Category Archives: Sub Continent

Darjeeling – West Bengal, India


Tourism plays a major part in the economy of any country. But, before mass tourism becomes a problem, development needs to be carefully considered with thought-provoking concepts of how to solve it before any damage to the landscape becomes evident and problematic.

Before leaving Kalimpong for Darjeeling, we all appreciated the beauty and serenity of the Teesta River basin, while still in its infancy of being converted into a major tourist region.

On our way to Darjeeling, there certainly was no shortage of hair-pin bends. From Bagdogra, the road distance to Darjeeling hill town is 94 kms (if you take the national highway NH-55, also known as Hill Cart Road). It takes about 3.5 hours to reach Darjeeling by car on that route. However, the drivers from Bagdogra airport take a shorter route via Rohini or sometimes via Pankhabari if the Rohini road is closed for some reason. You save 30 minutes and a distance of 12 kms. These roads are quite narrow, steep and winding. But this is the stipulated route for pre-paid taxis from the airport unless you are part of a tour of which we are on this journey.

A stop along the way we basked in the natural beauty of the Gorumara National Park and with its super thick forestation, let’s hope it stays that way …

We visited a nursery with all kinds of plants and fauna. With a coffee in hand, it’s a delight to absorb all the love and care that goes into these beauties.

Travelling along Hill Cart Road, beautiful scenery is evident most of the way and make sure you give yourself plenty of time to have a break as there’ll be quite a few breath-taking excuses to take that precious photo.

Spices galore. Now you’ll be salivating for a taste test and bargain away for some more unusual goodies.

Darjeeling known as a hill town was originally set up as a sanitarium or health resort by the British in the mid 1800s. But over the years, it earned its name for its world famous aromatic tea. Then with the opening up of roads and the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway for tourism, it’s become a drawcard with travellers from all over the world.

Ghum Himalyan Railway being the highest heritage-listed station in the world is a must see – and to experience yourself!

Ghum is the highest altitude station on the Darjeeling Himalayan Rail track at 2,225.7 metres (7,407 ft). Here the toy train stops for 30 minutes where it’s possible to visit to the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway Museum as well.

Affectionately known as the Toy Train, only few would let go an opportunity such as this whilst in Darjeeling; to ride on one of the world’s favourite and very cute trains. For me personally, it was the most pressing of all sites/attractions to visit and definitely on my to-do list. After all, this Toy Train has been accorded the UNESCO World Heritage status.

Operating on narrow gauge tracks since the 1880s, it provided an important transport link to various parts of the Darjeeling hills and lower plains, the train is still unmatched when it comes to occasioning the magnificent beauty of the mountains.

The Toy Train’s joy rides operate from the main Darjeeling Railway Station. It’s a 2-hour round trip from Darjeeling up to Ghum and back covering a total distance of 14 kms. There are several such round trips during the day starting in the morning. Number of rides per day depends on the demand during the month or season. The train stops for 10 minutes at the Batasia Loop.

At Batasia the train makes a loop around a wonderful manicured garden. The view of Darjeeling town and the snow peaks of Kanchenjunga from here are unparalleled. The War Memorial was built in honour of the Gorkha soldiers who sacrificed their lives and is located at the centre of the Garden.
Interestingly, the Gorkhas came from this region and were renown for their fighting ability and courage. “Better to die than be a coward” is the motto of the world-famous Nepalese Gorkha soldiers who are an integral part of the British Army. It’s said they still carry into battle their traditional weapon – an 18-inch long curved knife known as the kukri. Nowadays, the Gorkhas say say it’s used mainly for cooking!

Early in the morning and yes, long before sunrise we had to secure our spot at Tiger Hill, and yes, it was worth the wake-up call to enjoy the view of the colossal Kanchenjunga with many other snow-clad eastern Himalayan peaks which  can be seen from here.

Locals know there are many visitors who relish the smell of a good coffee, regardless of the alarm clock’s timing and there weren’t any shortage of offers – and cheap too.

Later in the day we had the chance to experience an original tea plantation in the near to Darjeeling.

The Ginger Tea House is an established Bed and Breakfast style stay giving guests first-hand experience of how a tea plantation operates, along with a tour of the  in-house operational aspects.

We were greeted with exquisite food and welcoming beverages for a delightful afternoon tea service.

So when it’s a National Holiday and your driver can’t pass by the students and workers dancing in the middle of the roadway of the plantation, what do you do?

Easy, you all jump out of the van,  join in with them and simply have fun!

The centre of Darjeeling is quite busy, but some of the most interesting heritage sites are high above with magnificent views sweeping back over the valley.

View of the Himalayan Mountains from the township which is a  gem and known for its youthful vibe combined with a colonial charm throughout the area.

Final resting place for Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. His historic ascent of Mt. Everest along with Edmund Hillary inspired and guided the country to set up the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute in Darjeeling. This is the first of its kind in India where the climbing legend served as Director of Field Training since its inception and a must-see.


Kalimpong – West Bengal, India


The nearest airport to Kalimpong is Bagdogra in Siliguri and it’s a quick flight from Calcutta. All major domestic airlines from various Indian cities offer good connectivity between Bagdogra and the rest of India. Direct flights to Bagdogra are available from Delhi, Calcutta and Guwahati.

Enroute to Kalimpong , we drove through the Teesta Barrage Project, where we witnessed one of the largest irrigation operations – not only in West Bengal, but also in the entire eastern region of India.

Travelling along the Teesta River’s banks showed very peaceful, yet captivating scenery – this is where some of us would’ve loved to have stepped out of the vehicle and happily walked for some time to admire the charming waterway’s tranquillity.

Kalimpong is well connected by road with Siliguri, Gangtok, Kolkata and Darjeeling and regular buses operate from these areas to the township. Two beautiful tourist places, Darjeeling and Gangtok are just 50 and 75 km away respectively.

River Teesta originates at Tso Lamo, Sikkim, it flows through West Bengal and then enters the Rangpur division in Bangladesh. It’s the fourth largest among 54 rivers shared by India and Bangladesh.

Upon arrival our Hotel the Silveroaks revealed a charisma reserved for the discerning travelling guest who is either on their way to Darjeeling, or returning as Kalimpong  (which by the way), is a reasonable stretch by road from Bagdogra Airport for our first overnight stay.

Next day, we started off in the thick of a small traffic jam with sacred cows always having the right of way. Lorries, motor bikes and any other mode of transport you can think of goes about its daily livelihood.

Kalimpong was earlier a subdivision of the Darjeeling district, but now it’s a separate district of West Bengal effective 14th Feb 2017 with an area of 1,056 square kilometers and inhabiting 49,403 people (as per 2011 census). All around, the mountain ranges are snow capped and include Deolo Hill with Sikkim and Bhutan being in the near.

How to reach Kalimpong by rail? The bordering rail line is New Jalpaiguri, which is almost 77 km away. This is an important railway station in the northern Bengal and also serves as a gateway to the remote northeastern India. You can easily take trains from different Indian cities to this region.

Jang Dong Palriffo Brang is a beautiful monastery which is located in the majestic hill station of Kalimpong. It’s the  ideal place for meditation and the Buddhist monks everyday offer prayers within for spiritually inclined people.

Model for this day was an unknown little doggie who was happy to sit and have his photo taken. A reminder that pets make the best mates.

Elisa who is our travelling companion from Spain, is testing out the prayer wheels. Luckily for us all, we travelled safely and had a great time in West Bengal.

A fitting memorial for the best-known Sherpa. Tenzing Norgay GM OSN, a Nepali-Indian Sherpa mountaineer from this region, He was one of the first two individuals known to reach the summit of Mount Everest in Nepal, which he accomplished with New Zealander Edmund Hillary on 29th May, 1953.

P.S. If you happen to ever be in Aoraki  Mt Cook, New Zealand there’s The Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre of which a large part of the exhibition is a tribute to Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.

Outlook from the Monastery shows the mountain ranges stretching across West Bengal for all to enjoy its beauty and serenity outside of the larger cities of India.

Along the way to Darjeeling, we had the opportunity to enjoy a break at a lovely garden estate and flower nursery.

Not too long to go (and not as long as it might take this worker), we’ll arrive at our next stop of Darjeeling.

Might only be approximately a three-hour’s drive from Kalimpong, but it’s an extremely winding road one which will keep you seated.

For group booking enquiries, you can contact me directly through this website.


Kolkata (Calcutta), West Bengal – India


Tourism Minister Mr Gautam Deb for West Bengal and Mr Debjit Dutta (centre) who is the Chairman at the Indian Association of Tour Operators. It was undoubtedly a great honour and privilege to meet with them and understand more about the region and its massive growth as a tourist destination.

It’s been said, “Owing to the diversity in geographical contours from the Himalayas to the beaches of the Bay of Bengal, the state offers everything to a tourist.”

During the British Raj, until 1911 Calcutta was the capital of India. By the latter half of the 19th century, Shimla had become the summer capital and King George V proclaimed the transfer of the capital from Kolkata to Delhi at the climax of the 1911 Imperial Durbar on December 12, 1911. The buildings housing the Viceroy, government and parliament were inaugurated in early 1931.
Vidyasagar Setu, also known as the Second Hooghly Bridge is a toll bridge over the Hooghly River in West Bengal, India linking the cities of Kolkata and Howrah. With a total length of 823 metres, Vidyasagar Setu is the longest cable–stayed bridge in India.

In May 1972 Prime Minister Indira Gandhi laid the foundation stone of the Vidyasagar Setu, so named after the 19th-Century Bengali intellectual and reformer Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar.

Normal hussle and bussle of city life, but Kolkata has a somewhat different energy. Not much opens early in the morning and a delayed awakening occurs for the not so early risers. Suits me. Restaurants won’t really trade until noon and the street life comes alive with the smell of spices, marsala and burning coals readying for the day’s onslaught for all meat eaters to enjoy. Vegetarian dishes are easily found and a tiffin plate served thali style has been one my favourite for many years.

There’s something a little fishy going on here?

In India food cooked at home with care is considered to deliver not only healthy eating, but relatively cheap traditional and very tasty meals. Lunch is usually eaten thali-style, with a tantalising selection of regional delicacies that may include any combination of spicy vegetables, dhal, yoghurt, pickles, bread and pudding served on a large metal plate or a banana leaf.

There is one market that’s bustling with street food offerings in the morning and that’s Terreti Bazar, which is most popular with the locals and tourists as well.

Once, beautifully built rickshaws now serve as a reminder of how times have moved on. Recently, the use of human-powered rickshaws has been discouraged or outlawed in many countries due to concern for the welfare of workers and pulled rickshaws have been replaced mainly by cycle or auto rickshaws.

St. John’s Church, originally a cathedral was among the first public buildings erected by the East India Company after Kolkata (Calcutta) became the effective capital of British India.

Tall columns frame the church building on all sides and the entrance is through a stately portico. The floor is a rare hue of blue-grey marble, brought from Gaur and large windows allow the sunlight to filter through the coloured glass.

Nearby is the Second Rohilla War Memorial and the Black Hole of Calcutta Monument. Survivor from this atrocity was John Holwell who later became the Governor of Bengal and went on to build a memorial at the site.

I’m thinking Alexandre travelling with us, would actually like to hop on the train and wave us goodbye. Some of the world’s best train journeys can be found in India and I can’t wait to show some of them off …

Paddocks close to the city are filled with mostly goats and sheep hard at work doing the mowing.

How could you not love goats? They’re extremely loyal, funny characters and yes, their milk makes the best cheese and yoghurt.

When was the last time you visited a book bazaar like this?

College Street has a unique charm of its own and blanketed with makeshift book stalls constructed of bamboo,  canvas and sheets of tin on both sides of the road;  it’s a paradise for book lovers.

Join in the craze of being in College Street – it’s the epicentre of Kolkata’s literary crowd. A second home to the intellectuals, scholars, academicians, students and book lovers of Kolkata city and international visitors. Also colloquially known as ‘Boi Para’ (book-mart), it houses Kolkata’s most prestigious and renowned academic institutions such as the University Of Calcutta, Calcutta Medical College, Sanskrit College, Hare School and Hindu School.

Kali is the Hindu goddess (or Devi) of death, time and doomsday and is often associated with sexuality and violence, but is also considered a strong mother-figure and is symbolic of motherly-love. Here she’s being mass produced for upcoming festivities of which there is no shortage in West Bengal.

Additionally, there are quite a number of men’s outside toilets installed for them to use in Kolkata – as our mate Kevin was willing to model for me.

When you have the opportunity to inspect a hotel of distinction, without doubt they include some of the best-dressed personnel of any five-star hotel group. And here, I’d felt like royalty just by having my photo taken with one of the distinguished staff members!

And as we all know India and Australia encourage youngsters to be the best they can at cricket. Never know, there could be a rising star anywhere in the making.
Next stop the new district of Kalimpong and then onto Darjeeling.

For Australians wishing to travel to India please check my website for the correct E-visa link. under the Visalink tab for some handy hints.

Patan, Bhaktapur and Khokana – Nepal


Our group stopped at a school on the way back towards the Kathmandu Valley to inspect some of the more earthquake affected towns of 2015. The school children at Ketaaketi gave us not just a tour of their class rooms, but showed us their talent as dancers too! I know I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but please give some of your excess stationery items such as pens and paper as it’s always greatly appreciated to any school you may wish to offer them.

Visiting earthquake ravaged places such as Khokana which is a traditional Newari village, people went about their daily business as best they could considering the amount of damage which had been caused.

Buildings in need of repair are very slowly being reconstructed. Unfortunately, the community cannot afford to pay for the heavy machinery and skilled labour needed to remove the rubble.

Goats always seem happy no matter where they are, there should be more people like goats – maybe that’s why Aries is my compatible star sign? They seem to have a natural curiosity like this fella.

Ladies were also involved in the heavy workload in shifting debris from some of the temples which were destroyed and hopefully enough funding will be forthcoming to restore them.

Ladies hand weaving carpets at a Tibetan Refugee Camp which allows them to earn an income as their skills are highly sought after for the creation of magnificent woven rugs which are offered to the international market.

Exquisite rugs on display of hand-knotted wool and silk  – a purchase of a life time.

Time for lunch, more yummy Nepalese food.

So many well-made handicrafts makes choosing difficult and it’s best to declare these coming back into Australia as wooden items are subject to scrutiny. Wouldn’t be too happy losing one of these to Customs.

As you walk along the streets, you’ll find dozens of masterful wood carvers and sculptors offering you handcrafted items at bargain prices. Most of them work from home and they may even offer you other articles for sale as well.

Mmm look very much like mushrooms on steroids, wonder if they’re magic ones?

Pottery being made by this family for over six decades at Bhaktapur.

Staying at a Buddhist Monastery Guest-house in the peaceful location of Neydo Tashi Choeling was a highlight of our journey with Australian tour operator Crooked Compass.

At 5:00 am the bell rings for the monks to wake and make their way to the main hall to chant for about one and half hours for world peace. As well as prayers of aspiration and longevity, they are offered to the upholders of the Dharma.

At nearby Patan it’s a time to reflect at the Pashupatinath Temple  which is a famous sacred Hindu temple and located on the banks of the Bagmati River, 5 kilometres north-east of the Kathmandu Valley.

We were honoured to witness the ongoing celebration and cremation of many Nepalese people who have just recently passed on.

Cows meandering around oblivious to the crowds who gather here daily to observe the ritualistic cremations.

Take a front-row seat along the Bagmati River for a full viewing …

Cremation Ghats of the Pashupatinath Temple and at the holy Bagmati River (which is a tributary of the Ganges River), a funeral fire was already burning as we arrived in the late afternoon. 

The Ghats in essence, welcomed families carrying cloth-shrouded bodies on stretchers and prepared them for the formality whereby each was carefully unwrapped. Then, the bodies in turn had their feet washed in the river water and laid on a prepared pyre – all the while prayers from the family members being said to the lost loved one. At the top of the Ghats were stacks of wood where families of the deceased had arranged for the cremation.

Shown here, the Aarti is the magnificent event during the evening as it allows you to experience the great act and fills you with inherit spiritual thoughts, particularly of your own mortality. All the priests who perform the Aarti wear the same cloth and perform with the same brass lamps which are accompanied with the customary mantra chant. And, in the presence of a huge crowd who is also gaining momentum in dancing and singing along, it’s mesmerising and almost hypnotic.

The true heart of Nepalese culture is seen during the many festivals that are held in the country. The multitude of different religions and sects that are present in the country lead to more festivals than days of the year. There may be celebrations throughout the country, in a city, or in a village of a single neighbourhood  and family. These are moments to unite the people, even if apparent to different castes or ethnic groups which share the same values ​​and prayers together for the good and happiness in the future.

The dates of the festival changes, as most of them is linked to lunar cycles and Buddhist, Hindu or Nepalese calendars and they do not correspond to the Gregorian calendar.

Smiley faces of the Nepalese makes you want to return in the future without doubt … Namaste!

Contact me through this website for enquiries and bookings.


Panauti, Nepal


When you first arrive in Panauti you might think it’s one big dust bowl, but then all of a sudden the air settles, we heard women singing – then offering us floral necklaces and dressed in beautiful exquisite saris; they had arrived in a timely manner to meet us and had welcomed our group whole heartedly.

The town is approximately 32 kms southeast of Kathmandu. Panauti is quaint and a truly interesting destination to visit for those seeking a quieter alternative. It feels as if it’d been left exactly the way the founders had built it in the 13th century. It’s a real gem and one of the oldest places in Nepal which is steeped in culture and tradition.

Lisa being greeted by one of the organisers of our Community Homestay which is run by Women for the Women. Currently there are 16 ladies involved in the Homestay Project which empower them to become involved in tourism and hospitality which in turn allows them to give travellers an authentic and interactive experience with a local family.

At the Community Centre we’re offered light refreshments before being taken to our respective homes for a two-night stay and experience how a Nepalese family goes about their daily lives.

And if it means helping out with some washing – well, better throw some of mine in too!

And as luck would have it, our host family was located near some of the oldest temples and monuments, not just in Panauti, but all of Nepal.

There are some fabulous ancient temples which have stood the test of time, partly because of Panauti’s legendary resistance to earthquakes. This certainly held true during the 2015 earthquake, when the town escaped with minor ‘abrasions’.

Along the river is the most concentrated number of temples to visit. Panauti, consists of a variety of Buddhist and Hindu religious edifices and is considered to be one of the area’s most important medieval sites.

Triveni Ghat is located at the confluence of the Punyamata Khola (river) and the Lilawati (or Roshi) Khola. A third river, the invisible Padmabati river is said to join these two.

A 15-minute climb north-east takes you to Gorakhnath Hill (2,000 ft) from where one absorbs an overall view of the fish-shaped town as well as panoramic views of the region.

There’s no shortage of goats hanging around and I’m glad, they’re so naughty and always make me laugh, except when they chew on something they’re not suppose to!

Another means of transport and carriage of goods.

Ready for work.

Walking around the township and a simple nod acknowledges a friendliness from the locals –  it’s time for a break.

So what happens when you find a cool spot to sit down and watch the world go by? You meet a small girl and another Mum who were happy to chat and have their photo taken. And just as you think you’re going to rest up after climbing the ‘huge’ hill earlier in the morning – then just hang around whilst my group have gone off trekking, I gladly ended up spending the rest of the day with my new-found friends showing me another view of the town’s fascinating aspects.

But firstly to check if the outside world still exists … I mean really? How many westerners would offer you their computer to try and check your emails over at their shop? Apparently there are designated times for the power to come on and then go off with a schedule being made available.

Here’s where we meet Rajan who’s a teacher at the Shree Panuati Lower Secondary School. Being Saturday they aren’t at school, but it’s their only day off in the week and then it’s back to the business of learning on Sunday and work for others.

Rajan at the Gyan Bikas Community Library with his younger siblings; it’s considered the only library in the world located within a World Heritage site. I’d been shown around the library and found it quite impressive as there’s more than 100 people (on average) who visit the library each day. The facilities are a place of interest for children, women, youth and adults for learning and sharing. There’s a dedicated Women’s section to those who are pregnant in giving them maternal advice and support.

And at the end of the day, it was interesting to watch at the Barber’s shop people having a haircut and trim up which was probably around the equivalent of A0.50 cents …


Chitwan National Park, Nepal


Ready, set, go and we’re off now to Chitwan National Park in the southern region of Nepal. It’s a quick flight of about 40 minutes or so to Pokhara and then a bus transfer to our resort.

The region is quite flat and perhaps, naturally you’d think all of Nepal is of mountainous terrain and needing to be climbed somehow! But, here in the south, seemingly endless fields are sown with the staple diet of rice. In altitude it ranges from about 100 metres (330 ft) in the river valleys to 815 metres (2,674 ft) in the Churia Hills.

Out of interest, South Base Camp at Mt Everest in Nepal is an altitude of 5,364 metres (17,598 ft) and North Base Camp is in Tibet at 5,150 metres (16,900 ft)

It’s a bit of a bumpy ride to the Lodgings, but no one’s complaining – just enjoying really warm weather of late August as it’s freezing back home.

We did enjoy a ride by way of buffalo and cart later on and there’s quite a number of them around.

Our lodging for two nights is at the Barahi Jungle Lodge whereby free-standing ‘huts’ give privacy to the guests and a sense of intimacy.

Beautifully presented, clean and smart, all accommodations types are air conditioned and offer superb views  of the river and the natural surrounds.  And this being the lead-in category, everyone’s very happy with the choice made by Crooked Compass.

One of the highlights of the day is seeing Rani being fed a snack by her Mahout. He will care for an elephant and be their trainer, rider and keeper after he is assigned one chosen early in its life. They remain bonded to each other throughout their lives.

Why bother having a shower when you arrive, we’ve all taken off to the river with the elephants and their handlers.

In turn, the big fellas are been given a scrub down and readied for our safari later in the day.

After a snack and wash, we’re now part of the elephant safari alongside the river’s edge. If you’re seeking a less expensive alternative to Africa’s safaris and packages, without doubt you might want to consider Nepal as an option – especially Chitwan National Park being part of the ‘Soul of Nepal’ tour.

The cooler afternoon made for some great photos as the light was constantly changing with some rhinos being spotted.

This old boy is used to the elephants coming near and it seems to be a rite of passage to let us go along our way and continue sightseeing.

By the end of the 1960s, 70% of Chitwan’s jungles were cleared using DDT, thousands of people had settled there and only 95 rhinos remained. The dramatic decline of the rhino population and the extent of poaching prompted the government to institute the Gaida Gasti – a rhino reconnaissance patrol of 130 armed men and a network of guard posts all over Chitwan. To prevent the extinction of rhinos the Chitwan National Park was gazetted in December 1970, with borders delineated the following year and established in 1973, initially encompassing an area of 544 km2 (210 sq miles).

Sunsets are just stunning here and it’s been a full day but, so worth every minute to see and experience this place first hand.

Next day out, we’re taken by one of the Lodge’s own guides to show us a small part around the huge 360 square miles of tall grasslands and forestation whereby it’s home to an abundance of mammals and birdlife, some of which are endangered species.


I can’t think of anything better than having men make breakfast, somewhere out there in the wilderness – just like nature intended – on the banks of two rivers meeting for us to enjoy watching its ebb and flow. And these guys doing some preparation for our yummy meal.

Next day we’re all up early and off to the other side of the river for a walking trek through the forest. Here with Nina, Brownie, Tom and Lisa without our morning coffee fix,  but that’s all been taken care of when we return …

Trekking through the forest which is one of Asia’s premier wildlife reserves, we’re taking in an early morning of fresh air and uninterrupted views of this delightful park’s surroundings.

Heading back to our canoe with the resort shown in the distance, we’ll have our breakfast there ready for us.

However, later in the day we had the privilege of canoeing on the Narayani-Rapti river system. Perfect scenery for quiet reflection and diversion of life’s everyday hustle and bustle.

And with that, we’ll have some canapés and drinks on the river’s edge watching the sun set for another day in this superb location.

Next day we head onto Panauti after a flight back to Kathmandu. Could’ve stayed here much longer and absorbed the natural settings of a prized and protected national park. Simply delightful.


Kathmandu, Nepal – Part Two


We’re travelling with Lisa Pagotto (left) who is the Aussie Founder and CEO of Crooked Compass which was launched back in May 2014. Lisa and her team are committed to sharing inspirational travel ideas and expert knowledge specialising in small group touring. Here with travel writer Nina Karnikowski who have both just met up with a local and, he’s obviously taken a liking to Lisa’s coconut body butter scent …

Little fellas like this one are seen frequently and are held in high regard due to religious beliefs of the Hindu faith – so no need to worry, he’s safe.

There’s a plethora of temples, pagodas and monuments dating back from the 12th Century and are generally in close proximity to the most notable heritage-listed sites. Walking around Kathmandu is a sensory overture and one of which the camera doesn’t take a break in case you miss something.

Looks very much like a door of wisdom which has seen much and thankfully after the devastation of the 2015 earthquake, there were many pieces salvaged and readied for repair at the Royal Palace.

Carefully pieced together and tagged to ensure it be replaced in its original form and place.

Not taking too many risks in having the structures become any more unstable, there’s a multitude of scaffolding around to maintain the support structures.

While there are several Kumaris throughout Nepal and some cities having several; the best known is the Royal Kumari of Kathmandu. At the tender age of ten, she lives here in the Kumari Ghar which is a palace in the centre of the city.  Briefly materialising at this window in the Living Goddess Temple, she appears at the same time each day to visitors who marvel at her presence and then hasty retreat.

In Nepal, a Kumari is a pre-pubescent girl selected from the Shakya Caste or Bajracharya clan of the Nepalese Newari community and once menstruation begins, she is no longer a Goddess. The onerous selection process begins again for a young girl not yet aged four years to replace her.

The Princess’s photo was shown to us by way of a postcard, otherwise photographs were not permitted to be taken by tourists – even if you could press the shutter in the brief time she emerged.

Upon closer inspection, you can see the intricate workmanship of the wood used throughout the palace and this particular temple.

Guards keep a watchful eye over visitors. You can be forgiven in thinking he was a wax model …

Here is where Raj told us the story about the Nepalese Royal Massacre which occurred on 1st June, 2001 at the house in the grounds of the Narayanhity Royal Palace. Ten members of the Royal family including the King and Queen who were killed during a monthly reunion dinner of the family.

Walking around the buildings of the Royal Palace you can see the scale of the architecture and witness just how valuable its grand design and craftsmanship really is – and so worthy of restoration after the earthquake.

All that walking around allows us an invitation into one of the small restaurants and gaze over Kathmandu’s skyline.

Time for a snack and I know one of them is a kind of intestinal delicacy – but I’m not saying which one …

After heading down to the Boudanath Stupor, we found ourselves admiring yet another incredible structure and place of ancient worship.

Built some time around the 14th century, the huge meditative monument is said to have been created just after the passing of the Buddha. The huge offering site quickly become a focal point of worship in the area. The structure of the building consists of a giant dome, whereby on the top sits a Buddhist pyramid tower.

Some insight for those not familiar with the teachings.

We climbed to the top of the building opposite with a bird’s-eye view of this magnificent complex – the massive mandala makes it one of the largest spherical Stupas in Nepal.
The influx of large populations of refugees from Tibet has seen the construction of over 50 Tibetan Gompas (Monasteries) around Boudhanath. As of 1979, Boudhanath also became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Along with Swayambhunath, it’s one of the most popular tourist sites in the Kathmandu area.

You can also light candles and take some time out to reflect regardless of your faith or beliefs.

Thereafter, our group was allowed to partake in a ceremony whereby as individuals, we were presented with our own recital by one of the monks who in their own way was a blessing.

We’re told that during the days surrounding full moons, the air is often thick with incense and mantras sung by monks,  the number of people visiting this Stupa increases significantly along with the intensity of their mantras and prayers.

And, once finished saying our prayers and promising to be better people, we’re heading off for some retail therapy … Mandala Street Bazaar is a tourist hot spot and mecca for shopping.

Here is where you’re going to find some great bargains, regardless of the fact it’s a touristy area, don’t forget when bargaining it’s not always big dollars you’re negotiating … Just do it and pay the money – stop haggling over 25 cents.

Next post we’re off to Chitwan National Park, probably need an elephant to help carry some of these goods around.


Kathmandu, Nepal – Part One


Flying into Kathmandu (KTM), Nepal with Korean Airlines was a seven and half-hour journey from Seoul and the stopover there being a welcomed break. No visa is required for Australians stopping in South Korea.

My very friendly Immigration Officer was happy to pose for me and extremely helpful with our entry into the country.

However, in regards to Nepal it’s possible to apply for a visa upon arrival at the airport and the cost is USD25.00 cash (no cards), with applications given on board the aircraft, you can fill it out and be ready. Just need to pay with US dollars at a designated counter before proceeding to Immigration. Otherwise, if you prefer a visa prior, it can be obtained before leaving Australia (or any other National might wish to check with their own country’s requirements). Information given here was correct at the time of writing this post.

Like most travel plans, the unexpected will always happen and it’s best to go along with the flow and accept Nepal does the best it can, when it can. If you think this country is going to be a ‘box of chocolates’ forget it.  For it’s about doing the best you’re able to do – with the best you have – learning that the less materialistic goods you have in life, may actually be a better way. Not to mention enlightening you on a different level – both physically and mentally! Less baggage sounds about right to me, just have to put it into practice now – especially leaving Nepal with less than what I came with …

I know – give all the old stuff away and make space for the goodies to take home.

The country’s beauty and rawness make it a drawcard for travellers and tourists alike, to visit and experience its friendly people, and perhaps it helps seekers find their  inner self, thus creating prosperity in their own life’s journey. Just remember, it’s not always about you. The captivating  culture of the people here is contagious … Be warned!

An example of a true faithful and following thereafter his famous ascent of Mt Everest, Kiwi mountain climber Edmund Hillary devoted most of his life to helping the Sherpa people of Nepal through the  Himalayan Trust which he founded. Through his efforts, many schools and hospitals were built in Nepal.

Unlike many of the other trekkers who visit the better-known Base Camp and beyond, with this trip our group is visiting the southern region of the country to experience hiking, swimming and an elephant safari – just to name a few of the activities planned ahead.

With our guide Raj who has lived here all his life, we have the pleasure of his first-hand knowledge and wisdom to keep us enthralled with his never-ending stories and anecdotes.

Raj being our guide with boutique operator from Australia, Crooked Compass (of which our group is touring ‘The Soul of Nepal’), he too believes in immersing the traveller deep into the culture while protecting its immediate environment to ensure its systematic conditions and values are not implicated.

Beautifully packaged and healthy food choices make it clear there’s not too many obese people in Nepal that’s for certain. It’s simply grown and sold without all the preservatives.

When was the last time you bought pomegranates by weight? Makes for that delicious, refreshing drink when the heat has been turned up somewhat since our arrival.

Nepalese people make extensive use of spices such as turmeric, coriander, cilantro – the leaf of the coriander plant, pepper, timmur – a unique Himalayan pepper, cumin, chilies and mustard. Who needs additives in their food other than these kinds of flavour enhancers?

Not much in the way of refrigerators … Just letting you know.

Anyway, might be time become a vegetarian … Heaps more choices.

This is one place you’ll be carefully consider your baggage on the way home. Possibly the nicest souvenir ever made is a Singing Bowl. Made of metal its rim is rubbed in a circular motion by a small wooden stick to produce a low/high pitch sound. Aside from the sound the theory behind the singing bowl is that the sound causes a vibration in the air which has healing qualities. If you come across a very large singing bowl, have the vendor make it sing next to your stomach and feel the vibrations run through you.

There are basically two types; machine and hand made. The latter is more scarce and expensive and is usually a plain brass colour with a beaten quality about them.

Told you, it won’t be easy leaving without some additional bits and pieces.

Three-wheeler rickshaws can be hailed off the street, though it might be a bit difficult to find after sundown. The charge for a metred taxi is Rupee 7 at the initial flag down and then add Rs. 2 for every 200 metres and for the tempos, it starts with Rs. 3. There is an extra 50% charge from 9:00 pm to 6:00 am.

I’m certain I didn’t see pigeon on any menus … they’re everywhere. No need to feed them.

And of course, not only Kathmandu but the whole of the country is filled with shrines, temples and sacred sites, almost all of which are UNESCO World Heritage protected.

Prayers being offered in the main Durbar Square. With a multiplicity of beliefs, Nepal has several cults, gods and goddesses which co-exist with the major religions. In its long cultural history, the country has always remained a land of religious harmony and perhaps one of the many reasons it’s a place you can feel safe to travel around.

A prayer wheel is a cylindrical wheel on a spindle made from metal, wood, stone, leather or coarse cotton. Traditionally, the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum is written in Sanskrit on the outside of the wheel. Traditionally they are used to accumulate wisdom and merit (good karma) and to purify negativities (bad karma).

A truly mooooving experience. Moo to you too!

Hinduism is well and truly alive in Nepal and a cow is considered equal to one’s own mother and their slaughter or consumption is considered offensive. They are happy to wander around and enjoy the petting they’re given by locals and visitors.

Our accommodation for a couple of nights is at the Gokarna Forest Resort which is set on 470 acres within the Forest Reserve and just on the outskirts from the city centre. By the end of day one, it was great to relax in this delightful property and simply walk around viewing the lovely gardens, birdlife and extensive golf course.