IF ever there is a time to visit Nepal, It’s now. Yes, it is always a good time to visit Nepal. Previously there were no direct flight services between Myanmar and Nepal. In the past, I had to pay a huge amount of money just for the airfare for my very first trip to Nepal in 2013.
Those days are gone, it has changed for the better. I no longer need to spend a huge amount of money and take a long transit flight to Nepal. I can easily buy a ticket from ‘Himalaya Airline’ and fly to Nepal directly from Myanmar, Yangon.
Himalaya Airline started its operations to Yangon from February 24, 2017 which provided a significant boost to the airline industry both for leisure and business travels.
This time I joined the Myanmar Media FAM trip jointly organised by Himalaya Airline and Nepal Tourism Board (NTB), and I visited several places including Kathmandu, Pokhara, Lumbini and Nagarkot.
We departed on a direct flight from Yangon by Himalaya Airline and landed in Kathmandu in the evening. Kathmandu is popular for its world heritage sites, which are recognized by UNESCO. Culture abounds when it comes to historical monuments, festivals and cultural splendor. Our Myanmar media group visited several places in Kathmandu including Pashupatinath Temple, Boudhanath Stupa, Swayambhunath, and Kathmandu Durbar Square.
Built in the 5th Century A.D, Pashupatinath temple is one of the four most important religious sites in Asia for the devotees of Lord Siva. It is located on the bank of Bagmati River, and the cremations on the riverbanks are a common activity to witness. Usually tourists have the chance to see at least one open-air cremation. It is interested to learn that those who die in the temple are reborn as a human, regardless of any misconduct that could worsen their karma.
After that we continued on to Boudhanath Stupa, the holiest Tibetan Buddhist Stupa outside of Tibet. It was built during the 5th Century AD. The stupa is located on what was a major trade route between Nepal and Tibet. It used to be a resting place for many travelling merchants and you can also find many Tibetan monasteries and nunneries around the stupa. Surrounding the stupa, there are many souvenirs stalls for shopping.
We also paid a visit to Swayambhunath stupa, also known as:’the monkey temple’ by tourists for being home to many monkeys. Besides the main stupa, there are other traditional Gompas both following Newari and Tibetan Buddhism. This is an important Buddhist site for the Newar Buddhists of the valley. Swayambhunath is listed among the seven monuments on the world heritage site of Kathmandu valley. You can see the whole city from up there. It is worth visiting but be mindful of monkeys, they will take anything you put on the ground.
The next day, we visited Chandragiri Hills before driving to Pokhara. Chandragiri Hills lies on the Southwest of Kathmandu valley and is 2551m above sea level. It was fun and exciting to take the 9min breathtaking journey to reach the top station by a cable car. Once on the top, you will see the panoramic views of Kathmandu valley and Himalayan ranges from Annapurna to Everest makes anyone feel like seeing whole Nepal from the hill. There are Bhaleshwor Mahadev temple, shops, restaurants, bar and plans for construction of a boutique resort, amusement park and many adventure activities.
After spending a few hours in Chandragiri, we then drove to Pokhara by car. For me a road travel for about 7hours from Kathmandu to Pokhara is an interesting journey along the riverbank with wonderful view of hills and rural Nepalese lifestyle. We arrived Pokhara on late evening and we immediately drive up to the mountain where Raniban retreat is located to accommodate for us.
Raniban Retreat is located in the secluded hill forest in Pokhara and accessable through its own-made 500 stone steps through wild bushes. Although it was dark by that time, the magnificent Pokhara night view, the great Fewa Lake and valley view motivate us to quickly reach to the top and enjoy the better views. We were greeted with a welcome drink and fresh towel on the terrace upon arrival. What makes Raniban Retreat unique is its restaurant using homegrown herbs and vegetables for cooking. What a pleasant stay in Raniban with spectacular view and fresh air and best place in Pokhara to enjoy sunrise in the early morning.
Paragliding – Breathtaking experience in my life
The next morning, I decided to try Paragliding for the first time in my life. It’s something I always wanted to try at some point in my life and I finally made it in Pokhara because it’s amongst the hotspots for Paragliding in the world. I took off from the cliff tops overlooking the Pokhara city and beautiful Fewa Lake. Just imagine yourself sharing the same air space with the Himalayan griffin, vultures, eagles and kites as you soar over the rivers, lakes and villages? Yes, it’s indeed a thrill. I tried Tandem Paragliding, it means I was seated in a separate harness in front of the pilot where I can sit carefree and enjoy the surroundings, take pictures and talk with my pilot during the flight. Up there in the sky, nothing truly matters. It is quite comfortable and safe a part from a large void beneath my feet. Once you’re in Pokhara, it is the most incredible ways to enjoy the absolutely perfect view of Pokhara and surrounded Himalaya ranges.
Fewa Lake & Museum tour
We later visited to Fewa Lake, second biggest lake in Nepal. We took a boat from lakeside and visited to temple in the middle of the lake. Boat tour doesn’t cost too much, and your boat is only for you, same boat takes you back after temple. But for us it took to Fishtail Lodge for delicious lunch. After lunch, we visited to International Mountain Museum, about 5km from lakeside. The museum locations is rightly selected and I could enjoy the unique views of the 3 massive mountains peaks such as Dhaulagiri, Annapurna and Manaslu which are above 8000m with our single eyesight and no place in the world offers us such panoramic view. For me Paragliding, boating on Fewa Lake, exploration visit to Mahendra Cave and Davis Fall, spectacular views of Fishtail mountain and other mountains are the best highlights of my trip to Pokhara.
Lumbini – Birthplace of Buddha
Next day we drove from Pokhara to Lumbini for about 7 hrs. While Lumbini is one of the most important religious sites in the world it doesn’t feel or look that way. Must see places in Lumbini are Temple of Mayadevi: walk inside the temple built over the spot Buddha was born, along with Mayadevi pond where Buddha’s mother is said to have bathed before giving birth to him, Bodhi tree covered in colorful prayer flags beside the pond and Ashok Pillar dedicated to Emperor Ashokan, Myanmar monastery, 2nd century BC temples to modern day temples and Lumbini museum for historic manuscripts and items from the area. We stayed overnight at Lumbini Hokke Hotel and the next morning we took a flight to Kathmandu to transfer to Nagarkot Hill town, about 32km east of Kathmandu.
Nagarkot has a reputation as the top spot fo[r enjoying Himalayan views from the comfort of your hotel balcony. In Nagarkot, we stayed at Hotel Country Villa where I could see and enjoy the Himalayan views from my room. The next morning, we drove back to Kathmandu to explore Bhaktapur Durbar Square, one of the UNESCO heritage sites in Kathmandu.
Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Bhaktapur Durber Square is the plaza in front of the royal palace of the old Bhaktapur kingdom, 1400m above the sea level. Incredible history in this square, but very unfortunate that the 2015 earthquake did so much to the buildings. Many of the beautiful buildings are damaged or completely leveled, however it is still a great experience and I found reconstruction works are underway to repair the city with original architecture. This is a place rich in ancient arts, religious values, fabulous cultural traditions, architectural masterpieces and ancient sculptures, is also know as an open museum in Nepal. Moreover the city is also famous as a city of gods.
Everest flight experience
To climb up to Everest may be beyond most of us, but as I was there I wanted to see Mt Everest so I signed up for the mountain flight with Yeti airlines. It costs me US$110 and took me on a scenic flight of the Himalayan ranges. The flight took off from the domestic airport in Kathmandu at about 7am and each passenger got a window seat in the 19-seater aircraft. The pilot made sure all the passengers had a chance to view the Mt Everest through the front windshield of the cockpit. Each passenger was allowed to step into the cockpit one at a time for an opportunity to get an optimum view and shot of the Mt. Everest. The views were awesome especially that moment when I was faced to faced with Mt. Event through cockpit; It is so hard to describe how magnificent it was to see it so close. I can’t really express by word. It was the best moment in my life and it was magnificent. As a honor for taking a trip, the airline gave us a a certificate of honor singed by the pilot.
Nepal is a country where love and peace exist. The people are the friendliest people I have met. What a beautiful country with beautiful people. I couldn’t forget what I had seen and experienced there during my week long trip to Nepal. Yeah! Absolutely one sole trip is not enough to explore Nepal. I am always looking forward to going back to Nepal once again. Can’t wait for my next trip!!!