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.