Himalayan Kingdom NEPAL
- Himali Thapa Das

‘The antique charm of Kathmandu is unshakeable’. This is the thought that came to my mind after my recent visit to the capital of the Himalayan kingdom after a decade had passed since my prior visit. The devastating earthquake and the political upheavals had not lessened the ‘awe’ effect that the place has on visitors. Starting from the traditional welcome at Tribhuwan international airport till the farewell dinner it was an enchanting experience.

The major landmarks of Kathmandu, Pashupati Nath Temple and the Swayambhunath Stupa are both robust places which are with no doubt an anthropology hub.

An early morning visit to the Pashupati Nath temple is in the itinerary of majority of the tourists. The flower sellers at the entrance showed a peculiar sense of trust on the devotees. You choose your basket offer prayers and pay on your way back. Quite impressive! I tried my best to take a sneak photograph of the interiors of the temple but failed to do so. The security is so strong that every nook and corner of the area inside the temple is under their surveillance. Offering prayers and listening to different stories and beliefs can keep you preoccupied for hours. The last rites after death performed on the bank of the Bagmati River flowing behind the temple bring realisation that death is a part of nature’s cycle.

People of different backgrounds mingle in the peaceful sanctity of the Swayambhunath stupa where the sound and sight of the fluttering prayer flags hung high up gives a feeling that your prayers are indeed going to reach the heavenly abode. The location of the place gives a view of the whole city and you can spend time till dusk and see the city humdrum slowly convert into a field of fireflies like appearance of the city lights.

The modern city of Kathmandu we see today was actually different kingdoms Patan and Lalitpur separated by river Bagmati which today is in a very pathetic condition. Patan area is dotted with many temples and palaces of kings which have been converted into museums. Hand crafted metal, stone work and wood work are available in plenty. During my visit to Leh in India I was informed that the brassware available there actually came from Nepal. My interest in this matter was fulfilled when I visited the workshops of the ‘Newars’ who are legendary craftsmen of Nepal.

Thamel is an area in the heart of Kathmandu which has an ambience which makes it unique from the other parts of the city. I selected it for my accommodation so that I could experience the night life in a different way. You can stroll through the lanes at ease as it is a ‘no traffic zone’. You pass by colourful shops of artefacts, woollens and mountaineering gears. The aroma of the herbal incense sticks wafts in the air and music and karaoke fills up the surroundings as there are many eateries which put up cultural shows. I was invited to one such place for dinner by a friend. The place was a big banquet hall full of tourists and they served traditional ‘Thakkali’ cuisine along with a colourful display of dances in nepali folk songs. You can join the group if you wish to shake a leg or two. I really loved the starter which was a platter of roasted chicken, fried soybean seeds, momo, radish salad and soup. A local brew called aila was served in small- one gulp at a time- clay pots and reminded me of a tequila shot.

My brief stay of two nights and two days had come to an end and I appreciated myself to have come here. Great place, great hospitality. Yet, there was much more to the city I could not explore as I was to move to Pokhara the next day. Maybe I should plan another visit in future…..

Pokhara is connected with Kathmandu by air as well as by road. I opted for the road so that I could see more of Nepal. The road is good enough and it gives a continuous view of the river Gandaki flowing beside it. After every kilometre you can see suspension bridge connecting the hills on the opposite side of road. I couldn’t resist taking a swing on one of them and take a click there.

A stop at the Manokamana rope way adds another attraction to the journey to Pokhara. The ropeway is interesting and takes you up crossing three hills of terrain to reach a temple of goddess Durga .You can also relish a lunch of local pulses vegetables and chicken as there are many eateries run by the locals offering food cooked in a rustic manner.

By the time I reached Pokhara it was late evening and a slight drizzle had started. I had just enough time to stroll through the main road and find a place for dinner. Next day at the early hours of morning I started for Sarangkot in a car. You can also trek till there if you have time in hand. This place is a hilltop and a viewpoint to watch the sun rise over Annapurna range. The weather had not cleared yet so only a hazy view was possible.

The most prominent spot of the local sight- seeing is the Nepal mountaineering museum. In fact a major population of tourists visiting Nepal are trekkers and mountaineers and the museum provides wide information in the field.

Finally I headed for the major attraction of Pokhara the ‘Fewa Lake’. Life jacket on I was waiting for my turn on the boat when thunder and lightning started. Boat rides were stopped and I decided to have lunch to avoid time loss. Fish curry on the menu card struck my attention. I came to know that a part of the lake was used for pisciculture by the government and the fish was marketed. It seemed to me a great initiative so that tourists can savour the lake fishes without harming its biodiversity. I ordered for fish, mutton in local style and rice and relished it fully.

Post lunch I headed back to the lake and good news awaited. The boat rides had resumed and the spectacular ‘fish tail’ peak overlooked us from the sky. My day was made. It was a day well spent.
Pokhara proved to me to be a place with a laid back attitude. You can come here with an aim to go for one of the many trek routes available and come back to relax and relish Nepali cuisine and culture.

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