尼泊爾高山古国食旅 - NEPAL

Swayambhunath with a 2,500 years of history in it.

Kathmandu Airport

Hyatt Regency, Katmandu, Nepal

Authentic Nepalese dinner.

Bhaktapur Palace Area.

Changu Narayan (one of the heritage sites) situated at Bhaktapur Palace Area is famous for its carvings.

Patan Durbar Square

House Of The Living Goddess Kumari-ghar.

Hanuman-Dhoka Durbar Square - part of a town

Hindu temple - Pashupatinath.

Young Tibetan girls in traditional attire and women folk with their hair tied into ponytails.

A common scene at Boudha Stupa.

Traditionally attired holyman

The Nepalese often work as porters carrying heavily laden bags on their backs.

A beautiful evening at Club Himalaya Nagarkot.

Double-storey home houses occupants below and chicken rearing upstairs.

Stretch back and relax on this beautiful couch at Pokara Hotel Fulbari.

How lavish this Hotel Fulbari is!

Boat riding on the cold lake of Phewa Tal.

An old lady carrying a tub of water home, walking a one hour journey. Life is hard.

A flight over the Himalayan ranges sighting the snow peaks.

I did not climb Mt Everest...
... but touched it with my heart!

Dwarika’s Hotel's Krishnarpan Restaurant is enveloped with grand setting.

See the picturesque footprints cards as décor in Rum Doodle Restaurant.


Coming together for a group photo

Enchanting Nepal

A visit to Nepal may literally be the chance of a lifetime as the country has started to be a new destination known to the travel industry. We very much wanted to see the place before transformation begins. This is the kingdom beginning to break out of isolation but tranquillity has not become a loose-leaf yet. Nepal boasts of having eight of the world’s tallest peaks and offers visitors a rare combination of both old and new in terms of art, culture and rich history.

After several itinerary changes, our tour was finally finalized for an early morning flight on 17th November, 2005. On that morning, it was a new bonding getting to know new friends as our group of 30, came from different parts of the country. Amid the happiness of travelling to a new destination, the bare amenities on PB Air dimmed our spirits a little. Initially, we were not put off by the lack of drinking water but by an air hostess who started to picked her nose in public. Everyone was aghasting at her outlandish rudeness! Don’t look around for comforts like pillows, blankets, in-flight safety guide brochures or alcoholic drinks. Only consolation was, the meal came inclusive with the air ticket. Probably, it is an indictment of our urban lifestyle to often take simple luxuries as being necessities. Circumstances proved us wrong as we had no need of these comforts as time passed by very fast.

Barely four hours and 30 minutes later, we had landed at the one and only international Kathmandu Airport. We passed through tight security in such a simple aviation place. Normally, tourist season is in September till the end of February. The temperatures hover between 3°C to 23°C and as the weather is fine, many activities can be permitted. Other months may see harsh weather with heavy monsoons.

From airport to checking in at the designated hotel was not a straight drive through. The coach stopped several times due to stringent checks. Every vehicle was required to conform to a lot of red tape and each passenger well scrutinized. But as a gesture of goodwill, tourists were exempted from this customary ritual. It shows tourism is by far Nepal’s latest foreign-currency earner.

The 5-star Hyatt Regency Kathmandu Hotel was of an international standard. After a quick change of clothes, we streamed to a nearby Thai restaurant for lunch cooked by a local chef. The Thai spread of fried chicken breast with mixed vegetables, simple stir-fried vegetables, onion egg omelettes, chicken satay and a soup were cheats of what real Thai food is about. But the beautiful Indian basmati rice made up for the lunch let down. Incidentally, we had basmati rice at every meal except for the single occasion at a Chinese eatery. Before coming to Nepal, we received strict instructions during a pre-tour briefing not to eat raw or fresh food served. Many people tagged big bottles of mineral water and packets of instant noodles along. But we actually found food ‘safe’ and slowly relaxed on all advised precautions.

Ater lunch, we were taken to visit scenic areas. UNESCO has recognized the cultural heritage of Nepal’s treasures. They placed eight sites on the World Heritage list. Out of the eight treasures, seven of them are located in the capital - Kathmandu, a city 4423 feet above sea level. Only the eighth place is in Lumbini, Buddha’s birthplace.

As autumn is a busy time here, tour coaches travel on the dusty and narrow stretches of roads at crawling paces. Whenever roads are considered decent enough, all automobile would run on it showing much impatience as the hankering of horns just go on and on. But our coach driver deserves more than a praise as his skill is simply good. You need to go through many defensive driving courses to manoeuvre across Nepal’s motorable roads. After many heart stopping moments, we reached the Buddhist temple of Swayambhunath, also known as the Monkey Temple. This is a well-preserved heritage site as the temple stands around 2,500 years old. Located on a hill overlooking the valley and the whole Kathmandu city, the temple’s semi-circle roof top has a squarish shaped golden pagoda fitted on it. Every section has huge eyes patterned on it. These keep watch for righteous behaviour of mankind and a third eye denotes human wisdom. The nose was replaced by a (?) sign, which is Nepalese writing of figure ‘one’. It probably represents a thought of - we are one. The golden roof top represents ‘Nirvana’ which is a belief of perfect bliss achieved by the soul in both Buddhism and Hinduism.

The next stopover was at the Hanuman-Dhoka Durbar Square which forms the heart of the ancient city. It houses a collection of palaces and old temples which are in unspoilt condition. Near the Square stands the House Of The Living Goddess - Kumari-ghar. Enter the courtyard and if you are fated to catch a glimpse of the young goddess who reverts to the human form on reaching puberty age but we saw no image except for a real human who was attired in a saffron orange coloured robe. Richard took a couple of photos of the holyman. He demanded a payment for his freelance posing but we refused. This led him to pursue us for many streets. Finally, to end all problems, Richard changed his hundred US dollars to the local currency and the holyman was contented with a payment. The Nepalese rupee is the basic unit of currency. Exchange rate works out to 72 rupees to one US dollar. The tour guide gave us a genuine explanation that such holymen are not locals but generally fleeced tourists as they crossed over from India.

The sky was getting pretty dark at only five in the late afternoon. The guide gave us a two hours shopping spree around the area before congregating once again. This is the touristy suburb of Thamel but we felt it is meant for conspicuous tourist consumption so off we went to discover drinking pleasures instead. At The Bakery Restaurant, we ordered a plate of ‘momo’. The dumplings looked similar to the Shanghainese version of meat dumplings but these local dumplings have a beautiful flavour. It was both savoury with a spicy touch. Everyone around the table garnished out praises of this plate of snack.

Early evening, dinner was served at an authentic Nepalese restaurant. Tasty momo was seen once more. Our meal consisted of an array of curries with chicken, lamb and vegetables. After the delicious meal, we went upstairs for an entertaining evening watching cultural dances performed by the locals girls. We felt bold to try the local drink. Now, this is pretty strong stuff at 50% alcohol volume. After a few glasses, even a hardened drinker can lie low and fleetingly, I thought the night seemed extra beautiful.

Early next morning was rather frosty and soon everyone was helping themselves to the buffet breakfast. A large group of very young Western monks were seen at the buffet table. Our bags were brought forth for loading into the coach’s inner baggage compartment as tonight we will be staying in a far-away town known as Nagarkot. The hilltop there gives magnificent views of Himalayan peaks.

Our journey is punctuated by a stop at heritage site - Boudha Stupa, the huge Buddhist monastery. Many worshippers in Tibetan traditional costume were chanting prayers. The women all looked so adorable with cherry red cheeks and hair skillfully plaited.

On the banks of the Bagmati River is the famous Hindu temple of Pashupatinath, dedicated to Lord Shiva. Only Hindus are allowed in and visitors can view from the exterior.

Midday came and we have to visit the fifth site - Patan Durbar Square which is an interesting town filled with stupas, temples and palaces. It is said this area must have been built in AD299. All sculptures, elaborate wood carvings, ancient building crafts are all well-maintained but at the golden temple, no one can tread in with leather shoes on as it is a sacred place.

Lunch at a Chinese restaurant was a simple and bland tasting meal. We are tourists so we should not complain. We proceeded to the other two heritage sites of Bhaktapur Palace Area and Changu Narayan. The former displays the best example of ancient building skills and the latter is the oldest Hindu temple in the valley. Roads are so winding that it took one hour to cover a distance of 21 kilometres stretch before reaching Club Himalaya Resort. Air outside is crisp and dinner was served in a pleasant restaurant. Food tasted wonderful, this is something above expectation.

Nepal offers several of the world’s most interesting hotels. As I stood outside at 7,200 feet above sea level, the sun rise at six in the morning was superbly picturesque. The personal observation became a sudden exuberance of joy which becomes hard to describe in words. It is a happy moment especially we were all housed in this beautiful former retreat palace used by the royals to escape cold winters.

Soon we left for Pokhara, another well-established tourist resort. Pokhara is well-connected to Kathmandu by road, a distance of 200 kilometres. With proper visas, one can cross over to the Indian frontier.

From the time we left the hotel, it took eight hours of coach ride before reaching Pokhara. This place is home to the Gurkhas, famous soldiers used to be enlisted in foreign armies as the Gurkhas are known for bravery and remain very neutral politically.

Hotel Fulbari is the place where we would spend our next four fun days and three cold nights. It is in an excellent location as you view into the deep-shadowed valleys, you can sight clusters of rice fields at the base below. Lofty mountains in the background with beautiful river meandering in a soft flow bring reflections across the still waters.

Nearby is one of the villages where poor residents try to make a living by acting as trekking guides, porters. We showered the children with gifts like stationery material and clothes brought over from Malaysia. Just a simple way of saying ‘we care’. Those little eyes were mesmerized by the gifts and we had to regain our emotional composure for the moment. But the Gurkha soldiers stared at us blankly, no expressions at all.

Next morning, we went on for a mountain trekking, 30 minutes ascend to a simple mountain trek left me gasping for breath. It shows my urban sedentary lifestyle is not a good point when it comes to physical fitness. There is a stupa built and donated by some Japanese here known as Bismo Shati Stupa. On reaching the gentle peak, you have a panoramic view of the high snow-capped Annapurna ranges far away.

On the descending trek down, we toured a Tibetan refugee camp. These refugees are actually better off than many Nepalese and not as poor as what we have imagined them to be. A lot of barter trading went on as they loved basic necessities like clothes, baggage or umbrellas in exchange for their handicrafts or souvenirs. Well, it was fun as tourists and curiosities can go both ways, barter trading brought glee.

Another morning, we crossed the cold lake of Phewa Tal to another touristy spot. Our new friends went shopping but Richard and I decided to have foot reflexology massages instead. I managed to convince our tour guide - Bijay to speak to the cook if we can photograph him in action and have him sharing his curry recipe with our readers as I like the dinner served. He was a gentleman and consented.

Dwarika’s Hotel
Before the next dawn, we had to leave beautiful Pokhara and taking away happy memories of this place. On the return journey to Kathmandu, we requested Bijay to show us a real good place for a traditional Nepalese dinner. What a coincidence, the general manager of Dwarika’s Hotel (a heritage hotel) is a very good friend of his. The G.M. invited Richard and I for a dinner at Krishnarpan Restaurant that night.

Décor is dramatic with the presence of many antique objects. Menu starts from US $25.00 per person and a simple meal starts with six dishes but a complex meal ends with 22 varieties. All waitresses were clothed in different tribal attire and we were served with royal protocol. Traditionally, the expert wine server would pour rice wine from a wine pot with a long spout four feet away. With martial arts-like movements, she would fill small clay cups with wine. Not a single drop would spill and apart from rice wine, we had our fill of white and red wine. The combination worked on us as we felt heady. Intoxication was working up fast but our palates could still tell that the chef’s skills showed up brilliantly in every dish.

The peaks of Mt. Everest
Early morning, we joined 11 others to go on a daily light flight over the Himalayan ranges, costing US $123.00 each. Sighting the peak of Mount Everest (8848 metres) brought us squeals of happiness. Photos were quickly taken to show friends back home that we have conquered the top. But alas only through the deceiving short cut method.
This is our last tour day in Nepal.

Since the flight home is many hours later (11p.m), we wandered around central hub - Thamel. We took a ride on a pedal trishaw to see the city. A carefree afternoon coffee eaten with momo dumplings was savoured at a café on a roof top. This is a good way to watch the crowds lingering around. A farewell dinner was arranged at Rum Doodle Restaurant and everyone left their signatures on the restaurant’s guest page in footprint shapes.

One of the loveliest secluded countries that I have ever been. There are mountains to climb, peaks to trek, temples to visit, sanctuaries to see, beautiful old palaces to view. Nepal is simply a kingdom and her beauties are many.

A piece of advice
Annually, autumn season and winter season starts around September but ends by February. Cool mornings in autumn is the most pleasant time to travel around Nepal. Below is a general guide and helpful items of what to bring along:

A) Purchase a good travel insurance scheme with a comprehensive coverage.
B) Bring thick pairs of socks. Good footwear is necessary as sports shoes are a must for trekking hills.
C) Heavy-based moisturizers and lip-balm creams or rolls are needed to protect against dry skin, cracked lips.
D) Light clothing and some winter-wear, like wind-proof jackets, warm pants, capes or shawls, wooly hats, chemical warmer. (23°C during the day but the temperature sometimes drops to 3°C at night during autumn. Full protection is required against extreme conditions in the hills)
E) Torchlight-very useful when you go for early morning walks.
F) Umbrella (quite a necessity to shield off the hot midday sun’s rays)
G) Simple medication like Panadol tablets, anti-diarrhoea tablets, tiger-balm oil and strips of sticking plaster. If you are on special medication, bring a sufficient supply to lasts for the entire journey.
H) Bring a small ration of dry food (e.g. biscuits) and drinking water with you as flight delays are quite common.
by Catherine Chia, photography by Richard Er









接着到另外一个市区内的古城广场(Hanuman-dhoka Durbar Square),这里有超过50座建于13至19世纪的故宫和寺庙,各种华丽的建筑雕塑依然保留完美无缺,非常难得。整座古色古香三层以木雕而成的活女神库玛莉寺长年住着一个不超过12岁的童贞活女神,有缘人可以看到这位库玛莉。在这里我们没看到库玛莉,却看到一个穿着黄袍的古行僧摆出一幅庄严的姿态,老公抓紧机会连按快门拍下数张照片,结果我们被他追了几条街要钱。身上只有百元美钞,兌换成卢比给他之后才得以脱身,过后导游告诉我们:『这些古行僧来自印度。』




离酒店不远的博拿大佛塔(Boudha Stupa)是另一个重要世界文化遗产,这里除了数间喇嘛庙之外,酒店、餐馆、售卖唐卡(Tangka)、宗教用品及法器的商店团团将佛塔围成一圈。我们随着导游拾级而上至佛塔莲花型的平台,顺时针绕塔一周参观。穿着臧族传统服饰的朝圣者成为我们注视的目标,妇女穿着色彩斑斓的衣着以及结成鱼网般的长发辫子尾端系上别致的图案装饰,个个脸蛋红扑扑可爱极了。虔诚的朝圣者除了绕塔转法轮之外,甚至五体投地绕塔膜拜。


时间接近中午,我们抓紧时间往第五个世界文化遗产巴丹古城广场(Patan Durbar Square)。这里的王宫和寺庙建于公元298年,拥有1700年历史,建筑依然保留得完美如昔,非常难得。不远处一间金庙也是游客必到之处,穿皮鞋者不得进入。

午餐在一间中餐馆草草解决,告诉自己填饱肚子就好,别期望太高。往纳嘉阁途中,我们在最后两个世界文化遗产柏德普(Bhaktapur Palace Area)及樟古纳拉彦古庙(Changu Narayan)停留。下午四点半离开,巴士走在狭窄及弯曲的郊区公路上,二十公里路费时一个小时,然而沿途景色迷人,到达目的地已经天黑,空气额外清新。晚餐有五星级大厨师准备的自由餐,不论是食物水准、餐具及环境均出乎我们意料之外的好。




平时鲜少运动,这次可吃尽苦头。为了观赏到美丽风景,沿着山路需半小时才攀上小山岗,上气已接不到下气,停停走走狼狈不堪,脸青青登上山顶。这里有一座由日本人捐献建造的和平塔(Biswo Shanti Stupa),可望到连绵起伏的雪山脉,一切辛苦都值得。下山后到西藏难民营参观制作羊毛地毡,这里的藏人并不如想象中穷,生活甚至可说比许多尼泊尔人好得多。最特别之处是这里流行物物交换,衣服、旅行袋、雨伞甚至快熟面都极受藏族妇女欢迎,上车时团友开心地将换来的战利品互相展示。

在溶雪的水积成的碧华湖(Phewa Tal)泛舟后,沿着湖边是最旅客集中的街道,喜欢购物的团友在这里大包小包买个痛快,我跟老公则到一条后巷做脚底按摩。在湖边餐馆晚餐,当地导游Bijay特地为我们安排到厨房拍摄地道尼泊尔美食。厨师特地安排两人份的香料咖哩鸡,让我们见证有看头,当地多种香料为主的料理过程。这一餐,让我们对当地食物惦念。




隔天早上,我们与其中十一位团员自费US$123,乘搭小型飞机飞到喜马拉雅山脉观赏长年积雪的群峰。第一次透过机舱亲眼目睹世界最高峰珠穆朗玛峰(Mt. Everest),梦想变成真实的画面,心情难以形容,下机后大家都获颁一张证书。

回程班机在晚上十一点,最后一天自由活动,大家一致选择到淡米尔游客区消磨一整天。喜欢购物者做最后冲刺,我们则选择雇用一辆三轮车载着我们兜完整个淡米尔之后,再到有天台的咖啡馆喝咖啡吃膜膜,悠哉闲哉看街景,奢侈地浪费时间。傍晚集合时,大伙到这里一间著名的Rum Doodle(四万只半大脚板)餐厅用餐,各人在大脚板留下签名留念,为此次有缘同游尼泊尔留下完美句号。

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