“Once is not enough”, the tagline of Nepal Tourism justifies itself when you first visit this Himalayan country. The rolling hills, gigantic mountains, densely populated capital and the most humble Nepali people, were my very first impressions of this Hindu country. A haven for the mountaineers, adventure seekers, bagpackers, and cultural enthusiasts, Nepal is not just a country about high scaled mountains, Sherpas, monasteries and Durbar squares, but much more than you can imagine. Squeezed between India and Tibet, Nepal celebrates diversity in each form. Whether it’s the distinctive ethnic groups, ancient cities, highlands with dramatic landscapes, age-old traditions, customs, flaunting snow-capped mountain or deep-rooted belief in their religious practices, Nepal celebrates everything with utmost pride.
I arrived in Nepal on an invitation from the Nepal Tourism Board and PATA Nepal Chapter, to attend the International Travel Bloggers Conference, held in the month of May. It was my very first visit to Nepal and what I experienced during my epic road trip was spellbinding. While I was excited to stay in one of the oldest Eco-friendly hotel named Kantipur Temple House in Kathmandu, I was equally thrilled to walk in the chaotic yet buzzing areas of Thamel. The vibe of the city was just right to wander around. Most of the travelers prefer backpacking in Nepal as well. I was amazed by the warmth in the behavior of Nepalese people when I was hosted by the Home Stay Community in Panauti. I would be lying if I don’t admit that I was completely hooked by the aura of Lumbini. The garden of monasteries and the Maya Devi Temple with thousands of colorful Buddhist prayer flags simply left me awestruck. The wilderness in Chitwan National Park and spotting one-horned rhinoceros made my day. Walking along the Phewa Lake and sampling the delicious momos in Pokhara was one of the highlights of my trip. I was completely lost in thoughts when I first saw the iconic landmark of Nepal, the Buddha Eyes at Swayambhunath Temple complex. It was absolutely fascinating. Not only did I find serenity and peace at Boudhanath Stupa but at that same time, I experienced a strange feeling at the Pashupatinath Temple. The sacred temple no doubt gives you a sense of devotion but at the same time, it hits you hard when you see dead bodies at the cremation site on the bank of Bagmati River. What really stunned me was the Patan Durbar Square. The grandeur of the palace and the intricate details of the Newari Architecture were intriguing enough.
Let’s find out the most thriving history, palpable cultural diversity and charismatic blend of everything though my lens.
Thamel is the most haphazard commercial neighborhood of Kathmandu. The oldest part of the capital city was earlier known as Tabitha Bahal. The tiny alleys, confusing signs and busy area, Thamel has a tangible vibe to it. Buzzing with bookshop, restaurants, hotels, cafes, and shops selling trekking gears, clothing, artifacts, souvenirs, and what not, Thamel is extremely popular among tourists. If you are in Thamel, don’t forget to do some street shopping and indulge in mouth smacking street food.
Swayambhunath Temple in Kathmandu
Swayambhunath temple is one of the sacred places in Kathmandu. Also known as the Monkey Temple, the religious site is located on a hillock, spanning the breathtaking views of the Kathmandu valley. The white Stupa, glittering golden spire, and the fascinating giant Buddha Eyes are visible from miles. This enigmatic holy shrine is the epic landmark of Nepal. The name “Swayambhu”, means ‘Self-Created”. The legend says that the religious site came into existence spontaneously when the valley was created out of a primeval lake more than 2,000 years ago.
Prayer Flags at Maya Devi Temple Complex
The sprawling Bodhi fig, decorated with colorful prayer flags in the adjoining sacred garden in the Maya Devi Temple complex make you feel the deeply rooted belief in Buddhism. The hanging prayer flags, the sound of the wind and the peeping golden sun rays through it, create one of the most stunning visuals.
Phewa lake is one of the most scenic landmarks in Pokhara. This is the popular tourist spot in the city. The best way to explore the surroundings is by taking a boat ride in the lake. One can enjoy the best sunrise and sunset from this lake.
Patan Durbar Square
Patan Durbar square is one of the fascinating places to visit in Kathmandu. Patan is apparently the oldest town in the valley and has the finest collection of temples and palaces in Nepal. The buzzing area is always filled with tourists and locals. The city is surrounded by four stupas and it is said to have been built by Emperor Ashoka. Patan Durbar square is one of the most elegant architectural treasures of Nepal.
The capital city of Nepal, Kathmandu, offers a diverse sense of culture, religions, and traditions. The chaotic narrow lanes, busy streets and the densely populated city, is the gateway to Nepal. The Kathmandu valley has three important cities, Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, which used to be independent states, ruled by the Malla Kings during 12thto 18th century. The picturesque valley is home to world heritage sites Patan, Boudhanath and Bhaktapur, important monuments and cultural centers. Don’t forget to explore the mountain villages and traditional Newari architectural marvels in the valley.
Boudhanath Stupa is one of the top places to visit in Kathmandu. This is the largest Stupa in Nepal and one of the sacred places for Buddhists. Built in the 14th century, the Boudhanath Stupa is the focal point of worship. The giant Buddha Eyes on the top of the magnificent white Stupa along with the hanging colorful prayer flags make it a spectacular sight.
Nepalese Traditional Dolls
Nepalese Himalayan Puppets and Dolls represent authentic Nepalese cultures, lifestyles, and traditions. They are found in various sizes, shapes, and colors. They are made of wood, cotton, clay, nylon, fiber and cotton thread. Later they get dressed in traditional costumes of different ethnic groups like Newari, Maithili, Jyapu, Sherpa, etc. The Nepalese traditional dolls and puppets are one of the best souvenirs to take back home from this Himalayan country.
Elephant Bathing In Chitwan National Park
Elephant bathing is one of the activities you can avail during your trip to Chitwan National park. The mahouts take their elephants to the Rapti River along with the guests for this exciting activity. I was amazed to see the coordination between the elephants and the mahouts. Being a spectator, I enjoyed seeing the elephants playing in the water and how they were splashing water on the mahouts through their trunks.
Maya Devi Temple
Maya Devi temple is the main attraction of Lumbini. Located at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lumbini, the main temple is adjacent to a sacred pool and garden. It has the ancient Bodhi tree, decorated with colorful Buddhist prayer flags.
The moment you enter the Pashupatinath Temple Complex, which is the largest complex in Nepal, you will meet a lot of painted saints in various corners of the temple. They apparently charge money if you wish to capture them into your lens. Located on the banks of Bagmati River, the Pashupatinath temple also has a cremation ground. Only the Hindus are allowed inside the temple, though tourists can take a stroll around the complex.
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Durbar Square of Kathmandu
The Durbar square of Kathmandu is one of the landmarks of the capital city. Also known as Hanuman Dhoka, this “UNESCO World Heritage Site”, used to be bustling with locals and tourists all the time. The Pagoda styled temples, and palaces in Kathmandu Durbar Square, dating back to the period from 15th to 18th Century. The entire scene was shattered due to the earthquake in 2015; you can now see the remains of their ancient architectures, cracked palaces, and tilted temples.
If you are in Nepal, don’t miss the chance to sample authentic Nepalese momos. These dumplings have the most distinctive taste and highly recommended delicacy in this country. Not just the momos, but the flavourful traditional tomato chutney and yellow chili-tomato-sesame seed sauce leave you wanting for more. It offers the most gastronomically satisfying experience in the Himalaya country.
Brass Shop in Patan
If you walk around the city of the Lalitpur district of Nepal, the streets towards the south of the Patan Durbar Square, the tiny alleys of the local market is cluttered with shops selling copper, brass and bronze ware. If we turn the pages of history, we will come to know that the Newari community people are skilled artisans. They have many sub-castes who are experts in different fields. Among them, the ‘Tamrakars’, are mainly concentrated in Kathmandu valley, but mostly the inhabitants are found in the heart of Patan. The word ‘Tamrakars’ comes from the word “‘Tamo’ or ‘Tamot’, which in the Nepalese language means copper. I captured this while strolling around the city of Patan.
Tharu Traditional Dance Performance
The Tharu people are the very first inhabitants of the Tarai region of Nepal. They are the indigenous community who have been living in this region for more than 700 years. Tharu people celebrate their rich cultural practices and one of them is their traditional dance performance. They generally welcome guests by dancing and singing. I enjoyed their well-coordinated dance performance in Chitwan. It included a variety of dances like Danda Nach (Stick Dance), Mayur Nach (Peacock Dance), Ago Nach (Fire Dance), etc.
Traditional Nepali Jewellery
These are traditional jewelry from Nepal. You will see woman adorning it gracefully with their traditional attire. Known as Pothe in Nepalese language, especially the married women wear this kind of jewelry, is traditionally gifted to them by their in-laws at the time of the wedding.
Chinese Monastery in Lumbini
The Chinese monastery in Lumbini impressed me with its typical Chinese architectural style. This monastery was built by the Chinese government and was completed in September 1998. The Chinese hanging lanterns at the entrance made it look quite enticing.
Located 32 kilometers away from the capital city of Nepal, Panauti is known as the best preserved Newari town after Bhaktapur. One of the oldest towns of Nepal, Panauti flaunts the traditional houses, narrow lanes and an authentic Nepalese lifestyle. It has a dense population, located at the confluence of the two rivers Rosi and Punyamati. According to the folklore, Panauti was a historical small state, owned by the King Bhupatindra Malla, who gave this State to his sister as dowry. Don’t forget to visit the famous Indreshwar temple, which is one of the largest and tallest pagoda style temples in Nepal.
Myanmar Golden Temple
The birthplace of Buddha, Lumbini flaunts a number of monasteries, built by different countries. One of them is the shimmering golden temple from Myanmar, which is one of the oldest structures in the compound.
Home to the eight highest peaks out of ten in the world, Mount Everest is the prized possession of Nepal. A country known for its mountain peaks, every mountaineer dreams of scaling this gigantic Mount Everest at least once in a lifetime. Though I can’t even dream to do so, a distant view from my flight back to India was worth looking at.
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I was invited to Nepal by PATA Nepal Chapter on a press trip.
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