Category Archives: Nepal 2015

Our 3 week exploration backpacking around Nepal, March 2015

Nepal: Pokhara for four days

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Pokhara was our last destination and what a spectacular end to the holiday it was! We did go back to Kathmandu for the last two days of the holiday in order to leisurely wait for our flight back to the UK but that doesn’t really count, to me Pokhara was the grand finale to our trip so we treated ourselves to some extreme sports!

Pokhara is very bohemian and many hippies and yogis venture here even with their children. This place is laid back and has a slow pace of life. Quite a few Westerners opt to live here either partially in retirement or totally emigrate and become teachers of English or run their own activities company because Pokhara is the hip place to be if you are into water sports and extreme leisure pursuits.

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Pokhara is known for it’s lush surroundings and great lake, it is a beautiful city enveloped by the Annapurna mountains and so makes this city a popular destination for trekkers who fancy something different to the Everest base camp. The climate here changes, much like the lake district back in the UK, it seems to have it’s own weather system. On the whole it is cooler than other part of Nepal we visited and it is prone to heavy down pours of rain and some fricken amazing thunder storms but it can also be humid and muggy so pack a light rain coat and water proofs just in case. Most people will pack these items anyway if venturing to Pokhara for the water sports, you’d be a fool not to and even though Pokhara’s temperature is cooler, it is by no means cold and you can still casually wander about in harem pants, vest tops and sandals. There is a definite freshness in the air, perhaps coming from the mountains so on occasion I did wrap a light scarf around me and Jon did wear a light hoodie from time to time.

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During our stay here the weather changed from hot and sticky to full on torrential rain and the loudest, most beautiful thunderstorm I have ever seen! But within 30 minutes the storm passed and it was gorgeously airy and warm again. We ventured out, soon after the storm and made friends with some children playing in the puddles, me being me, I joined in and Jon gave the eldest little girl a quick photography lesson. It is moments like this that make me smile the most, to know we are not seen as western holiday makers who keep their distance but as interesting and approachable individual the locals are curious to meet, this is what it is to be a part of another culture, it is simply making friends.

Soon after that we hired a small paddle boat to row across the stunning lake, we had no sense of direction and bumped into a heap of stones used as a warning for shallow waters and then very nearly crashed into a huge holding of boats and jet-skis because the current was so strong, no matter how hard we paddled we kept being pushed to the left and we felt like we weren’t really going anywhere. Our attempt was to try and make to the other side to then walk up to a Stupa on top of a hill, unfortunately we didn’t get very far across the lake, our time was up and another thunderstorm was about to hit so we headed back before sundown. Needless to say it was a relaxing experience, I have never really rowed a paddle boat before so it’s something to tick off my list.

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visit pokhara

Pokhara holidays

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After two days of thunderstorms, puddle splashing, more Mo-Mo eating, paddle boating and leisurely wandering around Pokhara, we booked to go Paragliding! This was something big Jon wanted to do and I was happy to tag along and experience it, this was something special for Jon like what the Elephant bathing in Chitwan was for me. I had already done something similar in Cyprus called Parasailing so I had an idea as to what to expect. Jon has always wanted to know what it feels like to have wings and to fly and so this was the closest thing to that feeling.
We were up in the air soaring like birds for half an hour to 45 minutes and it was such a fantastic feeling. After the run off the cliff a small part of me worried for my safety but once up there it was so peaceful, I forgot my fear and marveled at the view, I even had a hawk fly close to me. We para-glided off Sarankot hill which is notorious around the world to be one of the best places to glide off of. If you don’t fancy paraglyding though, you can ride the cable car, go base jumping, bungee jumping, rock climbing, canoeing and sky diving.

Pokhara, Nepal

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On the last day, on a whim we booked to do white water rafting. We thought we wouldn’t have time to fit this activity in but we timed our entire holiday perfectly for it to happen. With a tour company back in Kathmandu we were up and ready to be picked up by tour bus at 7am to drive us to the Trishuli river by 8:30am. You can opt to raft down the river from Pokhara and have your backpacks or luggage sent back to your hotel room via tourist bus but we didn’t fancy taking that risk. Instead we ventured back to Kathmandu only to be driven half way back the way we came on the next day with only a day pack of spare dry clothes, our passports, important documents and essentials. We left our backpacks in our hotel room and because it was our last few days in Nepal we did splash out and stayed in a newly opened luxury hotel with excellent WIFI, hot water and a wet room to make sure we were refreshed and had a good nights sleep before our long flight home so we knew our luggage was secure and in a safe hotel with a front of house security guard outside the main gate.

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The white water rafting in my opinion was a more thrilling experience than the paragliding and it is so far my favourite extreme activity that I have done but then I am yet to do sky diving so we shall see! Our group consisted of two Germans, us two Brits, an American and our crazy captain who spent most of the journey singing and somersaulting offer the boat. The entire experience lasted for a few hours with a small health and safety lesson at the beginning and this includes what to do if the boat turns upside down and you are trapped inside, what to do if you end up drifting with the current down the river too fast and how to grab hold of the rescue canoer who followed us closely down the river. The captain took us down still waters and rapids, encouraged us to swim in the river and dive-bomb in the water and half way through we stopped so the lads could climb and jump off a cliff. By noon we pulled up to a small shack with tables, showers and changing rooms and this is where we had our lunch that was already prepared for us. It was a very basic lunch consisting of salad, bread, butter, cheese, ham, crisps and peanut butter as well as refreshing cold water. There was a tuck shop at the back of the shack but you had to pay more for extra treats. All in all it was a fantastic experience and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

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Just like other places in Nepal, Pokhara houses numerous non-star hotels, restaurants, bars, bakeries, tourist information centres, tour companies, shops and banks all set up for your traveling needs and in fact it is probably the most modern looking place we stayed in, the insides of the shops and centres had marble floors and well designed interiors and it is quite an easy place to navigate around. There are more than 250 tourist category hotels and lodges in Pokhara of which two (the Fulbari Resort and Pokhara Grande) are ranked 5-star. Pokhara provides lodging and fooding from backpackers to deluxe ranges. A tip for backpackers and those who like to live free spiritedly, it is so easy to find a hotel, you might as well just show up and look around for a good deal instead of booking in advanced.
There are also plenty of trekking and tour agencies plus yoga and massage studios and retreat centres so you won’t be bored during your stay in Pokhara. Alongside this there are numerous stupas, temples and shrines to visit too if you fancy immersing yourself even more in the Nepalese culture and history.
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Pokhara is a delightful place and definitely a destination you can easily take children to. There is much to do here and the locals are very friendly. Next to Chitwan and Pashupatinath it was one of my favourites to visit.
And that concludes our time in Nepal, it was enchanting, adventurous and full of beautiful people. Being in Nepal has only sparked our wanderlust further and we have big future plans for our travels.

Stay tuned for more travel write ups from me coming shortly and if you wish to see even more of Nepal but through my partner Jon’s eyes, you can view his travel photography and videography of Nepal on his website here: Jon Robert’s Photography

And here are the previous blog posts about Nepal click on the links below.
Kathmandu: Thamel
Kathmandu: Patan
Kathmandu: Bhaktapur
Kathmandu: Pashupatinath
Kathmandu: Boudhanath
Kathmandu: Swayambhunath
Five days in Chitwan
Two Days in Lumbini
Four Days in Pokhara

I am on tripadvisor here
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And here is Jon’s Instagram.
I have also updated my travel section in my Categories side bar so it is easier for viewers to find and read specific destinations.

Nepal: Lumbini for two days

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Our relaxing time in rural Chitwan came to an end and we hopped on a rickety coach with bad suspension for an 8 hour-feeling like I am going to throw up-journey to Lumbini. We very nearly opted not to go, we thought all the effort to see this place for two days and a night was just too much stress, we almost decided to stay in Chitwan longer or go straight to Pokhara and from Pokhara maybe go on a day trip to Bandipur. In the end we figured, being in Nepal is a once in a lifetime opportunity, we may never come back here again and so a little bit of stress to get to an interesting place is worth it, especially since Jon was creating a video and we both wanted to see the Buddhist side to Nepal.

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It is on this journey we made friends with a lovely Austrian couple who were both really protective over their bags when all luggage had to be stored on the roof of the bus. This was a blessing in disguise because there have been reports of local Nepalese men jumping on the roof of buses to steal tourists belongings. I was obviously anxious about this so felt very glad these two Austrian angels appeared on our journey because at every pit-stop, they’d get off the bus and check everything was secure. Jon didn’t care, in his mind if his bag was stolen it was no big deal because all he’d lose is his clothes and he could buy cheap T-shirts and trousers in a Nepalese market somewhere. To my mind, I tried to trust the universe and did my little hippie prayer to watch over my things and this is only because there were important possessions in my backpack that I couldn’t fit in my rucksack.

It was on this bus that I nearly lost my nose stud because my hair had blown into my face and a curl wrapped around the stud and whipped it out onto the oily floor. Panic stricken I crawled on my hands and knees to find it and in scenarios like this I usually don’t mind, if I lose a stud I can nip to the nearest jewellery shop back home to replace the stud that is missing, but in the middle of nowhere, in a country I am not familiar with meant if I didn’t find this stud, I’d have to wait at least another week until back on UK soil and by that time my nose piercing will have closed up and I didn’t fancy having to pay for a re-piercing, because lets face it, piercings and tattoos are painful and nobody (unless you are an adrenaline junkie) wants to repeat such things. I found the stud underneath my seat, sat in a pool of grime, needless to say my hands were covered in black soot and with no sanitized wipes, I had to leave my hands like that until we reached Lumbini.

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Finally sat in a cafe in a village just outside Lumbini, depleted and worn out. Jon left me with the bags to dash around this small place to find the best priced hotel. This local village is one of those places where, it’s very poor, there are more flies here than people, the hotels are unkempt and like they’ve been left to dilapidate but their prices for rooms are very high (for Nepalese standards) because the hotel owners know the only reason why tourists come here is to venture into the walled complex of Lumbini, which is just a 5 minute walk from this village; or to have an overnight stay before crossing over the boards to India. There are no other villages around and tourists literally have no choice but to chose from a very small selection of poorly kept hotel rooms that are over priced or sleep in the dirt with the mosquitoes. I am actually pretty sure this village never existed until Lumbini was built, it does look like a pop-up shanty town created by locals attempting to cash in on the tourist attraction.

That being said, Jon and I are people who don’t care for luxury, as long as there is a clean bed and running water for a wash then that is all that matters. Our hotel room was like a little cell and the most mosquito ridden room we have ever stayed in! Jon must have swatted at least 50 on the first night and there was no air conditioning and the bathroom looked like it hadn’t been cleaned properly in months. But it didn’t matter, we made do with what we had and as long as we had each other, nothing else was important, plus we knew we weren’t going to stay here long and tried to remember the reason why we were there and that was to visit Lumbini: the birth place of the historical Buddha!

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We didn’t rest long in our hotel room. Wolfing down our meal we quickly walked to Lumbini to catch a glimpse of the place before sundown. We spent about 4 hours getting idea of what to expect and navigate our way around. We did not have long in Lumbini so we decided to visit the nearest temple and garden during sunset and on the second day to be up by 6am to explore the grounds and see meditation centres and other monastaries that were further afield. We had no idea that Lumbini was so vast! You can opt to hire bikes or a rickshaw driver but we walked around each complex. Lumbini is hotter than Chitwan so carry sun cream and lots of water!

Lumbini meaning “The Lovely” is a Buddhist pilgramage site and it is the place where, according to Buddhist tradition, Queen Mayadevi gave birth to Siddhartha Gautama in 563 BCE. Gautama, who achieved Enlightenment some time around 528 BCE,became the Gautama Buddha and founded Buddhism. Lumbini is one of many magnets for pilgrimage that sprang up in places pivotal to the life of Gautama Buddha. Many Buddhist monks and nuns flock here all year round from places all over the world to dedicate themselves to silence and prayer. This place is a tiny world (literally) there are temples and monasteries built by all of the countries of the world, you can visit the Vietnam monastery, the British monastery, the German or the Austrian monastery and even the Canadian monastery to name but a few! And all are freaking beautiful and different!

Whilst sitting on a wall for a rest and a quick drink, a lady approached us and pointed to a Buddhist monk in a wheel chair, she said “This man is 81, this is his first pilgramage and he is from Tibet, he would very much like a photo with you.” Jon and I looked at each other in disbelief, usually it is the tourist asking for photographs not the other way round, this was an absolute magical moment for us, we actually met a real life Tibetan monk on a pilgrimage in Lumbini!

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Some sites are still in the process of being built but Lumbini is probably the most peaceful and safest places I have ever walked through. There are grounds and gardens where you have to walk barefoot and for all monasteries you do have to leave your shoes at the front gate before entering. This is heaven to me because I dislike wearing shoes, however because of the midday heat the concrete floors scorched my feet and you do have to do a funny tiptoe dash to the nearest shaded area.

Lumbini was granted World Heritage status by UNESCO in 1997 and you can visit the Mayadevi temple dedicated to Buddha’s mother and you can see the exact spot where she gave birth to him.
The holy site of Lumbini has ruins of ancient monasteries, a sacred Bodhi tree, an ancient bathing pond, the Ashokan pillar and the Mayadevi Temple, where the supposed place of birth of Buddha is located. From early morning to early evening, pilgrims from various countries perform chanting and meditation at the site.

I think you can opt to stay within Lumbini and there are retreat and meditation centres that offer courses in Vipasana and other forms of devotional meditation for anything from 10 days up to a month, maybe more but you would have to do some research on that.

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Here you can see numerous Buddhists and monks from all walks of life leisurely walk around this holy site. Some monks can be found chanting in the gardens or in huge groups praying by the sacred and ancient bodhigara tree shrine. Or you can walk around the numerous temples and marvel at the quietness of it all whilst the colourful Tibetan flags of devotion dance in the humid breeze.

Visiting each monastery is near impossible and there were some we could not reach because a lot of them are quite far apart from each other. Unfortunately my absolute favourite temple can not be shown because photography wasn’t permitted but I adored the art work all over it’s walls and ceilings depicting epic Buddhist tales of God, deities and humans surrounded by sky and clouds. The entire complex of Lumbini is beautifully modest and serene and you feel like the weight of the world or your personal worries have fallen from you as you walk around this place. There is definitely a holy presence in the atmosphere and the monks show nothing but love and a quiet friendliness towards visitors.

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Towards the end of the second day, Jon & I ventured into the main garden to watch the Tibetan monks pray under the sacred tree and then the monks encouraged him to take their photographs. Because these monks dedicate their lives to Buddhism and live in a secluded monastery they very rarely meet people in the outside world, so interacting with Jon and getting to see themselves in a photograph was great fun for them. A lot of these men have probably never seen white skin, a westerner or even a woman! So it was a delight for Jon knowing everyone was happy to have their portrait taken and he managed to snap some beautiful shots of these monks for his travel portfolio and they enjoyed talking to me about many things.

We also met two lovely ladies who were traveling together, one was a student of law from Sweden and the other was retired and from Germany, both ladies traveled with us to Pokhara where they were originally based and helped us find a decent hotel room. It just goes to show, whilst traveling and in life, the right people at the right time show up in mysterious way to guide you through to the next step (or keep your luggage safe) and to my mind, it really does prove there is such a thing as divine timing and that the universe has it’s ways of bringing people and situations in your life to help you or continue your spiritual growth. Because that is all life is really, it’s a huge classroom and our souls are here on this earth to learn, to grow and to understand the complexities of the human experience in order to develop compassion, mercy, love, self love, peace and forgiveness for yourself and all living things which in turn breaks your karmic wheel and enables you to transition into your next soul journey.

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Lumbini is a quiet refuge from a world of chaos and if you are seriously into yoga or meditation do consider spending time here, you won’t regret it. This is what world peace looks like.
Next up our last destination: Pokhara! We stayed here for 3 days before heading back to Kathmandu to do our last bits of sight seeing and shopping before jetting back to the UK. Tune in next week for the final story of our Nepal adventure!

If you missed previous blog posts about Nepal click on the links below.
Kathmandu: Thamel
Kathmandu: Patan
Kathmandu: Bhaktapur
Kathmandu: Pashupatinath
Kathmandu: Boudhanath
Kathmandu: Swayambhunath
Five days in Chitwan

I am on tripadvisor here
and you can now follow me on Instagram
I have also updated my travel section in my Categories side bar so it is easier for viewers to find and read specific destinations.

Nepal: Chitwan for five days

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After a 7 hour journey on a packed rickety bus around the dusty mountain side roads of the Kathmandu valley we reached our next destination; Chitwan National park! The district of Chitwan is one of 75 districts of Nepal with Kathmandu being the most well known. Chitwan is located in the southwestern part of Narayani Zone, and it is one of Nepal’s Inner Terai valleys between the Mahabharat and Siwalik ranges, both considered foothills of the Himalayas.
Out of all the destinations we visited whilst backpacking around Nepal, Chitwan was my favourite!

However as we stepped off the bus we were bombarded with a large group of men holding signs and all shouting at once in an attempt to persuade westerners to stay at their hotel. Let me just say: IT DOES NOT PERSUADE ME AT ALL AND I WAS FUMING. Being a quiet person with a lot of tolerance for annoying human behaviour I decided I had enough and sarcastically said to the men “Can you please shut up and stop rudely shouting in my ear and let me get off the fricken bus first?” which actually worked a treat and they backed away. This is quite common in Nepal and it’s almost like a desperate cry to be chosen for said sale, but it really doesn’t work, the fact that maybe a westerner has picked a hotel has nothing to do with the seller irritatingly following them around (with 20 other men trying to do the same thing), it is because said Westerner has chosen the hotel based on their own INDIVIDUAL idea of how they’d like their holiday to be, not because the seller wants to give you “best price.” I think with this Nepalis need a more tactful and quieter way of pitching their sales. But then that’s my opinion. In this case, you can walk into the main village where all the hotels and restaurants are but we had massive backpacks so we told one Nepali we’d like a lift in exchange for viewing his hotel but with no promise of staying there. It worked. We did look around the hotel complex and it was a nice accommodation of small huts surrounded by exotic plants but there was something about it we didn’t quite like so we left and found an Eco Lodge!

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We LOVED this Eco Lodge and even the owner told us later “I tried to talk to you guys to tell you about this place but obviously there were too many other men annoying you in the car park.” Yes. Indeed. The owner is a quiet man and very much into living environmentally friendly. His complex is small but developing and I can see him doing so well in the future, I can see this being popular with the ‘hippie’, ‘yogi’ and ‘boho’ culture, I can see yoga retreats being provided here, small open mic nights of Rasta haired surfers strumming to their guitar and a small bonfire camp site to make friends under the stars. Already the Eco lodge allows for volunteers to stay for free in exchange for helping out on the site or being involved in developing this projects. We stayed in the cute bottle house but you can opt to stay in a traditional Nepalese “Nest”, there is a sweet open air hut for book reading and social gatherings, a reception room with snacks, open air showers that are solar heated and dry compost toilets. Evergreen Eco lodge also offer day trips and tours and are only 1 minute walk away from the river and elephant bathing!
Through the Eco lodge tours we went on Jeep and Elephant Safari through the jungles, rode on a donkey cart through a Tharu village and went to visit the elephant breeding centre. We loved it here so much that we decided to stay an extra night. This place was a dream and so relaxing. Even Jon said “I could live like this, in a place like this, own very little possessions, laptop, camera, internet, I can still work as a photographer, you could teach dance, yoga, art and English, I am not saying necessarily HERE is the future location but this is all we need really.” and it’s true, you can see from our photos how content we were.
If you are interested in staying in Evergreen Ecolodge you can find it on tripadvisor here.

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The people here are so much more down to earth, perhaps a bit shy however very friendly and curious. You do feel like life has slowed down and the locals are genuinely happy to have you around. The weather was glorious and I enjoyed knowing I can just be me, dress in my silk sari skirts and harem pants, revel in feeling the dusty earth between my toes and allow my hair to be utterly unkempt and beautifully unruly whilst wearing mala beads and bindis and not one person looked at me like a mad woman like they do in the UK. Even Jon began to wear his mala beads every day and just knowing you don’t have to care how you appear on the surface to others takes a lot of stress off your shoulders! Not one person we met wanted to know how much we earned, what jobs we did, if we owned a house or car, absolutely none of that shallow shitty chit chat that has become the norm in the UK just wasn’t important here. We were free from it! This place and these people gave us paradise, we were left alone and given the space to just BE.IN.THE.MOMENT.AND.BE.OURSELVES. It was a happy state of grace.

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Chitwan is so lush with plant life and the people here live in gorgeous humble hut homes. You are surrounded by the quietness of the river, the subtle movement of animal life and being at one with the primordial heartbeat of nature.
I loved every moment of walking around this place and even had a chat with a one legged man on crutches telling me stories of how Rhinos venture into the villages, he has been chased many times and I gasped “What did you do!?” and his reply was “I ran up a tree!” and we both laughed. And it’s moments like this, sharing story telling and laughters with people that is greatly missed in Western society, there are very few GENUINE and innocent conversations left, most conversations have an ulterior motive, encourages gossip and greed or have the shallowness of a puddle. Westerners have forgotten the power of story telling and of having deep conversations about life and the heavens, instead we chat about the weather, work, the latest crap T.V drama and that sofa we bought last month. In places like Nepal there is still that human connection that the West badly need to incorporate back into our lives for we are losing what it means to live and to love and instead replacing it with possessions and money, we are trying to fill a void that can only be filled with friendship and love. It is that simple.

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The jeep and elephant safari was fricken amazing! I was beside myself with happiness being taken through the jungle whilst riding on the back of a beautiful elephant! (Do not worry folks, these elephants are well looked after). This beautiful animal had no care in the world that she was taking us for a ride, she gently walked through the trees and stopped numerous time for a snack and I found it utterly delightful like a child to witness an elephant eating leaves whilst I was sat on her back! Whilst on safari we saw a few Rhinos bathing in small lakes, numerous deer, wild boar and exotic birds, tiger scratches on trees and a very quick look at a sloth bear before it hid away into the bushes. A lot of these animals are shy and nocturnal and you can book to go on a night-watch with these tours and you can stay over night in the jungle (with a guide) on a watch tower to spot tigers hunting with night vision binoculars. I think if we stayed longer in Chitwan we probably would have done this, especially Jon who has no problem being out in the dark, in the wilderness, roughing it with only his camera bag and a banana to keep him company. Whereas I on the other hand would probably be slightly reluctant mainly because I can’t stand the idea of being out in the open, in the pitch dark with large flying bugs landing on me! Just thinking about that makes my skin crawl!

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Next up we went elephant bathing twice! And enjoyed musical entertainment and a traditional dance show in the evenings.
Needless to say, the elephant bathing brought me such joy! I love elephants! Alongside Whales and Foxes they are a favourite animal. We were involved with the elephant bathing twice over two mornings and it’s good to get there early before herds of Japanese tourists ruin the moment. We actually had three very annoying and rude girls suddenly turn up to our elephant and essentially pushed us away from the elephant in order to ride it; So yeah, go early to spend quality and peaceful time with your elephant before it turns into a zoo of moronic groups of tourists!
When we did get a chance to be with our elephant who was 26 years old and named Marikali, we bathed and scrubbed her and I sang soft buddhist mantras to her and told her how beautiful she is, I am hoping she felt the love I had for her and I hope she felt as happy I was that day to have met her.I named my hand carved Nepali elephant figurine after her. This was a special moment for me and has been something on my bucket list I have wanted to do and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
During the evenings we enjoyed plentiful musical entertainment from two brothers who are talented musicians and singers and we became good friends with them during our stay. On our last night we ventured to a theatre room to watch a show of traditional Nepalese dancing, I learned so much about more folkloric dance styles and even discovered they have their own version of belly dance movements too, which I excitedly pointed out to Jon as some of the women did hip shimmies and hand gestures! I was over the moon that I was given the opportunity to meet these women after the show. The lead dancer held my hand and said “You beauty! You beauty!” to which I replied “No, no, you are beautiful, your dancing is beautiful, you are amazing!” it was such an honor to meet such talented and incredible people in a beautiful place in this part of the world.

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On the last day we were supposed to go on a bike ride to a lake that was 15 minutes away, however because I hadn’t ridden a bike in years and these bikes were clunky, steel, heavy things I fell off! I nearly cried, I literally couldn’t ride something that was twice my body weight and drove like it was on rails. Jon comforted me and we joked that actually it is possible to forgot how to ride a bike and then we decided instead to take a walk through the Tharu villages to meet the locals. We realized very quickly that my inability to ride a bike was a blessing in disguise, this is exactly what I constantly remind people of in regards to “divine timing” and “the universe always has a plan.” I 100% believe that even in the most chaotic times when we think our life is falling a part that this is the plan to clear away the debris to bring fourth new beginnings and amazing blessings. You hear stories like “When I lost my job I was distraught but suddenly, out of the blue this opportunity came about and I now live in Australia! That couldn’t have happened if I hadn’t lost my job.” or in my case “If I hadn’t have fallen off that bike we would never have walked through the Tharu villages, met amazing locals and Jon would never have gotten such incredible photos for his travel photography.” The universe essentially said “Erm..No you are not going to some silly lake today, I have other plans for you both and it’s amazing! You can thank me later!”.
Needless to say, we are utterly thankful and grateful for that afternoon, I felt like my heros Dan Eldon and Elizabeth Gilbert immersing myself in real life Tharu culture. These people are utterly beautiful and want nothing more than to interact with you even though there is a language barrier they enjoy bringing their children out to meet you, are happy to be photographed and love seeing themselves on a screen. Because life here is so simple the locals may not own televisions, mobile phones or even the internet and so meeting a tourist in strange clothing with contraptions that can capture your face is magical and fun for all! The people here are so lovely and we never once felt unwelcome. We felt bad that we couldn’t give them a memory, that we could not print out our photos of them to keep which gave us the idea of buying a Polaroid for our next trip to the Far East, that way we can give something back as a thank you for allowing us to take their portraits.

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Chitwan-Bridge
Chitwan is unforgettable and magical, I’d go back in a heartbeat! If/when I am qualified to teach dance and yoga I’d set up retreat workshops here, that are both affordable to my students and give back to the community of Chitwan. Being in a place like this is life changing and took my breath away! Imagine waking up every day to do yoga by the river, bath an elephant, make friends with the Tharu, teach yoga workshops and learn folkloric dancing in the evenings? I mean how heavenly does that sound? I really did not want to leave this enchanting place, Chitwan is another destination that holds a place in my heart.

Next up: 2 days in Lumbini the birth place of the historical Buddha. We very nearly did not venture here, either we stayed in Chitwan an extra two days or take the plunge and go to Lumbini? We were in two minds as to what to do, we weren’t sure if it was worth it but in the end we were so grateful to have been there, more on this next week!

If you missed previous blog posts about Nepal click on the links below.
Kathmandu: Thamel
Kathmandu: Patan
Kathmandu: Bhaktapur
Kathmandu: Pashupatinath
Kathmandu: Boudhanath
Kathmandu: Swayambhunath

I am on tripadvisor here
and you can now follow me Instagram
I have also updated my travel section in my Categories side bar so it is easier for viewers to find and read specific destinations.

Nepal: Life Beneath the Mountains {Video}


Before I do my three final write ups about our time in Nepal, I thought to show you the video Jon created of our time there. It’s a beautiful video and when I watch it I feel like I am transported back to Nepal. It would have been lovely if a video was made of Morocco but never mind. I think with Nepal we had more time to savor a place and get to know some of the locals and so nobody minded us filming plus we could visit somewhere at our own pace. Nepal is a gorgeous country with an enchanting culture and I recommend fellow wanderlusters to visit there. I hope you enjoy the short video!.

I also wrote an article about it on yogi approved
It has also been featured on SonyAlphaRumours.
So far this video has had nearly three thousand views!

Kathmandu: Swayambhunath

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Swayambhunath or ‘The Monkey Temple’ was actually our last day in Nepal. After Chitwan, Lumbini and Pokhara we had two days left back in Kathmandu before we flew back to the UK, the second to last day involved a bit of shopping in Thamel and the last was an afternoon at Swayambhunath. The weather by that point was thundery but pleasantly warm; people moan about the rain and say things like “Oh it’s a shame it rained on your holiday.” and I always give them a quizzical look as to why it’s such a shame? It’s actually a very beautiful experience to feel the rain in another part of the world because it is so different to the rain in your home country plus most of our holidays do not involve lying on the beach every day, most destinations we visit are not beachy-cocktail sipping-going lobster red kind of holidays so the rain really isn’t a shame, I love the rain actually, it’s colour and smell is different in every country.

So, the monkey temple was actually my least favourite place in Kathmandu, I hated those monkeys! Literally hated them. Monkeys are one of my least favourite animals, I do not find them cute, most monkey species have their butts on show and they are nasty little buggers. Even as a child I was not impressed by the monkeys or apes at the zoo, I even skip the monkey enclosures. Unfortunately Swayambhunath temple is swarmed by monkeys and these monkeys are opportunists, never hold carrier bags because they will snatch them out of your hands and make sure all strings, toggles, zips, pockets, hoods are neatly packed away because they will attempt to pull on things. The whole time I was walking around Swayambhunath I was extremely nervous, these monkeys follow you in small groups and if you get too close they do snarl and lash out at you. Thankfully the locals keep a pack of dogs up there too, these dogs keep the monkeys from running amok because they are afraid of the dogs. I actually felt like I was being watched and that the monkeys were planning a group attack so I couldnt fully appreciate the beauty of Swayambhunath and the views below without fear of being stalked or attacked by a dirty monkey.

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From Thamel you can jump in any of the numerous taxis driving around, you will NEVER be short of a taxi, there must be twenty per tourist (and I am not joking), it takes about 5 maybe 10 minutes to get to the bottom steps of the temple and some monkeys are already sat there.

Swayambhunath is an ancient religious architecture atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley, west of Kathmandu city. The Tibetan name for the site means ‘Sublime Trees’Swayambhunath occupies a central position, it is probably the most sacred among Buddhist pilgrimage sites. For Tibetans and followers of Tibetan Buddhism, it is second only to Boudhanath. The Swayambhunath complex consists of a stupa, a variety of shrines and temples, some dating back to the Licchavi period. A Tibetan monastery, museum and library are more recent additions. The stupa has Buddha’s eyes and eyebrows painted on. Between them, the number one (in Devanagari script) is painted in the fashion of a nose. There are also shops, restaurants and hostels.The entrance stairway of 365 steps flutters with colourful prayer flags and getting up to the huge stupa at the top of the hill involves a certain amount of fitness, stamina and strong legs and by the time you have gotten to the top you’ll be sweaty, breathless and on the verge of crawling because your legs will feel like they’ve power walked on a step machine at your local gym! It is all worth it though because the views are out of this world. At the top of the steps you see the biggest vajra (thunder-bolt scepter) you have ever seen, the vast white dome of the stupa and plenty of monkeys. Much of Swayambhunath’s iconography comes from the Vajrayana tradition of Newar Buddhism. However, the complex is also an important site for Buddhists of many schools, and is also revered by Hindus.

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According to Swayambhu Purana, the entire valley was once filled with an enormous lake, out of which grew a lotus. The valley came to be known as Swayambhu, meaning “Self-Created.” The name comes from an eternal self-existent flame (svyaṃbhu) over which a sūpa was later built.

Swayambhunath is also known as the Monkey Temple as there are holy monkeys living in the north-west parts of the temple. They are holy because Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom and learning was raising the hill which the Swayambhunath Temple stands on. He was supposed to leave his hair short but he made it grow long and head lice grew. It is said that the head lice transformed into these monkeys.

Manjusri had a vision of the lotus at Swayambhu and traveled there to worship it. Seeing that the valley can be good settlement and to make the site more accessible to human pilgrims, he cut a gorge at Chovar. The water drained out of the lake, leaving the valley in which Kathmandu now lies. The lotus was transformed into a hill and the flower became the Swayambhunath stupa.

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Swayambunath is not just an ancient religious site but an active, living one with pilgrims performing clockwise circumambulations around the stupas. The continual soft chanting of ‘om mani padme hum’ and the smell of incense and yak butter lamps create a magical atmosphere in the early morning. And if you are a person who likes monkeys then all the better: they are everywhere. Aside from the monkeys, this place is very peaceful as it is a lovely quiet escape from the chaos and noise of Kathmandu. The best time to go is very early in the morning or during sunset because it will add a touch of magic to the colours of the skyline as you take in the views of the valley below.

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Stay tuned for our next destination! We stay in an eco-lodge in the jungles of Chitwan!
If you missed previous blog posts about Nepal click on the links below.
Kathmandu: Thamel
Kathmandu: Patan
Kathmandu: Bhaktapur
Kathmandu: Pashupatinath
Kathmandu: Boudhanath

I am on tripadvisor here
and you can now follow me on Instagram
I have also updated my travel section in my Categories side bar so it is easier for viewers to find and read specific destinations.