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Nepal - his job: holy man - Elter photo

Nepal - the holy man's posture - Elter photo

“Nepal is extremely crowded and dirty, but it’s still beautiful. The tragic earthquake of 2015 didn’t help matters, of course, and neither does the slow pace of rebuilding, which is hampered by corruption, but it’s still a very unique place, and in retrospect, the people here were the most normal of any we met on the Subcontinent.

The earthquake completely destroyed the major historic landmarks, particularly in the capital, and it’s very depressing to see them in their present state. A few, especially the religious monuments, are already being rebuilt, but it’s taking time. Entry tickets are ridiculously expensive – they say that this is to finance the reconstruction, but locals are convinced that politicians are stealing all of it, so let’s not feel guilty about giving these places a miss. That means we keep the better part of our spending money.

It’s important to get out of the capital, at least for a few days, and explore the mountains. Even the road out of town is an adventure in itself, but the mountains are absolutely breathtaking, as are the jungles in the south. As far as transport goes, it would be difficult to even dignify the contrivances they use here with the name ‘transportation’ and it’s best to walk wherever possible.

Tourist buses are the quickest and most comfortable means of getting between cities, and if you have to go long distances within cities you can hire a taxi or a tuk-tuk, but make sure to agree the price with the driver in advance. It’s also worth trying the city buses, though – they’re an experience in themselves, totally safe, and in practice free to use.

The people are remarkably friendly, but many do have ulterior motives, which generally involve getting their hands on our money. I’m not referring to theft or robbery or anything like that – though do keep an eye on your valuables – but rather that almost everyone has some sort of ‘unrefusable gift’ they want to press on you, then ask for money for it.

Many people speak good English – there are no communication problems. There’s plenty of weed, and it’s cheap and widely available, so the country is also full of Western hippies – possibly the most aggravating people on the planet. It’s difficult to avoid them, but not impossible.

The best idea is to make sure your accommodation is always one grade higher than the cheapest on offer, which helps you avoid these purveyors of “peace, love and unity.”

There’s cheap accommodation on offer almost everywhere, but avoid hostels if you’re looking to get a good night’s sleep, because there’s almost always a party of some kind going on. It’s loud outdoors both day and night, so try to get a room that doesn’t face the street. I would advise booking nothing in advance, because the prices are always higher on the internet, and wherever you go in the country you’ll find someone willing to do a deal. Book your first night in advance, and sort everything else out on a day-by-day basis. It’s more fun this way, too, because you’ve got more flexibility. Also, most of the places are pretty bad, and despite the pictures online, you might struggle to bear more than one night in the worse sort of accommodation.

Couchsurfing isn’t recommended, because many people live in desperate poverty, and you never know what to expect – the $1-2 they charge might be a major source of income to someone.

Be careful what you eat and drink too – the hygiene standards aren’t as appalling as in India, but they still aren’t good.

I wouldn’t recommend street food either, but I’ll leave that up to you. If you find a place you like, and the food they cook doesn’t give you serious digestive trouble afterwards then stick with it – it isn’t a good idea to experiment too much.

The local food is good, and served in generous portions – there are no problems on that score. I especially recommend the local lunch, thali, which is a full meal, with rice, curry and garnishes. It’s probably the best value choice in most places.

Drinking is more expensive – a beer will cost you a couple of dollars in most places.

In many cases the prices are absurdly low, but don’t expect to live like a king. Since we’ll spend most of our time in places frequented by foreigners, we’ll pay a bit more than we would a few streets away, but on the other hand the quality might be a little higher too. It isn’t always a good idea to be stingy, especially when it comes to food, but you can save a lot on accommodation, since there’s a big price difference between the bad (which is really horrendous) but cheap, and the good (which isn’t horrendous, but certainly isn’t what you’d think of as ‘good’ back home).

We can buy anything, because almost everything except alcohol is cheaper than at home, but it’s still worth trying to haggle if you can.

In tourist cities like, for instance, Pokhara, it’s worth taking the bus into town, if you don’t want to spend much.” (2016)

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“Pashupatinath, a well-maintained Hindu shrine, is one of the holiest of Hindu holy places, if it’s possible to say such a thing. Most of Kathmandu’s inhabitants are Hindus, and they come here to pray to Shiva, who the faithful believe resides in the Himalayas.

I was no longer surprised at the existence of the ticket office, only at the price: we had to pay 1000 rupees, which is almost ten bucks. This, however, doesn’t grant us entry to the temple itself – we are still only permitted to admire it from outside. No problem, the temple interior isn’t what I came here for – I was more interested in the cremation ceremony on the banks of the Bagmati River (a tributary of the Ganges).

As luck would have it I had read a couple of blogs in advance, which prepared me for the hiss and pop of burning flesh, and the terrible stench of burnt hair and nails, so we were ready for anything when we arrived on the banks of the otherwise very unprepossessing little stream. Well, I can reassure everyone that it’s really not as revolting as we’d feared. The body is placed on a log bier, with straw stuffed into the gaps.

We didn’t stay until the very end, when the bonfire is pushed into the river, but we did see the part of the ritual when the body is washed in the waters of the Bagmati. This seems a strange procedure to European eyes, but to the faithful it seems so natural that they do not even keep their children at home for the duration of the ceremony.” (phica, 2018)



 

Practicals

Transport

“Nepal drives on the left, and it’s tough for European to get used to. At first, we always walked on the right side of the road (what we’d have given for a sidewalk!) facing oncoming traffic, and always looked to the right before trying to cross. Drivers take no notice of the poor state of the roads – those of a more nervous disposition probably just stay home. Accidents avoided by just two or three centimeters bother nobody. After a while, we also learned the method, and only looked up with mild interest as a bus hurtled towards us while we were overtaking a truck loaded with stones.

There are few traffic lights or road markings - local customs and the law of the jungle prevail. Whatever is biggest or heaviest has priority, while the fastest goes first, no matter where, when, or what. There is one rule: if you overtake, beep the horn. (or blink the headlights at night.) Since the bus driver doesn’t have those nice big dog-eared wing mirrors like at home, and the buses are wider, he sees pretty much nothing to the left. So there’s always a helper standing in the single door on the left (hanging out) and banging the side of the bus to signal that you should stop or go. It didn’t take long to decipher their signal system: the bus honks once (meep), stop, while if it honks twice (mip mip), you can go.

The roads are heavily congested and in very poor condition. We want to highlight in particular the section of the Privi Highway between Kathmandu and Bhaktapur. This is special because, as a 6-lane main road, it includes all the stations in the life cycle of paved roads in cross-section. Simultaneously dirt track, dilapidated concrete road, patched concrete road, freshly paved highway, and disintegrating highway. Unfortunate vehicles slalom on this, while the even more unfortunate road construction workers shovel mounds of slag in clouds of yellow dust.

Buses don’t have stops, if you tell them you want to get on or off, they usually stop. The buses themselves are generally in a poor condition but are ornately beautiful.

Nepal - public buses - o.l. photo

Nepal - road condition - c.j. photo

Nepal - traffic jam - unequal forces - Elter photo

Nepal - on the road to Nagarkot - traffic jam due to an accident - Elter photo

Nepal - Yeti Airlines - a.z. photo

Accomodation

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Nepal - Bandipur - the Old Inn - our atmospheric accommodation in Bandipur - Krista photo

Nepal - Be Happy - clean rooms - Krista photo

Food

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Nepal - curry with chapati - Bernadette's photo

Nepal - meal - Bernadette's photo

Nepal - our dinner - Elter photo

Shopping

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Nepal - Pashmina shawls - cashmere - g.s. photo

Nepal - street vendor - Elter photo

Nepal - souvenirs - Elter photo

Nepal - textile shop owner in satisfying relax - Elter photo

Nepal - street vendor with uneven teeth - Elter photo

Nepal - orange stall - Krista photo

Fun

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Nepal - I'll try each on until one of them will fit me - Elter photo

Public safety

Minor thefts are common in places visited by tourists, especially at airports, buses, hotel rooms.
The bars and entertainment venues close at midnight under official regulation, and it happened that foreign tourists who insisted staying longer, were detained by the police.


Nepal - policeman - s.b. photo

Nepal - police with baton charge - k.k. photo

Nepal - police patrol - y.m. photo

Health

Special attention needed to avoid sources of infection (water, ice, uncooked vegetables, etc).

Others

1. In some areas, far from Kathmandu, mobile and internet services are limited.

Chitwan Nantional Park - cooling elephant and the relaxing keeper - Elter photo

Nepal - vajra, a symbol of the irresistible force of thunderbolt - Elter photo

Background

The national flag of Nepal is the world's only non-quadrilateral national flag.

Destination in brief

Nepal in brief 


Nepal is a landlocked country in South East Asia (or, to use a narrower term, in Eastern South Asia). It lies along the southern slopes of the Himalayan mountain ranges.
Neighbors: India (south, west, east), Tibet Autonomous Region governed by China (north)



Size: 147,181 km² (56,826.9 mi²) - Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world (standing at 8,850 meters or 29,035 feet above sea level), is in Nepal. Out of only fourteen mountains peaking above 8,000 meters (26,246 feet) around the world, eight are in Nepal. 


Capital city: Kathmandu – In 2015, a devastating earthquake damaged most of the significant historical monuments in the city.



Population: 28,9 million (2020) – Nepal is extremely diverse, both culturally and ethnically. You will find different looking people in different regions. Some people look like Indians, others like Chinese (with darker skin). Most men have very healthy, silky, carefully styled hair.   



Language: Nepalese is the official language, but 122 (!) other languages are spoken in the country. Nepalese is similar to Hindi, and both languages use the same script.


Religion: Hindus constitute approximately 87% of the population, and 11% are Buddhist. Nepal was the only Hindu Kingdom in the world for decades, until the country declared itself officially secular in 2007.
Monarchy was abolished in 2008 and Nepal is since then a republic. The country has never at any point in its history been either colonized or under foreign rule. 



Official currency: Nepalese rupee (NPR)



Most frequent surname: Chaudhari


Nepal is a left-driving country. It is not recommended for tourists to rent a car. Optimal timing for a tourist visit: 

October-November or February to mid-April. It is very cold in the mountainous areas

from November to February.

Most famous tourist attractions: 
In the Kathmandu Valley, you can find seven (!) UNESCO world cultural heritage sites within a 15 kilometers radius.
Royal cities,
Sagarmatha National Park (Mount Everest),

Chitwan Royal National Park,

Lumbini (the alleged birthplace of the Buddha),

Pokhara


A nonexistent tourist attraction: the yeti, an abominable and legendary apelike creature that is believed to frequent the high valleys of Nepal. The long-awaited (at least by the Nepalese Tourist Board) first encounter between a man and a yeti has yet to happen.

Geography

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Kathmandu - In such a densely populated environment, an earthquake wreaks havoc - Elter photo

Nepal - sunset - Bernadette's photo

Nepal - rice fields in the Kathmandu Valley - Elter photo

History

1. Tenzing Norgay is considered one of Nepal's national heroes, as he was the first Nepalese to climb Mount Everest (in 1953), as a sherpa for Edmund Hillary.

Nowadays

1. Although over 80% of Nepalese are Hindus, people of different religions live in harmony. Religion is not a source of tension, as in India or Pakistan.

2. The most common stereotype about Nepal is that the economy, the lifestyle, and the country are based on mountaineering. In reality, Sherpas are a small minority in Nepal and hiking is only one of the key elements of Nepal tourism.



Kathmandu - street scene - Krista photo

Kathmandu - this not even the poorest part - Krista photo

Kathmandu - p.a. photo

Kathmandu - demonstrating Maoists - Elter photo

Nepal - thirst for learning - Elter photo

Kathmandu - water has great value over there - Elter photo

People

1. The caste system in Nepal was officially abolished in the 1960s; however, it still exists across the country. Each person's caste depends on their lineage, and each Hindu name denotes affiliation to a specific caste. The caste system has no rigid importance in bigger cities and among educated people.  

2. Nepalis are unable to speak English properly.

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A cremation ceremony on the banks of the Bagmati River (a tributary of the Ganges).

Luckily, I had read a blog or two that left me terrified of the sound of burning flesh, and the smell of carbonized hair and nails, so we arrived on the banks of the otherwise very nondescript little river ready for anything. I can reassure everyone, it’s not nearly so horrible a sight as might be imagined. A bonfire of stacked logs and straw-stuffed into the gaps completely covers the corpse. We did not wait until the very end when the burning logs are pushed into the river, but they saw the part of the ceremony when the bare limbs of the deceased were washed in the waters of the Bagmati. This is quite bizarre to the European eye but so natural to believers that they do not even leave their children at home for the duration of the event.” (2018)



Nepal - school girls - Krista photo

Nepal - locals - Krista photo

Nepal - holy men - Krista photo

Nepal - school group - Krista photo

Nepal - locals - Krista photo

Kathmandu - Celebrating Dussehra (or Dashain) Hindu festival - Elter photo

Tourist etiquette

1. Nepalis do not greet each other with a handshake, but put their palms together and bow. The tourist should try to perform the same, politely showing respect to the local customs.

2. Nepalis don't like face to face confrontation. In their culture, it is not acceptable to display anger in public. So, refrain from raising your voice and pointing the finger at someone who made you angry.  If in conflict, discuss it privately with the local person in a humble manner as in this way, it is easier to resolve the problem.


Patan - The Living Goddess of Patan - This photo was only allowed with the help of our guide and in return for a donation. - Elter photo

Gastronomy

Nepal's cuisine is quite similar to the cuisine of northern India and includes rice, lentils, vegetables, and meat cooked with similar spices. Dal, Bhat, and Tarkari (rice, lentils, and vegetables) are the staple foods of most people, consuming them twice a day - for lunch and dinner, with snacks between meals.

Momos (Tibetan dumplings) are a very popular dish in Nepal, and people eat them with chicken, buffalo, or pork meat. Newari cuisine (of the Newar cultural community) is particularly famous for an array of different types of food.

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"Because of its proximity to India and Indian cuisine, we were looking forward to eating out in Nepal… and indeed, it did not leave us underwhelmed – even after the first evening meal we knew we would love Nepalese cuisine. Basically, everything on the menu is vegetarian (and vegan dishes are cheaper here than meat dishes). If it’s not vegan, it’s listed in a separate column as ‘non-veg.’ The first dish we ate was Tibetan ‘momo.’ The food gets spicier as you approach India, but somehow we’re getting used to it and the ‘burn’ of the peppers is quite different to that produced by Indian food made in Europe.

The Nepalese eat only two kinds of food at home… Really, we ate the same thing every day we spent with the family. Seasonal vegetables, curry, dal (yellow lentil soup), and some bitter green steamed vegetables, which they call spinach, but which certainly isn’t the spinach we know from home. These three are eaten with rice or chapati bread.

Attractions

Kathmandu

Population (in 2020): 1.4 million

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Likes:
-beautiful old buildings and culture.
- most of the buildings survived the earthquake and were not damaged.
-the majority of people we met were happy and friendly, much kinder than in India.
-exploring the churches and the bazaar
- Swayambhunath,
- Pashupatinath Temple is the holiest place in Nepal, and the crematorium is also located there. On the rich are burned on one side, the poorer people on the other.
-Kathmandu Durbar Square,
-Thamel and the bazaar and the local food.
-Kaathe Swyambhu,
-Budhanilkantha Temple,
-Boudha Stupa,
- Kumari Ghar. A young woman considered a living embodiment of the goddess, young girls go to her to her to ask blessings until they are teenagers. She is the living goddess of Nepal. When we visited it seemed to us she’d had enough, because she didn’t smile at anything – I think about 200-300 people visit her every day and she gets bored. But when we gave her a present she cheered up 😊
- Kopan Monastery
- we also visited several other monasteries which were very beautiful.

Dislikes
-dirt
-bad roads
.A lot of cockroaches and other bugs – even in the better hotels ☹ I could never get used to that.
(B. Bernadett, 2019)

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“There’s no sign of any highway code. I’ve only seen one traffic light during our stay so far, but our taxi driver passed drove right through the red as if nothing was more natural. Even the crowd of people jumping aside as we tore through the zebra crossing didn’t seem that bothered. There are no traffic signs, therefore no one-way streets, but nobody would pay any notice even if there were. The couple of intersections which are relatively orderly are controlled by a police officer, often from the kind of booth I still vaguely remember from my childhood.

But all that’s not the worst thing here. it’s the huge amounts of dust everywhere. It coats everything, from monuments to bag retailers to North Face sportswear emporiums. And don’t imagine that heavy rain will help the situation (unfortunately we experienced one). it will simply turn that fine powder into thick mud that is guaranteed to splash on the leg of your pants when you step in it. But the locals, more accustomed to nature, do not see it as such a problem. Dirt is a part of their lives, just like in India. Even the shopkeeper doesn’t sweep plastic bottles and other discarded trash out of his shop.

Sacred cows are seen slightly less frequently here than in India, but even so, there are still plenty of cow pats to tread in. There are lots of stray dogs too, and it’s not uncommon to see a macaque monkey hunting through the trash.” (2018)
 

“We first saw a trash can in Palace Square (Durban Square), which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and maybe that’s why some were put there. The royal palace must have been beautiful before the earthquake, but now it looks more like a sea of ruins and scaffolding. This, of course, does not prevent them from demanding a thousand rupees from anyone who visits from the other side of the world, and unfortunately, it shows. I’m sure if a Roma person visited here, they could walk into the square for free, and no one would notice that he was a tourist. I tell backpackers not to try from the side streets because although there are no ticket booths there, they put a dongle around your neck at the entrance so all the security guards (and of course the vendors) can see who is foreign.

I don’t want to go deep into the mysteries of the local religion, the point is that in one of the intact parts of the palace, through a separate entrance, a three-year-old girl is shown on the other side of a barred, convent window, dressed in a decorative folk costume and considered a kind of living deity (Kumari). It’s a bit like the reincarnation of Tibetan lamas. Photography is not allowed, of course, it seems that privacy rights are taken seriously here.” (2018)

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"We threw ourselves into the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu. Well, what can I say? It’s brutal. There are only hints of a highway code in the system, with thousands of vehicles going every direction, while left-hand driving doesn't make the situation any easier, and don’t get me started on the kamikaze moped riders… In this metropolis of three million, there is hardly a single traffic light, and pedestrians should write out their wills before attempting to cross the street because no one here respects anyone else. Politeness is an unknown concept, and if a driver brakes when you step in front of his car, it’s only to avoid the hassle of dealing with the consequences of a collision.” (2018)

Kathmandu - Durbar Square - Krista photo

Kathmandu - traffic - Elter photo

Kathmandu - Durbar Square - Elter photo

Kathmandu - power line jungle - k-t. g. photo

Kathmandu - Pashupatinath Temple on the banks of the Bagmati River - Elter photo

Nepal - Kathmandu - Krista photo


Nepal - Kathmandu - Boudha Stupa (Boudhanath) - Krista photo

Kathmandu - Durbar Square - Taleju Temple - Elter photo

Kathmandu - the holy Bagmati River at the Pashupatinath temple - Elter photo

Kathmandu - Pashupatinath temple - Elter photo

Bhaktapur and its Durbar Square

Nepal - Bakhtapur - Durbar Square - Elter photo

Bakhtapur - Is this house survived the last earthquake since then? - Elter photo

Nepal - Bakhtapur - carved window frame - Elter photo

Nepal - Bakhtapur - gate - Elter photo

Patan Durbar Square

Nepal - Patan Durbar Square - Krista photo

Nepal - Patan Durbar Square - Krista photo

Nepal - Patan -Durbar Square - Elter photo

Patan - Durbar Square - Elter photo

Swayambhunath Stupa

Kathmandu - Swayambhunath Stupa - Elter photo

Kathmandu - Swayambhunath Stupa - Elter photo

Pokhara

Nepal - Pokhara - plenty hotels, lodges, services - Krista photo

Nepal - Pokhara - Bernadette's photo

Nepal - kids of Pokhara - Elter photo

Mount Everest

Nepal - Mount Everest - Krista photo

Nepal - 1-hour Panoramic Everest Flight - alongside the Himalayas - Elter photo

Bandipur

Nepal - Bandipur - Krista photo

Nepal - Bandipur - Krista photo

Nepal - Bandipur - arcade - Krista photo

Nagarkot

Nepal - Nagarkot - a.g. photo

Nepal - Nagarkot - view on the Himalayan peaks, Mount Everest included - s.d. photo

Lumbini

Chitwan National park

Nepal - Chitwan NP - as at dawn the elephants wait to transport the tourists - Elter photo

Chitwan National Park - Safari on elephant back - Elter photo

Nepal - Chitwan - crossing the Rapti river - Elter photo

Chitwan National Park - boarding for a boat excursion - Bernadett's photo

Cremation ceremonies along the holy Bagmati River

Nepal - Kathmandu - cremation ghats on the banks of Bagmati River - Elter photo

Kathmandu - cremation - Elter photo

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