“Day Hikes in Kathmandu” -Now Launched!

'Day Hikes in Kathmandu' launched in 'Trekking In Nepal' App

After a week-long hard work, everybody (including the workaholics, of course) awaits for a weekend! While many people spend these days with medium pleasures such as fast food, movie, video games, etc., the rest of the world tells a different story! Besides gossiping about the trending restaurants and cinemas that are popping out in the valley like a popcorn, let us take a moment to realize how naturally and elegantly rich is the Kathmandu Valley. From Manjushree cutting the gorge to the legendary Kings treading in the cities of mystic historical folktales, this little valley, amass the enormous globe, witnesses all of these!

So keep calm and hold your excitement as HoneyGuide now brings you ‘Day Hikes in Kathmandu’ for all the hiking enthusiasts and short-trek lovers in the very own ‘Trekking in Nepal’ App. With the three trails in the Nagarjun forest ( The Standard trail,  the Bichpau trail, the Mudkhu trail) and the Chisapani-Nagarkot trail in Shivapuri already being covered, the team is all set to cover the entire rims of Kathmandu Valley in the upcoming days! From offline maps, experienced trek and trail information, and mountain finders to stories and facts that you’ve never heard of, we provide you with every single note that’s essential and interesting for a trekker during his/her trek.

So, Download our App on Play Store and get ready, as we enrich your journey to the sublime hills of the valley!

Mountains from Nagarjun trail!
The mountains, the hills, and the prayer flags- all in one!

Yet not convinced? Let us hear it from the experience of these three young travel writers who have been covering the rims -Shivapuri, Nagarjun, Chandragiri, Phulchowki, and Nagarkot-  around the valley!

Researchers exploring hiking trails in Kathmandu
Yes, you guessed it right! That’s the three of us!!

“We consider ourselves really lucky to be a part of this project! None of us had thought that the valley we’ve forever lived in has so much more than just the smell of petrol, the taste of dust, and the frustrations of the traffic jams. The outskirts and the hills surrounding this valley have such a serene presence and so many intriguing tales which makes us ‘ever-ready’ to plan our hikes!

Being a part of Honeyguide has inspired us to look at things from a new perspective and naturally appreciate the history, culture and natural beauty that our valley holds. We are really excited to introduce you ‘Day Hikes in Kathmandu’ from this unique perspective. Get in-depth with us and you’ll never travel the same way!

We do not just provide you with a hiking route and a must see building. But, take you deeper adding more values and memories to your short day hike. We tell you how the stale veggies like ‘gundruk’ (that our ‘grandmas’ usually fed us) portray the history of Nepali families; we tell you why the bells are rung in temples, and we tell you the ways how the Kings and Queens followed their religion. We give you reasons to not only look at the road ahead of you but the birds living on top of the trees that surround your path. We promise you will not just enjoy the splendid views of the hills and the mountains, but learn about the stories of these natural beauties as well.

Well, the trend to spend weekends by crowding at cinemas, dwelling at malls and filling stomachs in the top restaurants in the town can be lessened. And a new trend, which is quite interesting of course, can be started! Join us, learn from nature, dwell in hidden caves of the hills, fill your lungs with fresh air, and your mind, with heaps of positive energy!

Get up and hike with us! Let us all be the change, start to embrace the beauty of this serene valley by hiking during weekends, and make a difference in our way of living and exploring!”

Kathmandu Hills hike experience
And we introduce you our travelling team!

HoneyGuide loves mountain lovers, and to better serve the trekking community we have,
1. Made “Trekking in Nepal” Android Mobile App absolutely FREE. Download it now!!
2. Introduced lodge, flight, and guide bookings for the Everest Region. Check it out now !!

 

HoneyGuide goes ‘Wild West’ with Tourism Development Society (TDS)

Shuklaphanta

Hands Down! Mountains are the unparalleled attractions that differentiate Nepal from the whole wide world. No wonder, Nepal sees a large number of trekkers every year- the population only increasing! But let’s admit, there also lies a huge fraction of the population in the world, who loves traveling leisurely. Today’s travelers have evolved to people who are looking to indulge in local experiences and are keen be exposed to in-depth knowledge of anything they are interested in.

People from West Nepal
Faces of Mahendranagar. Photo Credit: Ashim GC

Respecting the larger perspectives, HoneyGuide, partnering with The Tourism development Society (TDS) of Far Western Region, would like to officially announce that HoneyGuide will make an App to promote the highly overlooked, yet one of the most potential Tourism destinations of Nepal, ‘The Wild West’. It will be available to download both on Google’s Play Store as well as Apple’s App Store. The prime focus of the App, which will be branded under ‘Tourism Development Society’ is the Terai belt of the Western Region of Nepal from Nepalgunj to Mahendranagar. Despite the obvious reasons for being a home to the amazingly diverse wildlife, this virgin beauty of the West also shelters the remnants of the history, archaeology, religious monuments, deep-rooted local culture, and many more unheard stories.

Don’t believe us? Here is an incredible promo video by Sisan Baniya from Paradygm Productions. See for yourself! 🙂
[Skip to 2:35 for the actual video]

Travelling with our App, you will get acquainted with all the nooks and corners of West Nepal -mainly Banke, Bardiya, Kailali, and Kanchanpur districts. Here’s what you can expect:

  1. Coverage of National Parks: The detailed information of the National Parks of West Nepal- Bardiya NP, Shuklaphanta NP.

    The gate of Shuklaphanta NP, West Nepal
    The Shuklaphanta National Park Gate. Photo Credit: Ashim GC
  2. Major Attractions and Activities: Wildlife Safaris, Chadani Dodhara bridge, Ghoda-ghodi lake, Bedkot Taal, Mahakali River, etc.

    Birds of West Nepal
    A Purple Heron spotted at Ghoda Ghodi lake. Credit: Ashim GC, HoneyGuide
  3. Religious and Historical Sights: Bageshwari temple, Behada Baba Temple, Siddha Baba Temple, etc

    Attractions of Nepalgunj
    Jungeshwor Mahadev in Nepalgunj.
  4. Flora and fauna: Whether you are interested in Mammals like Bengal Tigers, Asiatic Elephants, and One-horned rhinos, Reptiles like Gharials, Asian Rock Python or birds or plants or even butterflies of any kind, we have it all covered for you!

    Fauna of West Nepal
    Mugger Crocodile playing hide and seek at Shuklaphanta National Park. Credits: Ashim GC
  5. Local culture and lifestyle: Language, culture, ethnicity, festivals, food habits, etc of the locals.

    Street food of West Nepal
    Another fun experience from West Nepal- The mouthwatering Street food.
  6. Complete lodge coverages: Every single homestays, lodges, hotels, and restaurant in the area.
  7. Infrastructure Coverage: All the Banks, hotels, schools, checkpoints and hospitals.
  8. Interesting stories, more Stories, and even more Stories: Through research as well as local interaction, we will bring you local mythologies and folklore.

We believe, this step will majorly help to boost the Tourism in the ‘Wild West Nepal’. With the overall coverage of accommodations, every single hotels, lodges, homestays, and service will be exposed directly to the travelers. Even the undermined tourist attractions will receive attention and travelers can enjoy the localized experiences. The ‘Wild West’ will soon be an awaited tourist destination of Nepal.

Dodhara Chadani Bridge. Far West Nepal
Dodhara Chadani- The suspension bridge for pedestrians in Mahakali.


Work Progress

After a successful ‘Travel And Get Paid’ Campaign on Social Media, we received an overwhelming response from researchers and writers wishing to explore the ‘Wild West’. Among them, we have selected the enthusiastic duo- Ashim GC and Florence Reynolds, who are a combination of travelers, researchers, and writers, all in one! They are on the field and you can follow their journey by visiting our Facebook Page!

If any of you have interesting stories, facts or experiences to share, HoneyGuide will be more than happy to feature them on our website! Send in your stories to honeybird@honeyguideapps.com

Let us know what you think about this campaign!

HoneyGuide: To The Wild West!

Find us on Facebook or visit our Website for more information about us.
If you wish to see our trekking app, do visit our App Store or Play Store.

Biku’s Guide to Panauti

Biku is a colorful man from Panauti. He can’t read English, but when I asked for a picture, I got this:

Biku Narayan Tamrakar
Biku ‘reading’ an English Daily.

Among other things, Biku also loves to show people around his town of Panauti and as I witnessed firsthand, in these tours you will get occasional detours to a tea shop to buy some milk, a pen from a casino in Macao as a gift and a free copy of his biography!! Despite the rather unconventional tour that I got, I dedicate this conventional Panauti Guide to Biku. Errors are all mine. 🙂

In a single line, Panauti is hidden, homely and authentic.

Why go to Panauti??

Everybody has heard of the grandeur of Kathmandu and Bhaktapur Durbar Squares and these places have the numbers to show for it. With the increase in tourists come professional guides, professional coffee shops, professional ticket counters, professional souvenir shops and professional hawkers. Well, Panauti doesn’t have any of them. And that is the most important reason why you need to go to Panauti.

Beautiful ladies of Panauti farming
Experience organic farming with the beautiful ladies of Panauti.

There you will most probably stay at a local home, help them prepare dinner freshly picked from their organic garden, and go around the small town with one of their family members. And top it all off, at Panauti you not only experience the charms of an old township but will also get to experience a bit of agrarian Nepal and enjoy first class hikes in the forests nearby.

When to go to Panauti??

Panauti at 1,450 masl sees rather moderate temperatures throughout the year.

January/February can be cold but not intolerably so. However, throughout this time the views are pretty clear and hikes to close by hills like Balthali, Namo Buddha and Dhulikhel can be quite rewarding.

March/April sees blossoms and greenery with very pleasing temperatures and great mountain views without the dramatic fog that characterizes Jan-Feb.

May/June is when the village life comes together for the plantation season and also the fabulous Panauti Jatra.

July/August is when the entire village erupts in post-plantation festivities. It is one of the best periods to interact with the people and get a sneak peek into their lives.

September/October continues the festivities, offers clear post-monsoon skies and amazing temperatures.

November/December continues the dry and clear weather and is a very good time to visit Panauti.

Hence, as you can see Panauti is open all year around, it just depends on what you are looking for. 😉

 

Panauti Temperature Chart
Panauti Temperature Chart Source: WordlWeatherOnline

 

Panauti Rainfall Chart
Panauti Rainfall Chart Source: WorldWeatherOnline

 

Where is Panauti?

Panauti is close to the Kathmandu Valley, about 34 kilometers to the east. In some way, it is the satellite town of Banepa, a town along the Arniko Highway. It is about 7.5 kilometer due south from Banepa. Here is a bird’s eye view of the quaint town.

As you can see Panauti is at the confluence of the Punyamati River to the north and Roshi river to the south. And as the legend goes there used to be a third mystical river Lilawati that also merged here. Hence, the confluence at Panauti is actually called a Tribeni which literally means the confluence of three rivers. Another really interesting thing about the location of Panauti is that supposedly it is built on top of a single piece of rock. And as locals claim, this is the reason why this village is earthquake proof. And to be fair, given that nothing happened to this town during the 7.8 magnitude earthquake of 2015 or the 8.4 one back in 1934, there is some truth to the claim. Locals love to boast that, ‘not even a tile fell in our town during these earthquakes’. However, all this makes sense geologically too as the shockwaves of an earthquake pass through rocks faster without creating waves. Since it is the waves that create the most destruction, areas that stand on a solid rock are safer. Also apparently to ensure that people do not mine this rock to make utensils, there is a traditional belief that one should not use stone tools in Panauti!!

How to get to Panauti?

Vehicles from Kathmandu

In order to get to Panauti, you could take a bus from Old Bus Park in Kathmandu. It will cost you 1-2 hours and about NPR 60. Once at the bus stop, you enter the old town through the gate of sorts that is towards the southern part of the bus stop. Another way to get there is to take a cab or hire a vehicle. A cab is going to set you back by NPR 2,500 and a private vehicle hire will cost about NPR 3,000 for 4 hours.

Vehicles from Bhaktapur

It is also possible to combine a tour of Bhaktapur with a trip to Panauti. If you are coming from Bhaktapur, you can catch a bus going to Banepa/Panauti at Jagati. It will cost you NPR 30 to Banepa and from here you can hop on another bus to Panauti for NPR 20. However, if you do manage to get a bus to Panauti it is going to be NPR 30. Or if you want to cab it up from Bhaktapur, it will cost you about NPR 2,000. Do bargain and bargain hard.

Cycling/Motorbiking from Kathmandu

If you are motorbiking from Kathmandu, the best way to get there is via the Arniko Highway. However, for those wanting to cycle in, there is this alternative path via Lakuri Bhanjyang which will be an adventure on its own. And while motorbiking is possible on this dirt road, it can be a bit tricky at places especially around during the rainy season. Click the link to see the route from Thamel. However, rather than cycling all the way through the busy Kathmandu streets, you can have the bikes dropped off at Lubhu. From here it is a pleasant ride all the way till Panauti. Also, there are local eateries at Lubhu and Lakuri Bhanjyang, so you will not need to carry food.

Where to stay and eat at Panauti?

Since we haven’t stayed at all of these places, we do not want to recommend one over the other. Please find the following list and decide for yourself and do let us know what you thought of these places once you visit them.

Panauti Community Homestay

This is a homestay run by the local women’s group and supported by Royal Mountain Travel. However, please note that the homes are about 5 minutes walk from the main town and close to the cultivations which to be fair adds a lot of charm and character to the locality.

https://www.communityhomestay.com 

Contact Persons
Shila Amatya
Email: amatyashila1987@gmail.com
Phone Number: +977-11-441015; +977-9849318778

Ram Prasad Shrestha
Phone Number: +977-9808059608

Panauti Community Homestay
Yes that is me to the right when I stayed with the wonderful hosts Shyam Hari Adhikari and his lovely wife.

Panauti Tourism Development Committee

This organization has about 30 homestay rooms in total and all of them are located inside the main town.

Here is the contact information for the organization:
Nawadurga Dabali, ward no.7, Panauti
GPO Box no. 8616, Kathmandu Nepal
Email: welcomepanauti@yahoo.com
Mobile : +977-9851008628

Contact Persons
Suresh Sainju
Email: sureshsainju@hotmail.com
Phone Number: +977-11-440093; +977-9841224940

Rajaram Karmacharya
Email: rajkarma.panauti@gmail.com
Phone Number: +977-9841360750

Ananda Cafe and Guest House

Ananda Cafe is one of the first facility to cater to travelers in Panauti and is centrally located close to the Indreshwar Complex. However, the place only has three rooms right now and the whole area has a rather unkempt look to it. You can read more about the place here- http://panauti.nepal.urfree.info/ananda-cafe.html

Contact Information:
Phone Number: +977-6211924

Hotel Panauti

This is easily the largest establishment in Panauti and is located at the western end of the old town.

Contact Information
Phone Numbers: +977-11-440055; +977-11-440469
Dharma Narayan Sonam
Phone Number: +977-9841416526
Yadav Narayan Sonam
Phone Number: +977-9841416548

V-Sign Guesthouse and Restaurant

This fairly new establishment is located close to the Bus Park on the road to Namo Buddha.

Contact Information
Phone Number: +977-011-441001
Mobile No:+977- 9803319430

Cafe Lampati

This cafe and bar is pleasantly located on top of an old sattal at the western end of the old town.

History of Panauti

Why does Panauti exist?

Panauti was a trading hub along the ancient Salt Trade route between Tibet and India. Actually, the recorded history of Panauti goes back to the first century AD. However, with the end of the Salt trade in the 1950s and the construction of the Arniko Highway in the 1960s bypassing this old town, Panauti has gone into an economic rut. But on the bright side, that is perhaps one of the reasons Panauti still has that old world charm to it compared to the nearby highway town of Banepa.

Traditional window Tikejhya Panauti
Here is a treasure hunt for you. Find this amazing window during your trip to Panauti. 😉

Why is Panauti called Panauti?

There are various stories about Panauti got its name. However, here is one that might make ‘some’ sense. In Newari language ‘Pa’ mean bamboo, ‘La’ means a rock and ‘Ti’ means a place of pilgrimage. Hence Palati which through the wear and tear of the ages eventually become Panauti.

Where to go for sightseeing in Panauti?

Indreshwar Mahadev

Indreshwar Mahadev Temple
Indreshwar Mahadev temple, the largest temple in Panauti and supposedly the oldest in Kathmandu Valley.

This three storied pagoda dedicated to Lord Shiva is located inside a beautiful courtyard at the eastern end of town. The courtyard is an absolute gem where you can breathe in 13th-century artwork and quiet solitude. Perhaps an occasional pilgrim from South India draped in yellow will pass by, or some local passerby, but you will mostly be left to yourself at this quiet oasis.

The wooden struts of Indreshwar Mahadev Temple.
The wooden struts of Indreshwar Mahadev Temple.

If you look at the temple carefully, you will perhaps notice that the struts holding the pagoda are different from the struts in other temples of Kathmandu. In most other temples, the arms of the gods that adorn the strut jut out from the wooden frame. However, in this temple, the arms are all contained within the strut itself. And that is how you know that this temple dates back to the 13th century CE. Some even claim that the Indreshwar Mahadev temple is the oldest temple in all of Nepal. Oldest or not, one other difference you will notice is that at the base of the strut are couples in romantic postures as opposed to erotic ones that can be found in later temples. And since foreplay comes before real action, it is very likely that the temple came before the others (no pun intended of course).

Interestingly, the origins of the temple are also rooted in a sexual act and a ridiculous one at that. As folklore has it, Indra, the king of Gods, was smitten by Ahilya, wife of a famous sage Gautam. Yes, Hindu sage’s had wives, and their gods sometimes had a very high libido. So obsessed did Indra become that one night when the sage was away, he slipped into her bed disguised as the sage himself. Once there, they did what men and women do when they sleep in the same bed. But as fate would have it, the sage returned while his wife and Indra lay in an amorous embrace. While normal people would beat the s#%t out of the offender, remember that we are not talking about normal people here. The sage even when seething with anger had an awesome prank up his sleeve. He cursed Indra and a thousand vaginas appeared all over his body. A thousand vaginas for someone who was just after one!! That sure is as awesome as pranks get. And to get rid of the thousand vaginas in his body, Indra had to meditate for twelve hundred years worshipping Lord Shiva. No sweat, it is just twelve hundred years. At the end of it, Lord Shiva happy with Indra’s dedication blessed him so that the vaginas disappeared. Relieved thus, Indra decided to create a temple for Lord Shiva. Thus, the Indreshwar Mahadev Temple was erected.

Unmatta Bhairava Temple

To the south of the Indreshwar Temple inside the same courtyard is the temple dedicated to Unmatta Bhairava. Now the fierce looking Bhairava is a deity indigenous to the Kathmandu Valley and predates Hindu and Buddhist infiltration. As Hinduism Inc increased its influence and started acquiring local gods, Bhairava is now considered a subsidiary/incarnation of Lord Shiva.

Unmatta Bhairava Temple
A pilgrim from South India rests under the Unmatta Bhairava Temple.

This particular temple is dedicated to the Unmatta or aroused state of Bhairava. And by aroused we do not mean awake, we mean sexually aroused. And while it isn’t easy to tell whether the statue is actually aroused as there is usually a white skirt draped around that part, rest assured that there is a monumental erection underneath. The main statue is located at the eastern end of the temple with the statue of nine goddesses lining the southern wall inside.

The statue of Unmatta Bhairava
The statue of Unmatta Bhairava. The frock he is wearing hides the erect dingdong.

However, the most distinctive feature of the one storeyed temple is the three human figures that are placed at each of the windows on the first floor. They are variously described as Kings, Saints, or even devotees. Have your pick, it will not stop the figures from lending the temple that quaint and quirky look.

Tula Narayan Temple

To the east of the main Indreshwar Mahadev temple, lies the temple of Tula Narayan. It is dedicated to Narayan, the God that sustains the universe. The highlight of this temple is the nine feet tall statue of Narayan carved in smooth black stone. This beautiful statue dates back to 1382 AD when King Jaya Singh Ramavardan is said to have constructed this temple along with performing a Tuladan, an offering of gold to the gods equal to your body weight.

Tula Narayan
The beautiful statue of Tula Narayan.

Panauti Museum

A lot of the statues and artwork from Panauti is no longer in Panauti. While the bigger temples are usually protected, there are hundreds of lesser temples that are easy prey for thieves. Panauti Museum was established by the local people in 2011 in order to provide a roof for smaller artifacts to keep the artifacts safe.

Panauti Museum
One of the sculptures at the Panauti Museum.

Bansha Gopal Temple

Bansha Gopal Temple also known as Krishna Temple or Radha Krishna Temple, is situated at Triveni Ghat, the confluence of rivers at the eastern end of the town. This three storeyed temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna, who among a lot of other good things is most popular for his sixteen thousand girlfriends, eight wives, and one true love. He is also known for the pranks, one of which is depicted in the wall close to this temple. This prank is called Bastra Haran in which Lord Krishna took the clothes of women who were taking a bath in a nearby river and carried them off to a tree. As the women urged Krishna to give back their clothes, he asked each of them to come out of the river and take their clothes one by one. Not seeing much of an option, each of the women or Gopis as they are called came out one by one and stood nude in front of Krishna upon which he gave their clothes back. Again, there are various interpretations to this prank. There is the one which notes that since the Gopis coveted Krishna and wanted to marry him, this was his way of marrying all of these women without actually marrying them, for a woman only stands nude in front of her husband. If that sounded a bit ridiculous, the other interpretation is that this was Krishna’s way of teaching the Gopis not to go into the river naked. Whatever the interpretation, we can be sure that had Krishna pulled off the prank now, it could land him in jail.

Bansha Gopal Temple
Bansha Gopal Temple, dedicated to God Krishna who had 1 true love, 8 wives and 1600 lovers.

Brahmayani Temple

Across the river from the Bansha Gopal temple is the temple dedicated to Goddess Brahmayani, one of the Mother-Goddesses of the Kathmandu Valley. She is also the presiding goddess of Panauti and during the Panauti Jatra, she gets a private chariot.

As you go inside the temple, you will possibly find that instead of a central deity or a statue, it is just a seemingly random collection of small statues loosely protected. Also, the door to this temple is always kept open. This is the case with all temples dedicated to Mother-Goddesses especially those associated with Tantric rituals. As they say, these deities have to be in contact with the natural elements.

Bhadrakali Temple

This temple dedicated to fierce goddess Bhadrakali is located in the central part of town and isn’t exactly easy to find in the narrow alleys of Panauti. It is situated in a Bahal, or traditional Newari courtyard, right beside regular homes. While its location seems rather homely, Bhadrakali is a deity as important to Panauti as Indreshwar Mahadev, Unmatta Bhairava, and Bhramayani. During the Panauti Jatra, chariots of all four of these deities are pulled, but more on that later.

Bhadrakali Temple
Biku poses in front of the Bhadrakali Temple.

Pashupati Temple

This Shiva temple in the middle of Panauti is built in the Shikhara style. This style of architecture while present in many places of Kathmandu is historically associated with Dravidian architecture. While Dravidians are currently limited to South India and Sri Lanka, their range presumably used to stretch all the way up north till the Himalayas.

Pashupati Temple
Pashupati Temple

Layaku Durbar

Layaku Palace, or what remains of it, is a playground for kids and is basically an archaeological remain. Legend has it that this is a place where the royal palace of Panauti used to be but since Panauti hasn’t had its own kingdom for a long long time, this area has obviously fallen into disuse and has very little to offer now.

Layaku Durbar
Layaku Durbar, or whatever remains of it.

Patis and Sattals

Patis or Sattals are public resting places and Panauti has quite a few of them. These used to be local hang out spots which doubled as resting places for pilgrims and merchants visiting Panauti. Some of the more popular ones standing today are Sohrakhutte Pati, Laam Pati, Ghat Sattal.

 

Other Temples

In addition to the famous temples mentioned above, Panauti has a lot more. If you are dead set on seeing all of them then here is a list: Jaleshwor Mahadev, Badri Narayan Temple, Dhaneshwor Mahadev Temple, Ram Temple, Kedarnath Temple, Mukteshwor Mahadev Temple, Maneshsori Temple, Gorakhnath Temple, Madhav Narayan Temple, Sankat Narayan Temple, Shitala Mai Temple, Batsaladevi Temple, Matya Narayan Temple, Basuki Naag, Panchamukhi Mahadev, Bhagwati Temple, Kaathganesh Temple, and Dharmadhaatu Mahabihar.

Festivals and Jatras of Panauti

12 year Makar Mela

The folklore of Indreshwar Mahadev is closely tied to this twelve-year festival. The place where God Indra got rid of a thousand vaginas obviously deserves widespread fame and people come from far and wide to see if they can rid themselves of, well not vaginas, but sins. Whatever the folklore, the number of people who throng to Panauti during this festival is phenomenal. The next edition of this festival will be held in 2022, 15 January to 12 February.

Panauti Jatra (Jya Punhi Jatra)

This carnival is the most colorful of the Panauti festivals. It is known for its wild merrymaking, chariot clashes, and multi-day feast. And the most interesting part of the festival is that it is inspired by some wild freaky sexual encounter of the gods.

As the story goes, Lord Shiva wanted to check out Lord Krishna’s character and hence asked him if he could take one of his wives. To this Krishna simply said yes with the condition that Shiva only takes the wife he is not sleeping with at that moment. Content, Lord Shiva goes to the room of the first wife and finds Krishna there, to the second room to find Krishna again, and then to the third room with the same result again. Even after going through all the rooms, Lord Shiva doesn’t get lucky!! When his consort Parvati hears about this, she decides to test out Lord Shiva. For this, she takes the form of 64 Yoginis who are very aroused and desirous for sexual satisfaction. In this form, she runs after Lord Shiva, who apparently runs away from the 64 horny women and hides close to the Triveni Ghat at Panauti. As the 64 yoginis keep waiting for Shiva, he takes the form of the Unmatta (aroused) Bhairava and comes out of his hiding place ready for feisty consummation. At this violent form of Lord Shiva, the 64 yogini gets scared and change their form to Bhadrakali, the fiery form of Parvati. So now we have the ferocious Unmatta Bhairava chasing a fiery Bhadrakali. As she reaches Layaku Dabali, Bhairab catches up with her and has sex with her three times from behind (doggy style perhaps). As the two lie satiated in sexual bliss, Bhadrakali changes her form to Parvati and expresses her wish to have sex with Lord Shiva in their real forms. Then both change their forms and go at it three more times, but this time from the front (yes missionary this time around). In line with this story, on the last day of the three-day festival, the chariot of Bhairava clashes with that of Bhadrakali from behind, well you guessed it, three times. And after this clashing, the chariot of Indreshwar Mahadev (Lord Shiva) clashes with the chariot of Bhadrakali three more times, this time from the front.

Even though the last day is the most exciting part of the festival, there are other days with perhaps less glamorous events. Here they are:

Day 0 (3 days to the full moon) is called Dha Kwacha Bijyaigu. In this day, the two goddesses Bhramayani and Bhadrakali are brought out from their regular secret room to an open room.

Day 1 (2 days to the full moon) is called Duicha Ngayakegu or Kulakya after the slow and methodical walk that the priests undertake as they carry the idol of Bhramayani across the river from her house to her temple in Triveni Ghat.

Day 2 (1 day to the full moon) is the day of Mul Jatra during which there is a lot of feasts and festivities along with the procession of Lord Ganesh, the elephant-headed God.

Day 3 (full moon day) is the main day of the festival with the chariot crashing and wild merrymaking.

If that sounded intriguing here are the dates for the next five years for this festival: 2018 26 May-29 May; 2019 15 May-17 May; 2020 3 June-5 June; 2021 22 May- 24 June; 2022 12 June- 14 June.

Devi Naach

These colorful dances represent the victory over the forces of evil. These dances also coincide with the national festival of Dashain with the same theme and consists of masked performances of Bhairab, Mahakali, Barahi, Kumari, Ganesh, Maheshwari, Bhramayani, and Indrayani. The dance is shown in the Indreshwar complex, Bhramayani Dabali, and Lampati.

Here are the dates if you are interested in this festival

Dates: 2017 21 September- 30 September; 2018 10 October- 19 October; 2019 29 September- 8 October; 2020 17 October- 26 October; 2021 7 October- 15 October.

Yomari Punhi

Usually falling around the winter solstice, Yomari Punhi is a Newari festival that is said to have originated in Panauti. It is celebrated by preparing a traditional Newari sweet called Yomari. Now Yomari is a steamed dumpling made of rice flour with chaku, a sweet brownish stuff made from sugarcane, ghee, and nuts. High in calories, it is great for warming up the body during the dead of winter. The shape of the yomari with the tapering end is also said to signify the fact that from Yomari Punhi onwards days will start to get longer however slowly, just like the tapering edge of the yomari.

Here are the dates for this festival: 2017 3 December; 2018 22 December; 2019 12 December; 2020 30 December;  2021 19 December.

Namobuddha Jatra

The story behind Namobuddha is related with the original Buddha. After enlightenment, Gautam Buddha took a tour of Lumbini, Swayambhu, Panauti and Sankhu Gandhamadan Parbat (currently called Namobuddha). Once there, the Buddha’s eyes are said to have fallen upon a stupa-shaped rock. Upon examining it for quite some time, he went up to the mound and joined his hand in a Namaste gesture to pay homage to it. Hence the name: Namobuddha.

The Buddha explains his affinity to the mound thus, “Once upon a time a great Prince Mahasattva from Panchal Country (Panauti) had come to this forest on a hunt with his father and two brothers. As fate would have it the prince got separated from the rest of the group and came across a tigress with five cubs. However, the tigress was weak with hunger and was no position even to raise her head, as the cubs tried in vain to suckle. Seeing the animals in such a desperate state, the compassionate Prince did something extraordinary. He chopped off his own flesh and started to offer it to the hungry tigress and her cubs. And that Prince Mahasattva was my earlier incarnation.” Hence, even though the prince was born in Panauti, it was at Namobuddha that he made the ultimate sacrifice. Hence it is here that the prince still resides for the rest of the year.

But during this Namobuddha festival, the main statue of Namobuddha is brought to Panauti from Sankhu Namobuddha and kept in Bansa Gopal Krishna Mandir in Triveni Ghat. Here, the MahaSattva along with two Dipankar Buddhas Ajaju and Ajima are paraded around the city and welcomed to his original home close to the Layaku Dabali.

The dates for the festivals are thus: 2018 7 September; 2019 28 August; 2020 17 August; 2021 5 September; 2022 25 August

If you are interested in other lesser festivals here is a more comprehensive list:

Festival Name Month Place
Bhramayani Worship Every Saturday Triveni Ghat
Bel Bibaha April/May Triveni Ghat
Sithi Naakha May/June Triveni Ghat
Desh Puja June/July Triveni Ghat
Gathemangal July/August Triveni Ghat
Dhalchabhajan July/August Triveni Ghat
Bibika Devi Puja July/August Pasthali Ward-No 9
Sansari Devi Puja July/August Pasthali Ward-No 9
Gunla Baja Parikrama July/August Triveni Ghat
Gai Jatra August/September Triveni Ghat
Janai Purnima August/September Triveni Ghat
Teej August/September Triveni Ghat
Chotha Parva August/September Triveni Ghat
Devi Naach August/September Triveni Ghat
Phulpati September/October Triveni Ghat
Devi Naach September/October Triveni Ghat
Swataki Parva September/October Triveni Ghat
Daafa Bhajan October/November Triveni Ghat
Bhramayani and Kaath Ganesh Puja October/November Triveni Ghat
Mahalaxmi Puja October/November Triveni Ghat
Sakimana Purne Parva October/November Triveni Ghat
Dhaneshwor Mela November/December Kushadevi, Ward No 2
Dhanya Purne November/December Triveni Ghat
Salle Devi Worship November/December Salle
Maaghe Sanktrani January/February Panauti Town
Jaleshwor Mahadev Puja January/February Ward No 12
Madhav Narayan Puja January/February Triveni Ghat
Barha Barse Mela January/February Triveni Ghat
Shiva Ratri February/March Triveni Ghat

And then here is the list of Jatras:

Name of Jatra Time Place
Navadurga Jatra April/May Triveni Ghat
Buddha Jatra April/May Triveni Ghat
Ranganath Bhagawan Jatra April/May Khopasi
Panauti Jatra May/June Triveni Ghat
Chilakh Jatra May/June Triveni Ghat
Bhimsen Jatra August/September Khopasi
Krishna Jatra August/September Triveni Ghat
Bhimsen Jatra August/September Triveni Ghat
Namo Buddha Jatra August/September Triveni Ghat
Narayan Jatra August/September Malpi
Krishna Jatra August/September Triveni Ghat
Krishna Jatra August/September Chaukot
Taleju Jatra September/October Triveni Ghat
Bhamayani Jatra September/October Triveni Ghat
Siddhi Binayak Jatra September/October Triveni Ghat
Bhimsen Jatra September/October Chaukot
Khadga Jatra September/October Triveni Ghat
Mahalaksmi Jatra October/November Triveni Ghat
Ganesh Jatra October/November Triveni Ghat
Kaath Ganesh November/December Triveni Ghat
Ganesh Jatra November/December Majh Gau
Maneshwori Jatra January/February Triveni Ghat
Bhimsen Jatra January/February Triveni Ghat
Sankata Jatra February/March Triveni Ghat
Bisket Jatra March/April Chaukot
Nawa Durga Jatra March/April Chaukot
Harisiddhi Jatra Triveni Ghat

What are the side trips from Panauti?

Namo Buddha

Hiking or mountain biking to Namo Buddha can be a pleasant introduction to rural culture and nature. It takes about 6 hours to get to Namo Buddha from Panauti of you are hiking and about 3 hours if you are cycling.

Hiking information: http://www.everestuncensored.org/hiking-panauti-namo-buddha/

Khopasi

Khopasi is about 3 kilometer to the south-east from Panauti and is famed for an 8th-century inscription and a hydroelectric project is another quaint town frozen in time. A walk to Khopasi can easily be combined with a Namo Buddha hike.

Balthali

Beyond Khopasi is the small village of Balthali which is famed for the picturesque Balthali Village Resort and rustic rural surroundings and offers some stunning mountain views.

_____________________

HoneyGuide was part of the International Travel Bloggers and Media Conference organized by PATA-Nepal Chapter and Nepal Tourism Board. The stay at Panauti was funded by these organizations. If you love this detailed article on Panauti, you will also love our detailed guide to Everest Base Camp Trek.

 

Traveller’s Tales From Nepal -4

Ghandruk, poonhill Trek

Story By: Ujani Khadka (An aspiring Tourist Guide)
Destination: Ghandruk (Ghorepani Poonhill Trek)

The excitement of traveling to a new place is something really precious to me. It kind of satiates your nomadic streak. They say we find ourselves while traveling. Even though we feel so tired and hungry traveling never fails to feed our soul. I was visiting Ghandruk for the first time along with my friends.We had walked for 5 hours and still needed to walk for some hours to reach the destination. Well, at first, we were singing our hearts out and doing all those weird stuff that people normally do while traveling but after a while, we realized our battery was getting low and we did not know where we were stuck. There was not much charge left in anybody’s mobile and the initial excitement turned into fear. “What if we are walking the wrong way?””What if some wild animal just happened to come across us?””What if we get lost in this midst of forest?” These were some questions that bothered us. I was freaking out. It was the first time I was experiencing something like that. Nobody was talking to each other because everyone was freaked out.

Ujani's Trip to Ghandruk
Ujani’s Trip to Ghandruk.

After walking for a while like an hour, we saw a beam of light. We followed that beam of light and we reached to a place which was owned by an old lady. We heaved a sigh of relief and had this heavy dinner. That night I discovered something.Nothing new that I had not thought of but something I did not know I had. The discovery was about how I could go to a new place new identity and survive. I did not have any limits. This thought freed me from all the dogma I was facing while I was in Kathmandu. It’s you, just you and nothing else. So, that small experience changed me in many ways. And, I feel too that you need to go away from yourself to discover yourself.

Love reading Travel Stories? Here you go!
Stories By other Travellers: Prakash Budha, Rishav Red Kopite, Ujjwal Silwal

Follow  Us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/honeyguideapp/

Traveller’s Tales From Nepal -3

Dhumba Lake, a sidetrip from Jomsom [Annapurna Circuit Trek]

Story By: Ujjwal Silwal
Destination: Way to Dhumba Lake, Jomsom (Annapurna Circuit Trek)

It was like a scene from some movie or we felt it that way because it was so distant from reality. I, along with two of my friends, after reaching Jomsom, decided to climb to Dhumba Lake. We were on our way to Muktinath and had reached Jomsom on the third day of our trip. We were so excited to be in the mountains, see them up close and were filled with fervor and immense zeal that we could not simply stay in our hotels for the remaining part of the day. It is then we found out about the lake after inquiring the locals if there were any side trips we could go. Despite the fact that we did not have any maps with us and only knew it’s whereabouts as per the description given to us by the locals, we were eager to follow the call of the mountain and tread our souls to the playground of mother nature (Maybe it was not that poetic when we started the trip but we were truly excited).

We reached a small village on a nearby hill above Jomsom after walking for a couple of hours and we could see the snow, and not only see but touch it and feel it (Well, you see I had never played with snow all my life and neither did my friends). We could not contain our excitement and jumped and cried at its sight. We fooled around for some good time (we had forgotten all about the lake by now).

Later, we realized that it was getting dark and knew we had to descend lest we would be in trouble. We thought there must be a shorter route back so we entered the village we had crossed earlier to enquire about the way. But, the village was strange! We could not see a single being there and all the doors and windows were closed. Suddenly, a man appeared out of nowhere on a horse with a crossbow on his arm. We were so darn scared and curious all at the same time. Just as the man galloped out of nowhere, the windows and doors started to open and people peeked out from those openings. We thought this is how it must have been in movies. But, we had to make it to our hotel before dark and so my friend conjured up all the courage he had and asked one of the persons from that village about the way back (He was a real human and not some figment of our imagination, we found out). He told us the way back and how we needed to be careful since it was a confusing trail back to Jomsom and we could get lost. He also offered to send a guide with us all the way down but we were kind of paranoid about the whole rendezvous with the villagers that we turned down his offer. We were rushing downhill as the last shimmer of sunlight was fading away. We could not find the way back and lost the trail and were jumping terrain to terrain. One of my friends was cursing and shouting at us, telling how he would never go on a trek with us ever! (It is really funny to think of it now as we went to many treks together after that). Finally, we reached a place where the landmarks were familiar and breathed a sigh of relief. It was one of the most memorable times of my life as there the mountains were shining brighter than the moon in the sky and even our legs were tired, our souls were soaring high up along the mountain breeze. It then took us an hour to reach our hotel and the hour hands of the clock had pointed to 11. Although we could not reach Dhumba lake that day, we made to our happy place!

Can’t Get Enough? Here’s More 😀

 Traveller’s Tales From Nepal -1 and Traveller’s Tales from Nepal -2

 

The Inspiring Journal of a Young Nepali Traveler who is Mapping the 75 Districts of Nepal on Foot! (Part II)

Before starting the rest of the story, we would like to introduce you all to Suman Karki,  the second member of this adventurous journey who fearlessly held Abhay’s hand to make this journey happen. And if you don’t know how the journey started. Find out on The Inspiring Journal of a young Nepali Traveler who is Mapping the 75 Districts of Nepal on Foot! (Part I)

Suman Karki, the soul of the journey!

“I was already 2 years in abroad. The time was hard. Getting all things as I desire there was still something which was haunting me down. Which was taking towards the darkest destination. I used to deal with different feelings and thoughts everyday. I was lost in my own world like a mad in front of this society. I was not able to find myself. I tried to do something which would last long but it was not being possible. I wanted to go somewhere , where I could feel free and think for while. I was just hoping for some miracle. I still remember when my friend Max shared the plan of the trip with me, without thinking for a second , I replied ‘Yes!,’. Well it took almost 1 month to start the journey from that yes. The plan was not to travel the 75 districts at first. But as we began, we promised to do 75 district on foot. Without penny was difficult, but I’m sure the situation would not be bad as I was in now. I wanted to be lost for while and I got a friend to take me in that Wanderland . Thank you Max, we are gonna get it bro. Please Keep following the story.” – Suman Karki 

[ Chapter-1, Day-1, Continued ]

It was mid-day and the sun was in mood. Gravelled roads were making us tired. After walking for few hours in between the village beside the road, we entered a forest which was so huge and silent. From there, we started to walk uphill, dark green uphill. On the way, we met a lady and asked her how long it would take for us to reach Bedkot Taal. Along with the time, she also suggested that we walk in a faster pace, because the sun would set soon. And that, there were leopards and bears in the jungle! It was a scary thought.
Many things were playing inside my head like how the day will end or what will be the upcoming days be like. But, killing all the fear we were busy in our own funny conversation. We were already missing our homies a lot. We were taking photos giving their name.

A blurry picture somewhere on the way from Daiji to Bedhkot Taal.

That continuous walk was hard, but the silence of that jungle took all the pain away. The flow of the vehicles in this road is very low. 3/4 bikes per hours and other vehicles are hard to get after the jungle where one public jeep is available in time system. Or you can get bikes on rent to drop you there, before the jungle in a Pipal Chautari.

Baidhanath Temple, a sacred temple from the Far-West (Kanchanpur)

It was nearly  5:30 and starting to get dark. We were tired and hungry. There we saw a man cutting woods and we moved towards him. The place was called Bedkot Taal and Baidanath mandir. We moved towards him and greeted “Namaste” . “NAMASTE” he replied.

“Can we get a place to sleep for tonight and some food over here?” Without any introduction we asked for help.
He looked with his doubtful eyes and said “There is no sleeping bed. If you need food, I can cook. Where are you guys from and where you are heading? You can get some hotels if you walk 1:30 hours more”.
“From this road we are heading toward Darchula via Dadeldhura and Baitadi. Actually, its our first day Buwa, we are planning a walk to 75 districts of Nepal, to search and explore Nepal, to unite Nepal, to find and share some love and happiness. We are so tired and hungry now, we can’t move forward”.

Haridutta Joshi (Buwa), the old retired Police officer who now lives in Baidhanath all alone for it’s conservation.

” I don’t have any extra clothes for sleeping bed, there is a bed on that building” he says .
“We have one blanket we will get comfort with it no worries.”
“What about food? ” he asked
“We don’t have money”
“How it will be possible to travel 75 districts without money? Are you from any organization?” he asked.
“We don’t know how it will be possible but if people help us, we are sure it will be possible, because we believe that every human gets love.”

The peaceful Bedhkot Taal welcoming them.

 

Asking us to wait for a while, he got busy in phone . And we moved towards Bedkot lake to see the ducks playing in lakes. The lake on the lap of hills and middle of the peaceful jungle took away all our worries and pain. It was so majestic and real.

The ducks quietly floating in the Bedhkot lake.

After a while, a group of 7/ 8 young boys in their motorbikes showed up. We were busy getting lost in the majestic view without confirming about the stay with Buwa, as the lake was taking our tiredness away. Among the boys, we introduced ourselves to one of them ‘Kamal’ and started sharing the talks about our journey. Luckily, he said he knew the Buwa from that temple who we were talking to earlier. He was very happy hear about our journey and he convinced Buwa to give us shelter for the night. We would like to thank Kamal and his friends for arranging the stay for the night. After exchanging numbers, the boys went home promising us to meet again.

The best part of traveling in an unknown land, You Make Friends! 🙂

Sometimes later, Baa started preparing dinner and we started talking to him. When we were sharing the idea about our journey and the start of it, he got really surprised. “You boys are really very courageous”, he said in amaze.

The fire-side conversation while cooking dinner.

As he was cooking, he said, “There is no curry, only Dal Bhaat (lentils and Rice)”
“We will be very happy to eat Dal Bhat, we have not eaten meal since today morning”, we said.

The first saviour from Abhay’s journey, Hariduuta Joshi, who believed in them and made them beleive that getting love is possible!

Haridutta Joshi (65 years) is a retired police officer who has been living in the Baidhanath Area around Baidhanath temple and Bedkot Tal. The property is basically under Baidhanath Protection Committee and he looks after the area. He says he finds a peace and satisfaction living there all by himself. He also runs a small shop there which helps the travelers to stop by and eat. Additionally, making him fill his pockets to earn a living.

“At first, I had doubts in my mind seeing you boys. The current time in itself is such that, it compels people to be skeptical. This is  very sacred land. In Treta Yug, Ravan brought a Shivalinga from Achham and established it here. The priests here are Bhandaris, who come during the Melas (Fairs)/ Pujas and return back after it’s end”, he shared.

“We want to explore all these little interesting stories and incidents. That is why we are on our journey on foot. There are many things which will not get in light otherwise. If everybody shares love and humanity, peace will prevail in no time.”
“I’m sorry that I said there is no sleeping place earlier. The bed is on the balcony. You can get bedsheets and blankets and sleep in my room. Now let’s have dinner!

This is what this first night’s dinner looked like. Simple yet satisfying!

We agreed with a wide smile.

A bed worth the miles walk. 🙂

 

The Inspiring Journal of a Young Nepali Traveler who is Mapping the 75 Districts of Nepal on Foot!

‘Max’ Abhay Pokhrel is just like any other 20 year old, except he is not. Most of us dream of places far and wide and plan on wild adventures while we are piss drunk. But we never really have the courage to pack up our bags. In our desire to be ‘someone’ we have forgotten ourselves. We are so busy navigating the crooked alleys of our careers that we have all but forgotten the freedom of the hills. And we have developed such a need to be in control that we have forgotten how to ‘let go’. But that is not Abhay’s story.

The young, hopeful and free spirited 'Max'!
The young, hopeful and free spirited ‘Max’ Abhay Pokhrel!

 

With no penny in his pocket, but a wide smile in his face, Abhay is fearlessly taking on the road. His plan?? Eat whenever he meets a kindly stranger, sleep wherever he meets another and perhaps at the end cover all seventy-five districts of Nepal. On foot. Starting from Mahendranagar in the western end of Nepal, he is already in the fifth month of his epic journey. Perhaps in a few more months, he will reach his hometown of Kakarvitta in the eastern end of Nepal having thoroughly navigated what is an amazingly diverse country. This is easily one of the longest way home!!! 

In this epic journey, HoneyGuide feels honored to have Abhay take over our blog. We hope his story will also take over your heart. You can either follow his story either through our blog or his facebook page, ‘Antya ko Suruwat’.

So this is the story of Abhay in his own words.

Abhay (on the right) and the innocent little friends from his journey!
Little happy children from Abhay’s journey!

“My dream was to travel and capture all the moments in my eyes. And want to show the world through my lens. My friend was going through some kind of depression when he return from abroad. I was in kind of depression when I was in Kathmandu.  So I chose him for my co partner in the journey. We didn’t want to start it from home although getting love there would have been easier but there was a fear of not getting permission to this dark journey of searching light. Our family, friends and hometown would not let us go, they love us and wouldn’t agree to send us far. That was the fear of love and it gave us the power to be wanderers in this wonderland. We had faith that we will find at least one person in every place, who will not let us die. “

“Beginnings are always messy.” But “A journey of a thousand miles begin with a single step.”[ Sorry for the messy beginning]

Chapter 1
[Day 1, Falgun 3 2073 (Feb 14, 2017)]

It was a cold morning in Mahendranagar. It was 5:30 in the morning when we got all set to begin this ride. I still remember, me and my friends promising our families, friends, our hometown, our relatives, and yeah- to this nation that we will not end this journey with nothing. I want to see smile in everyone’s faces. With the first promise of coming back to the hotel owner of Munal Highway Hotel ( Mahendranagar, Kanchanpur) in future, we checked out from there and moved towards Chadani-Dodhara (It’s actually Dodhara-Chadani but my mouth learned that first). In that cold air and foggy road, thanks to the daju who drove his tempo and took us there. Due to fog, the bridge was not visible. So we started to wait for the fog to be clear. The tea in that shop near the bridge tasted so good in that cold. It was almost seven when we saw the bridge of our beginning. We crossed the bridge, looked towards east, looked towards home, towards that sunshine, hugged each other and made promise of being together at any cost. We made promise of not letting each other die in this ride. If anyone dies or gets in any accident, the next will complete it . Even if we can’t  do anything, we will earn self satisfaction from achieving all the little things. We will be happy!

The signboard reading 'May your journey be successful'
The signboard reading ‘May your journey be successful’

It was almost 7:30 am when we started our journey from West to the East- Towards home. We were sure that we will get everything, we will get back home, if we keep walking. It was going to a next world from that beautiful bridge. Bridge towards heaven.

The first picture to mark the start of a life changing journey of Abhay's life, Dodhara-Chadani Bridge, Kanchanpur!
The first picture that marks the start of a life changing journey in Abhay’s life, Dodhara-Chadani Bridge, Kanchanpur!

That fog was better but within a few hours sun start to shine. It was the first day and to walk on that sunny road was really challenging at first. But it was a lovely day and the feeling was good, I was already proud that I started, it isn’t hard anymore. The surrounding was somehow romantic! Crossing Suklaphanta, old Airport’s ground and Mahendranagar Bazaar, we walked for almost 16 kms and reached a place called Daiji (It’s in the Highway, 11km east from Mahendranagar) at 12:45 pm. We have the last note of the journey, we got it from our friend of this journey ( I told some story are unfold, not a perfect beginning). Having 2 pieces of samosa each and bowl full of “chhola” in Bhandari Nasta Pasal of Dhan B. Bhandari, we moved towards North leaving Mahendra Highway.

Dhana B. Bhandari from Bhandari Nasta Pasal, Mahendranagar.

We moved towards a place called Bedkot Taal, Baidanath Mandir. He told that it is a shortcut for Dadeldhura district ( Oh I’m sorry I told you I am not a good writer. I forget to say, how and why we are going to do this journey. We are walking from Mahakali to Mechi crossing every 75 districts of Nepal, without enough penny in the pocket, saying “We are one and this nation is my home.” and searching for happiness ). Bedkot taal was 11 km north from Daiji, Kanchanpur. I still remember the promise we made to him and his son Laxman Bhandari that their photos will be published in magazine or in a book. And this promise is one little thing of the journey which leads me to writing this book. If someone is near Daiji, Can you please contact him and show this post. Please say him we miss him!

[Since Abhay and his friends has been travelling on his own 4 months now, they want to head for the second phase of the journey with a little more support from people. If you wish to support him with the required equipments for his travel or even financially, please feel free to contact him directly on his page! ]

 

An Expert’s Guide to Annapurna Circuit

 

Most of us fantasize about having a life where we get to travel a lot, reach out to those mighty mountains and soak up in an adventure. Wilderness calls everybody, but not many can respond to it. Among the successful people living their dream life, we would like to introduce you to a young, jolly and interesting personality, Ricky Yonjon, who happens to be an adventurer by heart, a mountain biker by passion and a trek leader by profession. Inspired by his father, Ricky went to his first trek at the tender age of 7. He believes that was the day he knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life, making him the person he is today. With an experience of 17 years, he leads groups to the most of the popular trekking routes of Nepal including  Everest Base Camp, Annapurna Circuit, and Annapurna Base Camp.

So we stole an hour from him to share with you what an experienced trekker, who is familiar with all the stones and mosses of Annapurna Circuit to share his thoughts about this apple pie trek. Here is a Guide’s guide to Annapurna Circuit.

The changes in the trekking scenario of Nepal 

There has been a lot of changes in the trekking scene. It has been more comfortable as the technology is advancing. Anyone can check mobile phones to know about many things. Culture-wise, one can find tremendous changes. Also, there are a lot of lodges, while the camping treks are getting lesser with the passing time. It isn’t very positive from the trekking point of view as the camping staffs, and kitchen staffs have to find new works now. Camping treks will be no more in a few years. However, the trails have been nicer and ‘going into the unknown’ feeling doesn’t exist any longer. There are tea houses every step you take. But mountains are there, and that’s what most of the people come for!

The trend of Independent Trekking is increasing these days, not just in Nepal but all over the world. How easy or hard it is to trek independently in Nepal?

What Nepal needs is people coming, no matter it is in a package or independently. The technology has advanced so much that you can sit in your country and book a lodge in Namche Bazaar or any place. It is probably going to be a lot cheaper for them. Many people have this urge to be independent or challenge themselves or be like Bear Grills. There are shows which put people in challenging situations and stuff making people want to travel alone. But the sad part is, independent trekking for female and male can be risky if people don’t have adequate information and are planning to go to the high passes. We can also hear a lot of news about people getting lost in the mountains while trekking. So if you are planning to go alone, please collect a lot of information as there are lots of lodges or tea houses on the trek and research on health and safety issues. Talk to locals, ask them questions or at least inform them beforehand, so that there can be a search party on rescue in case of any problem.
Crossing the roads in Kathmandu may be more dangerous than going to Everest Base Camp. You have to know to do it right.

Something about Annapurna Circuit!

Well, some people confuse Annapurna Circuit trek with Annapurna Base Camp trek. First of all, these are two entirely different treks. Annapurna Circuit trek is getting more feasible due to the building of motor roads. They are all Nepali style roads- so good luck with that. But if we compare the treks, the Annapurna Circuit is a great experience that you can have in Nepal. It is because you trek from a plain 500/800 meters to 5400 meters and in that altitude change, you see tropical vegetations changing, climate changing, people changing as well as religion changing. The mountains are always there. One probably thinks of Annapurna, or Fishtail while booking a holiday, but eventually, it is the people and culture that one falls in love with. So, Annapurna is a great trail to savor all the spices in one.

Best season to trek in Annapurna Circuit?

I don’t know if it is global warming or what, but it has been like 3/4 years that the weather has changed. The monsoon, which is supposed to be in June/ July has shifted a month or two back. So when it should snow in December, it snows in January or February. My friend was just there to trek in April and so many people had to return from Manang as they couldn’t do the complete Annapurna Circuit due to heavy snow. So I prefer to go in October or November, even though the national festival is around. Also, this the best time for mountain bikers as well.

What equipments should one take with them while trekking?

I am not going to talk about usual boring stuff like trekking boots and caps because you probably know it all. The best thing to bring with you is a good vibe and a right attitude. Be open and positive to whatever comes. Also, sometimes a small guitar might be helpful to make new friends from all around the world if you know how to play. You might even get a chance to learn chords from popular Nepali songs like ‘Resham Firiri.’

How or where to shop for trekking gears?

Thamel would be the best place to shop for gears as there are many shops here. Quick tip: Try to bargain. (but not so much that the shopkeeper gets annoyed). Just go around two-three shops, compare the prices and you will have the idea.

What level of fitness is required to trek in Annapurna Circuit?

Well, I don’t believe that it is the level of fitness that matters while trekking. Anybody who enjoys walking in the mountains or enjoy a healthy living can do the trek.  But no matter how fit you are or how hard your ambition is, there is no certainty that you won’t fall sick or will make a hundred percent. Because with my experience, I have taken a seven-year-old to a 75-year-old to Everest Base Camp. The seven-year-old kid broke the world record for being the youngest westerner to reach Everest Base Camp. So as I said earlier, it is the positive vibe and set of rules that you need to follow to be able to trek Annapurna Circuit.

What is your personal preparation before going to trek?

I eat momos 😀 My backpack is always ready with all the trekking gears. So I choose to be with my family, my dogs and obviously momos before the trek (things I would miss the most). If you are in Nepal, you must eat the momos here.

The best foods one must try in Annapurna Circuit?

Another name for Annapurna Circuit is the Apple pie Circuit and why? That’s because there are lots of apples. Marpha (which comes after the pass) is the best place to try apple cider as well as apricot. Talking about before the pass,  you will be eating dal bhat a lot. It is suitable for trekking as well because once you get a plate, you can ask for the second for free. So for Independent trekkers, it’s a heaven of a food. But that doesn’t count for meat. You cannot ask the second go for the meat. Other than that, Manang is a famous place for Yak burgers, which is something people can rarely experience anywhere else in the world. So you should try that mix of European and Nepali taste. And after the pass, in the second part, go for apples and desserts. If you like bakeries like a muffin or just a nice sandwich, there is this small hidden gem in Jomsom before the army barrack on the right side. All you have to do is, smell your way to this place. So don’t forget to look out for this one. It would be a treasure hunt. (Know the 5 Wierd Things about Jomsom Muktinath Trek here)

Best sidetrip for Annapurna Circuit that one must go for the best experience.

Well if you have a spare two or three days, go to Tilicho. This side trip will leave you mesmerized. Apart from that, after the pass, if you are planning to fly back to Kathmandu from Jomsom, make sure you go to the Marpha village (One hour walk/ 15 minutes on a vehicle). It’s a really nice white-washed village, which is not very commercial and you will get to witness the vibes from older times.

What should one expect before going to Annapurna Circuit trek?

You should probably expect lots of awe-inspiring moments, lots of emotions and lots of happy people. What I’m saying will make sense once you get there.

3 Breathtaking Viewpoints in Annapurna Circuit Trek

Well, obviously the one is from Thorung la Pass as it is one of the best attraction of Annapurna Circuit trek.
If you are going from Muktinath to Jomsom in a jeep, maybe you should cancel it. There is a walk from Muktinath to Jomsom via Lubra high hill, which is a really nice viewpoint.
Before the pass, Chame should be another best viewpoint in Manang, as it the first place from which you can see all the big mountains like Lamjung, Annapurna II, etc.

Best places/ poses to take selfies in Annapurna Circuit trek.

If you are not freezing cold, or not ill, or not out of breath (literally), take a selfie in front of the signboard in Thorung la pass that says ‘You are on top of the pass. You are 5416 m above sea level.
Also if you see a marijuana plant, just take a selfie. I’m just gonna say ‘Purple Haze all in my brain. Lately, things don’t seem the same.’

Things that you do during the treks to kill time.

I take a deep breath in the fresh mountain air and look at the majestic mountains as it is so peaceful. Being a Nepali local, it’s easy for me as there are a lot of Nepali people around. I go to the local hooch place to have raksi and have a chat with the local people. You can do the same. They welcome everybody. Reading a book can be done in a hotel room at Kathmandu or on an airplane as well. But as you are here only for once, go to the local Nepali shops, explore the culture, talk to the locals.

Things to remember or know before going to any high pass alone.

Try to stick to a group. There will be a lot of other individuals like you or groups that will be crossing the pass the next day at 2 or 3 am early in the morning. If you have a headache, just stop. Don’t go! Maybe, come down and take a rest. Go ahead only after it goes away. Try to consult a clinic or a doctor about what problems you are facing. Other than that, as there will be a lot of people doing the pass the next day, ask them what time they are planning to set out for the pass. Don’t try to rush to get to the pass first. Go slow and collect a lot of information beforehand.

Your suggestions to stay healthy during the trek.

What I have found from my experience is that, no matter how healthy you want to be, you may have an upset tummy or may feel unwell due to the change in the climate or food. If that happens whenever you are in the city, it’s okay not to eat. But in the mountains, as you have to walk the next day, what you need to do is eat well to gather strength. It is good to avoid the food out of cans and go for local food like dal bhat which is very healthy. Also, drink plenty of water. There are many pure water stations in Annapurna Circuit area (much cheaper than the lodges). You can fill water over there or use tablets as per your doctor’s prescription.

What is the perfect touch to mark the perfect end to Annapurna Circuit trek?

I recommend everyone not to fly from Jomsom and at least go to Tatopani (the word literally means ‘hot water’). There is a natural hot spring where you can soak yourself in, relax and have a beer to celebrate. Later, you can celebrate even more once you reach Pokhara.

Any funny, memorable or overwhelming experience during the circuit trek.

All the exciting things have always started with alcohol and not with a salad. So there are a lot of things that go wrong or right or just funny when you have alcohol. There are plenty of people who do hooch in the mountains, and we can witness funny incidents every day.
Rather than funny, there was this incident where a group of men and women who were doing the Circuit. Somehow they got an idea of getting naked and taking a picture on the top of the pass. But the Nepali folks didn’t like it as every mountain for us is a goddess. So they had a really bad fight on the pass, and most of these people were hospitalized. A word of advice- Do not take your clothes off. That is probably funny to listen to, but probably not funny if you are in that story.
Other than that, a friend of mine, came from Germany to mountain bike with me around 2/3 years ago. After a year from biking trip in Annapurna Circuit trip, she was really happy that she did this adventure of a lifetime. And just a year ago, her younger sister emailed me saying that she is no more and the last thing that she said to her sister was that the adventure that she did on Annapurna Circuit was the best thing she had done in her lifetime. So this was an emotional moment for me because you take so many people with you who have their own different story and to get feedback realizing what it meant for her is something I will take with me my whole life.

Tips for mountain bikers going to Annapurna Circuit.

Wear a helmet. Although the biking trip is faster than the normal itinerary while doing the first part before the pass, be patient and go slow. Only after you finish the pass and get to Muktinath, then you can make your own itinerary and go to Pokhara. Also, don’t be a bad mountain biker by shouting ‘Move to the side’ or coming in speed. Try to be gentle. Enjoy your biking but at the same time, let others enjoy!

There are several interesting personalities associated with Annapurna Circuit you might want to know before heading out. This might be worth a read as well. 🙂

Travel Expert Series – Bikram Pandey

We had a brief session with one of the leading travel expert of our nation. In the course, we talked about what was the scenario like back in 70's, how did a regular boy from Sanepa harness such a dream, how the tourism industry is shifting and what moves we need to make to move along with it.
This leader is Vikram Pandey and he has been in the industry for over 20 years. In the course of time, he has developed creative new ways to attract tourists through international scale events such as the highest marathon in the world which literally starts from Everest Base Camp. Then there is Lumbini marathon. And, so as to not disappoint cyclist, every year a downhill cycle race that goes by the name of Mustang Madness.

Here, we have a video summarizing the blog which also has tips for younger generation starting out to take on the tourism industry of Nepal.

1. Tell us about your Journey in Tourism!

Back in those days, there weren’t many opportunities so it was a trend for everyone to flock to Army or find a Government job. But I’ve always been a different guy since childhood. Those were all routine and monotonous jobs for me as I always wanted something different in life. Hence I was always looking for opportunities to jump out to other sector. Somehow, God helped me and I stepped my foot into Tourism. But I initially started as a bill clerk in the Accounts Department of Travel Company. The bosses would ask me to go to Government Offices, banks and several places with Office work. Observing my personality, they thought I was proactive in Public Relation sectors and transferred me from Accounts to PR Department. Even I got a chance to explore myself better and realized that interacting with people, learning about civilizations and their customs, food-habits, etc is what I always wanted to do. Then I pulled myself up. And this is how I started.

2. What were the challenges and Prospects of tourism in the early days and what kind of tourists came in those times?

Tourism itself was new in those times, so certainly there were many challenges. There were no training institutes to give orientation and guide. The office staffs were jealous of each other and would never even teach how to do a job. It was a very difficult time, to be honest. Many people left the job due to nervous breakdown as they could not bear the insults, sarcastic comments and the work pressure. However I managed to get through all the negative vibes by taking it as a part of life, because I had seen bigger dreams for myself in the Tourism Industry.

The tourists who came to Nepal back in the days were all old and retired. Some used to be so old that we couldn’t help but crack jokes as there will be additional two luggages when they leave and those would be coffins.They were first class tourists who had lots of money and traveled as a part of their hobby. Some used to be cultural tourists, who would travel to several countries and come to Nepal for a night or two. The other kind would be tourists who came for several weeks to trek in the Himalayas. Interesting thing is, when I dropped them at the airport and shook hands to bid farewell, they used to leave 10$/20$ bills as tips. But what’s funny is that, even though our pockets were full of dollars and pounds, there were no restaurants to eat, no tea shops and place to actually spend those. In fact, we used to work in half empty stomach. The hardship was real!

3. You have witnessed the changes in Tourism Industry very closely. Are the challenges in present days similar to those times? What are the modern day tourists like?

Today, there is a very competitive environment in Tourism Industry globally. It is very challenging as we can no longer sit back selling the name of Everest alone. Even other countries are developing new destinations, competitive prices, facilities, co-operating with local airlines by restructuring price, etc. to get attract tourists. These days the tourists who come to Nepal are either very cost conscious or luxury tourists. The first kind are very cost conscious and competitive. They check around ten travel agency’s prices before selecting one. This is not because they are poor but this has been a fashion to get lowest prices. And the other kind are luxury tourists, who want everything top class. Tourists who travel very cheaply don’t give anything back to the local economy. Thus we need more middle class tourists who would even contribute to nation’s economy.

4. What inspired you to invest your energy in the Adventure Tourism? What is the secret behind the successful events?

I have always been a dreamer from my student life. As I joined tourism field, people were impressed by the quality of work I delivered in every work I ended up doing. So, I got opportunities to involve in Adventure tourism. I love adventure. I go trekking, rafting and mountain biking. I even used to do solo paragliding. So basically, that is where my motivation comes from and the interesting events like Everest Marathon, Mustang Madness, Annapurna Marathon, expeditions, rafting, etc are the outcomes of the same.

These events are successful because we ensure proper safety and the organization is perfect. We provide quality food and good service by staffs. Also, I make sure there is always a helicopter for extra security.

5. Besides adventure tourism, you also seem to be inclined towards the promotion of Buddhist Tourism. What is your motivation behind it?

That’s because I love it. If I have to describe myself in one word, I would like to call myself a tourist. I am a cultural and heritage tourist. I read a lot and try to dig interesting facts. Anything that is interesting, fascinate me. So is Buddhist tourism, for now. The great location Lumbini which is the home land to three great Buddhas has inspired me to initiate a new spiritual event ‘Lumbini Peace Marathon’. Also, the ‘Mayadevi Maternity’ route was designed by myself to develop a credible tourism product as it carries a beautiful story and theme. This is the path that Mayadevi, mother of Siddhartha Gautam (Buddha) took after she gave birth to Siddhartha by carrying him on her lap upto the palace, from her maternal home. One day Nepal is going to get big exposure because of it.

6. Observing the trends all over the world, we can see the big companies like Trip Advisor, Booking.com, AirBnB, lonely planet, etc coming to rise. How can Nepal adapt and compete with such changes? How can Nepal adapt to it?

In order to be successful, we should always join the crowd of Global society. These companies are rising because people find it necessary and there is a great market for it. These days, everyone wants to pick up Apps. If they want to eat good chinese food, they use Apps or softwares to compare few places before they decide to go. Thus, even Nepal has to fit in by building something to get benefit.

7. Do you have any funny or thrilling travel memory that has left an imprint on your mind?

There are tons. But, I would like to share two of them. Once, while we were trekking from Tengboche to Namche Bazaar, the weather turned horrible all of a sudden. We had to complete the rest of the trek by struggling through the heavy snowfall and fighting against the wind. This was a life threatening moment.

Another most memorable experience was the Mt Everest Expedition of 1984 with the Indians. Never in my life had I met so many interesting personalities in any expedition. There were people from Indian army, celebrities and we also had 7 females in the team. It was like a mini world of it’s own. Just beautiful!  It was the expedition in which Bachendri Pal, an Indian woman summited Mt Everest for the first time. That expedition changed everybody’s vision towards life. Everybody ventured to different sectors after that.

8. What kind of a future do you see for Nepalese Tourism?

The beauty of Nepal is incomparable but Tourism won’t come to a place which has been abused. So we should start conserving the greenery, forests and everything we possess. The mountains, the landscapes, rivers, etc should be kept clean for a better tourism. There is a great prospect so everybody should keep working their part well.

9. What advice would you like to give to the younger generation.

It is very important be broad and adventure minded in life. Don’t stick to the old values. Don’t brag if you come from a high society or a rich family. Start discovering your passion in order to make your life meaningful.

Best Information Sites About Nepal

I’m sure anybody planning to travel or trek in Nepal likes to surf the internet every now and then, obviously in expectation to get the best information. But in the quest for the best articles, sometimes we end up getting lost amidst thousands of un-insightful ones (including Travel agencies), eventually causing a huge loss of time. Previously, we had compiled the best guidebooks recommendations for Nepal. So this time, we are giving you list of the 5 best Information portals about Nepal that you might want to follow for trip planning or even to know the interesting stories and experiences about Nepal.

1. The Longest Way Home:

Best Blogs about Nepal
Usually on the top of the list, ‘The Longest Way Home’ is a very reliable source of information for Nepal if you are planning your trip. You will barely find any of your basic travel related queries for Nepal unanswered here and is highly recommended if you want to get all the essential travel information under the same roof before travelling to Nepal. With a tag line of ‘My Journey, Your Travel Guides’ , this blog is compiled by the David, who has been travelling the world since 2005. Starting off as a personal journal, now he has been able to create a site that is appreciated by travellers all around the world. Having spent a lot of time in Nepal, he has also written several guidebooks for Nepal and one of them titled ‘Nepal’ has recently been launched in 2017. Besides guidebooks and blogs, David has been able to win over people’s hearts through his inspiring tales of travel. So, one can rely on his blogs for better information.

2. Lonely Planet:

Best Blogs about Nepal
Lonely Planet is one of the largest travel guidebook publishers in the world and the Guidebooks for Nepal are one of the best selling ones. But besides guidebooks, they also write a lot of articles about Nepal. As an intro, the Lonely Planet writer Bradley Mayhew has beautifully incorporated his thoughts on why he loves Nepal. Similarly there are many beautiful blogs and articles written by several LP writers including Mayhew, Joe Bindloss and Anna Kaminski. If you are planning your trip to Nepal, this site is worth a visit. You can find a whole pre departure information along with some interesting travel articles related to adventure, trekking, best places to visit, hotel and restaurants recommendations and many more. And incase you want to know more, Thorn Tree is readily at your service. With over a million members, this forum of Lonely Planet is a platform for travellers where they can interact and exchange their travel advices, tips and experiences. Also, get their queries answered. So there! You know where to count in if Nepal is in your bucket list.

3. Matador Network:

Best blogs about Nepal
With eyegasmic photos, videos and site itself, Matador Network is one fine place for travellers to get lost. It has the scoop of delightful blogs and articles that are both travel inspiring as well as interesting to indulge in, followed by engaging pictures. It is a media company and content creation studio. This place is a fun outlet for interesting travel articles written for destinations all around the world. However, you can skip to the Nepal section to find articles not just related to trekking but collection of experiences while travelling to several destinations of Nepal. It gives more insight as we are always fond of reading personal journey of travellers, to relate more. Founded in 2006, it is also considered as one of the popular travel media sites around the world. So, this might another place to land to for interesting blogs, before coming to Nepal.

4. Alan Arnette Blog

best Blogs About Nepal
Well, Alan Arnette’s website is like a huge room filled with candies, if you are an aspiring climber or mountaineer. His articles directly take you to the mainstream mountains of Nepal, for Nepal is a home to 8 among the 10 World’s highest mountains. Being a hardcore climber and mountaineer, his blogs are more like his journal encompassing his beautiful experiences from the mountains. A diary, that inspires to travel, that mentally prepares to climb and that gives the authentic information from the first hand experiences. Talking about Alan, he holds a record in being the Oldest person to summit Mount K2. Besides, he has summited Everest as well as 7 Summits and climbed over 6000 meters over 13 times. So, trekkers must find his articles if planning to hike high altitude areas of Nepal.

5. Nepal-dia

Best Blogs about Nepal
Nepal-dia is a website originally written in German but has the whole the whole page translated in English as well. Andrees De Ruiter, the man behind the website compiles several trekking related articles and queries to help explore more about trekking in Nepal. Besides, he also has advices for best routes to travel for a perfect birdwatching experience. You can witness a whole bunch of pictures from his travel journey from the mountains, cities and religious sites. And the best thing is, it’s all about Nepal. He brings out overview of several trekking destinations of Nepal. The site also includes sections to plan and organize the trek with travel agencies or directly  guides and porters by including their personal detail, contact info, experience, etc. There is a compilation of maps, travelogues and pictorials and several articles. So another information site to contact is Nepal dia as well.

However, if it is detailed internal information about Nepal that you wish to know, you can also refer to HoneyGuide Apps for interesting cultural, fun and insightful blogs.