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.
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.
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:
Coverage of National Parks: The detailed information of the National Parks of West Nepal- Bardiya NP, Shuklaphanta NP.
Major Attractions and Activities: Wildlife Safaris, Chadani Dodhara bridge, Ghoda-ghodi lake, Bedkot Taal, Mahakali River, etc.
Religious and Historical Sights: Bageshwari temple, Behada Baba Temple, Siddha Baba Temple, etc
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!
Local culture and lifestyle: Language, culture, ethnicity, festivals, food habits, etc of the locals.
Complete lodge coverages: Every single homestays, lodges, hotels, and restaurant in the area.
Infrastructure Coverage: All the Banks, hotels, schools, checkpoints and hospitals.
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.
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 email@example.com
Biku is a colorful man from Panauti. He can’t read English, but when I asked for a picture, I got this:
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.
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. 😉
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.
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
This is easily the largest establishment in Panauti and is located at the western end of the old town.
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
Bibika Devi Puja
Pasthali Ward-No 9
Sansari Devi Puja
Pasthali Ward-No 9
Gunla Baja Parikrama
Bhramayani and Kaath Ganesh Puja
Sakimana Purne Parva
Kushadevi, Ward No 2
Salle Devi Worship
Jaleshwor Mahadev Puja
Ward No 12
Madhav Narayan Puja
Barha Barse Mela
And then here is the list of Jatras:
Name of Jatra
Ranganath Bhagawan Jatra
Namo Buddha Jatra
Siddhi Binayak Jatra
Nawa Durga Jatra
What are the side trips from Panauti?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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)
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.
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!
The Annapurna Circuit Trek is the ultimate trek in terms of variety and adventure in Nepal. With her you will shrug shoulders with polite Brahmins, gutsy Gurungs, regal Ghales, smiling Lobas and hospitable Thakalis. With her, you will earn bragging rights for scrambling past one of the highest mountain passes and gliding through one of the deepest river valleys. With her, you will have mountains for breakfast, plunge pools for lunch and the milky way for dinner. Musk Deer, Blue Sheep, Griffons, and Monals will give you company while primulas, irises and rhododendrons will light up your way.
And besides the obvious, the Annapurna Circuit trek also offers alluring bonuses that you would want to grab and add up to your itinerary. Know the Best Side-trips of Annapurna Circuit.
1. Guru Sangpo Cave:
Possibly one of the best side-trips in Annapurna Circuit Trek, Guru Sangpo Cave is a 2 hr 40 mins walk from Larjung. The trail to Guru Sangpo goes through the village of Naurikot as well. Once you reach the cave and enter inside, you will forget all your miseries. The inside of the cave is spooky, to say the least with the stream flowing into the subterranean crevices below and weird brain-shaped rock formations. The main cave is supposed to be a manifestation of Yab-Yum, or in other words, the merging of male and female. The cave somehow is a metaphor for the masculine and feminine forces in the world, the rocky walls of the cave are the male force while the water that flowed is the female force. And the weird lifeforms that grow there was the result of the meeting of this masculine and feminine force. The world inside this cave is magical if you start to understand the meaning of every other weird forms that are present. Some structures even appear as a male and female organ. Yab Yum will finally make sense to you then. Altitude: 3020m/ 9908ft
Lunch pack: light snacks
2. Tilicho lake:
This is hands down the most exciting and sought after side trips in the entire Annapurna circuit and one cannot blame anybody for wanting to do this side trip. Although Tilicho lake is not the highest altitude lake in the world, at 4919m, it is definitely very high. And it is a big lake too, the area that it covers is a little under 3.5 square km. Tilicho lake is a stunning glacial lake with Tilicho peak and the grand barrier nearby keeping their watchful eyes over the lake. If Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt (take your pick) pose in front of the Tilicho lake your eyes would still be fixed on the lake, that stunning lake! Some people not only take this side trip for the sheer beauty and experience but also for some crazy antics. In 2000, a Russian diving team made a world record for the highest altitude scuba dive. Surely only Russians are capable of such a record. But just recently on 7 March 2016 that record was broken by a Polish guy by scuba diving at 5985 m in Cazadero lake, Argentina. Surely, only a Polish could have broken a record held by a Russian.
Nonetheless, you don’t have to scuba dive to take away the experience of being at Tilicho lake. Altitude: 4919m/ 16138 ft
Lunch pack: not required
3. Gangapurna Lake:
First, you need to look for a sign directing towards the Gangapurna lake to the south of Manang. Then start your walk towards the lake. It is a fairly short walk to Gangapurna lake (30 minutes), one that won’t exhaust much of your energy and will bless you with the awesome view of the lake. Gangapurna lake is a very young glacial lake formed about 50 years ago and what a lake it is! It takes merely 20 minutes to get to the lake from Manang village. With a color that resonates a greenish blue tone, this one is a crowd pleaser for sure. The serenity and beautiful views it provides should be compelling enough reasons for a stop and some photographs. The name Gangapurna is derived from the fact that the lake’s water trickles down directly from Gangapurna mountain just above it to its south. You won’t see the lake freeze in winter so don’t bring along your skates just yet. Just above the lake, there is a viewpoint by the name of Chongkor which provides breathtaking scenes of mountains and the majestic Gangapurna lake itself. It will also help for the acclimatization purpose if you indeed decide to take the climb. The trail is the same for both sidetrips. Altitude: 11568 ft/ 3525 m
Lunch pack: Not required
4. Milarepa Cave:
Among the many sidetrips in this region, Milarepa cave is one of the most famous. This side trip (over a 2 hours hike from east of Bhraka) is very well one of the most exciting places, not only because of the scenery visible from the cave but also the story behind it. An eccentric Tibetan poet named Milarepa is said to have meditated in this cave somewhere during the 11th century whilst his journey in the Himalayas. Milarepa meditated and lived solely on stinging nettle that is said to have transformed his whole body green. One will be surprised to see stinging nettles still growing outside the cave. If you see Milarepa’s illustration in any book or papers then that depiction most probably will be in the color green. The story goes that a hunter named Kera Gumpa Dorje was hunting deer with his dog. After seeing a deer, both the hunter and the dog started chasing the deer which after a while sought refuge behind the meditating Milarepa. The poet refused to hand over the deer and the hunter refused to leave without killing it. After a long discussion, Milarepa’s magical influence caught on and the hunter gave up hunting and became Milarepa’s disciple. You can still see the bow of the hunter hanging on the cliff above the cave. Altitude: 4200 m/ 13780 ft
Lunch Pack: Light Snack
5. Ice Lake:
For this side trip, you start off by walking past the Bhraka gompa and the old settlement of Bhraka. We suggest you not to take this side trip during winter and during snowfalls as the route to the Ice lake can be very very slippery and dangerous. So be very well prepared if you are willing to take the risk of seeing the lake in its frozen state. Once you reach Ice lake you will be blessed with a beautiful panoramic view of Annapurna III, Gangapurna, Singhu Chuli and other smaller mountains. If your luck favors you can have some yak milk by paying the yak shepherds who live just beside the lake.
Altitude: 4627 m/ 15180 ft
Lunch pack: necessary!
If you are someone with a high adrenaline rush, waiting to experience the Everest region in a daring way, Gokyo and three high passes trek is perfect for you. That’s right! Only a few determined trekkers choose to take up this adventurous Everest Base Camp (EBC) trek that lets you experience the beautiful highs and lows of the Khumjung Valley. The Gokyo and Three high passes Trek is an optional trek encompassing the three high passes of Everest Region: Renjo La (5,388 m), Cho La (5,380 m) and the highest Kongma La (5,535 m). Talking about the perks of this trail, it takes you down to the Dudhkoshi valley ornamented with the beautiful turquoise glacial lakes, Gokyo Ri, the highland monasteries, the outlying Nangpa La Valley, Sherpa village, colorful trails through the woody and lush rhododendron forests and above all, an experience of a lifetime!
So these are the major attractions in the Everest Base Camp trek route through Gokyo and three High passes:
Anybody who wishes to experience the Everest air must first, pass through this well-built market town, Namche bazaar (3500 m). Actually, this place can leave you bewildered for a bit because of its well-constructed buildings, flourished markets, well-facilitated hotels with hot showers, kosher pubs, and cyber cafes even! Surprising? Well, not as surprising as the prices they shall charge you with. As a fact, Namche is thrice as expensive as Kathmandu. (Fair enough! After all, it’s The Everest, Baby!) You can buy trekking equipment and souvenirs, eat in a posh restaurant and do all the cool stuff before heading towards the Himalayas. The weekly market is held on Saturdays when Tamangs and Rais sell rice, millet, vegetables, meat, eggs, etc after carrying the goods from lower parts of the region for days. Talking about the inhabitants of the area, Namche is a home to many Sherpa people and is very rich in Sherpa culture and hospitability. Oh, and don’t forget to try the homemade cheese and butter there!
Thame Monastery is a heavenly place with a spiritual and religious significance, settled in the sleepy village of Thame of Everest region. This small farm village is also a homeland of the great summiteers like Tenzing Norgay, Angrita Sherpa and Apa Sherpa. More than 500 years old, the monastery is the soul of Nyingma Buddhism in the Khumbu region. It is one of the largest and well-built monasteries with ravishing decoration. The alluring frescos and tapestries decorated in the walls of the monasteries is a pleasing sight. It is also a school where Buddhism is taught. Moreover, the Mani Rimdu festival which is celebrated every year is a major attraction here. This monastery in the Everest region is a perfect place for meditation amidst the Himalayas.
3. Mani Rimdu Festival:
In the Everest Base Camp trekking region, when the fields are green, new cattle are born, rhododendrons bloom in lush, men return from the trek and even the weather is in all the favors, people assemble in Thame monastery to celebrate the grandeur of Mani Rimdu festival. This festival of high religious importance is observed in October/November in Tengboche monastery while it is celebrated in May/June in Thame according to the Buddhist Calendar. This traditional dance form has a religious hallmark according to Tibetan Buddhism. The Mani Rimdu dance is alike the Broadway theatrical, just performed in the Himalayas with a traditional touch, which guarantees to leave you in awe and delight. The monks resembling deities and demons with masks and costumes carry out 13 dances. It is a religious dance with a combination of lights, colors, interesting costumes, religious vibes with a ferocious presentation to portray the victory of good over evil.
Another reason that makes this trek exuberant and unique is the overwhelming series of the hypnotizing high altitude lakes of Gokyo. Turquoise enough to redeem all your sorrows, these beautiful lakes lay in the Gokyo Valley. Among them, Dudhpokhari (also known as Gokyo Cho) is the most popular lake resting just beside the small valley of Gokyo with a few accommodations. The lake not just sits there as an eye-candy but also has a religious significance for Buddhists and Hindus. Considered pious, people take a holy bath on the full moon day of August during the thread festival of Janai Purnima. Also, on the northern corner of the lake lies the temple of Hindu Gods Vishnu and Shiva. Descending from Cho Oyu, the Gokyo lake system consists of other beautiful lakes like Thonak Cho, Gyazumpa Cho, Tanjung Cho, Ngojumba Cho, etc. One can reach these lakes after two days walk from Namche Bazaar while trekking to Everest Base Camp through three high passes trek.
5. Gokyo Ri:
Stationed on the west side of Ngozumpa Glacier, Gokyo Ri (5,357 m) is a peak at the end of the Gokyo Valley in the Khumbu region. This short two hours climb is a must go side trip if you want to witness a transcendent vista of the mighty Everest, even better than the Everest Base Camp itself. The 360-degree view of the Himalayas including four of the tallest mountain peaks Makalu, Lhotse, Cho Oyu and Everest is what Gokyo Ri serves you with. Chances are, you might want to take a long leap or just stretch your spiderman silk to land on to the Everest instantly for it seems to stand at such a close distance from Gokyo Ri. (But please don’t!)
6. Ngozumpa Glacier:
On the foot of the World’s 6th highest Himalayan jewel Cho Oyu, Ngozumpa Glacier stretches marking itself as the longest glacier in Nepal. You may not find it a delightful sight as per the expectation of what a normal glacier looks like, as the glacier is more of a collection of debris from the nearby cliffs. This gray composition of mostly rocks is of great interest to the scientists as it invites a great risk to the surrounding glacial lakes which feeds water from the seepage of the Glacier. However, it is an attraction in the Everest Base Camp trek.
As when we think that the most significant human minds have explored all of the world’s possible mysteries- The sufficiency generating curiosity to go beyond Earth, some of the existing mysteries of Upper Mustang still leave archaeologists bewildered. Housed in the Trans-Himalayan region of Nepal, the kingdom lay forbidden up until two decades back. Besides the polished white landscapes, enthralling mountains, outlandish villages and the sublime remoteness, the presence of more than 10,000 cave complexes add up a mystical charm to Upper Mustang.
Human beings have a whole ancestral history entangled to caves as that is where the evolution started. Back in the Stone Age, humans were cave people. And the most interesting thing is, Upper Mustang has shreds of evidence of the whole cave civilization attached to it. We can find the multi-storeyed Sky Caves in the hills and cliffs (30 meters and above), which reflects an ancient era of humankind. Whether Lamas used to fly up to the caves (a widespread belief) or not; Or is it the water level that has gone down in thousands of years, is inexplicable. Let’s not sink into that! However, we have compiled a list of purposes that the caves in Upper Mustang might have served from older to the more recent times.
1. Caves systems of Upper Mustang represent a settlement type:
Thousands of years ago, people established settlements in caves. This is because, caves kept people warm, protected from the strong winds and fluctuating temperature in the Himalayas. In later years, humans started to build multi-storeyed cave complexes with different compartments used for various purposes which can be evidently analyzed by studying the remains and more. Also, the connectivity can be seen as the houses in the villages also follow similar structures.
2. People took refuge in the caves of Upper Mustang:
Various folklores state that caves were the place to seek refuge from demons and evil spirits. Also that, the height of the caves were made shorter to avoid the demons from getting access to the caves as the demons couldn’t bend, making people safe. Not sure how true the story is, but another fact about Upper Mustang is that it lies along the ancient Salt Trade Route. And at that time, there used to be constant tension and war in the area. The remains of the ruined towers depict that they used to be the watch towers during the war. Thus, caves were the safest place to hide.
3. Caves were used as a Vault for the Valuables:
Even after people started cultivating lands for food, they used to live in these caves. This is evident as most caves can be seen near the agricultural lands and river basins. The caves also served the purpose of storing grains, valuables like gold and silver, etc. To be precise, it was the safest option to store such precious stuff in the caves for nobody could catch a sight easily.
4. Upper Mustang Caves even served Religious purposes:
Would you believe if I said there are cave temples and cave monasteries in Upper Mustang? Yes, everything we practice in the modern days used to be practiced inside the caves in ancient days. Some of the caves have stupas built inside it, like the ones in Luri and Tashi Kabum. From being a meditating place of the Lamas to the storage site of religious scripts, papers, and valuables, caves served various religious purposes. We can still find cave paintings and scribbles to prove the point. Besides, the performance of Bon practices is also witnessed in the cave monasteries of Upper Mustang.
5. Caves of Upper Mustang were used as Burial Sites:
Another astounding fact that can be derived from some of the caves is that the burial practices after death were also performed inside the caves. There are several burial caves in different parts of Upper Mustang too. The Chokhopani burial caves located on the northern banks of Chokhopani Khola, which was excavated in 1992, contained grave goods like pottery, bronze, bones, beads, copper jewelry, etc. Besides, in 1995, several human remains were found in the burial caves of the northern bank of Dzong river along with animal remains ornaments of deceased, beads, bracelets, baskets, utensils, wooden bow, bamboo mugs, pottery, etc. The dead were boxed in carved wooden coffins. However, a very strange practice is that the bodies were first cut into pieces and defleshed before burial. Another burial cave was found in Samjong in 2010, which was an interesting exploration by National Geographic on Mustang caves as 27 individuals were found in simple coffins. However, one of the coffins (probably of a superior person/ lama), which was made of hardwood and painted, wasn’t defleshed (Unlike the rest). The coffin also had remains of a 10-year-old and a horse in it.
There are many more interesting findings and stories in Upper Mustang. If you want to know more, Subscribe to our newsletter to keep updated with our latest posts!
Manaslu trek, without a doubt and beyond any reason, is one of the most fulfilling decisions that you could have made this year. And we don’t need to tell you about how amazing this trail is because you have probably done all your research as a responsible traveler. Still, having taken this lustful trail filled with orgasmic beauty, we would like to present ten things that anybody should know. So, poet and writers, wanderers and traveler, here lies the comprehensive condensed information that will serve you with all the apples and oranges when on the trail. Read on to discover more!
1. Not A Lone Ranger’s Cup Of Tea:
Manaslu Circuit is not permitted for someone who wishes to go solo. You might have to save up the Alexander Supertramp spirit for some other trails. The state has restricted a solo trekker. One must be in a group of at least two, accompanied by a guide. Thinking of the other way out, you will need a permit of a ‘ghost’ trekker (which would still require a foreign passport) and a guide (obviously). The other permits you will need are Restricted Area Permit, Manaslu Conservation Area Permit (MCAP) and Annapurna Conservation Area Project (ACAP) Permit. Here’s what you’re looking for:
2. Mind Those Rocks:
It wouldn’t be much of a surprise that single trekkers are not permitted in Manaslu circuit because some areas on the trail are prone to landslides and rockfall. Mark yourself safe with a little extra attention. The rockfall/ landslide areas are on the way as you pass from Khorlabesi to Tatopani. The major one lies on the stretch from Dobhan to Yaru. If you decide to make a trip to the serene Serang gompa, then the old trail is prone to landslides. And the final trail to be warned off is from Samdo to Dharamshala, especially after you cross the Larke pass. So Mind those rocks!
3. The secret heaven ‘BEYUL’:
As we dig upon the pages of history, the aroma of Manaslu Circuit is identified as a secret paradise in the Himalayan mountains. According to the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, Beyul refers to the secret lands hidden among the Himalayan mountains of Asia that were marked as safe and sacred by Guru Padmasambhava. A place where one could attain Nirvana. And one of these Beyuls is found in the Manaslu circuit. The Kyimolung trail starts from Tsum valley and extends up to the area in the foot of Shringi Himal where the Serang gompa sits. Considered as a Shangri-La in Nepal, this is where famous Buddhist teachers like Guru Rinpoche and Jetsun Milarepa meditated.
You can experience the enigmatic energy that steers a feeling of epiphany. Geographically lying in the isolated foothills of the Himalayas, the location to these secluded places are hidden even from war and violence. This area boasts abundant natural beauty, unalloyed breeze and a notion of complete peace. Hence, even now, Buddhist monks seclude themselves in the vicinity of Beyul to elevate themselves spirituality. Serang Gumba on the foot of Shringi Himal (Himal means mountain in Nepalese dialect) is a place which must not be missed while on Manaslu Circuit.
4. Going for mountains? Oh, not Shringi Himal:
Manaslu Himal (Himal means mountain in Nepalese dialect) marks itself as the 7th highest mountain in the world. The mountain is considered to be a tough climb. One is permitted to climb the peaks found in Manaslu circuit after obtaining a climbing permit from the relevant authority for a certain fee. However, considering the religious point of view emerging from the followers of Buddhism, you are not permitted to set foot on Shringi Himal. The mountain has ample significance and is reckoned as a very sacred mountain. Similar story goes with Mt Machhapuchre as well.
5. No booking? You might end up cold!
The Manaslu trek is definitely one of the most alluring trails you could choose to go trekking in Nepal. You will not a find a huge crowd of people flocked in Manaslu circuit. This is because other trekking trails steal the show for Manaslu circuit, but if you ever feel like not taking a mainstream trail this year, then Manaslu will always be there to hug you. When that time comes, and if that time is during the peak season, finding a good lodge spontaneously can pose up to be a big problem. So, a smart move would be to book yourself a proper night’s sleep beforehand or some days before reaching the village itself. It’s easy. You could talk to the owner of the place you stayed a day earlier, and they shall avail you the contact details of lodges for the next day. Another thing that you must be informed about is that before you reach the Larke pass, you will come across a place called Dharmashala. The thing about Dharamshala is that there is only one lodge here. About eight rooms are available for pre-booking. Otherwise, you will have to spend the night in tents as we did. Having a sole dominance over the area with no houses nearby, the lodge offers less than ordinary service and charges you with expensive bills. If you can deal with this then you should be awarded a medal of forbearance.
6. Inhale them words ‘Tashi Delek’ :
Learning to greet the local way, is a cool thing to do in any country. It’s your gateway to socializing and letting the natives know that you admire their culture. ‘Tashi Delek’ is the way of greeting people in Tibetan Culture. Basically, ‘Tashi’ means auspicious and ‘Delek’ means fine which refers to Goodluck or Blessings. Ever on the trails in Nepal, if you come across anybody don’t hold yourself back, let all your Tibetan out; Say ‘Tashi Delek’!
The roads end at Soti Khola and later perpetuates from Dharapani after you are done crossing the Larke Pass in the Manaslu Circuit. Arughat is the starting point of the trail, but you can also ride up to Soti Khola. It is entirely up to you where you start your trek. After Soti Khola, it’s time to stretch your happy feet along. The official Manaslu trek ends at Besisahar. However, you can cheat a little by catching a bus from Dharapani.
8. The Other Networks
If you are wondering which network kicks off well in the Manaslu circuit, CDMA networks are preferred over NTC and NCell. Most locals use CDMA phones. One thing you should know is that CDMA networks cannot be accessed through all mobile phones. If this is the case for you, then you will have to buy a phone in Kathmandu itself as it comes very cheap.
Besides the telephone network, the power in Manaslu Circuit is supplied through solar panels or local hydropower projects. Some places do not have access to electricity. The charging is easily facilitated in places supported by the hydropower projects. But you will definitely face difficulties in where solar power is used. And some lodges have even started to charge a certain rate per hour.
Nepal is an amazing place not only for sight-seeing and getting greetings from local people but also for observing weird and uncanny customs that have been established here. Have you heard that Nepalese are polycephalic (what does this even mean!!) or that animals walk among people on streets like its a Disney’s world or that a revolutionary dead poets society has been in movement with the slogans and messages in the back of trucks and buses since ages. Well, all this and more have been covered in our 10 things that you can see in Nepal below.
1. Being Polycephalic – A condition of having many heads
a. Nepalese are quadri-lingual
By the time a Nepali is an adult, he/she goes through the unconscious learning of not one or two but four languages. Nepali is learned as a primary language and as the most common medium of a verbal transaction of information and ideas. Then, because of its universality, comes English which is invested in us as secondary language starting from elementary school years. With the regular screening of Indian cinema since as long as our fathers recite their days of youth, Hindi is the third favorite language that we speak. Anyone who has been to Nepal can see the influence of Indian culture led by the big bad Bollywood. Thus, Hindi is known to every other Nepali. Finally, many of us bag one more way of verbal expression which is born from our ethnicity (Maithili, Bhojpuri, Tharu, Tamang, Magar, Doteli, Urdu, Sunuwar etc.). This tiny country of Nepal has got over 100 ethnic groups so you can imagine the different local languages that are spoken. So, almost all Nepali’s tongue is, but this does not mean that you can’t trust us!!
b. There is no definite Nepali as there is a definite Oriental
If you are looking for a definite Nepali face, then that is going to be one long search. There has been so much migration of Khas and Magars from west mid-hills; Tharu, Yadav, and Thakuri from lower Terai belt; Sherpa and Tamang from Upper Himalayas and Kirats from the eastern side that what we have today is a mixed bag of colors. Chinese people might find this a little confusing since they have been so used to similar faces.
2. Touch me Not
a. Normal guys holding hands
We have not done it because of the strong stereotype binding us but there are plenty of guys that go on swinging their hands as they walk into the sun-set. This is a specific expression in many part of world that defines one’s sexual orientation but here it’s a sign of strong friendship who remain friends until the last drop of meaning dries off. Watching and observing ,you get to awkwardly accept that these muscular male-chaps are just dearly good friends and nothing more happens after that.
3. Cause it’s a Disney World
a. Cows and roads
These animals are supposed to be in plain grasslands where they can graze for hours. But the urbanization in many cities of Nepal has lost sight of such fields. Hence, confused cows are stuck in the middle of roads while passengers walk on with frowned eyes (don’t you think that you or me or any countless passerby can stop for a minute to get their hands dirty while towing these lingering creatures somewhere much less significant!! But who can play this role of macho-man?? Once it’s behind, it’s someone else’s pondering time!! Someone else’s responsibility!!). Cities like Kathmandu are missing out on open playgrounds in the name of fatal development that does not care much about giving back to nature what it takes. And hence, we find the same cow in the middle of the roads now with its family.
b. Goats are on hoods
Goats, Hens and other household animals will never forget their first ride on a motor-bike, tractor, bus or truck. Dear animals, please forgive the care-taker for placing you on the roof of a bus because he didn’t own or even have enough money to spare a seat for you. He tried to change the conductor’s mind but nobody on the bus wanted an animal sitting beside them when the hood costs near to nothing. Some lives matter less than other and this is true to human nature. As such, you will be seeing goats on hoods.
c. Monkeys for Change
Monkeys are fast, chippy and always looking for some action around the corner. They are mostly found in forested areas of Kathmandu such as Pashupatinath temple or Swayambhu stupa eyeballing what delicacies devotees are holding. Also, due to reference from Hindu mythology about monkeys being avatars of Hanuman (Hindu God), they are usually bestowed with prasad (food given to or by God). In the noon when boredom hits its limit these gangsters gather up their homies to roam beyond their hoods frightening or startling local commuter who are on their way to their own call.
d. Rhino’s and Leopards on your alleys
Recently, visitors and locals are getting more surprises from wildlife. In March of 2015, a rhino found itself wandering past the local streets of Hetauda. And in a period of a year, we get three sharp nods by Leopards in Dhapasi, central Kathmandu, and Lamjung village. Such frequent wandering from a forest is happening because of the rapid encroachment of wildlife to build a human settlement. When someone sits on your chair, you either act with hostile primordial instinct or logical reasoning. Animals usually don’t bother to be so much logical when sharp claws can deliver the right blow. So, we being the rational ones have got to start making the right decision of making more natural spaces for wildlife.
4. The Laws of Space
a. The conductor is never guilty
In our country, the conductor is never bothered by shame or guilt as he herds people in his bus. The charges are discarded by the simpleton jury because he only seems to have attended school when classes were going on about the vacuum and empty space. People are forced to travel inside vehicles that are stuffed like a meat-pie up to the point where you need to decide if you should take the door or window. And how can we forget the sweet smell of sweaty armpits? Sajha Yatayat (Green colored buses) however has been able to stand as an exception.
b. Family of 4 travelling in a 2 person motorcycle
Why do you ask? Cause we can! Here is what happens when a Nepali family travels in a motor-bike: the smallest child sits right above the fuel tank (wearing a sunglass), then sits the father (who drives), then the mother (with all her gifts) jumps squeezing the eldest child (with no place to put foot on) in between her and her husband. This is the golden thumb rule and many families have departed by getting hit by the larger vehicle in such manner that just does not seem worthy of such an ending.
But, the Nepalese still travel. More than half of our population is middle-class (which is one of the reasons why there is no revolution in a country whose government is the definition of instability) who own motor-bike rather than a car. Doing double route is hampering because petrol is always walking on a thin line. And nobody wants to travel on a local transport!! But what if we had separate lanes for the different sized vehicle. Saying all this, we are still not promoting this way of travelling on any road whatsoever.
The reason for this must be to reflect some sort of character of the person in-charge but they never fail to amuse the idle state of mind. Tag-lines are written, painted or sticker-pasted on the rear end of a vehicle benefitting anyone who’s getting too bored out of riding. Many of them are cheeky one liners, sexist yet funny lines and mostly poems (something similar to haiku poetry)
6. These are for real!!
a. College Football Clubs
Some dream of playing for their favorite club and others dream of visiting their favorite club once in their lifetime. But, Nepalese colleges get a medal for pirating exactly the name, emblem and motto of football clubs such as “Liverpool” or “Chelsea.” Other Nepalese institutions with such names are “White-house college,” “Oxbridge College,” “Nasa College” etc.
b. Social Bus Network!!
It must be some sort of business strategy because we don’t think there is much deep occult meaning hidden behind when the curtain drops. Whatever it must be one of them started and rest followed by naming their buses “Facebook” or “Twitter” or “Google” or “Samsung.” And if somehow a person argues that these buses might have been sponsored then show them the facepalm.
7. Stop, Look, Walk, Wait, Let Them Pass and Repeat
a. Zebra crossing is non-existent in Nepal
It has not been long since Nepal started paving its roads for smooth sailing of motorized vehicles. And today pitched roads are like running rivers washing down with large current every second (except for nights). For the safety of pedestrians, zebra marks were invented which act like bridges that bypass the flow and grants pedestrians the priority. Hence dear readers and riders, we really want us to get this part absolutely right and humbly press those awesome brakes to halt to a stop. But on careful examination of the context that we are facing every day there is a pressing lingering notion that the will to pass first, too many vehicles at a moment, personal emergency, mismanaged traffic, not enough awareness, punctuated roads and too much use of horn kills that very simplicity that we intend to maintain. Raising the voices of many we believe that we are still to cross many roads to arrive at this picture of the common level of awareness that is collectively called “The Road Consciousness”. So, to all readers, this is a message that Nepalese people are still stuck somewhere in between windows when it comes a fluent understanding of road ethics so following the title would serve you a lot better than getting served by a punk who just got his bike serviced.
8. After all, what’s in a name!!
A friend may invite you out for dinner as a courtesy. He’s says something like going to KFC outlet that just opened a few months ago. And you are expecting to stuff down buckets of heavenly fried chicken, but sometimes things just don’t work out together. Here, KFC is abbreviating to Kwality Food Café.
9.The Nepali Shake
These are simple head signals that a Nepali uses to give basic response
a. Moving your head up and down means “YES.”
b. Moving your head side to side means “NO.”
c. But moving your head side to side like below (with frowned eyes) means that you are listening carefully and are understanding when someone is dictating something important
d. Moving your head side to side means “Okay”
10. The Dark Side of Nepal
Have you ever found yourself about to watch a movie you think you deserve after a long day at work? You plug in everything, get food, close door and just when you’d turn on the T.V., it’s load-shedding!! A what!! Yes, it’s the daily load-shedding because there is not even enough electricity cultivated out of all the rivers flowing out from The Himalayas to equally distribute among all the public. Hence, as a countermeasure, we have “No Electricity Hours” in Nepal which is daily (approximately 16 hours in dry season!! Impressive isn’t it!!). This has its foot so deep on Nepali life that we have software developers trying to make the perfect load-shedding app and mobile vendors selling cell phones with torch lights.
b. Run bandwidth run
The internet speed in this country is pretty low. Nepal is placed at 172th in the overall world ranking. The bandwidth of the highest ISP in Nepal is 1.08 Mbps which is given by Nepalese Service Provider (NSP). And, more than 60% people lag and buffer with the bandwidth of 512 kbps. For the basis of comparison, South Korea tops its download speed at 34 Mbps. This is a moment of sulky realization because the top dollar you are paying for your connection is sprinting on a steep gradient carrying a bag of stone.