Breathtaking Nepal to end travel hiatus

PRASANNA KRISHNAN

It felt good to embark on a leisure trip for the first time after more than two years. At the height of the pandemic, I often wondered if and when I would get to travel again.

Nepal came calling.

I travelled to the capital Kathmandu via New Delhi on June 15. The airfare was about $1,200, which was a bit high as flights were still limited. But there were no regrets.

I stayed at Nagarkot, a town some 30km from Kathmandu, in Bhaktapur district. I booked a room at Bojinee Nagarkot Resort, which is situated on a beautiful hill and offers breathtaking views. On a good day, you can even see the Himalayas.

Bojinee is a decent three-star hotel. I paid about $190 for five nights. It did not have a lift and my room was on the fourth floor.

The temperature was cool - which I liked.

A minor earthquake welcomed me in the middle of the first night. I felt my room shake but thought fatigue was making me imagine unlikely scenarios as I hardly slept the day before.

It was confirmed the following day that an earthquake did indeed hit Nepal.

Fortunately there were no damage, injuries or loss of life - much to the relief of those who had experienced the deadly quake in April 2015.

The nocturnal earthquake measured 4.7 on the Richter scale, its epicentre at Changunarayan in Bhaktapur - not far from where I was staying.

I visited the region on my second day. I kept my plans simple and did not venture beyond Bhaktapur and Kathmandu but there was plenty to see.

Nepal is known for its Hindu temples. I visited the famous Pashupathinath temple in Kathmandu.

I queued for about an hour to reach the sanctum of the main deity. There was quite a crowd as it was a Sunday.

Photos were not allowed within the temple premises. Armed policemen were stationed to grab your phone and delete any photos taken without permission.

Some 3km away was a well-known Buddhist temple called Boudhanath. Its surroundings resembled a shopping district in a European city.

I visited at least six temples in Kathmandu and Bhaktapur.

I also made a trip to Chandragiri Hills, from where one can see the Himalayas and Mount Everest. Unfortunately for me, it was a cloudy day and I could not see much.

A cable car ride took me to the top of Chandragiri Hills - which is located 2,500m above sea level.

The views were stunning from the peak, which was chilly by my standards - the locals say it's warm if temperatures hit 29 deg C.

I warmed myself up at Himalayan Java Coffee, which sells arguably the best Western coffees in Nepal using locally-cultivated beans.

One has to climb many steps or trek uphill to visit many places in Nepal. This is why most of the Nepalese I saw looked fit.

On my last day, I visited Durbar Marg, a posh shopping district in Kathmandu. But many of the shop units in the malls were empty, probably hit by the pandemic.

Durbar Marg is also where visitors go to visit the Narayanhiti Palace Museum, the former palace of Nepal's king. The palace was converted into a museum in 2008 following the revolution in 2006 that led to the monarchy being abolished.

I spent a total of six days in Nepal, whose streets and culture resemble India's. I was not adventurous enough to venture far and explore on my own as this was my first trip in a long time.

I was accompanied by a friendly tour guide from the Bojinee hotel.

The trip went well despite the disappointment in not catching a glimpse of the Himalayas.

I shall return.

prasanna@sph.com.sg

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