Nepal and the Himalayas

Few months ago, one of my office mates asked me, “Where is your next travel destination?”

“I’m going to Nepal.” I said.

“Is Nepal a country? Where is that place?”

Ahhh yes! Those are the types of responses I want to hear when I tell someone I’m going to Nepal.

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Kathmandu, Nepal

Nowadays, with airlines giving away seat sales left and right, travelling has become a lifestyle for the average “Filipino yuppie”. My Instagram feed has been filled with my friends’ travel photos from Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, and at times US or Europe. For me, these places have become ordinary due to the influx of people who visit these usual tourist destinations. So when I was deciding on my next adventure, I wanted to go somewhere different, somewhere far, a place where people would say “where is that place?” After months of research, I have decided to go on a spiritual journey to Nepal.

Nepal is home to the majestic Himalayas and the mecca for mountaineers as it boasts eight of the ten highest mountains in the world (including Mt. Everest). It also has a very rich history which dates back to almost 3000 years ago but much of which is still relatively unknown to this day. There are many Hindu and Buddhist temples found all over the country. Majority of these temples are also listed as UNESCO world heritage sites. Nepal is the country where you can find the birthplace of Gautama Buddha which makes it more spiritual.

Let me take you on my 10-day journey and show you why Nepal should be your next travel destination. This is an experience I will never forget!

THE PLAN

Day 1: Fly to Nepal
Day 2: Kathmandu Tour
Day 3: Travel to Pokhara
Day 4: Trek to Sarangkot & Australian Camp
Day 5: Trek back to Pokhara
Day 6: Travel to Kathmandu
Day 7: Patan Tour
Day 8: Changu Narayan / Bhaktapur Tour
Day 9: Kathmandu Tour part 2
Day 10: Fly out

ITINERARY

Day 1: Fly to Kathmandu, Nepal

The fastest way to get to Nepal from Manila is via Hong Kong then straight to Kathmandu. However, this may not be the cheapest route. I booked my flight with Air Asia from Manila to Kuala Lumpur with a 4 hour layover. Then booked another flight with Malindo air from Kuala Lumpur to Kathmandu (Tribhuvan international airport). I arrived around 7pm Kathmandu time and in the Thamel area where most tourists stay.

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Dark alleys in Thamel with Prayer flags all around

Day 2: Kathmandu Tour

Namaste! This is one of the first things I learned upon arriving in Nepal. Namaste is their local greeting which means “I bow to the God within you.” You place your hands together in a prayer like gesture and place it near your chest and greet people Namaste!

I woke up early the next day and was instantly greeted by absolute chaos! Crowded streets, dust from unpaved roads, grumbles from motorbikes, bad infrastructure, and the list just goes on and on. But despite this, there is something unique, interesting, and spiritual about this city. It is both calm and chaotic at the same time.

I did not book any tour and relied on google maps to find my way around. My first stop is the Kopan Monastery located just outside the outskirts of Kathmandu. I stayed in the monastery for about 2 hours and just sat in silence. I was lucky since the Tibetan monks were on break and I got to stay in the monastery all by myself. No better place to reflect and appreciate other religions. What a spiritual experience!

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Kopan Monastery on top of a hill
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Spent a few hours in silence here. Very surreal and spiritual

Next stop is the Boudhanath Stupa, a UNESCO world heritage site. One of the largest Stupa structures in the world. There is also a huge population of refugees from Tibet who visit this place. There is a very mysterious enlightening experience upon seeing the stupa with the Buddha eyes

Note: You should only go around the Stupa in a clock-wise movement. Don’t forget to spin the prayer wheels for good karma.

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Boudhanath Stupa, a UNESCO world heritage site.
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All seeing Buddha eyes. You can hear Tibetan pilgrims chant “Om Mani Padme Hum” as they go around the stupa in a clockwise movement.

My last stop is the Pashupatinath Temple. These are the moments I live for. Simple, powerful, raw. One of the most sacred temples in all of Hindu. Everyday, Hindus who passed away are being cremated in the temple and the ashes are swept away into the Bagmati river. Witnessing a public cremation and the smell of burning bodies is something you cannot prepare for. The families of the deceased hysterically crying as they slowly burn their loved ones. This gave me a different understanding of how Hindus contemplate notions of death and morality.

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Here are 2 cremations along the sacred Bagmati river
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The body of the deceased slowly turning into ash.
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The ash is now swept to the sacred river. RIP

Day 3: Travel to Pokhara

Around 7am the next day, I took an 10 hour bus ride to Pokhara. It was a tough ride since road conditions are bad and there are a ton of pot holes and bumps along the way. One thing good about the ride is the view of endless rice terraces and green mountains from your but seat view. I arrived in Pokhara around 6pm and stayed in Hotel Mountain View.

Day 4: Trek to Sarangkot & Australian Camp

I woke up at 3:30am and started our 9 hour trek to Sarangkot then spend the night in the Australian Camp up in the Himalayas. It was quite cloudy on the first day but when the skies cleared up, the Himalayas showed up. It was breathtaking to see Mt. Annapurna (10th tallest mountain in the world), Gangnapurna, and Machapuchare in our view. The mountains were so high its as if we were surrounded by a wall of snow. I cannot believe I was there in the Himalayas! What an experience!

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Annapurna South and Annapurna I

Day 5: Trek back to Pokhara

We started our decent to Pokara and I got back to the Hotel Mountain View by lunch time. After a quick afternoon nap, I did a short hike up the World Peace Pagoda and had an excellent view of lake Phewa. I also strolled around the lake side to appreciate its calmness. This city is very peaceful and relaxing which is the opposite of Kathmandu. I should have spent a few more days here.

Day 6: Travel to Kathmandu

After 3 days in Pokhara, again, I took the grueling 10 hour bus ride back to Kathmandu. I arrived in Thamel around 5pm and just finished the day with a cold Everest beer!

Day 7: Patan Tour

Patan! The City of Fine Arts. My favorite among the 3 durbar squares in the Kathmandu valley. Another UNESCO world heritage site, Patan Durbar Square is a masterpiece of Newar architecture. The place is surrounded by intricate wood carvings of Hindu tantric deities and complex structures of temples you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Unfortunately, this was the place that was most damaged by the 2015 earthquake and many of the historic temples were destroyed. Nonetheless, you won’t notice the destruction as there are still many temples and historic sites that survived.

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The City of Fine Arts – Patan

Day 8: Changu Narayan / Bhaktapur Tour

For this day, again I went to the outskirts of Kathmandu city and went to the hills of Dolagiri to see the historic Changu Narayan temple. This is the oldest temple in Nepal which dates back to the 4th century. It is a Hindu temple dedicated to Vishnu “the preserver”, one of the 3 supreme deities along side Brahma and Shiva.

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One cold morning at the Changu Narayan Temple

After lunch, I headed to the next kingdom of Nepal which is Bhaktapur. I specifically went to the old royal palace called the Bhaktapur Durbar Square, another heritage site which was massively damaged by the earthquake. Known as the “City of Prayer“, Bhaktapur has the “Kathmandu” look but way less chaotic. The side streets are filled with hidden shops where you will find Tibetan singing bowls, coffee shops where you can get authentic Himalayan coffee, and many more. I discovered a Tibetan art shop selling authentic Thangka paintings. There I learned paintings depicting the life of Buddha, Bhavachakra, and the Mandala. I even bought a piece of art that I brought home.

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Nyatapola Temple in Bhaktapur. Highest temple in Nepal

Day 9: Kathmandu tour (part 2)

My last full day in Nepal has brought my back to Kathmandu. This time I visited, the last of the old royal palaces which is the Kathmandu Durbar Square, the “City of Glory”. When I arrived, I saw a sea of people in the site. It seems that there is a festival and they were placing food offerings to the Hindu god, Bhairav. Hindus were also lighting candles everywhere for worship as well. You can feel the heat from the candles and the convergence of people made the place very crowded. I had to calm myself since it was the first time I experienced something like that. I went up to one of the temples to catch some air and waited for the crowd to subside. After a few hours of waiting, the crowds left and I got to admire the beauty of the temples in this place.

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Kathmandu Durbar Square – “The City of Glory”
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Lots of vendors from this open area just on the other side of the durbar square

I left the durbar square and headed to the Swayambunath temple also known as the “Monkey Temple“. It is located on top of a small hill in Kathmandu. Some people call it the monkey temple since there are monkeys all around the place. Be careful when interacting with these monkeys as some intend to take some of your stuff. They say it takes exactly 365 steps going up the hill and upon reaching the top you are treated to a great view of the city. You can also see a stupa at the top similar to Boudhanath but smaller in size. You will see pilgrims here going around the stupa chanting their mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum”

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Spin the Prayer wheels to receive good karma. Namaste!

Day 10: Fly out

I woke up a bit late this time, packed up my bags, and headed straight to the airport. In summary, Nepal is an spiritual experience but you really have to step out of your comfort zone to appreciate it. If given the chance, I wish I could have stayed longer and done more hikes. If I were to return someday, I would visit during the months of October – December where skies are much clearer to view the Himalayas.

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The Hindu God Ganesh

RECOMMENDATIONS:

Here are the cheap hostels I stayed and the contact numbers of the tour guides. You may reach them through the information below.

KATHMANDU
Accommodations
Karma Travellers Home (Thamel)
Website: http://www.karmatravellershome.com/
Whatsapp: +977 986-0410775 (look for Kumar)
Note: They also arrange transportation and tours. Best way to contact them is through Whatsapp

POKHARA
Accommodations
Hotel Mountain View – Pokhara
Website: I cannot find their website but you can book through Booking.com
Tour Guide
Nepal Hidden Treks
Website: https://www.nepalhiddentreks.com/
Contact Number: +977 985-1196388 (request for Shree as your guide. very professional!)

Stay tuned for our upcoming blogs!
Join us as we venture out on new local and international destinations!
Instagram: @marcusregime and @joshuadpacheco

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