Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Nepal Getaway! (Day 4)

When my day began, I went to the Wellness Center within the Park Village Hotel compound. I had booked for a yoga session the day before. Lucky me, I was the only person who booked the class; hence, it was a one on one session. It was the very first yoga session I have ever attended in my entire life. The yogi, Raj, was very informative and supportive. I told him that it was my first time, so he customized the program based on how I adapted. He gave important info on how yoga can help keep the body healthy if done consistently.

After the Yoga, I headed off for breakfast at the hotel restaurant. There was a buffet, which served continental and regional dishes.

One of today's itinerary was to trek at Shivapuri Nagarjun National Park, a forest reserve north of Kathmandu Valley. This national park has been given this status because of the country's efforts to preserve the wildlife in the area. I packed my bags and left them at the hotel reception as early as 10:00am. I have asked assistance from the hotel if they could help me find a guide, however they did not have a list of affiliated professional guides. It has been discouraged for trekkers to travel alone because of the wildlife in the park. The hotel did something extra ordinary, they asked a couple of their staff, who were available to accompany me in the trek. That's a different level of service. I was very impressed. So, I was accompanied by Anil and Kumal to the trek.

What was there to see at Shivapuri National Park? Wildlife like deers, monkeys and maybe even leopards (they say). At the peak, you can visit the Nagigumba, at 2,732m above sea level, is a temple and monastery for female Buddhist monks.  At the entrance of the park foreigners are asked to pay Rs. 250 (USD 2.50), while locals pay Rs. 10 (USD 0.10).

The climb to the peak was a challenge. We encountered steep slopes, bodies grasping for air, and the heat of the sun for some unshaded areas of the trek. It took us above an hour to get the peak. Once we reached the temple we stayed there to admire the beauty of the place and took pictures. One of the things that fascinates me about Buddhist shrines is the peace and cleanliness of the vicinity. On the way up during the trek and once you get to the peak, you will be able to see the surrounding Kathmandu Valley. Unfortunately, there was poor visibility, not everything could be seen from our vantage point.

The trek back down was faster. We even managed to get pictures of a monkey, who knew how to pose for shots. The whole journey took three hours. Upon reaching the parking space, there were a couple of restaurants there. We ate at one of them while waiting for the taxi driver to come pick us up. I had a different Nepali set meal called Chicken Khana. It was spicy and flavorful. Instead of rice, it was served with rolled and flattened wheat flakes.

After lunch, we headed back to Park Village Hotel and collected my things. I then made a move to my next stop, Thamel. Thamel is a district with many small clean hotels, and not so clean ones. It caters to foreigners. You can get a lot of cheap souvenir and gift items here. So far, it is cheaper here compared to the other places I've gone to. Anil and Kumal were kind enough to accompany me and made sure I found the hotel, Hotel Mums Home.

I was convinced to book this hotel through the positive reviews I read about it online. So far, based on what I have encountered, the reviews prove to be true. Then again, nothing beats my "home away from home" hotel at Bhaktapur!

I checked in at around 3:30pm. Had a shower, rested for a while and went on to my next adventure.

My first stop at Thamel was the Garden of Dreams. It is about fifteen minutes walk aways from the hotel. It is a place of solace in the midst of a buzzing life at the city. Let the pictures speak to you. Originally a private property, but was later on turned over to the government. An entrance fee of Rs. 200 (USD 2). It was a place of beauty and peace. I admired the place.  I had a snack there before I moved on to my next stop. It was yoghurt lime cake and herbal tea. Good combination.

My second stop was to look for the Kathmandu Durbar Square a few kilometers way from the Garden of Dreams. I tried to walk, but when I was close to giving up, I found a Rickshaw in the market place and asked him to take me to the square. He charged me Rs. 300 for the service. We cycled through alleys and small roads where locals would do their shopping. It was a lot of noise and chaos at the market place because of the vast number of people, yet it was still fun.

I got to Durbar Square. Was not so happy with it. It was still good architecture, it still had the art and elegance as it stood amidst the people; however, the place was too crowded and cars passed by. The Bakhtapur Durbar Square did not have cars passing through, vehicles were prohibited in the Bakhtapur square.

On my way back to the hotel, I decided to be adventurous and tried to walk on my own. The hotel is just 15minutes away from the square by walking. So, map on hand, asked people for directions. The barista at the Himalayan Coffee Shop even offered to help me. That proved to be a failure. I ended up getting ripped off by a taxi so that I can just get back to the hotel.

Other things I learned from today:
  • It's hard to find a good place to eat in Thamel that will be clean. Either eat at an expensive restaurant, or check if you can trust your hotel's kitchen then go for that one instead. I had a hard time looking for a good place to have dinner because a lot of the restaurants in Thamel have very poor hygienic practices.
  • There are two places to hang out to eat and drink at Garden of Dreams. These places are clean and can be trusted.
  • Most of the shops at Thamel close at 9:00pm.
  • Cetain corners of Thamel become a part of a "red light district" after 9:00pm.

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