This past April we sent our TVP Ambassador, Jelani to check out and test our Nepal Itinerary. Jelani wrote down his feelings about his experience so that we could share it with you.
“It is better to travel well than to arrive”- Buddha. The Buddha, the most holy figure in Buddhism is generally associated with India. While he may have spent most of his life there, it’s a lesser-known fact that he was actually from Nepal. This bit of information is similar to my entire experience in Nepal; it’s a country full of hidden gems, that’s so much more than what you think you know.
Nepalese culture has a richness that’s depth is only matched by the beauty of its landscape. One of the first things that come to mind when someone thinks of Nepal is tying the country to an ancient spiritual connection to Buddhism. Part of this is the friendly Nepali people embody the spirit of Buddhism, with their peaceful and welcoming nature. A surprising thing to me about Nepal was the breadth and diversity of the country’s landscape.
In the minds of most visitors to Nepal one of the first images that comes to mind is some sort of Buddhist figure, typically a monk dressed in traditional garb. I know when I first got off the plane gazing at what appeared to be a somewhat antiquated airport I expected to find myself in a city mired in the past. However, the minute I got to my hotel in Thamel Square situated right in the heart of the city I realized I was mistaken. As if the bustling traffic and scooters weaving around my taxi on the way from the airport weren’t a big enough clue, I immediately noticed a wide array of pedestrians walking the streets all around me. As I began my tour of the city I encountered many other tourist from all around the world at each landmark I visited.
One of the first sites I visited was the ancient temples in Durbar square, which date back almost 2,000 years. They’re still being repaired from damage incurred during the devastating earthquake a few years back, but nonetheless are still in good shape and a great blast from the past. Another great must see destination is Pashupatinath Temple, one of the most sacred temples in all of the Hindu religion. Here I witnessed an entire tradition Hindu funeral from start to finish. It was moving to see relatives of the recently deceased perform all the traditional rituals along the river next to the temple prior to the burning of the dead body as the last step sending their loved one to the after life. Last but not least is Swayambhunath, otherwise known as the monkey temple. It’s not just the monkeys that are bouncing and causing mischief all around you that makes this place great, but from the temple you have spectacular views of almost the entire Kathmandu Valley.
The people of the entire Kathmandu Valley are as a whole some of the most warm and inviting in the world. The Kathmandu Valley is actually made up of 3 distinct cities Kathmandu, Bhatapur, and Patan. My friend Rakesh, led me around Nepal showing me each city and how they have a slightly different vibe and peoples. I got to enjoy the nightlife and hit up the bars and clubs in Kathmandu, all walking distance from one another in Thamel Square.
Later in my trip I stayed at a homestay in Changunarayan village right outside of Bhatapur. My host was amazing and his place provided a great view from the hills of all of Bhatapur. While staying there I started my volunteer project at the local elementary school that provides for the entire village. I met up with the principal and the entire teaching staff in the principal’s office to go over what we were going to work on with the students. The principal and the teachers were extremely accommodating and helpful. First we went to the roof of the school where on a clear day you can see MT. Everest. They led me to a classroom where all of the schools children were there eagerly awaiting. It was so refreshing to meet all the children and be greeted by their smiling faces. We had a blast together practicing English and telling jokes. At the end of the day we even had an impromptu dance session. I can without a doubt say meeting those kids the highlight of my trip.
The last district of the Kathmandu Valley we visited was Patan. We drove through Patan and saw an area of the city where most of the expats live. This is because a lot of the UN facilities and US aid organizations are located. They have been providing assistance and aid since the earthquake of 2015. We drove through this district on our way outside the Valley to explore more of Nepal.
Kathmandu Valley is the most visited part of Nepal, but there is so much more to the country besides just Mt. Everest, there’s also the 2nd largest city of Pokhora. Of course I left Kathmandu to take a flight to Mt. Everest, as that is probably the biggest attraction in the country of Nepal. Flying out there seeing the entire Himalayan mountain range was absolutely breathtaking. Seeing the largest peak in the world and 3 of the top 10 in one mountain range is awe-inspiring.
However, perhaps my favorite destination on the trip was Nepal’s 2nd largest city of Pokkora. Pokhora is a large city, but feels far removed from the hustle, bustle and crowded streets of Kathmandu. Its streets are nearly pristine. Lakes surround it and the hills reflecting off the lakes make for a beautiful picture. I took a boat ride on the large lake in the city center. Followed by a brief hike up to a Buddhist temple atop a hill over looking the entire city. In Pokhora there are a variety of activities available to you from paragliding to the highest zip line in the world. In addition if The Himalayan mountain range and Everest basecamp is too intimidating for you, you also have the Annapurna mountain range nearby which makes for a easier trek at lower elevation than the Himalaya’s. When you envision Nepal in your head Pokhora is the picturesque city you imagine.
Nepal is a beautiful country perhaps best known for its connection with Buddhism. However, journeying through the country I learned it is so much more than that. It has metropolitan flair in the bustling streets of the Kathmandu Valley. Its people are kind, from the youngest child to the oldest and wisest adult. Mt Everest might be its highest peak, but while traveling through the country I experienced several peaks of enjoyment.