05 December Five reasons to go to Nepal by Scott Coates
by Scott Coates: story and photos courtesy of www.smilingalbino.com
Nepal’s one of the world’s most intriguing and unique nations. Covering almost every climatic zone, home to the highest point on earth, multiple religions mixing peacefully, dazzling food and friendly people, Nepal has it all and then some. Getting there from Bangkok is a breeze with flight-time clocking-in at about three hours. Going from one world to another could hardly be faster or easier. We could list dozens of reasons why it’s one of our favorite countries, but here smiling Albino will boil it down to five.
Land-locked Nepal has seen little outside influence or investment prior to the last few decades. Trade has depended on foot power and porters to haul heavy loads through the mountains, village-to-village, and within city centers. Along their routes are rest stations called chowtaras, usually around a tree. Tea shops for nourishment are nearby and little has changed for centuries. Stroll down a few small streets from your hotel in Kathmandu and you’ll quickly find yourself in narrow passageways, dodging porters, mingling with traders and marveling at a totally different world, such as the colorful Ason neighborhood. Venture a few kilometers from the capital and you can literally walk through history in the ancient Royal capitals of Patan and Baktapur. The greater Kathmandu Valley is a treasure trove, sure to rapidly transport you back in time.
The Great Outdoors
In just 230km Nepal rises from 71m in the southern Terai region bordering India, to 8,850m at the summit of Everest. Over this short distance the country rises dramatically and offers every environment imaginable. Plains home to rhinoceros and elephants, rhododendron forests, high alpine meadows, deserts and eight of the world’s 14, 8,000m+ peaks. Whether you enjoy hiking, white water rafting, mountain biking, multi-day trekking or just sitting on a balcony and taking-in mountain views, there are few places as diverse and naturally beautiful. If you enjoy the outdoors, you must get to Nepal – period.
Full Service Trekking
Few travel experiences equal a full service trek in Nepal’s mountains. Imagine setting out by foot for a multi-day hike, setting up camp where you like each evening, and better yet, a full crew hauls everything. Nepalese have been traversing the nation’s mountains and lugging loads for hundreds of years, and providing trekking services is something they do with great pride and skill. While you stroll with a small daypack, enjoying the views, the trekking crew points out items of interest along the way, sets-up/tears-down camp, and best of all, prepares three incredible meals each day. From delectable curries and cakes to warm tea and coffee in the morning upon rising, this is one form of travel that’s fun, stylish, far away from the crowds and uniquely Nepal.
There’s a dish (or three or four or five…) for every traveler in this country that’s been hosting foreign visitors for the last 50 years. The culture’s extremely mixed as Kathmandu has been a natural meeting point for Mongoloid traders from the Tibetan Plateau and Caucasoid from the Indian plains, for centuries. With them they brought spices, recipes and created a tasty and diverse dining palate. In addition, tourists returning from mountain expeditions are treated to almost every cuisine imaginable back in the capital in tourist haunts. You can eat pizza for lunch, Indian curries and dahl bat for dinner and an exquisite French pastry for desert. Bring an appetite!
The world’s largest mountain range – enough said! There’re right there and everything you’d imagine them to be and then some. Even from 100km away while trekking Nepal’s southern Mahabarat Range you can see them on a clear day and they’re still obviously large. If you want to get high-up and contend with altitude they’re mighty and close, but it’s still a joy to be on a low-altitude outing and see them tower above from 20km away or more. Manaslu for instance is a featured backdrop on a hike through the Gorkha region, where the famed soldiers by the same name come from. Once in a lifetime one surely should see the highest parts of our planet.