March 2017 – Fast Travel
During my visit to Kathmandu, I was still working a full time job.
The Good: any trip anywhere is always worth it, especially when you’re still getting paid for your time off. While I love taking it slow and relaxing, sometimes I really enjoy the fast paced thrill of seeing and experiencing as much as possible in a short amount of time. I love the rush of being in three different cities in one week.
The Not So Good: American style holiday is already super fast to begin with. According to the all truthful internets, the average amount of paid time off for an American is 10-14 days, with about 25% of working Americans getting none at all. And even if they have paid time off, most Americans just don’t travel (top reasons: money, debt, fear, ignorance.. womp womp womp..). I’m lucky enough to have about four weeks with the option of working extra and banking vacation hours, but I’m still only allowed to take off two weeks at a time, in which I would pack as many countries in as comfortably possible. With very limited time for vacation, I’m barely able to skim the surface of a experiencing a new culture. I also love meeting new people, but with fast travel it’s usually difficult to really connect with others. With less time to navigate my way around, I end up spending more money for the convenience of time. For instance, for this trip, I booked my private driver directly through the hotel manager, which I knew was more expensive than if I had the time to ask around and negotiate prices and itineraries. Sometimes I just have to drop the loot and hit the ground running. But…. I do this so often that I have somewhat have it down to a science.
The Itinerary, 3 nights in the Valley:
Kathmandu Durbar Square
Patan Durbar Square
Kailashnath Mahadev Statue
On a sad note, I totally missed Swayambhunath Temple (Monkey Temple) during my whirlwind trip. This will be my first destination when I return!
I’m not sure what I was expecting.. sometimes I will research the hell out of a destination before I go. Sometimes I’m so busy with work and life that I barely get to google the “must see” highlights. First thing’s first: I didn’t die from elevation sickness. Kathmandu is actually in a valley at 4,593 feet. Long story short, I was traumatized in Cusco by the severity of my elevation sickness (compare at 11,152 feet). I brought my pulse oximeter (measures your oxygen) with me to make sure I was still alive and/or to feed my neurosis. My pulse ox was at 99% so I was able to relax upon arriving.
I noticed was that the city reminded me of India, but much more relaxed. Then I started to observe the Buddhist, Hindu, Mongolian, Indian, and Tibetan influences everywhere. The people were absolutely beautiful.
Thamel: The tourist/backpacker central. I decided to stay here to make things as easy as possible: food, transportation, hotels, and ATM’s. Everything is overpriced as expected. I spent way more money in Kathmandu than I thought I would, but que sera. I stayed at the Pariwar Hotel (B&B?), although I don’t think they actually served you breakfast like a B&B usually does. I booked my whole tour itinerary upon checking in and the manager tried to upsell me more tours. Convenient, but not the smartest or cost effective way to explore, but I was on a limited time schedule, so I just wanted to get it over with and go. They upgraded my room which was nice, but the other less than nicey details are floating around in a Booking.com review somewhere. Don’t buy your souvenirs in Thamel if you can help it. Technically, the difference in prices can only be a few dollars, but I always feel like a total sucka when I go down the street and find out I got hustled for twice the price, even after negotiating hard.
Kathmandu Durbar Square: From Thamel, take a nice long walk down to Kathmandu Durbar Square. Transportation is plentiful but I usually prefer walking and seeing things as I go along.
after two days with no sleep, and a rough start in Kathmandu, these four rascals ambushed me, hitting me up for money in Durbar Square. usually id be annoyed but by the end of our encounter, they emptied all their pockets, tried to give me all the money they collected, showed me their wrestler sticker collection, and smothered me in hugs 💕
I took an early trip to Nagarkot to catch a Himalayan sunrise as suggested (upsold) by the hotel/tour manager. After several hours of driving uphill on a bumpy road, I started to notice a change in my breathing and heart rate. I was so wiped out from all my traveling and transfers that I had failed to do any research and didn’t realize I was going up a mountain. Of course, I started a panicking and almost made my driver, named Karma, turn around. I did lots of relaxation breathing techniques on the drive up and convinced myself I was not going to die (yes, I’m that crazy). The elevation was 7201 feet, so my physical symptoms weren’t all in my head.
When we got to the top, we did get to enjoy a beautiful sunrise with the Himalayan snow caps in the background. I had also underestimated the temperature and was freezing with only a hoodie and scarf when I should have been wearing a down winter coat.
In the background there is a tree bearing beautiful red flowers that so the locals seem to really love. People were climbing the tree to get the flowers and posed with them for pictures. Later on I met a local who had lived in the states for several years, who told me it was the Rhododendron, the national flower of Nepal.
This massive Buddhist stupa is one of the largest in the world and is quite spectacular. Definitely find a place for lunch or a drink around the stupa with a rooftop view.
I bought this singing bowl at the Himalayan Singing Bowl Center right next to the stupa. I had a very good experience here with the staff and the bowls were of great quality. The prices are also much better than in Thamel.
The oldest temple in Kathmandu, Pashupatinath is found along the holy Bagmati River and is dedicated to Pashupati, an avatar of the Lord Shiva. Getting to the temple area is a bit unclear. You pay the entrance fee and get a ticket, then they direct to to walk in a certain direction that leads to a road. I had to ask around where I should be walking.
When I arrived at the area where they were cremating the bodies, I met a guy who offered to be a tour guide. I declined like usual and told him I didn’t have any money, which was actually true. I was spending more cash that I thought. He said he only wanted my used ticket stub when I left, so I agreed. He brought me around some of the little corners that I would have missed on my own and told me about some of the cultural practices of Nepal.
In the Nepalese Hindu tradition, the body is prepared prior to cremation by washing it in the river to end the cycle of reincarnation. Family members also may bathe in the river after the cremation. The holy waters of Bagmati wash away sins and purify the soul. The body pictured in the middle is about to be prepared for cremation.
Far away from the fast paced chaos of Kathmandu is this peaceful mountain oasis. My driver actually loves coming here because it’s so peaceful and beautiful. He told me to take my take and relax.. so he could also do the same. This place was a real treat to visit.
Patan Durbar Square, Lalitpur
This place was an adventure in itself.. so many places to visit and things to see. In my next visit to Nepal, I would stay in this location instead of Thamel. I spent hours here and could have spent much longer relishing the little surprises around each corner.
Pottery Square was a real treat for me as I love pottery and ceramics.
Kailashnath Mahadev Statue
The tallest statue of Shiva in the world is pretty spectacular in person. Photos can’t capture the experience. It’s ginormous at a whopping 144 feet tall. Om Namah Shivaya.
This trip was plugged into my itinerary by the hotel manager that booked my tours. I wouldn’t have found this place on my own. The panoramic views were stunning and Karma and I did make it to the Giant Buddha. We were driving around trying to find the landmarks.