With a population of around 6 million people, Kathmandu is the capital city of Nepal. Kathmandu stands at an elevation of approximately 1400 metres above sea level. The multi ethnic population of Nepal are primarily Hindus or Buddhists. Nepalese are very obliging and always smiling so it’s easy to overlook the dust and traffic congestions. Later, I learned that they live by the prayer “Om Mani Padme Hum” and in a nutshell it means to achieve perfection in the practice of generosity. Whilst tourism is vital for their economy, with the earthquake of 2015, the country is simply struggling to keep up with infrastructure demands that come with tourism. I was pleasantly surprised that the visa on arrival process was quick and easy. There isn’t a distinct downtown and no high rises, just a lot of businesses and people going about their lives.
Going to any city, like everyone else we did the touristy things and visited the Patan Durbar Square, Swayambhu Stupa, Baudhannath Stupa and Pasupati temple. Religious and cultural festivities forma major part of the lives of people living in Kathmandu. Wherever we went, we saw priests conducting prayers of some sort. We went mid-December so our views were somewhat obscured by fog, but on a clear day our guide told us that one can get a panoramic view of Kathmandu from ascending the 365 steps leading to the Swayambhu temple. Our last stop was the Pasupati temple of Lord Shiva. This is a sacred site and busloads of Hindu pilgrims from India are queuing to go inside the temple. This was a culture shock to me and I walked to a nearby park as I could not bear the open cremations.
The weather gods didn’t oblige as we were looking forward to an Everest scenic flight, so we cut short our stay in Kathmandu by a day and headed for Pokhara. We have extended family in Pokhara so our family arranged for a taxi to take us there. On paper, it is about 200 kilometres and it took us almost six hours to get there with half an hour pit stop for lunch. While navigating the traffic within city limits was tricky, and to put a positive spin being a passenger in the vehicle was exhilarating! It looked like a one way steep road but there were three unmarked lanes! There were no barriers to the cliff face!! However the vistas and the deep valleys were remarkable.
Pokhara was amazing and well worth the journey. The Annapurna trail begins here. It is pristine and picturesque and lots of activities for the trekkers, mountain climbers and paragliding. My husband’s uncle who lives in Pokhara did paragliding at 72 years so I took inspiration from him and was glad I did – this was truly amazing as you fly like a bird you can feel that you can touch the mountains. The crew from Team 5 Paragliding were awesome as I was nervous as hell and they made me feel comfortable.
We flew out of Kathmandu and if your flight is during the day, ask to be seated on the right side of the plane as you can have really good views of Everest if it is a clear day.