Monkey Temples & Jungle Treks - Nisha's 2 Weeks In Nepal
By Jemma Dicks
Programme Advisor Nisha Dhanani has recently returned from a 2 Week trip to Nepal. On this, her first trip to Asia, she spent some time visiting a few Projects Abroad volunteers and also managed to cram in a fair bit of adventure. I caught up with her to find out more.
Tell us about your trip to Nepal
After arriving at Tribhuvan International Airport I took a very dusty and bumpy car journey through the chaotic streets of Kathmandu, to my hotel in Thamel. I couldn't wait to start exploring Nepal's capital city and wasted no time in doing so during my first couple of days!
I don't think any traveller (even those who, like me, aren't all that keen on shopping) could resist the beautiful handmade jewellery and ornaments, cashmere, tapestries and more that can be found in the bustling streets of Kathmandu, and all for bargain price. It's such a fascinating place and I spent a lot of my time walking around aimlessly, attracted by everything I saw - the colourful flowers, the meticulous detail of the temples, a football match on a small patch of green - literally everything.
Kathmandu is busy! There are tuk-tuks, bikes, cars and people everywhere, so you constantly need to be aware of your surroundings - now I'm home I definitely use my wing mirrors a lot more.
After a few days in Kathmandu I got on a bus and drove to the humid district of Chitwan. The journey takes around 6 hours (if you're lucky) and I can honestly say it was the best bus journey I've ever taken! The views along the way are spectacular - lush green mountains, waterfalls and rickety shacks and villages.
I spent a fair bit of time in Chitwan, visiting a number of volunteer placements. One of my favourite placements was a local primary school. I was lucky enough to be there for their assembly which they have every morning. Assemblies are held in English and involve the reading out of poems, thoughts of the day and general announcements so that they can practise the language. At the end they all stand in a line around the quad and sing the Nepali National Anthem holding their little hands to their hearts and then saluting at the end. A lot of the time in the developing world they have a great community spirit and togetherness, but witnessing small moments like this always amazes me, no matter how many times I see it.
I was lucky enough to spend a weekend at Chitwan National Park which was a great escape, especially for someone who likes nature. Chitwan means ‘heart of the jungle' and it really lives up to its name. My favourite part of the weekend was taking a canoe trip to see the crocodiles, followed by a short trek through the jungle where we saw rhinos and elephants. It was a very peaceful and quiet break which was a nice change - you almost forget what silence is like whilst you're in Nepal!
What was your mum's main concern about you visiting Nepal?
I'm not sure whether it's a general mother's concern or whether it's because my mum has a medical background, but she was most concerned about me getting ill - to be more exact, getting the runs! In Nepal it's custom to eat with your right hand but I always ate with cutlery, partly out of habit and partly because it was always available. I'm not sure whether that precaution helped but I didn't have any stomach problems at all, luckily.
What was the highlight of your trip?
Visiting Swayambhunath (more commonly known as the Monkey Temple) was one of the many highlights of my trip. You have to climb 365 steps and the last 10 are so steep that you really do feel like you're about to roll backwards, but once you reach the top you're welcomed by the huge stupa, shrines, temples and breath-taking panorama of the Kathmandu Valley.
What was your worst moment?
It had to be the 8 hour bus ride back to Kathmandu from Chitwan and I think every girl who was on that bus with me who needed the loo would agree.
What was your funniest moment?
There were numerous funny occasions but one of the best had to be spending some free time at a public swimming pool with the locals. There were three men who couldn't swim and kept trying to dunk each other underwater. They kept shrieking hysterically and the other volunteers and I couldn't help but laugh with them.
What surprised you the most - what were you not expecting?
I was surprised at how safe I felt in Nepal. As a young female aged 19 I was wary of travelling alone in Nepal and keeping my belongings close to me but there wasn't a moment where I felt in danger.
Another thing that helped me feel so safe was the people. Nepali people are very friendly and most could speak some English so I was always able to ask for directions and advice.
Favourite food whilst you were in Nepal?
As a rice lover, Nepal was the perfect place for me in terms of food! Dhal Bhat was definitely my favourite meal there and it consists of rice and lentil soup. Buffalo momos are also very popular but for me, nothing beats a plate of Dhal Bhat.
If you find that the local foods don't appeal, there's no need to worry as Western food is widely served in Nepal and there are plenty of great restaurants and cafes to choose from, especially in Thamel. One of my favourites was a cosy tree house restaurant not far from Kathmandu Guesthouse!
Top travel tip?
Take a torch. If you intend to travel to Nepal, there is no better piece of equipment than a torch. With daily, unpredictable power cuts you need to be prepared. I took my torch everywhere with me and honestly have no idea what I would have done without it - for anyone thinking a phone light will suffice, it won't!
What did you miss the most from the UK whilst you were away?
Having access to running water all the time. Showering in cold water or using purified bottled water for brushing teeth has never been an issue for me but I've never been in a situation where I've had to cope without a constant supply of running water before. Access to running water is a privilege that you don't really appreciate until it's no longer there. Luckily enough I had running water most of the time but some places, including hotels, do shut it off at certain times during the day/night.
Where would you like to travel next?
Sri Lanka is probably top of my list, partly because of the beautiful beaches and the endless list of things to do there. I also don't know too many people who have been there before, so I'm keen to explore the unknown! Nepal has definitely made me Asia-obsessed!
Have you recently returned from a trip to Nepal? What was your most memorable experience and why? Please leave your comments below.
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