Undoubtedly, the first thing that comes to mind when people hear ‘Nepal’ is Mt. Everest.
Sure, tourists from all over the world flock to Nepal mostly to climb the ‘roof of the world’, but did you know there’s plenty of other activities for non-trekkers?
How to go to Nepal from The Philippines
First things first. There are no direct flights from Manila.
The most economical way would be to book a flight from Manila to Kuala Lumpur from any of the LCCs (low-cost carrier) then book another flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kathmandu.
Filipinos can get up to 30-day visa on arrival, and the process is very straightforward. You just need to fill out the visa application form, attach a passport-sized photo, line up at the visa on arrival counter, pay the $25.00 fee, and that’s it!
It was almost midnight (thanks to our delayed flight) when we arrived we arrived in Kathmandu, so we didn’t get to see the city until the following day.
First order of business was to visit the 3 famous Durbar Squares (plazas) of Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur.
The driver we hired decided to drop us off at Kathmandu Durbar Square despite being instructed to bring us to Bhaktapur first.
There were pilgrims spinning prayer wheels, vendors hawking their wares, rickshaws whizzing past people, taxis that kept honking like there’s no tomorrow, and stray dogs and cows all coming in from every direction. There was so much going on, I was just overwhelmed.
For a minute, I just stood there trying to take it all in. Kathmandu’s chaos is like Manila’s, Ho Chi Minh’s, and Yangon’s combined.
I took a deep breath, and simultaneously inhaled burning incense, dust, and fumes.
Once I got past the culture shock, I was able to concentrate on admiring Kathmandu’s numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Kathmandu Durbar Square
A monk stands amid a flock of pigeons in front of Jagannath Temple
The carved timber roof struts portray the incarnations of Vishnu.
Kathmandu Durbar Square entrance fee: NPR750 (USD7.50)
Sure, Kathmandu has some rundown buildings and haphazardly-built new ones, but we, as Filipinos, could learn a thing or two from them about heritage site preservation.
Patan Durbar Square
Krishna Mandir on the far right
photo credit: Jyse Salubre
Patan Durbar Square entrance fee: NPR500 (USD5)
Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Our last stop on our first day was Bhaktapur, which is my favorite among the 3 Durbar Squares, because it’s the biggest and least chaotic. Ironically, it’s also where we met the most persistent guide. He kept on following us, offering his service even though we already turned him down a number of times.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square entrance fee: NPR1500 (USD15)
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to explore the entire ancient city of Bhaktapur because we were pressed for time. We only had 2.5 hours, but half of it was wasted while waiting for our food.
You’ll find this is often the case when dining in Nepal, so don’t go to a restaurant starving, because believe me, you’ll be HANGRY (adj. hunger causing a negative change in emotional state). Average waiting time is 45 minutes.
L: Momo – Nepalese dumpling with chicken, vegetables, or buff (buffalo) filling; R: Chicken Biryani
If you’re with a big group, it might also be a good idea to split into smaller groups, and dine in separate restaurants, and/or, once you’ve placed your orders, take turns in sightseeing instead of just waiting for the food.
Probably the closest I’ll ever get to Tibet…for now
Entrance fee: NPR250 (USD2.50)
Probably the most iconic among Nepal’s heritage sites is the Boudhanath Stupa. This mammoth of a stupa is the biggest in Nepal, among the largest in the world, and is the most sacred Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet.
Buddha’s all-seeing eyes, colorful prayer flags, pilgrims walking clockwise while spinning prayer wheels, and ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ on repeat gives Boudhanath a very spiritual and serene atmosphere.
Believe or not, this beautiful neoclassical garden sits right in the middle of the city. It was the perfect respite from the chaos of Kathmandu.
Families, friends, and lovebirds enjoy some quiet time here
Entrance fee: NPR200 (USD2)
In a rather conservative country where public display of affection is taboo, I was surprised to see many couples here who were rather, uhm, affectionate. Probably not the best place to wander alone. haha It made me want to grab the next Nepali cutie that’ll pass by. LOL
One of our favorite pastimes while in Kathmandu – Nepali cutie spotting LOL
photo credit: Jyse Salubre
Spotted this adorable kid while walking around Boudhanath
Nepal’s got some of the most beautiful people I’ve seen. Their well-defined features will give ’em Brazilians a run for their money in the modeling industry here in The Philippines. :p
In the tourist area of Thamel where cashmere and pashmina stores are left and right, there was, surprisingly, no hard selling. Visitors are encouraged to enter shops and check the merchandise. Haggling’s pretty easy too.
Like most countries, Nepal’s true beauty is seen outside of the capital.
The views along the way made the drive to Pokhara bearable. The scene is actually very similar to what one would see heading north of The Philippines.
Phewa (Fewa) Lake
Phewa (Fewa) Lake.
Boating is a popular activity in Phewa Lake. You can just leisurely boat around, or if you’ve got more energy, you can hire a rowing boat, cross to the other side of the lake at the foot of World Peace Pagoda, and hike to the top. On a clear day, one will be rewarded with a view of the Annapurna Range.
At a little bit past 5:00 am, there were already a number of tourist buses parked at the foot of the viewing platform.
For NPR100.00, we decided to wait for sunrise at the viewing deck – which we unfortunately had to share with a bunch of rude Mainlanders – while sipping hot tea.
We went in November, which is supposedly one the best months to go in terms of visibility, but we were sorely disappointed. We just had a glimpse of the tip of one of the mountain ranges’ peaks.
Tandem paragliding was definitely the highlight of this trip for me.
It was a very exhilarating experience, and not scary at all! Just listen to your pilot, run all the way to the edge of the cliff, and before you know it, your feet are no longer touching the ground.
Wear comfortable shoes with good ankle support (for landing), and just eat a light meal hours before the flight. Actually, I’m glad I did it on an empty stomach because my crazy pilot decided to do some acrobatics even when I told him not to. But I’m glad he did. haha
For NPR10,200 (USD103), the package included transfers to and from the jump-off point, the 30-minute flight, and pictures and video taken with a GoPro.
Lastly, no trip to Nepal is complete without even getting a glimpse of The Himalayas.
Here’s some ways to see this magnificent mountain range:
- Get a seat on the right side of the plane going to Kathmandu (if coming from Malaysia) and vice versa;
- Book an overnight stay, or simply do a day trip from Kathmandu to Nagarkot;
- Book a sunrise viewing tour in Sarangkot;
- Trek to the World Peace Pagoda in Pokhara;
- Book an Everest flight;
- Fly from Kathmandu to Pokhara and vice versa.
We were quite unfortunate that The Himalayas seemed elusive for the duration of our trip even though we went in late November.
My last chance to see it was on our flight back to Kuala Lumpur, but our 3:15 PM flight got delayed by a couple of hours. When our plane finally arrived, it took a while to depart because we waited for clearance from the control tower. It was almost sunset, and I was already losing hope, but within minutes after our ascent, I was rewarded with an unobstructed view of the great mountain range!
The snowcapped peaks I only see on pictures are now before my eyes, and it left me speechless. I felt privileged to have seen it in my lifetime.
It was definitely a memorable ending to my Nepal trip. 🙂