“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)
“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)