Tag Archives: Kathmandu

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.