Sharing my amazing adventure in Nepal that started my love of hidden travel gems
Updated: May 13, 2021
Why Nepal I hear you say? I thought the same, Nepal is located between India and Tibet, which has a diverse culture and has the tallest mountain in the world - Mount Everest.
I travelled to Nepal for a three week adventure trip which involved trekking in the Annapurna region of Nepal and visiting Chitwan National Park, a world heritage site. I will share with you the stand out moments of the trip for me.
Travelled to Kathmandu with just a rucksack filled with just the essentials for a walking holiday was very odd as I had only ever been on a two week beach holiday in Europe – no bikini needed on this trip!
Once in the city we were surrounded by people, animals, lots of noise and yes, you had to make sure you didn’t get run down by a Rickshaw!
Truly colourful with its temples with prayer flags fluttering in the wind, and local people selling on every street from fruit to meat (no refrigeration just a cloth used to remove the flies off the meat – that was an eye opener) it felt I had been transported to a completely different world.
The highlights for me in Kathmandu were visiting the Swayambhunath temple (known as the monkey temple) situated on top of a hill overlooking the city. Yes, it is beautiful and houses the largest Buddha statue in the country, but for me it was coming across a long line of local people standing waiting to pass by a shrine.
This shine had a smaller Buddha inside who they believe if they hand over food and pray to this statue, it will help heal the sick in their family. It touched me as firstly to sacrifice food that they should have been eating - as they are so poor - but the belief it will help.
Another was bartering for goods you wished to buy as there was a wealth of shops selling beautiful homemade cushions, shawls etc. I found this very uncomfortable as I would never ask for something cheaper in the UK! However, this was the tradition as nothing had a price on it and the shop keepers expected you to haggle. I enjoyed it in the end and came home with an elephant cushion and shawl for more than half the original price quoted. Who knows if that was a bargain or if I was ripped off, but it was an experience and I loved the items I bought.
The traditional food (Dal Bhat) was amazing with lots of little dishes on a tray manly comprising of rice, lentils, potatoes and cauliflower and you were expected to use your fingers to eat. Not spicy hot - it was delicious. Why not try to make this national dish: Dal Bhat
On leaving Kathmandu, I then spent eight days trekking the Annapurna trail which led us up to 3,232m to see the sunset rise behind the “fishtail” Machapuchare Mountain – this was breathtaking…
The highlights of the eight day trek:
Meeting the local people, even entered into one of the Nepalese homes (mud hut) where it was expected of you to remove your shoes, sit on the floor and was offered tea and a local speciality food they had made. The guide translated for us and the father figure told us about living in the Annapurna valley, work etc. It was so interesting to see how fulfilled their life was even though they had little money but they were happy. How many of us can say that and we have money?
Every day watching shepherds and donkey trains pass us on the trek completing everyday life’s tasks. Also women and men carrying goods on their heads as the narrow paths we were taking was the only way to get to their villages. Also, seeing the ladies picking the tea leaves in the fields or the children walking to school and always smiling and coming to say hello (Namaste).
Highlights of the camping trip:
Watching the porters leave before us every single day carrying our bags on their backs with no fancy footwear – just flip flops!
Arriving for lunch and the porters will have set up tables always with a view of a town or mountain in the middle of nowhere.
Camping in small red tents every night with the toilet just being a hole in the ground!
It was always warm during the day, however once the sun went down, gosh it was cold!
The Chitwan National Park was amazing walking in the fields (looking back that was dangerous with just one guide and one gun!) or canoeing down a river to hopefully catch a glimpse of tigers and rhinos in their natural environment. Staying in lodges in the heart of the park was amazing but slightly scary at night with all the loud strange, unfamiliar noises and knowing animals could be stood outside your lodge!
The highlight for me was riding my favourite animal an elephant called “annakali” (which even had my name!) and trekking through very high grass and rivers – will never forget it…
Being able to get off the beaten track and experience Nepal from the local people's perspective is the most amazing experience.
So jump forward to 2020 and I wondered what Nepal is like now?
Talking with Samir from Designer Incentives - local Destination Management Company - who has the local knowledge of this beautiful country. I asked his thoughts on what Nepal has to offer the traveller today.
The Annapura trail still offers the unique trekking experience and unique insight into how the local people live and work.
Samir advised the only real change is that you cannot stay in the heart of Chitwan National Park, all accommodation is now located on the perimeter.
He informed me that even with the Earthquake in 2015, there is now far superior infrastructure with highways, better flight access, even a train is to be built in the future between Nepal and Tibet. Also, there is now a wide choice of hotels to meet all budgets and hidden gem restaurants that specialise in all Nepali or continental cuisine.
Even after the earthquake a vision of "green Nepal" was launched and seeks for better hygiene and sanitation, environmentally friendly technology, renewable energy and organic farming. This initiative is to foster prosperity, strengthen local communities and advance sustainable development.
I also inquired if you still bartered for goods, and Samir advised this will never change, it's the Nepalise way!
Samir advises the best time to travel to Nepal is February to May and there is a wealth of other activities of climbing to the base camp of Mount Everest or White water rafting on The Kosi river or travelling to other cities in the country.
I hope this has opened your eyes to this hidden gem of a country and more than ever they will need visitors in the future, highly recommend.