Never hesitate to go far away, beyond all seas, all frontiers, all countries, all beliefs.
― Amin Maalouf
Set in the southern slopes of the great Himalayan mountain ranges, Nepal is a destination most popular among experienced mountaineers. It comes on top of every bucket lists of mountain lovers and adventure enthusiasts. All thanks to it’s pride, The Mount Everest, the planet’s highest mountain summit.
But that’s not all to see in Nepal. As we were in for a long weekend holiday in Dubai, we decided to take in a little Nepal adventure. The mountains are calling, and I must go. A quick break from the land of the shifting sands to breathe new life with nature.
Nepal offers exclusive ways to enjoy it’s peak even for amateur climbers and absolute travellers alike. A choice to sight see from afar or probably take an Everest mountain flight for an up-close encounter. With so much nature & culture immersion to do, it was really hard to put together an itinerary in such a short holiday in Nepal.
Our red eye flight via Fly Dubai took just four hours and thirty minutes. By the time we landed on this lush country, the sun is up. Filipinos can get visa on arrival for US $25.
Be sure to have a spare passport picture so you don’t have to do another queue to get your picture done. Secure a visa form and line up for payment. After payment, queue up to immigration for the passport stamp. Sadly there’s no airport attendant around, so you’ll have to figure out where to queue up first.
View from our hotel
Badri from The Address of Kathmandu Hotel, gave us an excellent service with pickup from airport and arranging our tours for our 3 day stay. The hotel location is centrally located in Thamel, a backpackers haven and a neighbourhood to rich selections of shops, hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, and more.
The temple above the hill from the picture above is Swayambunath, our first destination of the day. Very fitting for our first cultural immersion as the iconic Unesco World Heritage Site overlooks the whole valley seemingly offering peace to everyone.
This Buddhist temple is also home to hundreds of monkeys which are considered holy. There are two ways to get there, a long stairway with 365 steps that leads to the main dome or by car to go around the hill which leads to another entrance.
From the main entrance, there is a booth that collects 200rps entry fee. The World Peace Pond welcomes visitors from this side and also this little fella of a corgi mix? will melt your heart. Beware.
Few steps up and a little cardio workout is required to see the main stupa. A recognisable pile of rubbles from the last Nepal earthquake in 2015 are still visible in and around Kathmandu, temples especially historic ones were not spared.
An assortment of arts and crafts shop thrived around the top platform. I got my hands on a painting of a nice purple sky that features the Himalayas, can you spot it here?
Interesting structures and small shrines can be seen surrounding the main stupa.
The main stupa whose eyes brings unity to all looks out to all direction. Additionally colourful banners adorn every part of the temple. These are prayer flags, which Tibetan believes that written mantras will be wind blown to spread good will and compassion.
Make a wish. Prayer wheels lined the giant stupa. We went around it, turning each wheel with a swipe of the hand. According to Buddhist tradition, spinning the wheels has the same effect as reciting each prayer aloud.
Next stop is the city of Lalitpur, Nepal. To bask in the glory of Patan Durbar Square, the center of Patan’s religious and artistic heritage. The blue sky is a perfect setting for these multicoloured old buildings lining the street leading to the oldest Buddhist city in the world. The area was heavily damaged by the earthquake.
Despite the unforgiving heat of the early noon, the former royal palace complex is still swarmed by locals and tourists alike. Major restoration works are still on going on this UNESCO Heritage site since the 2015 earthquake. In fact, there were signs about volunteering aids if you have time to spare.
Patan Durbar Square is a center of both Hinduism and Buddhism with exquisitely carved 136 courtyards and 55 major temples with rich gold works shining brightly. The entire street floor is laid out with red tiled bricks.
Wandering around Durbar Square is like a opening a book of great love story. It’s rich heritage will lure you to dig deeper into it’s culture, keep you interested with it’s old charm and seduce you all the way… which will leave a lasting impression.
We made our way to the Golden Temple, a beautiful courtyard temple architecture that was slightly touched by the previous earthquake. Beautiful ornate door with carved Buddhist deities seemingly a window to the other world, transporting us to 12th century legacy.
And I thought this temple run could exhaust us all day, but we still want more. We were enjoying the walk, the custom and observing how religion and spirituality affects the society. It’s a pleasure to be able to witness such difference in the way of life in each country I visit. A bonus when you have travel buddies who share the same passion in what you do.
Our next stop is visiting the Living Goddess. The second most important living goddess after me, haha, not, but amongst the Kumaris in Nepal, next to the Royal Kumari of Kathmandu.
Kumari or Living Goddess – Nepal is a tradition of worshipping young pre-pubescent girls as manifestations of the divine female energy or devi in Hindu religious traditions. The word Kumari is derived from the Sanskrit Kaumarya, meaning “princess”. ~ Wikipedia
In Nepal, prepubescent Newari girls known as Kumaris are worshiped as deities, endowed with foreknowledge, able to cure the sick, fulfill wishes and bestow blessings for protection and prosperity. ~ NYTIMES
Her sister welcomed us into their house, warmly answering our queries. We were ushered to the 2nd floor where there’s an entire empty room to receive worshippers. We sat on the floor waiting for our turn to go to her. There were about 4 tourists before us. Each of us makes our turn getting to her, bow our head, gives some donation and receives her blessings, while she puts red dot on our forehead.
How to be you po? I would have asked her. But there are certain protocol when visiting the Kumari. The rigorous selection process of choosing the next kumari from 4-7 years old was something beyond imaginable in my culture. Few days later, back in Dubai, I did a few readings to just to satisfy my disbelief.
Amused with what we just experienced, we continued our exploration back in the main square to meet our local driver to take us into a more outrageous adventure… seeing the burning of the dead.
On Part deux soon…