Dreams - Fotografické služby

Nepal - February 2011

17.04.2011 15:06


The more you keep discovering, the more you find. And I´m not talking about the usually popular places, those are sites that become your own personal favourites as they simply match your preference for a dream destination or simply what you like. However there have always been couple of places I wanted to see – thanks to their natural beauty , cultural heritage or spiritual power. As majority of the destinations on the Western hemisphere stands, with couple of exceptions, for the natural beauties, particulary Asia is very much indeed linked to the spiritual content. And across all the countries in there Nepal was always a highlight on my ´must visit´ list.

Having planned the trip couple of times in the last 3 years, in February 2011 I´ve finally managed to find couple of spare days off and flew to Bangkok first. The purpose of this routing was really simply as I needed to buy a wooden picture of Buddha at Bangkok´s weekend market. And now I fully appreciate why it´s called the ´weekend´ one. And that there´s no reason turning up on Monday afternoon… However Thailand is a lovely place to come anytime so at least I have had a nice dinner at the Siam Centre. You really can´t get any better curry in the world than in here – for just 60 Thai Baht (about 2.50USD) you get a choice of two mains (either curry or Tom Yum soup) plus rice and we´re not talking about eating on the street. This is air-conditioned shopping centre with a high quality food so for those who are slightly afrraid to use the street eateries or stand, this is a paradise. Following a short rest in a hotel downtown Bangkok I came back to the Suvarnabhumi airport to catch a morning flight to Kathmandu.

This takes about 3hrs with a lovely view of having the Himalayas on your right hand side during the approach. Despite talking about the high spiritual expectation at the top of this blog I have to say that I was also expecting a similar atmosphere as in India. Which is a great country but a very special in terms how the people behave towards foreigners and how those feel about it, when being there for the first time. But Nepal and Kathmandu as the capital is different. Really, really different and I felt it after 10minutes of walking downtown. The people are extremely nice, positive, smiling all arend and most of all, they take you as an equal one. They obviously see and know you´re a tourist or foreigner and in the tourist areas do approach you to buy souvernirs. But in a way you don´t mind – they love to talk and mainly listen to what you say. And if you decice to go away and you do it with a smile and thank you, they don´t mind. Additionally you really feel save wherever and whenever you go. Even being on a dark street in a late evening, with no tourguide and carrying big camera in my hands, I felt absolutely safe. Which to be honest I would never do in India or Peru.

But coming back to the arrival in Kathmandu, we have in advance booked a stay in a lovely hotel, which offered us complimentary return airport transfer and pick-up straight after arrival. The arrival process took about 30mins because we have had to apply for visa. The visa upon arrival is available for 15days and costs USD25.

Thanks to my great friend Babeta, who is a real expert on Nepal, having done the Himalaya treks many times, she gladly linked me with her local partners in Kathmandu.  As we were really staying there just for 2nights, they came up with a tailored made programme consisting of a half day in the afternoon on day of arrival and a full following day. Having been met by the agency´s Operations Manager at the hotel lobby I have been presented to our assigned tourguide, Narayan, and our driver. Narayan exactly matched my vision of how a Nepalese tourguide should look like – tall, slim, handsome (yes girls, check him out on facebook) and always positive and smiling. What I was really not expecting his briliant Oxford English with a deep vocabulary like Thesaurus. And of course the in depth knowledge of anything you could just think of in terms of Nepal or the mountains (so even the waiter in one of the rooftop resturants where we went for a cup of coffee was asking Narayan how the mountains back there are being called).

We started the afternoon with a drive to the Swyambhu Nath Stupa, including Swyambhu Nath , 2000 yrs old Buddhist Stupa - situated on top of a hillock with bird's eye view of kathmandu city. This being about 20mins ride by car from the hotel, you can already feel the spiritual magic of the Nepal in here – with many locals coming up here to have a pray. Plus the stupa and surrounding houses are truly lovely too. From here we have continued to the main point of interest in Kathmandu, Durbar Square. Having parked the car underneath at the river, we have passed a small local market on the bridge and went through the tiny narrow strees, surrounded by a mixture of up to 200years old houses. Have to say that Kathmandu is of course a poor city in terms of the Western standards, the houses are shabby and streets dirty but you get used to it. I mean really quickly and you start loving it. What in India takes you two days to accept, here takes 10minutes! So after about a 15mins walk we turned up at the square which is literally like to be 500 years back into the history. Some of the temples come from the 16th century and the mixture of this historical architecture with the small local markets on almost every corner, people and monks praying and the neverending smiles all around will just hold your heart. After being there for half and hour I knew that 2days will not be enough and I will feel extremely sorry to fly away. I strongly recommned to pay a visit to the Durbar square in the morning and in the afternoon again – cause when you climb to one of the rooftop cafes, which you find in most of the houses around the square, you will not just a wonderful bird-eye view on the square itself but mainly on the hilltops in the far distance. Despite this is about 60km you can see how impressive their heights are. And having seen the sun reflection in the snow on the peaks during the sunset, this can´t get any more romantic, I would suppose. Just maybe to sip a tea just under the Everest… Should you want to try some of the local delicacies, try to Mo-Mo, small dumplings filled either with vegetables or meat which are really yummy.

The following morning we have been picked-up by Narayan at 8hrs and took about 90mins ride to Nagarkot which is about 35kms away. After climbing on a zif zag road for about 700m you end up in a natural reserve with terrace field, pines and most of all, wonderful views of the Himalaya range. This is obviously very dependant on weather and having seen the whole of Kathmandu in a myst that morning, I was nervous until the very last moment whether will see anything at all. Not just the view is gorgeous here but also the silence. Not a silence you know from your house when you switch-off the TV but the real peace. Having talked to Narayan about the mountains and having had a Mountain flight booked for the following morning (you can get 60mins flight from Kathmandu on a small propeller aircraft to take your around the Himalayas and Everest, costing about USD170) he told me that on the flight you will literally see the same range, just a bit closer. However as Mt. Everest is in the second line of the range, I was expecting that the aircraft will cross the first range and get really close to Everest which it won´t. Shame however I still think it´s worth to go for it. Which we finally didn´t as due to a low commercial demand there was just one flights the following morning scheduled for 7.30. And having seen the myst and how low the sun at this time was, it was quite a risk that I wouldn´t have been able to shoot efficiently.

After spending some time at Nagarkot we drove down the hills again to come to a medieval city Bhaktapur, which is Unesco listed site. When I described Kathmandu´s Durbar Square as a medival movie, you have to multiply it by a hundred, to imagine how Bhaktapur looks like. Narrow streets, shabby building with small local hidden squares and markets, simply a heaven for everyone who want to absorb the magical spiritual smell of the country. Behind every single corner of the city you will discover a truly unique view. Again all the people are incredibly nice.

Having spent about 3 hours here we then went back to Kahtmandu to visit the burial site next to the sacred river. Have you ever been or heard about India´s Varanasi, this is very similar atmosphere just in small scale and without the big Ganges river. However it´s an incredibly spiritual place not just for us, where the burial is always very private occasion closed to family and friends only, but to the locals too as many of them have seen the burial Cremony before neither. As this is truly a very unique and sacred place in Kathmandu, you will also meet many of the sacred men, mostly coming from India, laying around. With their ash-painted faces and bodies and vibrant yellow outfits they´re great object for photography. And they like to pose, for money of course. Which is not the way I like to take my world-trip photos as there´s the ´hunting´ and natural element missing. As these men are really experienced where not to look to when you don´t pay them, it might be a challenge to take a good snap and you need a good tele-zoom lens but it´s definitely manageable.

After finishing here we went to the Boudha Nath Stupa, one of the biggest stupas in the entire Asia. It´s also called a mini-Tibet as there are many monasteries located and monks living around. It´s a very coloufrul area with hundreds of flags hanging from the top of the stupa towards its top. As it´s very busy througout the day it´s definitely worth to just sit down for a cup of coffee in one of the local restaurants and enjoy the atmosphere by looking onto the people and buzz itself.

The following morning we took a flight to Delhi, connecting onto another flight down to Bangalore where we stayed overnight and then flew via Heathrow back to Prague. As mentioned already at the begginning, Nepal is a must see place. And I would assume that for most people it will become a lifetime favourite. So we´re already working on a plan when to come back and do some short trek too.

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