Nepal

Published on August 30th, 2013

9

First Impressions: Nepal

MonkeyTemple350x466Seriously. For a travel blogger, I make a woefully piss-poor correspondent. Oh I love cobbling together tales of my travels AFTER the fact (though even then, I’m afraid I neglect documenting much of the nitty gritty details). But while I’m bumping along the trail in the midst of dazzling new sights and experiences? It seems the impressions come just too swift and jumbled to properly transcribe the visions, sounds, smells and feelings from my dodderin’ brain to digital ink. In short, what I dearly need is a webcam embedded in my forehead so that you all could simply skip along the trail with me.

In lieu of that, all I can do as this wondrous land of Nepal unfolds before me, is jot down a stray potpourri of my first impressions. I’ve been here less than a week now (3 nts. In Kathmandu, 2 in Bhaktapur, and tonight, my 1st in Nagarkot – a most enchanting hamlet perched high amid the clouds at 7,000+ feet), but already I can tell you this:

    • Nepal is utterly unique.  Indeed, I’ve been blessed to visit a goodly number of sovereign nations in my 30+ year skip ’round this Big Blue Dot, and I sometimes expect that the next new Land will be much like another.  I mean, All Asian/Latin/African countries must be somewhat akin to their neighbors, yes?  WRONG!  In my experience, no two countries have turned out to be the least bit alike.  The people, the culture, the architecture, the myriad of large and small details that prove each country to be unique (and thus why I become exasperated with travelers who presume – often with but a few days visit – to compare say… Vietnam to Thailand across the board).
    • That said, Nepal is H.O.T. Leastwise Kathmandu. For some reason I thought the capital in the Land of Everest (at nearly a mile high) would be at least a smidge chilly. But nope. Hot and sweaty pretty much no different than the likes of Ho Chi Minh – go figure.
    • The exchange rate for Nepalese rupees is close to 100 rupees to $1, thus easy-peasy to calculate (e.g. 1,125 rupees = approx. $11.25) Thanks, Nepal.
    • Kathmandu is amazing. Negotiating h.a.r.d. for a taxi (300 rupees, about $3) from the airport to my hotel in Thamel, my initial impression as we bumped willy-nilly through seriously potholed, filthy backstreets, was: “OMG, Nepal makes Vietnam look like SWITZERLAND!” Ah but I LOVE it! The crooked cobbled streets, the dusty, dilapidated buildings, bitty kiosks tucked into dark corners – reminds me a little of Morocco (which is among my favorite countries worldwide).
    • Speaking of those bitty kiosks: Oh my, the nubbly woolen sweaters, the cashmere scarves, and all manner of yummerishish new age duds.  In short, for this 700+ day Vietnam-polyester-drugged expat, Kathmandu is a shopper’s dream!
      DiPak-Shop350x219

      My dear Kathmandu chum, Dipak who patiently guided me around the capital

    • That said (i.e. shopping temptations), I must admit, though I love wandering amid the luscious textiles and handicrafts – I seem to be remarkably immune to actually buying anything to stuff into my diminutive backpack. Oh I quite enjoy peering and fondling the exotic pretties for hours on end, but… Turns out, not having a home to keep such things serves as a mighty strong deterrent to stockpiling trinkets.
    • One word: CURRY. Enough said, Well o.k. that and dal, samosas, Nawari cuisine in Bhaktapur and the most diiiivine “curd” (thick yogurt with a touch of honey – reminiscent of the luscious slabs of same smothered in honey in Greece).
    • Speaking of Bhaktapur: it’s my new bff of Asia. Just 30 cents and 50 min. by bus from Kathmandu, it’s like stepping back a couple hundred years in time. The architecture is amazing, and the kindly locals shuffle down cobbled streets to the drum of ancient traditional ways.
    • (continuing w/ dear Bhaktapur): I found a most remarkable geocache there (Heart of Bhaktapur) – a mason jar suspended by rope pulley high in a tree (actually I once had a similar geocache hide in Seattle – now kindly maintained by my good geo-chum CENT5).  But even more significant, I learned of the wonderful work of the Suvadra Foundation and the Swarga Children’s Home for kids with disabilities. Indeed, every last rupee from the Heart of Bhaktapur guesthouse goes to fund the childrens home and school. I had a long chat w/ the Director there, met some of the children and staff, and am seriously considering volunteering there after my present travels.

MonkeyTempleFamily350x513

  • I repeat: traveling solo is simply the BEST. It necessarily opens you up to serendipitous authentic interactions with the local folk. Unlike tourists in pairs or packs, the locals see a single lass as approachable and but a smile and a “namaste” will open all sorts of cultural doors. Like… The family of four that not only directed me to the Monkey Temple in Kathmandu, but escorted me to the top (where I opted to repay their kindness by having the two tots’ names spelled out in bracelet beads) and… Dear Dipak, the gallery owner that guided me around Kathmandu to snag binoculars and a new battery for my camera, then led me through the maze of streets to the bus station and ensured I got on the one to Nagarkot, and… the trio of Japanese tourists (all of us w/ the same dodderin’ birth year) who promised to take me in when I land in Japan for the Sapporo Snow Festival next February, and… I could go on and on. Solo? Lonely? Not a chance!
  • Re: riding in rickety, dubiously maintained (read: uh, questionably safe) local buses – especially up and down steeeep, hairpin mountain turns on single-lane roads overlooking astonishingly vast drop-offs. Yes, yes, they’re no doubt dangerous.  But so are Home Depot parking lots with 16-wheelers blithely turning left and obliterating petite pickup trucks (while the terrified lass driver scurries madly out the passenger door just in the nick of time) – ask me how-I-know.  Indeed, arguably life is fraught with risk at every turn.  And the truth is, I find that I actually LIKE the zany rides – jammed packed like sardines with locals and nary another foreigner in sight (why IS that?) Probably because that’s when I feel most akin to the local culture – which is, after all, predominantly why I travel in the first place.
  • Nagarkot: Oh my. Purely sublime. This is what it’s like to sleep in a cloud! At 7,000+ feet, the closest I’ll ever get (while upright) to Heaven.
  • After the 45 cent, hairpin local bus ride from Bhaktapur, I opted to treat myself to the top-most hotel in Nagargot: Peaceful Cottage (just $30/nt. sgl.) with 360 degree views above the clouds. And oh my, but it surely is the epitome of “peaceful” here. Like living in the clouds.

Th-th-that’s about it for now. Presently I’m tucked in here atop Nagarkot, Nepal for two days of sheer relaxation. Last night was magical stepping out on my balcony into a cloud. And this morning I rose at 5am and climbed to the top of the crow’s nest to witness sunrise. The clouds lay low on the horizon beneath me, but parted slightly for a momentary glimpse of those magnificent Himalayan peaks that surround. By the time your read this however, likely I’ll have moved on to… next stop:  Pokhara – surrounded by the majestic Annapurna mountain range (that includes no less than three of the 10 highest mountains in the world).

Meanwhile, I leave you with a boatload of pics of some of the sights I’ve seen so far…

(Click on any of the thumbnails to start the slide show…)


About the Author

Off-the-beaten-path travel is my passion,and I’ve always lived life “like-a-kid-in-a-candy-store” – eager to sample as many flavors as I can. Indeed, my life motto has long been: This ain’t a dress rehearsal, folks!



9 Responses to First Impressions: Nepal

  1. Sue Pearson says:

    What a nice room and view, that must have been glorious! Those bus rides, the one’s I’ve seen on you tube, are a bit hair raising to me…the canyons and the narrow roads, woooo.. again, love the photo’s!

  2. Kahleel says:

    Hi there Dyanne!!! It has been such a long time since I’ve stopped by your amazing page. I have loads of catching up to do but I have to say it was pure serendipity that led me to your page today of all days. I am getting ready for my own journey to Nepal at the end of the month. I’m very excited.
    It was great to read about your experiences thus far and I will be following closely as you make your way through the country.
    I’m going to Kathmandu, Pokorah and Bhaktapur.
    Thanks for sharing!!!
    http://www.jadeblyssjourney.blogspot.com

    • Dyanne says:

      Well hey Kahleel – welcome back to TL! Do subscribe (via the email or RSS links in the sidebar) so you don’t miss anymore posts.

      And yes, yes, you have much to catch up on – no less than… 7 or 8 separate tales from my 3 weeks in Nepal. Good you’re going now – I went in early October last year and it was a little too early – those wondrous mountain peaks were rarely even visible. ;( Nonetheless, many great adventures and I’m sure you’ll LOVE Nepal.

      Do check back and let us know how your experiences in Bhaktapur, Pokhara and Kathmandu compares.

  3. Staecy says:

    Looks amazing! I’d love to get to Nepal one day. 45 cents for a bus is amazing even for Asia!
    Staecy kindly contributed to world literature by posting…The Hindu Festival of Thaipusam in Kuala LumpurMy Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      Yep, Stacey – and but 30 cents from Kathmandu to Bhaktapur. It’s an outrage, I tell ya – a compete rip-off! 😉

  4. Agness says:

    Hi Dyanne. I’m so glad I found your travel blog. I found here amazing stories to read and, without a doubt, you are an inspiring traveller! As for the post, I’ve never been to Nepal, but I am glad you enjoyed it so much. After reading it, I can say that I would fall in love with the crooked cobbled streets, the dusty, dilapidated buildings and bitty kiosks tucked into dark corners :).
    Agness kindly contributed to world literature by posting…Charging Batteries At HomeMy Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      Glad you’re enjoying my TL tales of wanderlust Agness. And yes, if I can (and already have) inspire even a few folks to follow their travel dreams (even if it’s a cruise, a domestic trip, or the moon, no matter). The important thing is to… just DO it!

      And yes too, now that I’ve been here in Nepal a few weeks, I can emphatically recommend it as a most unique destination. Only thing I’d change/suggest: Better to visit after October 1 as I’m told that by then those (presently elusive/all but hidden behind clouds) snowy Himalayan peaks will be majestically clear.

  5. James says:

    Sounds like you’re having a great time. I did the same first three cities as you and loved it. Can’t wait to get back to the silence and tranquility of Nagarkot!
    James kindly contributed to world literature by posting…Saigon vs. Hanoi – The Eternal DebateMy Profile

    • Dyanne says:

      Indeed James – Nagarkot is truly a one-of-a-kind gem. No doubt the *perfect* spot to settle down and… write a memoir, or leastwise an ebook. 😉

      That said, I’ve now been in Pokhara for 5 days and… alas, the monsoon has finally caught up with me as it’s been overcast and rainy most every day. I did manage to get up to the Peace Stupa, but even a short trek is out of the question. And worse, those majestic mountains remain perpetually hidden behind a thick veil of clouds. It also doesn’t bode well for a pricey spin over Everest – likely wouldn’t be able to see much at all. ;(

      But fortunately, I have plenty of time left here (more than a week) so there’s still hope yet for a glimpse…

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