Notes from Nepal

Considering a visit to Nepal? Or maybe you’re already on your way? I’d like to share with you some notes from my recent journey to this wonderful land of mystical mountains, jungles and people.

Background info

Trip date: 6.10.2017–17.10.2017

Areas visited: Kathmandu, Pokhara, Lower Himalayas (Ulleri, Ghode Pani-Poon Hill, Tadapani, Jungi — a 5 day trek).

Travelled with one person (Lee Cherry).

Weather conditions

It was supposed to rain a lot, or at least we were told it was ‘the end of the low season with lots of rain’. To our delight and surprise we didn’t experience rain at all during the trek, just a few refreshing showers on some evenings :)

Average temperatures: Kathmandu & Pokhara 15–30 degrees

In the mountains during the trek: 5–25 degrees

If you’re about to trek in The Himalayas, a few things to consider:

  • hiking sticks — you can buy them in the city of Kathmandu, average price 20 eur or alternatively use bamboo sticks ;) it helped me immensely to have them!
  • DEET cream against mosquitoes (useful night and day)
  • forehead torch (for pre-sunrise hiking, plus some bathrooms don’t have electricity)
  • mosquito net for your head (useful in the jungle and when sleeping in some places)
  • salt to tackle the leeches
  • over-ankle, waterproof trekking shoes
  • a pair of sandals
  • plastic bin bags
  • toilet paper
  • antibacterial gel
  • rain poncho
  • a few pairs of white over-ankle socks — they make it easier to spot leeches on you
  • if you sweeten your tea/coffee having sugar with you is handy; when it’s served locally, you’re likely to find ants :)
  • sleeping bag is not a must in a low-medium season, otherwise advised
  • expect spiders, mosquitoes, leeches, snails, bugs and ticks
  • white moths are supposed to be poisonous — or at least that’s what I’ve heard from some local folks, so better to avoid them
  • have a guide with you. Without our guide we would have not known about some used-to-be popular paths that recently suffered from land slides and have become too dangerous to traverse
  • if you get really tired and very hot, a trick that helped me: take off your hat, put it under a cold stream, and wear it wet. The stream water is not good for drinking but it’s supposed to be safe to splash your body and clothing with and will keep you cool whilst you walk.

Generally, I highly recommend hiking — a beautiful experience! At times, it requires more mental than physical strength! These five days in the middle of the hills and nature with no wifi and mobile range were extremely refreshing.

People

Religion/spirituality is very tangible in Nepal with its citizens. It’s mostly a mixture of Hindu & Buddhist. Maybe this is a contributor to the fact that generally people were kind, and seemed happy and peaceful. It felt safe even when walking at night outside of Thamel. We also had a chance to visit one of the local families and see how they live. A great majority of the society seems to struggle with meeting ends. From my observation — they have little (in a standard way of perceiving wealth) and a lot at the same time (close knits between families, connection, nature of an unprecedented beauty).

Some of Kathmandu’s landmarks

Fabric stores with beautiful cashmere, yak and silk products are all over the place. Some of them belong to local NGOs supporting women empowerment.

Cyclo-fruit folks are all over the place too! As with all other items you may purchase be aware of the prices (unless you don’t mind overpaying). For example, a fair price for a kg of pomegranate is 3 eur. Some sellers will try to charge you 10 eur.

The fruit is super delicious 😋

Stupas & Temples

Kathmandu is covered with religious sites, ranging from small that may take up to one square meter, through some bigger ones (such as those of Durbar Square), to large monuments of Buddhist Stupas (sometimes mistakenly called ‘Temples’, e.g. ‘The Monkey Temple’)

What’s amazing about Kathmandu and Nepal in general is that all the religions seem to coexist peacefully and with a mutual respect.

Dust

Yes, a noticeable amount of dust will find a new home in your lungs for sure. It’s due to the very poor condition of roads. Locals use masks to protect themselves. I remember that at first Lee had thought it’s to stop spreading cold/cough. But we learned soon enough (after a few city strolls) that masks have another purpose :)

Food, foodie 😍

Nepal, due to its history and geopolitics, is a mixture of Nepalese, Tibetan and Indian cuisine.

So in the majority of places you can find all of the cuisines represented quite well :)

So some of the must-eats & drinks

  • variety of veg curry 🍛. it’s a good spot for vegetarians
  • daal phat (Nepalese specialty) — veg!
  • spring rolls (Nepalese style — quite different from the spring-rolls served in the West)
  • hot lemon honey ginger tea ☕️ — a long name for a tea ;) so damn delicious (locals sometimes replace honey with sugar, then it doesn’t taste that good..)
  • mo mo — Tibetan dumplings
  • govi roti and aloo roti — Nepalese variation of Indian dish
  • ‘Divine Wine’ a cheap, sweet, and most popular among locals winevariety of fried and stirred rice and noodle dishes

$$$$ — prices

On average in a Thamel-based restaurant, a meal for two people (a drink and a main dish) carries an average price range of 14–19 eur. Outside of Thamel you may pay less than 10 eur for the same food. There are also some cheaper bars but with you may risk becoming sick due to lax hygiene during food preparation.

Generally, beer is quite expensive; a bottle (600ml) usually cost over 4 eur. Very popular brands are Everest and Gurkha

Each place adds VAT (13%) on top and the majority of restaurants will request a 10% service charge. So the price you see on a menu is not the final one ☝️

$$$$ — smart with money

  • in Thamel the prices are usually higher
  • if you fancy drinking, especially long drinks, at many bars you will find a happy hour from 5–7pm
  • bring cash, international currency to exchange it at an exchange office (instead of using ATM or banks). It’s rare to find places accepting card payments
  • tips are appreciated and in the majority of places you can find a tipping box — this way your tip will be divided equally among be staff (so we’ve been told)
  • if you care, compare prices — for example the same yak blanket may range between 5 to 15 eur
  • generally you can always bargain. Though remember to stay reasonable — a dollar for you might equal a day of living for a family.

Animals of Nepal

Nepal is covered with, what we Westerners consider, stray animals — dogs, cats and cows are all over the place. They are very peaceful and don’t bother you as long as you don’t bother them.

It’s not an unusual thing to see a cow chilling in the middle of a busy road or on a pavement. They are free to walk wherever and you rarely see them tied. Happy cows?

In the jungle you can find some yaks, buffalos and mules. Again very peaceful. At first, it was quite scary to just walk next to them.

Last but not least, monkeys! They are all over the place. Very popular in Kathmandu and around Stupas. You can meet gangs of monkeys walking together through the streets. Close your windows at night if staying in a monkey area otherwise they may pay you a visit ;-).

Getting around

We found the traffic quite insane and overwhelming at first. Bikes, motorbikes, busses, cars, animals, people just moving in all directions without noticeable guidance and rules. Self-organization seems to work for them quite well!

Crossing roads may get difficult at times :-) if you struggle, the best trick is to find a local who passes too and tag along.

The fastest way to get through the city is on a motorbike. Tried it and it was a cool experience.

Taxis are widely available. A fair rate to get between the airport and Thamel is about 500–600 NR.

My favorites about this journey:

  1. Trekking through The Himalayas
  2. The mixture of cuisines available
  3. No Poles! Hahahaha ;-). It’s the first country that I’ve experienced where we’re not well known.

“Where are you from?”

“Poland”

“O! Holland. Nice!”

“No, no, Poland with P”

“Oh… (confused) where is it?” :-)


Hope you found some useful information here! Also, if you have any questions leave a comment and I’ll get back to you.

Enjoy your journey and once back let me know how you found Nepal :)