs.

The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around the streets of Bhaktapur, buying some local souvenirs and eating some more yogurt! The streets were literally overflowing with grains, as it was harvest season and it seems like everyone was working hard to dry the grains. Shrines, temples and any town square was filled with woman wafting and sifting through piles of grain that just lay on the ground. Until now, we’re still not quite sure what exactly they’re doing as they move grains from one pile onto another, while others use a simple basket and toss the grains into the air and some would fall onto the bare ground, and this process continued until all the grain was on the floor. Extremely confused! There were also a lot of chickens running around, and they’d just have a feast standing atop of piles of grain and pecking at all the food they’d want! It is a bit strange, as even though this town is full of people and even tourists, if you walk about 500m out you can see farms and cremation pits and all sorts of strange stuff you wouldn’t have imagine existed! And the way the streets are designed, it seems like there’s always a surprise waiting for you at the other end of the turn or past a narrow alley. It’s like a constant treasure hunt!

And since it is Deepavali, today was the ‘big day’, where people worship the goddess of wealth and fortune, Lakshmi. Lights are lit all around town, and within the hotel we stayed at we even participated in a bit of the fun, lighting up candles for the whole house. They also drew a line from the doorsteps and into the building using a thick clay, as it shows Lakshmi the way and because it is said that she does not like dirt so this ‘path’ is pure for her to walk on. Outside, music was coming out of the temples and kids would run around singing and dancing for the locals who would offer them a small amount of goods/candies. Sort of like trick or treating!

The rest of the evening we spent chatting it up with the hotel owner and a volunteer at a local NGO who was staying at the hotel. We even drank a bit of the owner’s homemade raksi, which is Nepalese for homemade moonshine, and had once again another fabulous dinner at the hotel. If anyone ever comes to Bhaktapur, we really recommend this hotel! Unfortunately though, we’ve seen all that that can be seen around here and will be heading out to our last destination in Nepal tomorrow.

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Day 148: Bhaktapur (Nepal) – November 12th

Wandering around the streets of Patan, we found a restaurant that is within another UNESCO restored Newari building. Thinking it’d be similar to our hotel we stayed in previously, we wandered in and was amazed at how uninteresting the whole place was, with a garden that can barely pass as comfortable, and we had the whole place to ourselves! The food wasn’t that great either, but it was nice and quiet and away from the hustle and bustle, which is not easy to find in any tourist area in Nepal.

Taking a local bus to our next destination of Bhaktapur, which was the last of the three states within the Kathmandu city area, we passed through several markets that was crowded with people despite it being a Monday morning. It’s probably the festival, as everyone seems to be shopping for some festive goods and neon-coloured powder for blessings (or cooking? We saw a lot of neon-pink donuts). The bus stop is very busy and strange to navigate, it also doesn’t help these people keep giving different amounts for the bus fare. The driver said 50Rs, while the attendant said it was 30Rs, but in the end I handed him a 50Rs note and he just took it and didn’t say anything! In the end we found out it was only 20Rs each, hahaha. You can seem to haggle for everything in Nepal or get gypped in everything from buying coke at the store to a bus fare…. Continue reading

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Day 147: Patan (Nepal) – November 11th

By 5am, the locals have started their day already. Our room, facing outward onto a small tole (city square) with a few temples, Hindu pilgrims were busy paying their homage to their respective deities. And since it is Deepavali at the moment, it seems like everything is working on a slightly different schedule. We managed to block out the noise and slept in on the comfy tatami-style beds.

Breakfast was decent, but eating in the courtyard was a great little treat. The courtyard was square in shape but sunken by about knee-high, so you can comfortably sit on the edge and eat on the table provided. The morning glow shun atop the exquisite wooden carvings made the whole place sparkle in dark mahogany tones. Unfortunately, they were all booked up for the day and we had to pack up and move to another cheapo hotel. No more luxury!

We started off our day exploring Durbar Square, and spent quite a lot of time inside the Patan Museum, a collection of the area’s many interesting artifacts. It also helped that they have a lot of explanations in English on all their topics, making it easier for us tourists to make sense of what the heck we’re looking at. It was another field-trip day again, and the typical museum-style silence was quickly smashed to pieces by the bus loads of elementary school students. We were hit with a few swarms of kids, but the cutest part though was all the kids would say “HELLO!” to us. One kid even put out his hand for a handshake, which we politely shook, but then about 8 other kids did the same. Haha, kids are fun.

Stopping our sightseeing, we walked out to the “expat” area of Patan which is filled with great looking restaurants spanning from Japanese, Italian to even a Korean bakery! We ate at a Singapore restaurant, and according to Jiajia their food was quite authentic! Authentic Singapore food, in small towns of Nepal. Strange, but delicious!

In the afternoon, we took a walking tour of the town following a page off of the Lonely Planet. Surprisingly nobody seems to like these tours, as they’re rather interesting. Walking off the main streets, you wander from neat little Buddhist temples to small shrines devoted to all of the various Hindu deities. In general, anything with historical significance is generally religious in nature. And it’s pretty crazy, as you have these temples/shrines built before the 1500s, but people are selling fruits and veggies right at it’s footsteps!

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Day 146: Patan (Nepal) – November 10th

Waking up in the moonlight, we were on the tourist bus back to Kathmandu by 6am. Unlike the local buses, tourist buses are a bit more comfortable, don’t allow any standing passengers in the aisle and costs only slightly (~10%-20%)more. Trust us, it’s more than worth the money.

So between 6am and 4pm when we arrived in Kathmandu, we pretty much drifted in and out of consciousness for the whole time, reading a bit while we can. We stopped for lunch at 10am at a seemingly tourist trap, but the food (everyone had the same thing, the national dish of Nepal, Dal Bhaat) was pretty decent for the price. Arriving in Kathmandu, we quickly packed our bags and headed for the city across the Bagmati river, Patan. Continue reading

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Day 145: Lumbini (Nepal) – November 9th

The hotel lived up to expectations, and we had a nice cool (a relative term) sleep but woke up with quite a few mosquito bites on our arms. We really aren’t used to the low-altitude regions as we are now in a sub-tropical climate with bugs everywhere and salamanders crawling on hotel walls. Most of all, we forgot there should be mosquitoes, as they don’t really exist up 3000m in the Himalayas.

The town of Bhairawa is really strange, without much to offer the prices here are extremely high. Especially when the reason you got here was because you got gypped, there’s definitely a sour taste in our mouths. The bus to Lumbini was a short walk away, and this time we paid the local price and got to the exact location. Yay for smooth public transport!

Lumbini tourist area is small and consists of one short street full of restaurants and hotels. The “Lumbini Development Zone”, which encloses all of the temples and the Maya Devi temple, the supposed “exact” birthplace of Sautama Buddha. It’s an UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s interesting because in addition to the temple and several bodhi trees, the temples are built on both sides of a massive reflection pool, with the Maya Devi temple on one end and a peace pagoda on the other in the distance. These temples on either side are built by different countries, and each country seems to have brought their own style to the table. If you thought Buddhist temples at the birthplace of the Buddha was supposed to be serene, this place felt like an amusement park. Continue reading

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