Oh, Nepal. Ben and I spent a grand total of 37 days in this beautiful country; with its breathtaking views, fantastic treks, delicious food, and the most gracious people I’ve ever met.
Our trip consisted of seeing Kathmandu, Pokhara, Chitwan, and Bandipur, as well as 2 treks in the Annapurna region.
Around the country we saw on car doors or billboards the phrase “Guest is God” and this is exactly how the Nepalese people treated us, with kindness and generosity. Because of their religious background, the Nepalese believe that if you were born in a country such as the United States, you must have been a giving, kind and great person in your previous lives, which is why they believe the guests of their country are, in fact, Gods. We saw this throughout the country, from lending me sandals at the teahouses on our trek to assisting us to find the right local bus, this nation is filled with a good-hearted society. Most notably, we arrived at a homestay for breakfast on the most holy day, Dashain, in Nepal and the family opened their home to provide us a meal, as well as hanging out with us for a couple of hours before we embarked on our trek; guests aren’t inconveniences to them, they are welcomed at any time.
We even witnessed this act of kindness to others; there was a Chinese woman on the first trek who was awfully unprepared (she even had a hardcase suitcase) and the teahouse hosts lended her rain boots, waterproof jacket and pants, as well as a backpack for her to carry her things the rest of the way up the trek.
In another instance, Ben and I heard some wincing coming from the room next to ours, we notified the host and he came down as we feared a puppy was trapped only to discover that there was a mother with 6 newborn pups; later I witnessed two staff members placing hay around the mother with her pups and giving her a bucket of leftover food. Just incredible people.
Despite what I may have depicted on Instagram and my Mardi Himal blog post here, the trekking was absolutely phenomenal. We endured the torrential downpours, leeches, and sicknesses for the reward of mountain views that left me an awestruck Anya. The incredible scenery wasn’t just a result of the mountains, but also the charming villages and dazzling bamboo forests!
After we trekked to the Annapurna basecamp unable to see any of the peaks and to be surprised in the middle of the night with clear skies and a bright moon, I couldn’t help but tear up; it was a moment where I was left speechless by the beauty of Annapurna and its surrounding mountains.
Visiting the teahouses on the Annapurna Sanctuary trek offered meaningful interactions with fellow trekkers as wifi wasn’t working, so chatting with people from all over the world was quite the treat. We met trekkers from Israel, Spain, India, China, Japan, USA, Canada, and Nepal. In the teahouses, you’re required to eat dinner there (plus there isn’t anywhere else to eat); consequently, everyone crowds around a large communal table and shares a meal while chatting about the day’s endeavors. It was enlightening to hear everyone’s perspective and thoughts on the trip; some trekkers had never even hiked and then others were visiting the trek a second time after nearly 20 years. Overall, the experience was one that we plan to take our kids on one day; being disconnected from the outside world, yet connected to others in different ways was truly unique.
In contrast, we experienced Nepal’s trails with the absence of people while attempting to climb Mardi Himal. The Annapurna Sanctuary trek is quite commercialized; therefore, having another trek in solitude for 6 days administered another perspective to us on hiking in Nepal. The weather was getting better as we entered the main season; therefore, the views did not disappoint.
After having been an 80/20 vegan prior to leaving, I was very appreciative of a mostly vegetarian society. On top of that, the spices are so tasty that writing this now my tastebuds are screaming for some spiced potatoes and chili-glazed momos. Ben’s favorite food was probably the donuts that are normally eaten on special occasions, but for Ben, every morning was a special occasion, heh.
We ate tons of curries, spiced vegetables, Dal baht (a typical Nepal dish), fried noodles, so many dishes! The best part about it was obviously the taste, but the next best thing was how inexpensive the food was as well; dishes ranged from around 1 USD to 4 USD.
The Jungle walk in Chitwan National Park was another highlight of the trip; it would most certainly not be allowed in many parts of the world as it is quite risky. The day started out with a 2 hour canoe ride down a river filled with crocodiles and various types of birds hunting for a fresh catch. Upon the completion of the canoe ride, we walked for an entire day in the habitat of rhinoceroses (among other animals such as Bengal tigers and monkeys), which are very dangerous if they feel threatened.
While trekking through the jungle, we had a guide in front leading our group and a guide in the back; the moment there was some potential danger, each of them picked up some rocks and sticks in the event that the rhino charged us. Being able to observe these creatures in their natural environment and the adrenaline rush of approaching them felt like something out of a movie. In total, we saw 4 rhinos, tons of monkeys, lots of birds, many crocodiles, and the evidence of a tiger nearby.
To top off our experience, we stayed in a bamboo hut a 10 minute walk from the entrance to the park that served delicious vegan and vegetarian food.
We really enjoyed our time in Nepal and I would most certainly go back to visit. Next time, Ben and I said that we would venture off to do a trek in another region such as Mustang or Everest (not climbing Everest though). Although there were many highlights, there were 2 things that stood out to me as “lowlights” (even over the leeches that latched onto us):
- Pollution and trash – After some bad press concerning the trash on Everest, there seems to be a big push to reduce plastic bottles and clean up litter on treks, but even with this push, we passed MANY rivers, as well as spots on the trails that sported a regrettable amount of garbage. Unfortunately, the concept of throwing waste in a trash can is not very common place; I witnessed many times Nepalese children AND adults throwing garbage onto the ground. On top of that, Kathmandu had interesting sites, but the dust and pollution gave me a headache.
- Animals – The treatment of animals was quite sad to see. Rarely did we see a healthy dog, mule, or cow. Mules are treated very poorly; carrying extremely heavy loads and wearing the signs of those loads with massive wounds on their backs. Cows, although sacred, are very skinny. And I could go on…
Overall, Nepal is a gorgeous country with equally as beautiful people. I highly recommend a visit by anyone who enjoys nature, culture, and a satisfied stomach. If you want to do a trek, ask me anything as we did all the research to do the treks/peaks on our own, and I’d be happy to share the details so you don’t have to go through the effort we did!
As always, thank you for following along!