Kathmandu, Bhaktapur And Panauti: My FAM Tour Of Nepal For #HTM2018

The lightning flashed and crackled outside the window. I was flying Nepal Airlines flight RA 202 into Kathmandu and we were caught in a thunderstorm.

A massive rain cloud was shooting forks of lighting as large and scary as Thor’s Mjolnir. It was an electrical party in the sky with the clouds all around us providing their own personal laser light show.

A lightning storm is an orchestra of electricity that I like to call “God’s Own Theatre,” and being in the middle of one, up in the air, is the closest I’ll ever come to having a religious experience.

It was exciting and scary all at once and I felt a twinge of disappointment when the pilot announced that the weather was clearing. The plane lurched and shook as we began our bumpy descent. The lights of Kathmandu twinkled below like diamonds strewn carelessly on a bolt of black velvet.

For me, the descent is the scariest part of the flight and I can’t relax till tire hits tarmac, the brakes come on and the flaps open up. Our crew had navigated us safely through a thunderstorm and I was grateful.

From the exhilarating flight into Kathmandu to the FAM Tour and the International Travel Bloggers & Media Conference (ITBMC), my hosted trip to Nepal to attend the Himalayan Travel Mart 2018 was an experience to cherish.

Here’s a photo I took from the plane of the moon rising above the tail of the plane. Like the song Bad Moon Rising, it did bring us plenty of lightning, but unlike the song, we survived and reached safely.

Like the song Bad Moon Rising, the moon brought us plenty of lightning

When I reached Kathmandu airport, I was welcomed by a bunch of the nicest young people – hotel management students who are part of the PATA Nepal Student Chapter.

They gave me the traditional Nepali welcome by placing a silk scarf around my shoulders. As we chatted, we found we had something in common – our love of Comic-Con and Marvel movies.

Nepal: Get Your Guide

Nepal is very much like India

One of my big surprises was finding that Nepal is very much like India – from the language to the culture, and even the food. Nepali women are voracious consumers of Indian soap operas and Bollywood movies, so they can also understand and speak Hindi.

The Nepali language is not very hard for Indians to understand and the script is the same script we use (Devnagiri) so we can read it easily, even if we don’t understand all of it.

But one thing that shocked even me, an Indian, were these Medusa-like wires hanging over the streets of Kathmandu and Bhaktapur.

Medusa-like wires hanging over the streets of Kathmandu

For the life of me, I have never seen anything like this in India and I think the Nepal government needs to clean this up and put them underground as soon as possible if they want to be seen as a modern nation.

And while they’re at it, can they please clean up Kathmandu’s air pollution? It was quite disturbing to see so many people wearing face masks.

Staying at the Traditional Comfort Hotel in Kathmandu

PATA Nepal arranged for my fellow-delegates and me to stay in the Traditional Comfort Hotel in Kathmandu.

Buddha welcomes us at the entrance of the hotel
Newari design and wood carvings

The rooms were very comfortable and the Wifi was excellent. I loved the Newari designs and wood carvings in the lobby, a result of employing local artisans in the design and construction of the hotel.

Traditional Newari motifs decorate the pillars
Angled ankhi-jyaal windows that cast geometric shadows

The breakfast was pretty good too. I tried out some traditional beans from Lukla, a place in north-eastern Nepal.

Traditional beans from Lukla for breakfast

I also love it when a hotel employs responsible environmental practices like using glass bottles, instead of plastic bottles, to provide drinking water in the rooms.

I love it when a hotel uses glass bottles instead of plastic

A Whirlwind Tour Of Kathmandu And Bhaktapur’s Attractions

Over the next couple of days, we visited a few of Kathmandu’s many attractions – the Great Boudha Stupa, the Pashupatinath Temple, the Hanuman-Dhoka Durbar Square and Thamel, Kathmandu’s touristy shopping centre, along with our tour guides from PATA Nepal Chapter, Mr Badri Nepal and Ms Sushila Kumari Baral.

Uma Maheshwara temple
The Great Boudha Stupa

Mr Badri’s explanations of Nepal’s culture, religious ethos and community life left us spellbound. But my favourite part of the tour was watching and photographing the animals – pigeons, dogs, goats and monkeys – that live in the shrines.

Pigeons, Pigeons everywhere
Brownie Rinpoche catching flies
Cute spaniel in Bhaktapur Durbar square
Mountain goat precariously perched on a temple ledge

As an art lover, I also loved the colours and sophistication of the elaborate Tibetan Thangka paintings – Buddhist paintings on cotton, silk appliqué, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala.

Painters creating exquisite Tibetan Thangka paintings

We also visited Nepal’s cultural city, Bhaktapur, and Patan Durbar Square, a centre for fine arts. I could have spent all day photographing the exquisite wood carvings, idols and sculptures in Patan’s Tibetan Buddhist ‘Golden Temple’ (Hiranya Varna Mahavir).

Exquisite wood carvings in Patan’s Golden Temple
Deities in Patan Golden Temple

I really wish I could have spent more time taking photographs, but we were in a mixed group consisting of travel agents, travel writers and a videographer (who went off by himself to take videos), and every time I stopped to take photos, I would get left behind.

Buddhist ceremony in Patan Golden Temple
My fellow-travellers and me on our FAM Tour of Kathmandu

As a huge Marvel fan, I was also thrilled to discover that both, the Pashupatinath Temple and Patan Durbar Square were locations for shooting Kamar Taj in Marvel’s Dr Strange movie.

Kamar Taj from Dr Strange?

In 2015, Nepal was hit by the devastating Gorkha earthquake that killed nearly 9,000 people and injured nearly 22,000. Many of its ancient temples and historical structures were damaged in this earthquake, some beyond repair.

Scenes of devastation in Kathmandu

Three years later, scenes like this one are still common and the country is slowly and painfully rebuilding and repairing many of these historical structures.

Rehabilitation of historical buildings in Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square

However, there are many that were undamaged or only lightly damaged and these are definitely worth exploring. I will post a detailed blog of our Kathmandu tour soon.

Nepal: Get Your Guide

Our Community Homestay in Panauti Village

After our tour, we were scheduled to stay at a community homestay at Panauti Village, around 1.5 hours from Kathmandu. We were all welcomed at the Community Hall by a group of women in bright red sarees who greeted us with garlands and vermillion tikkas.

Being welcomed by the women Homestay owners of Panauti

My German friend, Katrin and I opted to stay together at the Homestay of a lovely lady called Sabita, who has a house at the top of a small hillock. We found our accommodations very comfortable and our hostess was a wonderful cook.

Getting to know our hostess, Sabita and her daughter, Monika

Panauti, situated at the confluence of the two rivers Rosi and Punyamati, has been regarded as an important religious site since very early times.

The confluence of two rivers in Panauti

We visited the Indreshwar temple, one of the largest and tallest pagoda style temples in Nepal. It was originally built over a lingam in 1294, making it the oldest surviving temple of Nepal.

Indreshwar temple in Panauti
Scenes from Panauti museum and town in Nepal. Read all about my tour of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Panauti and find out where to stay and what to do on your own trip of Nepal.
Some more scenes from Panauti museum and town

In the evening, after our tour of Panauti, splashing through the small village roads that had been turned into slush by the rains, we helped our hostess make aloo parathas for dinner.

Helping our hostess prepare aloo parathas for dinner

We also learned about her life and about CommunityHomestay.com, an organisation that is helping women in Nepal empower themselves by earning an income hosting travellers in their homes.

Read more: How Community Homestays Are Empowering Women In Nepal

The next day, on the way back to Kathmandu, the rains played havoc with our plans to visit the Namobuddha Monastery by turning the roads into a swamp. Afraid that our bus would get stuck in the mud, we turned back and returned to Kathmandu without seeing the shrine.

Road turned to slush on the way to Namobuddha Monastery

The same evening we were treated to an authentic Nepali Dinner Reception at the  Bhojan Griha restaurant, a 150-year-old heritage building which housed the late Royal Priest of the King of Nepal.

It was hosted by Mr Bharat Basnet, founder of The Explore Nepal group. We tried the local rice wine (potent stuff!) and the food was prepared from local organic sources grown on their own farm.

Nepali rice wine was served in these little cups

My favourite dish was a delicately-flavoured mushroom preparation whose name I didn’t get. Our food experience was enhanced by folk dances of Nepal performed vigorously by local dancers.

In the next few posts, I discuss the Himalayan Travel Mart 2018, that began the day after our hosted dinner. More detailed posts coming on Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Panauti, too. Subscribe to receive them in your inbox.
Also read:

Travel Bloggers Conference Kathmandu NepalKathmandu, Bhaktapur And Panauti tourKathmandu, Bhaktapur And Panauti tour

16 thoughts on “Kathmandu, Bhaktapur And Panauti: My FAM Tour Of Nepal For #HTM2018”

  1. Beautiful adventure! Love the empowering women community and still remember the images of the devastating earthquake in Nepal. Would be possible to volunteer in that community?

  2. What a fun adventure! I am glad your flight was safe. It would be great to do a home stay. What better way to get to know the place?

  3. I enjoy Kathmandu so much Priya. Sounds like it was exciting and fulfilling from the flight in all the way through your trip. I recall seeing the monkeys swinging from roofs and power lines, wondering where the heck they came from? I did see some massive fruit bats too right by Thamel, roosting in huge trees with large white birds, which may have been herons. So much to do and see in this magical city.

    1. Yes, Ryan, there was a lot to enjoy in the city and a single blog doesn’t do it justice so I will write one on each of the places I went to. We didn’t spend much time in Thamel, unfortunately. I would have liked to have spent an entire day at each of these attractions.

  4. Nice adventure! Nepal has never been high on my list, but I would like to visit it one day for sure, with this post even more!

  5. You definitely had an experience in Nepal! I’ve never been here or India, so it’s interesting to read about the two countries. I’m not a great flier, so would be terrified in that thunderstorm! Glad everyone was ok on board!

  6. Wow there definitely is a ton of electrical wires! I might to to Nepal just to see the sights from Marvel hahaha. I had no idea that Kathmandu had so many people living there. I think we take for granted things the ability to make money fairly easy. I like that they are empowering people to learn how to provide a homestay so that they are able to make money for themselves.

    1. The connection to Marvel and the homestay were the highlights of the trip for me too. That and the visit to Patan’s Golden Temple, which I wish I had more time in. Will write about that in another blog.

  7. Hey Priya, I couldn’t agree more. Yes, Nepal is similar to India in many ways. Great to know you had a great time there. When I visited Nepal, I had been to Kathmandu and Pokhara. I loved the pictures of Bhaktapur, very distinct vibes. I would surely put Bhaktapur and Panauti in my list for my next visit.

  8. Nepal seems like a lovely place rich with a lot of culture. The idea of Home stays is very appealing- I feel that is how you get to learn about the locals and experience local cuisine. Has there been a lot of disruption since the earthquake ? They clearly have a good community.All the little details on the buildings are beautiful. I am glad you landed safely- what a flight!

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