A Nepal Travelog
May 31, 2019, 10:30 am Depature from Doha Hamad International Airport in Qatar with Qatar Airways QR 650 and a flight time of 4.5 hours to Kathmandu in Nepal.
If you are from a country which entitles you to getting a visa on arrival, please ensure that you have filled out the online visa application form (earliest 15 days before you arrived in Nepal). Take the print with you and provide it to the Immigration officer. With this you avoid the need to use the limited numbers of computer terminals at Kathmandu airport before approaching the immigration counter. https://online.nepalimmigration.gov.np/
After the immigration, the taxi driver from our hotel was already waiting for us. We chose a very reasonable hotel which had fantastic reviews on booking.com. However, although the taxi driver was very friendly, it was a bit too much since he kept talking the whole trip. Arrived at the hotel, we had a late and very basic dinner after which we inspected our room.
The smell of urine pucks
The room was ok and clean. The only problem was that everything smelt of urine pucks because they where distributed everywhere in the small bathroom. I discovered the reason for all the urine pucks quite fast: As seen several times in Asia, the sink has been connected with a straight connection to the drain. The easy solution with the flexible pipe was to form a U to ensure that there is always water in the drain blocking the bad smell. Although we solved the smell problem, the room was very small without any wardrobe. We decided to stay only a view days in Kathmandu and booked our bus tickets to Pokhara.
The first day we visited the Pashupatinath Temple. At this Hindu temple complex which is located on the banks for the Bagmati River in the eastern part of Kathmandu Valley, local Hindus are burning their deceased. The burning places are located on stone platforms adjacent to the Bagmati river. Once the whole body has been completely burned, the ash is swiped into the river. The river itselfs is incredibly dirty and like most of the rivers in Kathmandu, it smells horrible.
Our tour guide which more or less forced us to employ him temporarily, guided us to some of the holy men. He explained to us that they are the only one who are allowed to consume marijuana legally. (After the wild 60s and 70s, the government stopped the legal consumption of marijuana.) As per or guide, every holy man takes care for about 300 people. For that reason he requires every day a lot of money...... hmmm, I don't want to offend others believing, but I was more of the impression that the holy men are remains from the hippi area. We gave one of them 100 NPR and denied any further requests for money.
No thank you! Today I don't need a richshaw.
We got some basics in Hinduism before we left our tour guide. He asked for some small contribution for his medical treatment, since although he might looked healthy he was serious sick.....as he said. After he told us that he usually gets around 70 US $ (for about 1 hour walking around in the temple), we gave him 1,000 Rs which is equivalent to about 9 US $ and left the place. With all respect and understanding that a majority of the people live from the tourism, it gets really fast annoying how often you get approached from people who want to sell something or offer you their services. I was even considering to make myself a signboard with "No thank you! Today I don't need a richshaw."
At the temple area you find a lot of monkey searching for stupid visitors with food which is easy to get.
The roads in Kathmandu are very dusty and crowded with cars and motorbikes which causes a very high pollution. It's highly recommended to wear proper face masks to avoid inhaling the unhealthy air. The best way to travel in the city is by using taxis. Negotiate the fare for the trip before getting into the car to avoid surprises when you reach the destination. The real price for the trip is usually less than 50% of what the driver is initially asking for.
Kathmandu to Pokhara
Since the hotel wasn't exactly what we had expected and the pollution of the city exceeded our expectations, my wife wasn't in the best mood. To safe the holidays, we decided to leave Kathmandu and to do the trip to Pokhara. Our host was very helpful and booked the "luxury" bus trip for us. The next morning we headed to the bus stop for a 7 hours 200 km trip to Pokhara. Although the word luxury didn't match exactly what we found, there was plenty of leg room in huge worn seats. The trip itself was very rough since the condition of the roads was poor.
We saw alone 3 accidents with buses and trucks on the way. However, on the way we made a lunch break at a hotel and where surprised about the really fantastic buffet. The highlight of the trip. Eventually we arrived safely in Pokhara and walked to our hotel.
Pokhara - What a Difference
The air and the city is so much different from Kathmandu and the hotel was great. Friendly and helpful staff and amazing food. Hotel Middle Path & Spa
During the days we walked a lot around in the city and in nearby forests. The evenings we spend usually in one of the bars at the lake.
Pokhara is the ideal place to start bigger hiking tours ranging from 1 day up to 10 or even 20 days.
After very relaxing days in Pokhara which we both can highly recommend, we continued our Nepal trip to Sauraha, near to the Chitwan National Park.
Compared to the Kathmandu or Pokhara, the weather in Chitwan is much warmer and more humid. Sauraha, is a farmer village close to the park and fully focused on tourism. There a several activities offered like jeep safari, elephant riding, canoeing, jungle walk, jungle overnight stay, bird watching, etc.
Our hotel was basic but clean. Again we had a nice host and we got served fantastic food. Especially the chicken curry was very tasty. Chitwan Village Resort
We booked the jeep safari and elephant ride. We can recommend both, always keeping in mind that all of these activities are supporting the village community and the national park. The park is the home of several hundred rhinos and 93 tigers among other animals.
We decided to take the plane back to Kathmandu. Instead of another 6 hours with the bus, it took us only 20 minutes in a comfortable aircraft.
Back in Kathmandu
We already booked another hotel in Kathmandu, which was so much better than our first home. Karma Boutique Hotel
Nice big rooms and very good located in Thamel. With our temporary home so close to the main touristic spot, it was perfect to walk on the street and take some nice shots. As usual, my trusty main camera was the Leica Q, first version. It's the perfect tool to take fast and unobtrusive shots. Below are some samples from the photo walks through the streets of Kathmandu before we left Nepal.
Some Advice for Nepal
Ensure that you go through the online immigration registration some days before you fly to Nepal. Be aware that you can't buy anything at the departure area in the airport. Once you have passed the immigration and security check, you will only find free water. The only shop which was available before is closed.
Negotiate with the driver before the trip. Usually a fair price is about 50% of what the driver offers you.
Bus trips are an adventure itself. If you can choose, go for the deluxe buses. Although they are not up to western standards, it's still the most comfortable way to travel if you don't want to spend more money for a flight. A trip from Kathmandu to Pokhara costs about 20 - 25$ per person. Greenline Tours is often recommended on the internet. We've been told that in the meantime, the service and quality of the buses isn't that good anymore. There are many other companies on the market which offer better trips.
Due to the bad conditions of the road and the massive traffic, flying between cities is often the best and safest choice.
The Nepal people are always very nice and hospitable. Sometimes it is a bit too much and sometimes you have the feeling that it is all about to get the $$ in your pocket. The dependence on the tourism for a majority of Nepalese makes it not easier to differentiate between the real friendly and nice people and the ones who only want your $$.