|By Oneal Hector D'Cunha, Abu Dhabi [ Published Date: August 13, 2011 ]|
Summer was round the corner and we were unable make up our mind to visit anywhere. Finally with very little time to plan we decided to travel to a country that would give us a visa on arrival (too little time to apply for one), ideally a 4-5 hour flight radius (as it was to be a short break of 4-5 days), nature abound (a contrast to Gulf environment), value for money (thanks to recession) and last but not the least in-depth (culturally and historically). Therefore with so many parameters naturally it had to be Nepal, in particular Kathmandu valley.
There are several tracks that one can take while travelling to Nepal such an Outdoor trekking, Adventure sports, Himalaya expedition, Cultural or Spiritual rejuvenation. Since it was monsoon season in Nepal we took the cultural and spent most of the time in down town Kathmandu. To begin with the choice of our hotel Dwarika in itself was a cultural hotspot as it is a heritage hotel.
The name Nepal (or Ne-pal) is said to have come due to the ruler of Newar, one of the ancient tribes of Nepal (king of the Newar) and there are several other versions too. Nepal has a population of 30 million, predominantly Hindu (Officially the only Hindu country in the world till recent) along with a large Buddhist and a small number of Muslims and Christians too. With a GDP of 15 billion dollars, Agriculture remains one of the important sources of revenue, besides tourism.
Being a land locked country the nearest sea-port for Nepal is Kolkata (India). India and Nepal have an open border policy and an Indian tourist will feel this the moment one touches down at the Tribhuvan International Airport where he is treated as a ‘Local’. Indian rupee is widely accepted and the entry fee for most tourist attractions is what the Nepalis pay. October to Feb is the tourist season and Pokara is a much sought after destination being a city closest to Himalayas. From being a monarchy for several centuries, marked by family feuds, assassinations and a prolonged armed struggle Nepal is now a democratic country. As any other SAARC countries with an exception of one or two the civic sense still needs catching up at Kathmandu valley but in general the Nepalis are very cordial and hospitable people.
Amongst the various tourist attractions some of the important ones are: Narayanhithi Palace which has recently been converted to a museum is worth the visit and the adjacent old palace where the royal massacre took place has been razed. Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu, Boudhanath Stupa and the Bhaktapur Durbar square are all on world heritage center lists and are a must see. Qaiser Mahal or the garden of dreams is a paradise in itself and worth timing it around lunch time. Baber Mahal Revisited is a historical monument that is now converted into a shopping destination that is culturally unique. Nepal Chulo is a 150 year old palatial house that serves traditional Nepali cuisine.
There’s something for everyone and the Kathmandu Zoo is convenient and worth visiting for the elephant ride and the Rhino’s. July/August is a monsoon season and therefore one may or may not see the Himalayas from the outskirts of Kathmandu or even the nearby hills of Lazimpath. We therefore took a mountain flight to get a closer glimpse of the Himalayas and the world’s tallest mountain peak ‘Sagar Matha’ ( the Mount Everest) that is estimated to be around 8,848 meters high (29,000 feet!!). Talking of expeditions I am not aware of any ‘mangalorean’ having reached this mountain summit. Well a challenge for readers here, from our region and a good place to start training is the Kudremukh, Karnataka, India that is 1,892 meters high or our own Jebel Hafeet in Al Ain, UAE which is at 1,250 meters. A greater challenge though would be funds as the permit cost alone, to climb Mount Everest is USD 25,000/-
Our flight back to the UAE took off at about 5.00 pm in the evening and reached an altitude of nearly 9,000 meters and not surprisingly we were able to watch the magnificent Himalayas all along our way for almost 45 minutes till we turned west wards near Himachal Pradesh (India) . As the mountains started to fade I grabbed an in-flight magazine and my heart melted as it read ‘Tourism year 2011, Naturally Nepal, Once is never enough’ ; how true, I said to myself, time and resources being available yes we shall return for the ‘Natural Nepal’.