Nepal: The Himalayas’ hidden jewel


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Many years ago, when it came to Nepal, many Vietnamese did not even know where the country is. Nestled in the majestic Himalayas, home to Mount Everest – the highest mountain in the world, Nepal is a great destination for those who love adventure travel, cultural exploration or just a place to retreat in peace.

Wanderlust Tips Magazine | Nepal: The Himalayas’ hidden jewel

A LAND OF WORLD HERITAGES

I always thought I was driven to Nepal four times by fate. I came to Nepal for the frst time in June 2010 for a simple reason: visiting old friends. What I could not understand at frst is the reason for such a poor and dusty capital existing in this world. As the plane was about to land at Tribhuvan Airport, I saw the capital Kathmandu featuring a russet colour of the local houses. The houses are pretty low. Even the international airport looked crummy. “Oh, is there anything interesting in this poor country?” I thought to myself as I stepped out of the airport.

But Kathmandu gave me an ineffable sense of pleasure. It was the feeling of going far away and experiencing different landscapes and cultures that were sometimes beyond my imagination. I felt like I had travelled back in time about two decades. I saw people in traditional clothes walking on the streets lined with old buildings that looked like they had been built decades ago and had never been repaired. Nepal was poor, really poor! But it is also in undeveloped countries like Nepal that many relics remain intact. In Kathmandu alone there are countless monuments.

On a hill in Kathmandu valley, there is an ancient place where visitors can catch a panoramic view of the capital and retreat in peace. The temple Swayambhunath is also known as Monkey Temple because monkeys appear everywhere. Swayambhunath is one of the oldest religious sites in Nepal. It was built in the early 5th century and has been restored 15 times. Slowly taking step-by-step to reach the temple is a really good time to no longer be bothered by anything else and simply focus on your steps.

Wanderlust Tips Magazine | Nepal: The Himalayas’ hidden jewel

Similar to Swayambhunath, Boudhanath also has a stupa complex, but it is more accessible as it is in the middle of the busy streets of Kathmandu. Here, you can meet Tibetan Lamas or other Tibetan people living in Nepal. And if you have time to pray inside the temples around the stupa, you can also be blessed by the Lamas and receive a thread bracelet with a wish of good luck.

In Nepal there are many UNESCO World heritage sites, not only Buddhist monuments but also relics of other religions. Pashupatinath is such a place. It is not only a temple but also a crematorium and a place to conduct funerals for Hindus. Pashupatinath is located on the banks of Bagmati River. Here, you can observe death cremations. Then, the ashes are pushed down the river, drifting downstream. Men finally returned to dust. And surprisingly, in such a sorrowful place there was no crying. Everything was very quiet and peaceful, as if people penetrated and accepted the cycle of creation as a natural course. My frst trip to Nepal, witnessing this rather strange thing made me more curious about this Himalayan country.

But Nepal in general and Kathmandu in particular offer more than that. Here, we also found many historical monuments, which can make anyone envision a glorious period in the past. When getting to Kathmandu, do not miss Durbar Square. After the earthquake in April 2015, many of the towers in this square collapsed, but it is still a beautiful must-see destination in Kathmandu. There are still many other towers and relics around for you to find out more about.

History does not tell us when Durbar Square was built, but it is believed that construction began around the 11th century. From that time up to now, this architectural ensemble continues to be built and it was once used as the royal palace for the kings. By the 19th century, the Royal Palace of Nepal was moved to another place, but Durbar Square in Kathmandu remains an important place for celebrations. The monarchy in Nepal has collapsed nearly 10 years ago but Durbar still attracts many visitors to visit and learn about history.

IMMERSE IN NATURE

Wanderlust Tips Magazine | Nepal: The Himalayas’ hidden jewel

Besides Kathmandu, what I enjoy in Nepal is the countryside and other less crowded cities. The frst place after Kathmandu I went to visit is Pokhara, a city in Western Nepal. My Nepalese friend convinced me to go to Pokhara. “It is my hometown, it is very nice!” my friend said.

Pokhara is beautiful in a different way. It is quiet and dull but the nature is wonderful. Pokhara Lake extends over a vast area and when the sky is a clear blue, you can see the distant snow mountain peaks refecting on thelake like a land of fairy tales.And if you want to admire the mighty Himalayan mountains, visit the summit of Sarangkot in Pokhara. It is ineffable when climbing to the summit of Sarangkot in the early morning and enjoying the fresh air and then watching the frst rays of the day shining on the snow mountains. In this vast land, there is nothing that prevents your emotions from fooding when taking in the majestic nature.

If you want to fnd a place to rest and admire nature, Nagarkot is another great place not far from Kathmandu. Nagarkot is a village in Bhaktapur, less than an hour’s drive from Kathmandu. In addition to enjoying nature, this is also a wonderful spot to admire the Himalayas.

Wanderlust Tips Magazine | Nepal: The Himalayas’ hidden jewel

WARM-HEARTED NEPALESE PEOPLE

I went to Nepal, then left and then came back again as if I have special connection to this land. It is like fate makes me return to this country, witnessing both its peacefulness and hard duration. The second time back to Nepal, I went to Lumbini where the Buddha was born. Peaceful nature and good people in Lumbini have left a wonderful impression on me. And then unexpectedly, I was forced to return to Nepal for another reason: the earthquake. This disaster has shown me how incredible Nepalese people are.

I returned to Nepal for the third time in April 2015 with a great nervousness as I witnessed the aftermath of the devastating earthquake. Everything collapsed. Nearly 9,000 people were killed and nearly 22,000 were injured, millions lost their homes. Coming to Kathmandu at that time, I was struck to see the beautiful relics I had admired destroyed or severely damaged. Houses had collapsed. A painful and sorrowful scene covered this small country. And that was when I learned that the people here are, not only kind and sincere but also extremely calm and stable when facing diffculties. After the disaster, people still kept order. People lined up quietly on the streets waiting for gas, getting on the bus back home, and even waiting to receive relief supplies. No hustling, no fghting, no looting, and they were not greedy either.

Wanderlust Tips Magazine | Nepal: The Himalayas’ hidden jewel

Once they had enough relief supplies, they did not take more but left it for the others. Even in the ruins, in the unpredictable pain that the Nepalese had suffered at that moment, if you visited them, hot milk tea was always offered. This gentle and warmness was still intact when I returned to Nepal for the fourth time, just six months after the earthquake, as the poor country experienced an oil crisis.

At a time when many places may have become chaotic, bewildered, Nepalese were still optimistic, calm and still rising from difficulties. And their steady spirit always makes me fnd peace in my heart when coming back here.After the wonderful experiences I had on my many incidental occasions leading me to Nepal, I always think to myself, that in addition to beautiful scenery, rich nature, challenging trekking paths and precious heritage, people are an invaluable asset of this country.

W.TIPS

♦ Travelling to Nepal, you just need to apply for and get a visa at Kathmandu airport. Prepare a 4×6 photo and visa fee (USD25 for 15 days, USD40 for 30 days and USD100 for 90 days). It is recommended to print out a round-trip tcket and hotel booking when you travel to any country.

♦ You can bring Dollars to Nepal and change them to the local currency. Credit card payment is available but not as popular as in Vietnam.

♦ There are many routes to Nepal via Bangkok (Thai Airways), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia, Malindo Air) or Singapore (Silk Air).

♦ If you need to travel between places in Nepal, you should go by plane. You can take a bus but the road is bad and the state of the busses is not good.

♦ In Kathmandu, you can travel by taxi or bus. If you take a taxi, the driver may ask to negotate the fare with you.
♦ In Kathmandu the air is quite polluted and dusty. Get your gauze mask ready.

♦ 3G in Nepal is prety good. You can buy a sim-card at airport counters or in the city.

♦ In Nepal, from the end of September to late November, the weather is pleasant and not too cold. In December and January, it is also beautful and clear. Spring from February to mid-April, it is also nice when the weather is warming up. In summer it starts to rain. Except during summer, it is ofen clear in other seasons, so in some places you can even see the snow covered mountains.

♦ You can travel to India from Nepal because the trafc is convenient, and there are relics related to each other, so you can make this a journey to discover Buddhist monuments.

♦ If you like the bustle in addition to the old and ancient look of Kathmandu, you can go to Thamel – “Travellers’ Street”.

♦ If your health does not allow for it and time is limited you can buy fight tickets to admire the world’s highest peak – Mount Everest and the Himalayas. Guna Airlines provides a one-hour fying tour at USD160-200/person. When flying to Nepal, you can also see Everest from the plane as you arrive.

Wanderlust Tips Magazine | Nepal: The Himalayas’ hidden jewel

♦ Saigon Pho and Pho 99 owned by the same person: Ms Vo Thi Kim Cuong. Talking to her, you will understand more about the country and people of Nepal. She also has Pho 99 Restaurant in Pokhara.

♦ If you choose a resort in Nagarkot then Hotel Country Villa is a great suggestion. This hotel is not too expensive, located on a mountain slope and overlooks the high snow-covered Himalayas. This well equipped hotel offering a great view costs USD80/night, while for a comfortable room in Kathmandu you have to pay around USD25-30 per night.

♦ Dahlia Boutique Hotel is located in Pokhara, 1.1 km from Fewa Lake and 2.1 km from the World Peace Pagoda. Guests can enjoy various activities in the surroundings, including golfng, horse riding and cycling. The hotel also offers bike hire. Add: Lakeside Rd, Kaski, Nepal 00977

♦ Maruni Sanctuary Lodge . Managed by Nepal’s leading hotel chain (KGH Hotels), Maruni Sanctuary Lodge is located on the edge of Chitwan National Park. The park is also known as a World Heritage Site and is the home to the endangered one-horned rhinoceros. Add: Chitwan National Park, Sauraha, Nepal

♦ Bhojan Griha – An ethnic Nepali Restaurant. It dates back over 150 years. A renovated 4-storey building, it originally belonged to the royal priest of the king of Nepal. It is the perfect place to taste authentic organic Nepalese food among fascinating Nepalese cultural décor and artefacts. Price for a dinner for foreign guests is
USD20/person. Add: 536, Dillibazar, Kathmandu, Nepal

♦ Traditional Comfort. Located in the heart of Kathmandu, this 25 year-old hotel features well-decorated rooms with delightful traditional and international meals. The hotel also offers car hire. Add: Krishna Pauroti, Kamalpokhari, Kathmandu 44600, Nepal

♦ Travelling to Nepal, you just need to apply for and get a visa at Kathmandu airport. Prepare a 4×6 photo and visa fee (USD25 for 15 days, USD40 for 30 days and USD100 for 90 days). It is recommended to print out a round-trip tcket and hotel booking when you travel to any country.

♦ You can bring Dollars to Nepal and change them to the local currency. Credit card payment is available but not as popular as in Vietnam.

♦ There are many routes to Nepal via Bangkok (Thai Airways), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia, Malindo Air) or Singapore (Silk Air).

♦ If you need to travel between places in Nepal, you should go by plane. You can take a bus but the road is bad and the state of the busses is not good.

♦ In Kathmandu, you can travel by taxi or bus. If you take a taxi, the driver may ask to negotate the fare with you. In Kathmandu the air is quite polluted and dusty. Get your gauze mask ready.

♦ 3G in Nepal is prety good. You can buy a sim-card at airport counters or in the city.

♦ In Nepal, from the end of September to late November, the weather is pleasant and not too cold. In December and January, it is also beautful and clear. Spring from February to mid-April, it is also nice when the weather is warming up. In summer it starts to rain. Except during summer, it is ofen clear in other seasons, so in some places you can even see the snow covered mountains.

♦ You can travel to India from Nepal because the trafc is convenient, and there are relics related to each other, so you can make this a journey to discover Buddhist monuments.

Tran Viet Phuong | Wanderlust Tips

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