“The best thing about travel is that you gradually realize that everything everywhere is imperfect, but if at all there is something that needs a change, is your own attitude.”
My wanderlust inspired me to plan a solo trip to Nepal this February, the occasion in focus was my birthday. I have to confess; this has been one of the best birthdays because Nepal offered a plethora of experiences that won my heart. The hospitality and affinity exhibited by the locals melted my heart. This is my account of one of the most beautiful trips I have been on, hope it urges you to plan holiday to Nepal as well.
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Day 1: Kathmandu
Day 2: Nagarkot
Day 5: Paragliding in Pokhara
Day 6: Chitwan National Park
Day 8: Lumbini
Day 9: Back to Kathmandu
Day 10: Departure from Nepal
The immigration process at Kathmandu Airport took too long, and then the failed attempt of convincing the cab driver to charge less than 700 NPR also consumed a lot of time. It was around 3:00 pm when I managed to reach my hotel in Kathmandu, FYI the flight landed at 12:00 pm and my staying place – Elbrus Hotel was situated some odd 6 km from the airport. Thinking, where did the serendipity part go? Well, read on to know.
The taxi dropped me in front of small yellow gate that read Elbrus Home in Golkupakha. As I walked down to the reception area, a woman greeted me with smile, and let out a quick shout to the receptionist of the hostel. In no time, a man walked with a smile on his face towards me and assisted me with checking in the hotel. I booked for a single seater/sleeper with a shared washroom.
After taking enough rest, I heade to get a sim card first. Ncell and Nepal Telecom are two most popular phone networks in Nepal. A co-passenger on the flight from Delhi to Kathmandu had suggested me to go for Ncell, so my choice was pretty clear. After getting myself a new sim card, I headed for Thamel, the bustling hub of international tourists as well as a popular attraction in Kathmandu.
Thamel is lined up with a plethora of shops selling souvenirs, clothes, trekking gears, bags and everything else you would want in a market. It is also the place with maximum hotels and hostels catering to the international tourists. Since I wanted to visit the Durbar Square, I was to cross the entire market. But all that walking made me hungry, I realized I hadn’t eaten since 11:30 am, so I began to look for a place to eat first. The hunt ended with finding Chicken Station in Thamel where the fairy lights set up caught my eyes instantly.
Chicken Station is like the Nepali version of KFC, however they also serve momos and other Chinese dishes. I opted for a plate of buff momos that had to be washed down with the local Gorkha brand beer. The waiter served it with such a sweet smile on his face. After filling my tummy, I explored the Drubgon Jangchup Choeling Buddhist Monastery / Temple and the Khatesimbu Stupa and later the Durbar Square, both as expected were spectacular in their own way. While returning to the hotel by 8:00 pm (as I wasn’t sure if staying up late outside is safe or not in Nepal), I decided to get some fried chicken packed from Chicken Station, and it indeed was a good decision.
On reaching the hostel, I exchanged greetings with the owner of the place, who then invited me for a little chit chat. But what was supposed to be a session for some small talks became a pleasant 1.5 hours’ discussion on India and Nepal. After we exhausted ourselves covering all the possible aspects of the two countries, we finally bid each other good night. Gosh, all that intense discussion made me hungry again, and there it was…fried chicken to the rescue! I had one of the most peaceful nights in about a year in Kathmandu. The next day was scheduled for Nagarkot.
You know how sometimes Google maps can be misleading, well, I got a good example of it en route Nagarkot from Kathmandu. If you go by the map Nagarkot is only 27 km away from the capital city of Nepal and should idealluy take around 1 hr 30 min to reach. But in reality, it took Effin’ 4 hours! And what a rough journey it was, road wise of course. Thankfully, the views were stunning and weather was pleasant which helped me patiently endure this journey.
Nagarkot is a village which is popular for its panoramic views of the Himalayan ranges and the sight of Mt Everest. It was about to be 2 pm when the bus dropped me in front of some shops in Nagarkot. The place looked quite peaceful, the air outside was cold and crisp beckoning it was a mountain destination I have arrived at. My hotel, Langtang View was situated in the market area which was 2 minutes walking from the bus stop. Now, I have to confess, Langtang View offered the prettiest room on my Nepal tour. The gentleman who owned the place has made the most of the space by incorporating a half sheltered-half open dining area and a large terrace to view the beautiful sunset.
I had lunch right after I checked-in and then headed to my room to shower and take a nap after deciding to take the day slow. In the evening, I relished a beautiful view of the sunset from the hotel’s terrace. It was a breezy day with temperature touching down to 6℃, but that didn’t keep me from staying up till late on the terrace. I decided to go to sleep early too that night so that I can wake up early for the sunrise view in Nagarkot.
The sun was out before I could leave from the hotel, well, you can guess that as a lazy bone I chose staying in bed over the sunrise view. I don’t feel guilty though because the views I relished were nothing less than surreal. I headed for the Sunrise View Point which was some 01 hour away from the hotel. It is a tarmac trail, so it is pretty easy to do; people who cannot walk take bike rides or car rides to reach this top attraction in Nagarkot.
The road was empty with sun slowly starting to throw its light on it. After walking for some odd 20 minutes, I saw a couple taking pictures – the poser had her back towards me making me curious to turn around and see against which background they were taking photos, and when I did I just could not speak. I was walking like a dumbo all this time only eyeing the road ahead whereas behind me was this spectacular view of the Himalayas which the sun’s light was now slowly unfolding! It was a magical view and I can’t even express it in words. Soaked in excitement I too took pictures and made videos at this point. After spending some time relishing the sight, I headed again for my destination.
The way to Sunrise View Point is quite beautiful with vistas adorned with the array of Pine trees. A short distance away I saw a tourist getting down from a cliff which made me curious again. I climbed the cliff and found some more amazing views of the Himalayas, but this time even more clear and wide.
At a short distance from this spot was another point that offered even more surreal view of the Himalayas. A lot of tourists stopped by this place, which gave me the notion that this was the said Sunrise View Point. But then there were these two guys, who informed that the viewing point was another 20 minutes away. But, before this final stretch I decided to first get myself a cup of tea and something to eat. A cluster of roadside eateries were located at the same place, so I chose one where this cute Nepalese baby was sitting with his parents who ran the place. I had a little chit chat with them while relishing the first tea of this morning. They were very happy to know that I was from India and was a solo traveller. They even posed for the camera on my request.
The final stretch was also quite scenic and the vistas from the View Point were again unsurpassable. They say on a slightly more clear day, Mt. Everest can also be seen from this place, sadly, I was not able to see it. Checking the time, I started to walk back to my hotel. On the way, a man from the village started to walk with me, and initiated conversation. He spoke with me in Nepali, and thanks to my Kumaoni roots, I could understand some of the things he said. After walking for 15 minutes with me, he said something in Nepali which I was incomprehensible. Looking at my face, he understood that I didn’t understand what he said, so he repeated it and this time in English – “I love you,” he said in a clear accent. I looked at his face and chuckled, and he chuckled in return and we two kept walking. He said this three times during our conversation, and all three times I chuckled. In my head I thought though, I wish if love was this simple.
I reached my hotel at around 11 am. The bus was scheduled to depart at 1 pm, so I decided to have a quick brunch at the nearby eatery that served something I hadn’t eaten in months – Wai Wai. The owner after serving what I asked for sat with me to chat. He was very happy to know that I was visiting Nepal from India and informed me that he once visited Delhi. We exchanged a lot of travelling information about India and Nepal.
The Google Map failed me again showing the distance between Nagarkot and Bhaktapur to be around 12 km which should ideally take around 40 minutes to reach. I reached Bhaktapur at around 3:30 pm and reached the famous Bhaktapur Durbar Square at 4:00 pm.
A large square with some of the most amazing ancient architectural wonders greet you first in Bhaktapur and there’s no way you cannot be mesmerized by their beauty. Durbar Square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and each alley in it opens up to something unique to savour. From grand temples to souvenir shops to restaurants to even Ju Ju Dhau (a special dessert prepared only in Bhaktapur), there is so much on offer for a visitor here. I spent around 1 and half hour exploring this place before heading back to Kathmandu.
It was around 7:30 pm when I reached Elbrus Home. The gate was opened by the owner and he greeted me in the warmest of manner. It was actually like coming back home from a trip and meeting your family. The owner, Khem Singh, I’ll like to address him as Dai (brother) because he not only called me Bahini (sister) but also treated me in the same manner as well. I was offered a private room with a bathroom attached despite the fact I had booked a single room with a shared bathroom. It warms my still when I think about Dai’s generosity.
It was almost 8:00 pm when I got ready to head to Sam’s Bar, a popular place for having drinks and hanging out in Kathmandu. The place is situated in Thamel, and after asking a few local people for the directions, I was finally at this bar that was packed with tourists from western countries. The host though fixed me a seat on the bar counter. It was indeed a nice place to enjoy nightlife in Kathmandu. However, it didn’t solve my purpose which was to eat along with drinking as I was starving. I headed out in search of a place like this and my hunt ended at Northfield Cafe, which was a short distance away from Sam’s Bar. The place had outside seating but what drew me to it, was the fact that they had lighted a bonfire. The night spent here was so beautiful, not only I savoured some delicious food but also enjoyed a hearty conversation with the staff waiting on my table. We all share similar life issues but how often do we get to discuss them with complete strangers who are not only empathetic but have more to add to the topics? It was a lovely night, and it was going to be a better day tomorrow, since I was scheduled to take a flight over Mt Everest, and yes, it was my birthday as well.
The flight for Everest sighting was scheduled at 6:30 am, so I left for the domestic airport in Kathmandu at 5:30 am. I was so excited for the flight; this was in fact the prime reason why I chose to travel to Nepal in the first place. And now finally, the dream was coming true! The Everest sighting flight is for about 45 minutes. I had chosen Yeti Airlines for this service as they were offering tickets at comparatively cheap prices. Yeti has a fleet of turboprop aircrafts, which I had seen for the first time in my life and it was equally an interesting experience. All the passengers are offered the window seats in the plane but the entire Greater Himalayan Range can be seen from the left side of the cabin. However, while returning, the entire view can be relished from the right side of the cabin as well. Each passenger is also given the opportunity to view Everest from the cockpit. I have to agree this experience was beyond expectations, it was something I would recommend everyone who is incapable of doing the famous Everest ABC trek in Nepal should invest money in to get a chance to see Everest and other high Himalayan peaks up close.
I was back by 8:00 am at Elbrus. My Pokhara flight from Kathmandu was scheduled at 1:35 pm. I winded up everything by 12:00 pm, so that I could reach the airport on time. Even Dai adviced to leave a bit early as Kathmandu is known for its notorious traffic jams. Unfortunately, despite all the precautions, we got stuck in the jam and could only manage to reach the airport by 1:10 pm. However, to my amazement, the airline did not mind letting me board so late. I was able to check-in just in time and flew in another Yeti Airlines turboprop airplanes, which had 2+1 seat arrangement, which again was quite a new thing for me, so yayy! The flight from Kathmandu to Pokhara took 25 minutes to reach.
I have to tell you this – Pokhara Airport has some of the most stunning views of the Himalayas and the mighty Machhapuchhre Peak (with which I have fallen in love). Another amazing thing about Pokhara Airport is that the luggage is handed out manually. Yes! True. Your luggage is brought to a cemented counter and from there you have to claim it.
After collecting my backpack, I headed for my hotel which was booked in the most popular area in Pokhara – Lakeside. The area is quite a sight with beautiful hotels, cafes, lounges. Mountain House was the name of the place where I had booked my stay for two days and it was very cosy accommodation. My host Indra Ji was a charming lady to have a conversation with. She didn’t say no to my request of a cup of tea even though the hotel had no provision for food and beverages. After a long conversation with Indra Ji, I headed out to celebrate my birthday and the Lakeside was the perfect place for it. There are a number of restaurants in the Lakeside area, and you’d be amazed by the tasteful architecture and decor of each one of them. I chose this quite little place where only 2-3 people were relishing their candlelight dinners. In the menu was the fresh fish from the lake, and I couldn’t stop ordering one for myself along with some local whiskey brand. The night had just got young, and it was indeed a great place to relish every moment of it.
My last day in Pokhara gave me lovely memories to cherish. The day was reserved for paragliding in the morning, since it is one of the major attractions in Pokhara. People also go for handgliding in Pokhara, but their number is quite less. The cost of paragliding includes pick and drop from the hotel, and videos and still photos by Go Pro. I was asked to be ready by 9:15 am for the pickup and to have a light breakfast. So, for a quick bite I went to this quite a beautiful restaurant near my hotel whose roof was festooned with the Flame Vine creeper.
I was picked up at sharp 9:15 am along with other flyers for that day who were all Chinese nationales. We relished a hearty conversation all through our way to Sarangkot along with impeccable views of Machhapucchre Peak and Annapurna Peaks. Unlike Bir Billing in Himachal Pradesh, where I had my first paragliding experience (this was my second time), in Pokhara, the cliff from where paragliding is done, was slant. I think it somehow helps in making take off easy. The place also offers an interesting opportunity to behold other nervous or over excited flyers take off.
The best part about flying in Pokhara is the surreal view of the lake (below) and the snow-clad Himalayan giants (around) mentioned earlier. I even spotted a magnificent eagle flying below me, and boy it was indeed a sight to savour. The flight duration is about 20-30 minutes.
After being dropped back to the hotel, I decided to head out for lunch before exploring Pokhara a bit more. I had an authentic Nepali Thali at one of the most popular restaurants in Pokhara – Rosemary Kitchen. After filling myself with power giving food, I headed towards the lake and en route found a tattoo shop. I had ample time that day, and there was nothing better at that moment I could think of than to get myself inked. Tattoo for me is like taking a souvenir back home from places I visit. So getting a tattoo eventually became the goal for the day.
It was around 5:30 pm when I reached the Lakeside – a perfect time to relish the view of the setting of sun over the beautiful Lake Phewa. Once the sun was completely down, I headed for a stroll on the pavement along the lakeside, which also house an array of restaurants. At one particular restaurant, a live band was playing, which obviously caught my attention. No brownie points for guessing how I spent my last night in Pokhara.
At around 6:00 am in the morning, I checked out from the Mountain House. My heart was pounding just the way when I leave from my hometown, it was indeed an emotional moment. Indra Ji had been such a good host, and I would always remember her and her Mountain House, which truly became a home for me.
The buses to Chitwan National Park (Sauraha) operate from Tourist Bus Station in Pokhara. The first bus leaves at 7:00 am, which in my case left at 8:00 am. There are tea stalls around the bus station and I would recommend that you try the fresh bread in any of them. The buses are basic but are well-maintained ensuring you have a comfortable journey. Leaving at 8:00 am from Pokhara, I reached Sauraha at 2:00 pm.
The hotels in Chitwan National Park arrange your pick up from the bus station at Sauraha, which came to me as a pleasant surprise since nothing was mentioned about it on the website. I had booked my stay at Hotel National Park which had sent an SUV for my pick up. I was accompanied by two Chinese women travellers. At the hotel, a sweet looking boy greeted us who spoke to the Chinese travellers in their language, which came as a surprise to me. We were offered welcome drinks and then were shown our respective rooms. We were requested to rest for a while and then be ready by 4:00 pm for a complimentary nature walk inside the Chitwan National Park to see the sunset.
Our guide for the day, Sagar introduced the park to us. We were first taken to see the elephants which the Government of Nepal owns, and then through a beautiful trail, we were taken to the sunset view point. Since the day was cloudy, we weren’t able to relish the best view of the sunset in Chitwan National Park. I also learnt that the two Chinese women travellers could not speak or understand English, they knew few words like ‘thank you’, ‘good’, ‘ok’, ‘no’, ‘great’, giving us very less room to initiate a conversation or even make friends, but you’d be amazed to know that despite the language barrier, we three still became good friends! Human emotions are same everywhere, and the most important lesson I learnt on this Nepal trip is, you don’t need a language to express them. In our two days of companionship, we saved each other from tripping, helped one another to spot animals, click pictures, get on and off the boats, shared umbrellas, and clung to each other’s arms whenever we felt like.
After returning to the hotel, I was taken for a cultural show of the Tharu Tribe of Nepal. These cultural shows are organized on a daily basis to offer a glimpse of the culture of Tharu Tribe. It was quite a show, and a must see in Chitwan National Park. After the show, I had an early dinner, and called it a night.
I was scheduled for a nature walk at 8:00 am in the morning, my new friends decided to keep it a bit more adventurous and opted for an early morning canoe ride as well. However, we were to go for the nature walk together. It was a 3-hour walk in which the guides took us in the forest area to spot animals. Unfortunately, apart from the deer, there was nothing else we could sight but it was indeed an experience to remember because unlike jeep safari, this gave us the opportunity to follow unknown trails and have an adventure of our own.
At 3:00 pm we were scheduled for a jeep safari in Chitwan National Park. So after enjoying a hearty meal, we headed out again with a hope to catch a glimpse of some animals other than deer. We were fortunate enough to spot black bears, peacocks, pheasant, and a cute duo of Mama Bear and baby bear, which eventually made our day. Chitwan National Park is famous for its population of One-horned rhinoceros, however, we weren’t lucky enough to catch a sight of them.
By the time we reached the hotel, we were exhausted, and wanted to rest. In the night, after relishing Nepalese meal in the dinner, I decided to go to the room of my Chinese friends to say bye as we were to leave for our respective destinations the next morning. We used a translating app for the first time to talk. It turned out to be a very emotional moment, as we could not believe how connected we started to feel in just two days.
My bus from Sauraha to Lumbini was scheduled at 9:00 am. It took around 6 hours to reach, and the worst part was this was the only day I had for exploring Lumbini. The next morning, I had to leave for Kathmandu. I checked-in at the hotel in Lumbini – Garden Lodge, around 3:00 pm, and was told by the manager that all the monasteries except the Mayadevi Temple (the main attraction of Lumbini) will close by 5:00 pm. It broke my heart as I was left with only two hours to see Lumbini. The hotel’s manager suggested that I should visit Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, India, and Nepal monasteries and then should head to Maya Devi Temple. He also suggested to hire an e-rickshaw.
I followed his suggestions and hired an e-rickshaw and its driver not only helped me see the monasteries but also clicked pictures for me as well. He dropped me near the Eternal Peace Flame at the end to let me explore Mayadevi Temple at my own pace. In Lumbini, the statues of young Buddha catches your eyes as it is unlikely to see him in this form anywhere else. Out of all the Buddhist temples I could see in Lumbini, Cambodian Temple was the most beautiful one. Mayadevi Temple, however has a different feel to it as this place houses the archaeological remains of the ancient Lumbini, and also of the exact spot where Buddha was born. Apart from this, Lumbini has this tranquil ambiance, which is perfect for introspection. I really wished to have one more day to explore this place in Nepal, unfortunately, the schedule could not be changed.
The bus from Lumbini to Kathmandu leaves at 5:45 am and takes around 6 hours to reach. Unfortunately, today was an exceptional day. The rare wheel of our bus got stuck in a hole full of mud. It took more than 2 hours for the bus wheel to come out. As if, this wasn’t enough, the other rare tire of the bus got punctured a little later, which again took around hour and a half to be changed. Then there was this traffic jam which robbed off another half an hour from us. The scheduled arrival at Kathmandu was at 12:00 pm but we could manage to reach by 7:00 pm. I headed to Elbrus all tired and exhausted but Dai’s warm welcome and the offer of a private room compensated for everything.
My flight from Kathmandu to Delhi was scheduled at 2:30 pm, so it gave me enough time to go shopping in Thamel which is replete with shops selling a number of souvenirs and other things to buy from Nepal. I bought cotton backpacks for my friends, and a hemp-made bag for myself. I also bought eensy-weensy stuff like fridge magnets and key rings with the famous Buddha’s Eyes (Wisdom eyes) on them.
At 12:00 pm, it was finally time to bid Elbrus, my second home goodbye. Dai himself carried my bag to the car. My heart suddenly started to become heavy. We exchanged pleasantries so as to keep the moment light but inside me I had already made a promise to myself to return to Nepal, because I would need more of this love and warmth in the future.
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