Nature and namaste: navigating Nepal

It won’t take long for you to discover how welcoming the Nepalese people are: in passing, they’ll greet you with “Namaste”.

In Nepal, it’s common to see prayer flags hanging at the top of buildings. These have mantras that signify peace, compassion, wisdom and strength – rooted in the nature that shapes this beautiful country.

GET READY: You can purchase the prayer flags at their markets – they make awesome souvenirs! One of the country’s popular dishes is called dahl bhat which translates to rice and lentils. Because of Nepal’s position in the middle of China and India, you’ll find cuisine common in China, such as noodles and dumplings (Momos) and Indian food, like curry. The majority of the population practices Hinduism. They do not eat beef because they view cows as sacred; chicken and buffalo are their main sources of meat. Conservative wear (covered shoulders and legs) is common practice.

GET THERE: Wherever you’re flying from, you’ll arrive at Tribhuvan International Airport. From there, you can take a taxi to your destination. There are plenty of taxis waiting around the airport. From the airport to Kathmandu (the capital of Nepal) it will cost you about $10.

Tip: it isn’t common courtesy to tip taxi drivers, at restaurants, or in general.

GETTING AROUND: I think taking the taxi is the best option! There is public transportation. If you don’t mind crowds or standing, go for it! It’s cheaper, too.

THAMEL: 

Located in Kathmandu, Thamel is the hub for hotels, hostels, shopping and souvenirs. You can find tours to visit their famous Monkey Temple and stupas, and deals for treks and yoga retreats!

Fun fact: if you’ve seen the movie Doctor Strange, part of it was filmed at the Monkey Temple!

Popular treks are Everest Base Camp, Annapurna Base Camp, and Annapurna Circuit. There are numerous informational shops in town on the different treks. Thamel also has many stores that sell hiking gear: gloves, base layers, scarves, beanies, down jackets, sleeping bags, poles, backpacks, etc. for really good prices! So don’t worry if you forget to pack hiking gear. You’ll find amazing handmade scarves, beanies, and blankets at these shops – great gifts for people back home!

Hostels:

In Thamel, I stayed at the Peace Guest House. It costs $8/night for a standard, single bed room. There’s no Western toilet, but they do have a squat potty which is common in Asia. Internet/WIFI is available. They do have warm water for showers, but it’s common to experience cold showers.

Hotels:

If you’re looking for a more comfortable accommodation, there are hotels in Thamel that have Western toilets and warm showers. I stayed at Hotel Pilgrims and it was about $40/night for double occupancy. There are other hotels within the vicinity, also, varying in prices depending on how fancy you want to get! Both hotels and hostels can set-up tours for you, as well as transportation – just ask the front desk.

Yoga Retreats:

High recommend! I did this at the end of my trip. It was the best way to reflect, relax, and be away from the busyness of Kathmandu! You won’t have any trouble finding a yoga retreat – there are so many to choose from. I went with Nepal Yoga Retreat in Bhaktapur. It’s about 1.5 hours away from Kathmandu – I used a taxi to get here. They have different packages available depending on the length and type of your retreat. They also have massages! The different packages are listed on their website.

Chitwan:

The country’s popular tourist attraction is the Chitwan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I loved it! You can go on a jeep safari, a canoe ride, a walking tour through the jungle, bird watching and bathe elephants. I even got to see a Rhino, up close. Some of the other animals I saw were spotted deer, birds, black bears and crocodiles. If you’re lucky, you might be able to see a tiger.

Getting to Chitwan from Kathmandu is about a 5 to 7 hour drive depending on traffic.

There are buses from Kathmandu that go to Chitwan or you can take a taxi. I stayed at Hotel Seven Star. They serve Nepalese food, buffet style. Meals vary from dahl bat (rice and lentils), chicken curry, picked veggies, noodles, chaapati (similar to naan bread), eggs, soup and fresh fruit. They serve Gorkha beers for about $3 for a 650ml bottle. It’s a light and easy-to-drink pale lager beer. It was an absolutely beautiful hotel! They provide amazing service, a lovely place to stay, and it’s located very close to Chitwan National Park.

Must haves:

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Tissues
  • Anti-diarrheal (you get these over the counter there at the pharmacy)
  • Water tablets (don’t drink tap water and always drink bottled water) (Optional) 
  • Camera or phone for pictures!