Six Days in Nepal
The first stop of the second half of our India/Nepal tour was to Lumbini, Nepal. Lumbini is the accepted birthplace of the Buddha and has become a pilgrimage site for Buddhists and tourists alike. Surprisingly, Lumbini has only become an important attraction since it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Considering what we would assume to be an important religious site, Lumbini was surprisingly absent of many tourists or even pilgrims. Of course not having to navigate around crowds of people is always welcomed.
The main attraction of Lumbini is the The Pillar of Ashoka and The Mayadevi Temple. The temple was built on top of the site where the Buddha was born and the pillar marks the location Emperor Ashoka visited in the 3rd century BC.
After a short visit to Lumbini we were back on the bus headed towards Chitwan National Park. This provided us the opportunity to see the country side of rural Nepal. Many colorful houses sat along the road often with children running out to wave at us as we drove by.
Chitwan National Park is a preserve for wildlife, most notably rhinos are protected there. In the park you can go on a mini-safari where local rangers will drive you in jeeps to locations known to have active wildlife.
On the way back from our Jeep safari we came across a crowd of locals excited by a large snake that had been caught. A large constrictor snake was caught because it was considered a danger to the community. The locals were nice enough to drag it out to the outskirts of the village without killing it. They were also quite pleased to show it off to us before they dragged it off.
After our visit to Chitwan National Park we set out for the city of Pokhara. We again had an excellent ride through the countryside where we made a brief stop at a suspension bridge built across a good sized gorge. The bridge served a small community on the other side of the gorge by has also become a roadside attraction for tourists.
Homemade swings made out of bamboo was another common site along our route.
We finally arrived in Pokhara and settled in. Pokhara turned out to be a decent sized city and a nice little tourist trap on a lake. It's considered to be the tourist capital for people coming to Nepal seeking adventure. It's located in the middle of the country and provides good access to the mountains for anyone looking to climb the Himalayas. Teams of serious climbers from all over the world were a common site around town. The lakeside featured a thriving tourist/backpacker district with lots of hostels, hotels, restaurants and shops.
After Pokhara, we headed out for our last stop of the tour, Kathmandu. Kathmandu, is of course the capital of Nepal and is as busy of a capital city as you would expect. In between all the hustle and bustle are some very interesting places to visit. Our fist site was the famous Swayambhunath Stupa.
Patan Durbar Square is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must see for any visit to Kathmandu. It's main attraction is an ancient royal palace where the Malla Kings of Lalitpur lived. Damage from the 2015 earthquake was still very visible however reconstruction efforts are well underway.
Like most well traveled cities there was an active backpacker district in Kathmandu. It featured the usual assortment of restaurants, cafes, tour companies, hostels and bars.
Local activity wasn't hard to find in Kathmandu. You only had to walk a block from the backpacker district to find locals carrying about their daily business. Colorful fresh produce always makes for a charming stop.
Our last little adventure was to take a sightseeing flight of Mt. Everest. This was a short 45 minute flight from the Kathmandu airport to fly in front of Mt Everest and back. It was a little pricey and I was reluctant to do it but in the end it was well worth it. We were treated to an excellent view of Everest and the surrounding Himalayas. We also were each allowed to visit the cockpit and get a head on view of Everest as we approached. In the end it was $200 well spent.