Thursday, February 28, 2013

I think I'm going to Kathmandu

That's really really where I'm going to, if I ever get out of here...
I've known this Bob Seger song forever. I never dreamed that I'd actually be going to Kathmandu, but that's exactly what I did earlier this month. Most people associate Nepal with Mt. Everest and the Himalayas, but there is so much more that makes up this small nation.

The greater Kathmandu area has a population of over 2 million people. It is a very crowded city teeming with people, pigeons and stray dogs. The most prevalent religions practiced here are Hinduism and Buddhism, and there are many temples and important religious sights that you can visit in and around the city.

I was most fascinated by the stories of the Living Goddess. This is a young girl who is chosen from a specific village when she is around the age of  3 - 5 years old. She must possesses the 32 attributes necessary in order become the Living Goddess or Kumari. Once chosen, she is taken from her family to live in a palace with caretakers, where she will be worshipped as a goddess and where people come to be blessed.
Her feet must never touch the ground unless she is walking on red carpet. Problem solved - in the palace she wears red socks! She lives this way until she reaches puberty. At this time, she is sent back to live with her family as a common person and the search goes on for the next Kumari.

My travels through Nepal took me from Kathmandu to Chitwan National Park and also to Pokhara. In Chitwan, I stayed at a very modest lodge called the Machan Country Villa. From here as a base, you can enjoy an elephant back safari through the forest, jeep and boat safaris, village tours and nature walks. The wildlife we saw included fresh water alligators, one-horned rhinoceros, langur monkeys, barking deers, and a variety of birds. If you're lucky, you may get a glimpse of a Bengal tiger or a sloth bear, which both live in the forest.

Pokhara is a large town, about a 4 hour drive from Chitwan. It is a base for hikers who want to do the Annapurna circuit trek. The Annapurna moutain range of the Himalayas can be seen from most points in and around the city. The snow-capped peaks are breathtaking. The city itself has lots of shops and restaurants geared toward tourists. The main street is set along Phewa lake, where you can take a leisurely boat ride on the calm water.

The Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge is a great place to rest and relax after a long day sight-seeing or trekking. It is located outside the city on a mountain, with wonderful views. Individual cottages dot the mountain side with stone walkways connecting them with the main lodge. The rooms are spacious and the staff thoughtfully places hot water bottles in the beds to keep you warm on cold nights during the winter. There is also a lovely outdoor pool for those warm, sunny days.
The Managing Director, Marcus, is very hands on and makes sure that all of his guests are happy.

One 'must do' in Kathmandu is the flight-seeing trip to Mt. Everest. It's best to go first thing in the morning and hope for a clear day. Everyone gets a window seat, so one side of the plane has a front row seat to the Himalaya range on the way out and the other side gets it on the way back. Each passenger has a chance to go up to the cockpit, one at a time, to see the view from there and snap a few quick photos. The flight attendants hand out maps of the whole range with the name of each peak and its elevation labeled. It was a very cool experience and one I'd recommend doing. Then, you can say "I've been to Mt. Everest!"

Are you ready for Kathmandu?! Call on the Travel Specialists at Bee Kalt Travel to help you plan your next adventure!

Tel: 248-288-9600 or Toll-free 1-800-284-5258
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