A Non-Trekking Guide to Nepal
Our third trip of 2019 was a short one. We decided to head to Nepal for the Eid long weekend. It wasn't the first choice.. but it was the easiest one because of it's proximity to Dubai, cheap tickets and of course, no visa application. We were sold. *Whoop*!
Itinerary break down:
Day 1 - overnight drive to Pokhara from Kathmandu
Day 2 - Pokhara
Day 3 - Chitwan stay
Day 4 - Chitwan stay
Day 5 - Kathmandu, half day
Best time to visit
We went off season, as usual. It was sweltering hot and I was left with a terrible tan. If you are looking to trek, the season starts from September.... if you want to go during winter, head there between January to March.
Flights and Visa
We flew with Fly Dubai - a short 4 hour flight from Dubai.
No Visa required for Indians - just a straightforward exit after immigration.
Nepalese.. but people speak Hindi and English, to some extent.
Travel and Medical Insurance, Currency
Definitely recommend having medical insurance.. Nepali Rupees is the official currency but most places accept dollars or Indian Rupees.
Where we stayed
Pokhara - we stayed at the Glacier Hotel. I chose this hotel for it's great location and amazing restaurant options. Was not disappointed. Although the wi-fi was practically non-existent throughout our stay.
Chitwan - easily the highlight of our trip. The Barahi Jungle Resort is eco-friendly and in the middle of nowhere - allow enough time to get here and back since the roads are under construction. Right from the get go, we felt like royalty.
Cost and getting around
We anticipated crazy traffic and windy roads and decided to avoid driving ourselves. Taking the bus was the next cheap option but we didn't have the liberty of time. So we decided to hire a private car with a driver to take us around the country.
I got in touch with Puru from Above Himalayan Trekking. I was impressed with his quick response time and competitive pricing. I do recommend them - be sure to ask for a BIG car with air conditioning.
It was supposed to be flooding but we didn't see water anywhere.. the roads driving to and from Kathmandu can be risky, especially if you are driving at night - avoid it, if possible. People were warm and welcoming, no other issues with safety.
Plenty of vegetarian options - from Italian to Indian to Nepali food. Everything we tried was spot on and reasonably priced. Of course, we had momos at least once a day - the spicy chutney was SO GOOD. Don't miss it.
What to pack
If traveling in July and August:
Shorts. Light tees. Skirts. Wrap around dresses. Pack for HOT summer.
We landed at 12 30 am in Kathmandu. Our driver, Rosan, was waiting for us outside the airport. We headed straight to Pokhara.. after 6 hours and few stops, we arrived at our hotel at 6 30 a.m. Welcome to the MIDDLE of Nepal... and the trekkers paradise. Pokhara is renowned for being the starting for many amazing treks to Annapurna.
One power nap, a quick shower and a delicious brunch later - we set out to explore the city.
We stayed at a central location and everything was within walking distance... but the best part? Waking up to this view.. that's right, we were right in front of the Phewa Lake.
For NPR 800, you can get a ride on this boat... you will need to if you want to visit the beautiful Tal Barahi temple in the middle of this large lake.
After a quick 10 minute stop at the temple, the driver dropped us off on the other side of the river - from where we hiked up a steep path for 45 minutes to reach the beautiful World Peace Pagoda.
The stupa - painted white, standing tall over a hill against blue skies. It really is one of the most serene places I have been to in a while.
Oh and you also get amazing views of the city from up there.. so don't be afraid of the climb up. It is worth it!
By the time we got back to the hotel, it was around 5 pm and we were pretty exhausted after a day out in the sun. The rest of the day was spent chillin' and enjoying real good food!
We had an early start to the day. Woke up at the crack of dawn and hiked up to Sarangkot.. it takes a good 2 hours to get to the "view spot".. it wasn't very chilly but there was hardly any light along the way. I highly recommend getting a guide from the hotel to help you get to the point.
No matter how early you get there, the sunrise happens at the same time - which means, you will have a lot of tourist crowd and buses here.. but on a clear day, you can see stunning views of the Annapurna-Himalayan slopes.
The sunrise was around 5 31 am.. after which we walked back to the hotel and rested for a few hours. Post lunch, we ventured out to explore few of the local spots like the Gupteshwar Mahadev Cave Temple and Devi's Fall.
We were back just in time for cafe hopping.. and this beautiful sunset at the Phewa Lake!
From Pokhara, we drove to Chitwan to stay at the stunning Bahari Lodge Resort, a luxury eco-friendly resort just next to the Chitwan National Park. It took us a good 6 hours to get here - just in time for lunch.
At 3, we did a jeep safari in the outskirts of the National Park, since the core area was inaccessible due to it being off season. The sighting of animals was beautiful, albeit fleeting.
We had a chance to see elephants, spotted deer and of course, the rhino.
After about 2 hours, we decided to head further out to catch the sunset. We were the only ones at this spot, it was an exclusive set for guests who book a boat safari with the Barahi Lodge. You can enjoy the sunset with tea, coffee or other refreshments!
This point is the confluence of Rapti and Narayani river in Meghauli. Can you see the faint line behind us? It really was a special evening.. being the only ones here was extra romantic :)
We spent another day in Chitwan - this was the highlight of our trip. If you stay at the Barahi Lodge, you have access to amazing activities inside and outside the resort. Some are paid, some are free. One of the unpaid activities we chose to do was Elephant feeding. Nice and early in the morning, the two girls - 6 year old Tulsi and 17 year old Subakali - were waiting for us by the pool side. At the beginning, they were weary of us.. but they warmed up to us as soon as we started to feed them!
We spent a good few hours with these beauties.. after breakfast, you can also spend time bathing them by the riverside. It was by far my favorite thing about the trip.. if you stay at the lodge, be sure to do this.
The rest of the day was spent having delicious food, visiting the spa and witnessing a stunning sunset right from the lounge of the resort. I could not recommend this place enough. Worth every penny. From the service, to the ambiance, to the food - everything was just spectacular.
I had read a lot about Kathmandu before the trip and people were not wrong - it was congested, crowded and dusty. Thankfully we only spent a few hours in the city before our flight back home.
We still decided to go around for a few hours in the evening - especially because it finally rained.
The streets were filled with shops... for everything from cheap souvenirs to trek poles.
We only had time to do one temple so we decided to walk to the Swaymbunath temple - about 25 minutes from the city center. This a beautifully constructed structure with beautiful pillars and statues.. oh and stairs, lots of it. Once you get to the top, you see the massive Stupa.. laden with cloth and bells.
It was pretty crowded in the evening.. but the view with dark clouds leering over the city was stunning.
If you only have time to do one temple, you can definitely this one a visit!
Yes, you can visit Nepal without having to trek. You already know we like to trek no matter where we go.. so it was ironic that we went to the trekking capital of South East Asia without doing a single trek. There is a lot more to Nepal that trekking.. with lake and mountain slopes in every corner.
On hindsight, we needed this trip to unwind after a hectic second quarter at work and this trip was all about relaxing and SLOW traveling.. savoring every last bit of that delicious momo, taking in the pristine sunset and just watching a movie at the end of the day without being exhausted.
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