I'm headed to Nepal in October from 1-3 months.
I'm gonna be on my own traveling light (just a 35L pack), somewhat budget (couchsurfing, hostel, ashram...), and while I have some ideas of what I'd like to see I try not to over-schedule so as to avoid feeling like I'm on a tour all the time. As of right now I was thinking of spending a week in Kathmandu, doing a short trek of Annapurna Himalayas...Pokhara, Chitwan, and Lumbini are areas I'm considering visiting depending on time and budget. As I said I'm trying to limit my schedule since the temptation will always be to see as much as possible.
I love being outside, new food I'm unfamiliar with, I'm a recording artist so music and art is always exciting. I'll probably crave some physical outlet and anything of historical and spiritual significance is fascinating to me as well.
For those who have been to Nepal or surrounding area, what are 3 things you wish you'd been told before going?
Culture, food, housing, transportation...it's all fair game.
Thanks in advance!
Kathmandu is definitely crowded, dusty, and dirty, but in my opinion, still definitely worth exploring. The city is riddled with insanely gorgeous temples, and everything -- life, death, spirituality, commercialism, poverty, animals, everything -- is on display. I took my mother and sister to the Pashupatinath temple (after having lived in Nepal for five months) and they were absolutely floored at the sight of a public cremation, which I had weirdly become comfortable with -- I think that's telling. If you're fascinated by anything of historical/spiritual significance, then I think Kathmandu will be really interesting to you.
I would definitely visit Bhaktapur if you have the time. It's comfortable (good place to unwind after a more hectic stay in Kathmandu) and beautiful.
1) You can enter Buddhist monasteries and sit down for however long you'd like. As a solo traveler, I loved spending time in the monasteries around the BoudhaNath Stupa, staring at the thangkas and listening to the chants.
2) If you're going to venture away from Western-style restaurants, just stick to street food that is coming immediately out of the fryer/fire/pot (fully cooked, no chance of flies) or eat fruit that has a peel. If you get a chance to eat home-cooked food, definitely try the traditional dal bhat (rice, lentils) and cooked veggies -- it's super satisfying and can be really delicious when homemade. Be careful, but if you do get sick, Cipro will take care of it in no time.
3) Small Nepali towns (and the people that live in them) are incredible -- if your porter-guide can take you to more off-the-beaten path places, go for it. My friends who brought their instruments (ukuleles, banjos, whatever) had instant friends wherever they went. If you're offered chhaang, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chhaang) take it.
For me, I wish people had stressed that avoiding Kathmandu was worth thinking about. It's so crowded/dusty/dirty that I wish we only spent a day or two there in favor of more time trekking or in nearby Bhaktapur, which is awesome.
Second, get a porter-guide if you do trekking and don't feel guilty about it. Trekking is hard work even when you're in shape. By hiring a porter guide ($20/day), it's a lot more fun... And it gives these folks a fun week or two trekking versus the (much harder) work they'd be doing otherwise. Freight porters are walking 200lbs up the mountains on their backs, so you're little 15lb pack isn't going to make them break a sweat.
Third-- Go paragliding in Pokhara, Nepal. It's one of the top places in the world to do it, and you'll never get a cheaper opportunity to do it.
Foodwise, don't get too excited about the food. It's tasty, but hard to find a truly amazing meal. Momos abound, eat lots of those. Find some Newari cuisine if you can-- very different than the mishmash indian/chinese fare.
Culturewise, there are LOTS of cultures in Nepal. There are 100 mother languages and food can be different in different spots.
Transportation is SLOW. The roads are terrible. Take the tourist busses versus the local busses if comfort matters to you-- the price is worth it.
Electricity is dicey. Lots of rolling blackouts.
The three things I wish someone had told me :
1. The food is not always the best in Kathmandu. I had some (many) unpleasant food experiences in the city.
2. Flight prices from Kathmandu to Pokhara fluctuate widely. I was pressed for time and low on budget so I wanted to fly to Pokhara. This was not possible after ticket prices rose considerably when I was in Nepal.
3. Beware of creative scams in Kathmandu. I was foolishly scammed although I thought I was quite good with recognizing one considering that I have lived in Mumbai for many years.
If you would like to experience spirituality and Buddhist culture, then you could spend a few days in the little village of
Both places are very close to Kathmandu.
If you have any questions, specially about the Kathmandu Valley, please feel free to ask me here.
I had no idea when I was in Kathmandu that the birthplace of the Buddha was so close. Very cool spot. J
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