Nepal : Landscape, places and 2015 rebuilding...




Nepal…. The home of Mount Everest. My very first international destination and a much-needed break after Andaman.  Who the hell said that you don’t need a passport to visit this country?? Well, the times have changed. Although I have flown from IGI T3 numerous times before, but this was the first time I was going out of the country. The immigration check takes time and now I understand that why they say check in two hours prior to flight departure for International. Depending upon the availability of the officers, it took me 45 minutes to get the stamp on the passport. Not to say the CISF team at the security check in is very rude, misbehaved, third class in its interaction with the passengers. They don’t know how to talk properly with the passengers. 

The flight crew of Royal Nepal are very courteous, charming, smiling, cheerful. As I boarded the flight, I was greeted with a smile and a traditional Namaste , which was refreshing from the normal Indian crews just standing at the door and giving looks which goes like they are tolerating us. The flight was delayed by some 20 minutes first as not all passengers had checked in and then another 15 minutes as the pilot waited for a go-ahead from the ATC as they were another seven flights waiting for takeoff. As bad luck would have it, I was assigned a seat on the right-hand row, whereas you need to be on the left side to see the beauty of the Himalayas as you enter Nepal. The moment I landed, the phone became not more than a brick, with no international roaming. It was useless. I don’t know why, but for the first time in my life I got scared for a few seconds when the plane touched down because the runway at Tribhuvan International airport is way smaller than what I have seen across India. It’s all about the skill of the pilot when they engage brakes immediately at touchdown, 50 m more from the end of the runway and you plough down into the valley. The rain which followed was my constant companion for the next two days. Winding through various directions, it was immigration check and baggage claim.  Once again, it’s chaos. I must say, as there are a number of mountaineers with the loads of equipment and luggage it can be overwhelming in such a small space. I got a taste of it when twice my luggage conveyor belt was changed. I could see people running from one belt on other with all the treckking equipment stewn at various places in piles. There was a crowd of people at a mobile outlet for purchase of prepaid sim cards by the tourists. Hard luck hit me hard when the pickup sent by the hotel was not there. No mobile network meant that there was no means of communication with the hotel. The good thing was that I had the address of the hotel and beforehand I had enquired about the taxi fare from the airport to the hotel. 


Kathmandu is crowded, just like any other Indian city. My destination was Thamel - one of the commercial places in Kathmandu, which is 100% Wi-Fi. Along the way I could see the destruction of the 2015 earthquake enroute with cracks in various walls, buildings. 95% of Indian brands can be found here so you never feel you are out in a foreign land. You have Katrina modelling for berger paints, Xiaomi mobiles up there and everything you can dream of. The various hotels are situated in alleys, not too big but wide enough with majority of cars being Maruti 800, Alto, Zen. It took me just 25 minutes to reach the hotel from the crowded airport. With just 36 hours in hand, it was time to get down to business.

We enquired from the hotel desk and came to know that it was time to head to the place of which my parents had come – Pashupati Nath Temple. It was just 20 minutes from my hotel. The temple is unlike the ones found in India- you won’t find crowd jostling with each other in a mad frenzy of any sort. Leather items are forbidden in the premises, photography is prohibited. All you have is one guard at the entrance of the temple who politely requests you to not click the picture and we respected that. In India, it would have been a whole different drama. By the time we reached, it was time for the darshan in a few minutes. There were two lines- ladies and gents around the perimeter of the main temple. There was no pushing, shouting, hurry between the people. It was all peace, quiet, orderly. The moment doors were opened, people started the darshan and stepped back. People are not allowed to go inside the doors, you do the darshan from the outside itself, something similar to Tirupati itself. It was such peaceful that my mother stood for some five minutes after her turn and nobody asked her to move. People also there make sure that their darshan does not prove to be inconvenient to the others. There is no system of Prasad as it is here. After the darshan were over, we headed out to collect our shoes and believe me, I saw majority of India there. People were there from UP, South India, Gujarat, many places... A few buildings there have also bore the brunt of the 2015 earthquake.

So much jet lag my body was screaming for rest. That day being a weekly off , there was nothing much to explore market wise. Although what I did was to first purchase a simcard. At night we did venture into an adjoining garden cafe for dinner, the food was good and cheap too. 




The next day was marked for local sightseeing. Change of plans and we decided to see 5 places – Swayambu (Stupa), Nilkanth ( Lord Vishnu temple), Bodhnath ( Stupa), Paatan and Basantpur Durbar Squares (places of King residences) although one is there in Kathmandu too. People had suggested us to visit Nagerkot to see the beautiful landscape, mountains, sunrise/sunset but with the cloudy skies and rain it was a risky gamble.













Swayambu became my favourite. Situated at the top of the hill , it’s quiet and I love these type of settings. Stairs take you to the top. There you have the stupa, the Buddhist bells, the idols of Buddhha, Goddess Tara (forgetting the name but I think that it was Ganga here). With soft music playing across the complex, it was a soothing effect and lost track of the time I spent. From the top, you get a beautiful view of the town below and the landscape. There are also prayer flags, which you can see. At the entrance you see a wishing well sort of a creation. Its really nice over there with pigeons and monkeys plenty to give you company.



The next stop was Nilkanth Temple. Is dedicated to Lord Vishnu. In the middle of the pond, there is a laying down posture of him . Photography is not allowed from the front but there is no such restriction if you can capture the picture from the boundary itself. Here also, you won’t find much crowd, but plenty of pigeons. It’s a small compound and its said that the figure is all of natural stone which came up on its own. The King of Nepal is not allowed to visit here. An artificial idol is created for him in some part of Kathmandu where he can go and see it if he wants to.




My next stop was Bodhnath Stupa. Its located in the middle of a market so there is a huge crowd at anyone given point and also the fact that they are a number of shops, restaurants, cafes along the perimeter of the inside of the compound so you’ll have a number of tourists from different countries there. Its said that it suffered substantial amount of damage in 2015, and was rebuilt. Two different places, same architecture meant that I became bored very quickly. After satisfying the hunger pangs from a really expensive eating joi, I proceeded to the Pattan Durbar Square. 







The Durbar squares are basically places where the kings used to live. Pattan was the worst hit in 2015. Numerous houses, shops still have support beams placed on the walls to stop them from crumbling. The entrance to the Durbar Square is entered with the tag and the ticket. The guide there gave us a history lesson on the various palace, temple, statues, structures still standing. There is a renovation going all over the place with all enclosures depicting the former glory and the havoc of the earthquake. There are a lot of structures which have been reduced to rubble completely and it would take decades to rebuild them to their former state if the country doesn’t see another earthquake. What I witnessed there is something which would be impossible to put it in words. There are labourers, masons, carpenters engaged in various activities to rebuild various places again. Not to mention that this was extremely tiring journey as we got stuck in a traffic jam for three hours.






The last stop Basantpur is the same as the previous one. Almost all the buildings here are a no-go zone as they are dangerously close to crumble and are held in their place by beams. A museum modelled after the London art gallery was majestic in white. I saw the enclosure of Bhairav , which is opened at Dushsherra.



This marked the end of my Nepal trip, considering the places to be visited. Mt. Everest, Nagerkot would have to wait for some other time. The next morning the views from my flight to was good as I could see a mountain in the background and the various planes taking off.

Here are my observations for this trip –

1. Although Indian currency is accepted in Nepal, it’s better to carry the local currency so that it becomes easier for you to do your transactions. All the persons would quote you in both Nepali currency and Indian. If you do the calculation you would realise that paying in Indian currency is expensive.

2. There are various money exchange shops in Thamel so getting the local currency should not be an issue.

3. Instead of activating international roaming on your phone. It is way way cheaper to buy a prepaid Sim card at Nepal itself, all you would need is one passport size photograph and a copy of your ID proof.

4. It’s an international destination. So when it comes to food be prepared for very little spices if you’re an Indian.

5. The people there can understand both Hindi and English.

6. Various places of visit have an entry fees, which can range from 50 to 250 Nepali.

7. Even the smallest of eateries have the awesomest food so take your chances.

8. The Pashupati Nath Temple has no system of Prasad as the temples in India have.

9. The weekly off in Kathmandu is Saturday. Sunday is a working day.

10. Markets can close as early as 9 PM, so make sure that you are not left for want of anything the next day. 

11. From Delhi to Kathmandu make sure you have the seats in the flight on the left side and on the return on the right side to see the majestic mountains.

12. Those who have issues while takeoff and landing beware, the flights land in Nepal with sudden braking and while they takeoff it’s more like…. Full power, release the brakes, pull up.


You can fall in love with the Nepali beauties at first sight, they are so gorgeous…

I rest my case... :)
Nepal : Landscape, places and 2015 rebuilding... Nepal : Landscape, places and 2015 rebuilding... Reviewed by Shwetabh Mathur on 7:05:00 PM Rating: 5

2 comments:

  1. A comprehensive travelogue, Shwetabh. It will come handy for anyone planning to visit Nepal.

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  2. I didn't realize there were so many religious places to visit in Nepal. What a beautiful and peaceful place. Loved reading about your journey.
    Pocketful Of Maps

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