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Nepal: how long and what to see?

Old Mar 30th, 2006, 05:01 AM
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Nepal: how long and what to see?

Somewhere late this year, I will make a trip to Nepal and Bhutan. We were planning on 6 or 7 days in Nepal before moving on to Bhutan. I know Kathie told me to limit the trip to Bhutan for security reasons in Nepal, but I'm told that Nepal is OK if you stay in and around KTM and Pokhara. And I cannot resist stepping out of the airport in KTM on the way to Bhutan. 7 days in Nepal and 7 in Bhutan, sounds balanced. Is it?
For Nepal I was thinking of a programme like this:
day 1: city of KTM
day 2: Bhakatpur and Changu Narayan
day 3: Swayakbhunat, Bodnath and Pashupatinath
day 4: Patan and evening flight to Pokhara
day 5: Pokhara
day 6: return to KTM and on to Bhutan
Is it too cramped? Am I leaving something really important out? Suggestions?
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Old Mar 30th, 2006, 05:46 AM
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If it were me, I'd spend more time in Bhutan than in Nepal. I also wouldn't fly to Pokara - flights are not that relaible. I'd spend maybe 5 days in the Kathmandu valley then head to Bhutan. If you are interested, I typed up some info for Bob who was considering a trip to Nepal, but cancelled due to the political turmoil.
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Old Mar 30th, 2006, 05:56 AM
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Cram, I decided I might just as well post the info since I offered it:

Here's a short summary of the highlights of the Kathmandu Valley from my travel journal, circa 1994:

We stayed at the Yak and Yeti, the elegant old hotel in town. The Hyatt was not yet built (or even rumored). Staying out of town will mean you'll have better air quality. Really, the air is the most polluted of anyplace I've been. And the tap water was considered the worst in the world. I hope they've cleaned it up at bit! We loved the Yak and Yeti. If you can, have dinner one night at the Chimney Room, which serve Continental cuisine with a Russian accent. It was exquisite.

We got our visas on arrival. It took forever, so get them ahead of time.

Our first day in Kathmandu was interesting. After checking into our hotel, we walked the Durbar Marg (main street) to look around. The street was lined with soldiers with guns with bayonets. Then we saw Generals in jeeps driving down the street and clearing it of traffic and stray dogs. It seemed odd, but I couldn't imagine what was going on. I found a shopkeeper who spoke English and asked him what was happening and he told me "The King is coming!!" It was the day for the King to address parliament. Eventually, we saw the King in his stretch Mercedes Limo be driven the length of the Durbar Marg to the Parliament (Parliament is at one end of the street, the Palace at the other end). An hour later, he was driven back to the Palace. Oh, I forgot to mention the bagpipers... It was an auspicious beginning to our stay in the Kathmandu Valley.

We talked with the men who picked us up at the airport in an ancient Mercedes, and they became our driver and guide for the trip.

We did a lot of walking in Kathmandu itself, the Durbar Marg, Thamel (the backpackers area - it felt like being transported to the late 1960s) and Durbar Square. We also went to visit the Living Goddess. That was very interesting. I remember talking with Rai (our guide) about what happens to these young women once they are no longer the Living Goddess.

Outside of Kathmandu: we went to Swayambunath, atop a hill outside of the city. This is the instantly recognizable stupa with the enormous all-seeing eyes of the Buddha on it. Form there we went to Patan to the Tibetan refugee camp. We purchased a couple of carpets at the camp (they had the lowest prices we saw.) We went to the Durbar Square in Patan, visited temples, and shopped in the area around the square, which is where we found Tibetan items. I purchased a lovely little silver Buddha there. The stolen prayer wheel [I had a burglury at my house last July] came from a shop in this area. You could spend a whole day in the Patan area.

Another day was visiting Boudnath Stupa, the largest in Nepal, where monks walk around the stupa, prostrating themselves every two steps. The next stop was Pasherpatinath, on the Bagmati river (which flows to the Ganges) and is the Hindu temple for cremations. There were a number of "baba" (Hindu holy men) there, and we talked to one who grew up in Chicago (no kidding!). We then went on to Bhaktapur. Bhaktapur is lovely - it is unchanged for centuries, so it is like walking back into medieval Nepal. The old brink buildings have elaborately carved wooden windows. We walked through the winding streets, some a mere 6 feet wide, the roofs of the buildings almost meeting overhead. There were goat tethered to door steps, eating the trimmings of cauliflower and broccoli, chickens, ducks, the occasional cow and the ubitiquous dog. This is another full day.

One day, we took the flight that flies along the mountain ridge so you can see Mt. Everest. With your limited time in Nepal, I'd skip it.

We did go to Nagarkot to see the sunrise over Everest. It was c-c-c-cold. And it was foggy. I wouldn't do it again. The really interesting part of that trip was our stop at Changu Narayan, one of the oldest temples in Nepal. To get there, we parked the car, then walked though the center of the village on a long walkway to get to the temple. The temple was lovely and we were the only westerners; there were only a couple of locals offering prayers. The walk through the village was amazing. We really saw glimpses into their everyday lives - a meeting at the school, a 2 year old playing on the steps in mom's high heels, women making balls of dung for fuel or washing clothes. It was fascinating. Depending on what time your flight leaves. you could do this your last morning.

Well, this may be too much for your days in Kathmandu. Let me know if there is other info that would be helpful.
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Old Mar 30th, 2006, 06:35 AM
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Kathie + others, we are putting in actually 8 days for Bhutan, staying in the Western part of the country (Thimpu, Punakha, Paro and Haa area). For Nepal, do you think that the days are too loaded or should we re-arrange things a bit? Is there a feasible alternative to have a good look at the Himalaya mountain tops, apart from going to Pokhara? I thought there were quite a number of flights available going to Pukhara from KTM and back?
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Old Mar 30th, 2006, 06:40 AM
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cram, there are quite a number of flights to Pokara - the question is whether they really fly. When we were there, the problems with fog (quite common)were such that no flights left in the morning at all. The domestic flights were jammed with people, goats, chickens, rolls of wire fencing, etc. Lots of people weren't getting on a flight because so many were cancelled.

If you really want to see the mountains, the best view is from a small plane. They fly you up the canyon, and you see the full range of the mountains. That way you get above the clouds and fog. If you want to take a flight, reserve that whole day for it, as we had an 8 am flight, and didn't actually go until noon or so. The flights to see Everest (and other peaks) were on planes that were much better than the domestic airlines' planes.
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Old Mar 30th, 2006, 06:46 AM
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I suppose that going to Punakha by car is an expedition of long duration and with security risk?
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Old Mar 30th, 2006, 06:47 AM
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Sorry, I meant Pokhara, of course. Always mix them up.
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Old Mar 30th, 2006, 07:15 AM
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Didn`t I read the yak n yeti closed? We stayed there too, but it has been some years ago, long before the massacre.
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Old Mar 30th, 2006, 10:04 AM
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The Maoists close the roads periodically. There have been both threats and shootings of buses or vehicles that have violated the closure. I wouldn't opt for a drive to Pokhara.

I did read on this board that the Yak and Yeti closed. I alsoread someplace else that it had reopend, so I don't know what the current status is.
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Old Mar 30th, 2006, 01:01 PM
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OK, so not by road to Pokhara and by plane it is unreliable. So you think I should forget about Pokhara? Is there any way of getting a proper sighting of the high mountains without this special flight over the mountains. This is probably very expensive and lasts maybe half an hour or so? Am rather puzzled.
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Old Mar 30th, 2006, 01:15 PM
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For such a short trip, I think you should forget Pokhara.

The flight to see Everest was about an hour - the price wasn't terrible. Check into it when you get there. Nagarkot is where people often go to try to see the sunrise over Everest. It was foggy when we went. At the time I was there, there was nothing at Nagarkot except a small (unheated) teahouse. I understand there are now lots of hotels out there. So I don't know what your chances are of actually seeing Everest. I was there in December, and apparently, there is often fog at that time of the year.
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