It is June 2019 and we plan a trip to Nepal. A trip which spans 7 nights and 8 days with family is what we love. We take time to plan the trip; ping our blogger friends, speak to a few and then finally arrive at the itinerary which we almost followed (hot and humid weather in Chitwan made us cut it by a day).
The road map for this trip looks like this: Delhi – Kathmandu – Pokhara – Chitwan – Kathmandu – Delhi
Travellers: 4 – I, husband and our girls
Day 1: We reach Kathmandu
We book ourselves on Air India flight from Delhi, it is a short flight and we land in Kathmandu in about 90 minutes. Flight is comfortable with decent food and leg space for us to catch a wink or two as it was an early morning flight.
We land at the airport and within no time we are out. As we move out, we buy a Nepalese SIM card at the airport; there are various options to choose from and you would require a photo id and a photo for a SIM card.
We book a prepaid taxi to the Airbnb we had booked close to Pashupatinath temple. It is advisable to book an AC cab as Kathmandu can easily be dubbed as the Dust Bowl of Nepal and you wouldn’t want to choke on the dust and pollution due to ongoing construction across the city. Certainly, the traffic reminds one of Delhi of 90’s, if you know what I mean.
The Airbnb was not that easy to locate, quite a few phone calls and then our driver could finally understand the location. We reach about 11:30 and our host tells us we are early by 30 minutes as the check in time is 12 and the cleaning is going on though he let us in the living room. Well, this is another story on our experience of Airbnb which is not at all what you see on the TV commercial these days. I mean not that great but I would talk about that in another post.
We put our stuff and freshen up and take a stroll to get something to eat but again the location was not that great. Hence, a couple of shops around where we could find bhelpuri and momos and bananas. In the meanwhile, we download a food app (Foodmandu) and order some Chinese which is quite decent.
After some rest we head to Pashupatinath Temple which is about 15 minutes- walk from this place. Due to ongoing construction of the road it is full of dust hence would advise you to carry a scarf or something to cover your face. We take a stroll around the temple but quickly move towards the ghat area because it is the evening Aarti that we don’t want to miss. We perch ourselves at the ghat where aarti is to take place and ask a number of people about the time for aarti and get different timings by different people. Aarti only starts after 7 but we don’t move from our place as we want a perfect view. And time just flies past as we watch the busy ghat on the other side of Bagmati river as Pashupatinath is also one of the most sought- after cremation sites in Nepal. Life and death juxtapose each other, but in a way that compliments and you can’t help but soak in the experience. More on Pashupatinath in another blog post.
We now call it a day and are all set for tomorrow but not before we shift mattresses as the AC in one of the rooms is not working.
Day 2: Pashupatinath Temple, Thamel and Durbar Square
We walk to Pashupatinath temple and before we could know we have a guide who takes us around the premises explaining about the architecture and the history of the temple. All the people take Indian rupees very happily but only in the denomination of 100’s and 200’s or less. We pay INR 400 for this tour and he helps us with the darshan (we don’t skip the queue or something it is just that he points out where to go). Rush in this temple is something one cannot help, there is a lot of pushing and shoving and once you reach the main sanctum you get a glimpse of the deity. After darshanam, we go looking for a cab and head to Thamel.
Taxi guys don’t bargain much but still one must try as that is the norm.
We reach Thamel after jostling through traffic and finally we get to a point where we can walk. Thamel will impress for once as you feel this is a different Nepal after having been to the city of Kathmandu. There are a number of eateries and shops selling Hemp products, wood and bone jewellery, clothes and of course woolens. You spend some time in Thamel and you feel you have seen this before as this place is just like any Mall road on a hill station just that it is quite big and the products are slightly different.
After entering a pizzeria for lunch, we realise that no one is accepting Indian Credit Cards or Debit Cards and the next day’s plan is Pokhara by road hence need cash for the cab. This comes as another learning and quite an episode (more later in another blog post. We now see the waiters exchanging glances as if inquiring if we have any plans to leave and pay the bill. A few calls, some waiting and we get money from Bank of Kathmandu in Thamel through Western Union.
Then we walk through lanes to reach Durbar Square (Hanuman Dhoka) which is about 30 minutes-walk from Thamel. These are narrow lanes where you have to walk through people and traffic with shops on both sides. Durbar Square tells the tale of bygone era and some of the temples are totally in ruins after the earthquake in Nepal in 2015. Here also we are approached by a guide and we hire him for INR 200 for a full round of Durbar Square.
After a few clicks and some walk through the Square we find ourselves in a taxi heading back to the Airbnb in Kathmandu stopping in between only to get our dinner packed from a Tandoori restaurant – that is how dhabas are called in Nepal.
Day 3: Kathmandu to Pokhara
Distance: About 200 km; Time taken: 7 hours by road; Roads: Bad
We book a cab to Pokhara and the gentleman arrives in time. We start around 7 happy to be moving to another famous town in Nepal and even happier that we would not be staying in that Airbnb. We learn on the way that our driver is an ex- army whose wife and kids are in India with his sister and he bought his car Scorpio S5 on a hefty bank loan. His Hindi is good and he keeps us entertained with the songs he has in a pen drive that he says he downloaded for us. Then he also mentions about Udit Narayan and his Nepali roots; this and somewhat interesting views help us get through the long 7-hour road trip from Kathmandu to Pokhara otherwise you can travel on those roads in Nepal at your own risk.
We check in at hotel Adam which is a decent hotel right at the center point but again we realise there are better options available at the end of the Lake road towards the airport. Anyways, we check in and head straight to have lunch. Lake side road is full of restaurants and hotels so there you are spoilt for choice. We choose Maya restaurant – the oldest one around and have our fill of momos and fish. You get decent vegetarian options too. It rains cats and dogs while we munch on lunch. In the evening we take a stroll around the lake as it is still drizzling on and off and have tea by the lake side and eat hot corn on the cob with green chilli chutney.
This place is a welcome respite from the hustle bustle of Kathmandu. First day in Pokhara is well spent.
Day 4: Action packed in Pokhara – Ultralight flight
Today we have a lot lined up. As the bookings are in place, we head to Pokhara airport for our first ever ultralight flight experience. I am the first to go and am thrilled as I was in Bir Biling (first paragliding experience at the best place to paraglide in Asia). My pilot is Kevin and once the engines are all revved up, I am all set to take the flight with that gear (that is provided by the service provider) I feel like a pilot myself. One of the best experiences till date I get a bird’s eye view of the city, World Peace Pagoda and the Fewa Lake, hills were rather hidden behind the clouds but flying through the clouds is even better.
Getting the bird’s eye view of the lake in not enough and we go boating in the lake which spans 1.5 by 4 kms and enjoy the boat ride. It is actually different from boating in Nainital as the lake is huge and there is temple right in the middle of the lake. Now we head to Devi falls. It is a different kind of a waterfall where you can see the water coming and then can’t see where actually it is falling as the gorge is too deep, I guess. You can only hear water fall and feel the mist on your face. However, the little Shiv parivaar (God Shiva and his family) is quite beautiful and looks antique.
Now we head to Gupestwor Mahadev caves at the insistence of our driver. The place is nearby only and we reach in no time. There is a ticket you have to buy to enter the caves. As it is quite hot already, I quit and tell my folks to carry on while I sit underneath a huge tree beside the reclining statue of Vishnu. While they are in the cave I get to know later, electricity trips twice and their verdict is that this place is avoidable. Anyways we are done for the afternoon, evening is another story.
It looks like it is going to rain still we don’t want to miss the World Peace Pagoda hence we drive towards it. The roads are narrow and steep and I feel a bit nervous (read about our drive to village in Manali) but the driver manages and we trust him. A climb of about 300 stairs and you are at the peace Pagoda. Quite a site and it will have more effect on you if you keep quiet and soak in the serenity and the views from here. It rains and we rush for cover under the only canopy in the premises where we find fellow tourists too. Once the rain subsides, we click a few pictures of the beautiful sky and the peace pagoda in the backdrop and climb down while giving a heads up to the ongoing people to the peace pagoda that the place is close now. (World Peace Pagoda closes at 6 pm in summers)
We go for a walk in the evening in bid to find something to snack on and we do find a restaurant named Thela where everything is for NPR 99 only. It is a must eat place and we snack on momos, chicken satay and thukpa soup which is quite scrumptious.
We also find a golgappe wala who serves yummy golgappas on the Lake side road. Again, dinner is from a Tandoori restaurant which we enjoy in our room.
Day 5: Pokhara to Chitwan
Distance: 150 km ; Time taken by road: 5 hours; Road: Bad except the last stretch from Mungling onwards
Now this state highway is better than the previous one (Kathmandu to Pokhara) and we see river Trishuli which changes names at it merges with other rivers. Roads are better after you cross Mungling that is where we have our lunch at a Thakali resaurant which serves typical Nepali food. Nothing fancy but thankfully neat and hygienic which is a blessing considering the kind of eateries you spot on the highway.
In about 5 hours we reach Chitwan and our driver is forever saying that it would be very hot in Chitwan. It turns out he is right and we immediately make up our minds to stay only a night instead of the original two nights that we had planned.
As soon as we freshen up, we rush for the crocodile safari and the jungle walk as it is 4 in the evening already. We go in a safari truck to the starting point and are hustled up in a canoe which is carved out of a tree bark and looks so raw. Now I think the colour almost matches a croc. Eeew!
The crocodile safari is something that can only be experienced and not explained in words. About 45 minutes on the canoe and all of us are biting our nails at some point or the other. We spot a few crocs, a group of deer and few birds like stork, kingfisher and more.
At the point where the safari terminates, we get down safe and sound and walk through the jungle to our hotel. Of course, a guide from the jungle accompanies us for the safari and the walk. We spot a number of elephants that have been reared for the purpose of patrolling the national park. It is a huge area of 964 sq kms hence an army of elephants along with patrolling officers is required.
For dinner we are served thalis with rice, dal, two vegetable dishes and/or chicken. Food is good and tastes like home-made food. You feel happy because after so many days of eating out you value simple food. All of a sudden you see the manager and his aides running towards the roof top restaurant where we are dining and yelling, “Gainda, Gainda” which means Rhino and before you say a word they point out to a silhouette crossing the Rapti river and heading towards the village where he will feast on vegetables, we are told. We call it a day and go off to sleep without thinking about the crocs.
Day 6: Jungle Safari in Chitwan National Park and back to Kathmandu
We get ready by 7 and wear matching camouflage t shirts for the jungle safari. All set with packed breakfast and hats and sunglasses, we get in the truck that is our carrier in the jungle. We have our guide with us who can speak fluent Hindi. We enter the jungle and even before we could soak in the spirit of it all we encounter a rhino which is spotted by our guide. It is hard to actually spot it even after he points it from a distance then our driver reverses the truck and we are face to face with the rhino who is busy chewing on elephant grass and now we can see the beast right in front of us. We are quite close and in pin drop silence we can hear the animal breath heavily and chew noisily. He lifts up his head to have a look at us while continuously chewing and after a few seconds of eye contact he leaves us alone and glides through the grass.
We are actually mesmerized. Humans are just another creation of the intelligence that rules this universe and so is the rhino, both equally amazing.
We move ahead and see flocks and flocks of deer some crossing the river and some sitting and relaxing under the thick growth.
Happy with our visit we wrap it up before noon and head back to Kathmandu.
Day 7 and 8: Kathmandu – Thamel and Durbar Square
We had booked Hotel Marshayangdi in Thamel for our last day and added another day to this as we cut short our trip by a day in Chitwan.
With prime location in Thamel and an upgrade to a suite in this hotel we all are a happy lot. We are happy to be back in the comfort zone of a city life and today we just relax, watch TV and eat in our room. Only in the evening we go out and take a walk in Thamel.
We have just today in Kathmandu and honestly no shopping is done till now. Just because I find nothing exciting enough because either the price is too high or the quality of the stuff is not what I am looking for. And more importantly, I feel I can easily get this in my own country. Still, we walk towards Hanuman Dhokha Durbar Square again to see if we can buy something from the roadside market there. This market is cheaper than Thamel.
We spot a singing bowl and a couple of wooden masks.
- Indian Credit Cards (VISA and Master Card) are not accepted in Nepal.
- Indian currency is accepted in Nepal only in the denominations of 200 and 100 (preferred) and lower.
- Advisable to carry Nepalese currency.
- Carry a photo id and a photograph to buy a Nepalese SIM card.
- Eat where the locals eat. That is how I find the golgappe wala who is selling tasty and yummy golgappas in Pokhara.
- No boating in Fewa lake after 5pm
- World Peace Pagoda closes at 6 pm in summers.
- Spend two days in Kathmandu – Pashupatinath and Durbar square should be on your list; Pokhara two days – Enjoy Fewa Lake and the weather plus the ambiance of the place and indulge in some adventure sports here. In Chitwan only one day is enough; just time your visit in a manner that you are able to do the jungle safari and crocodile safari in a day.