Kathmandu was crowded, dusty, noisy and chaotic. However I was truly amazed by its mystical temples that you could meet in the most unexpected places, naughty monkeys that were walking casually on the street without paying much attention on people around, loud drivers who are not following any rules and using sound signals instead of turning lights, amusing musical instruments of all possible shapes, little narrow streets, small houses with colourful doors and so much more…
It was totally different from everything I have ever seen before. Watching documentaries about places like this gives you an idea of what to expect from the country however you can never prepare yourself for the whole new spectrum of sensations that you are going to experience after actually getting here.
One thing I have heard about but haven’t really experienced before in such large scale is a market culture. As soon as people see you next to the place where they are selling things, they put you in a “tourist” frame and it is quite difficult to reach them after, to find the real, honest connection. Every time you want to buy something, you need to fight for the reasonable price for any goods, need to bargain as you know that the salesman definitely gives you “touristic” price that is at least two times higher than the original price and sometimes can get up to ten times higher or even more. It makes you suspicious and less friendly to people. As one of our acquaintances said, if a salesman says “Goodbye” to you like to a family member, that definitely means that you spent too much money in his shop.
It was sometimes difficult to accept that people who are being nice to you on the surface are just trying to make business. Of course it’s understandable in a way. Prices in Nepal are very cheap for our standards, even when we pay the “tourist” price. I understood that you just need to get used to and accept the fact that people will always want more money from you then from the local people. Accepting this will make you less frustrated and angry. At least it helped me in certain point.
After Kathmandu we went to quite touristic places. Chitwan National park and Pokhara. At Chitwan National Park we were walking in the jungle looking for wild animals such as rhinos, deer, monkeys, wild pigs, colourful insects and all possible sorts of birds, had canoe ride in a river full of crocodiles and were introduced to local elephants and their living conditions. It was amazing to be in the nature after several days in the hectic city.
Once we had an opportunity to attend concert of traditional dances and music. The brightest memory from that evening was the support and loud applause of the audience during the whole performance. People were so cheerful and engaging that I was sure that this concert was unique for them. However later on we found out that actually same performance takes place every single day but it still doesn’t change the enthusiasm of the crowd. It gave that magical feeling of unity and acceptance to the people that is always so valuable.
Pokhara was a starting point for our four day trekking to Poonhill. Very challenging experience for all of us followed by several days of muscle pain and leg inflexibility. However it was definitely worth it! Amazing landscapes of the mountains, green hills occupied by little villages, friendly mountain goats and donkeys carrying all types of goods up and down the stairs, fresh air and the sky full of uncountable stars. We reached the top of the Poonhill just before the sun rise and could catch the first sun rays there. Truly magical experience.
To get to the top of Poonhill, we took a local guide Amrit and during the trek we established very good contact. Amrit was telling us about local traditions, we were sharing jokes and our life stories and in the end promised to open an international business together. It was interesting to hear about his perception of people from different countries who come trekking to Nepal. He was compering the attitude towards the guides who are helping travellers not to get lost in the mountains and porters who are carrying their heavy bags during the journey. Amrit was telling us about the level of empathy of different nations and I must say that in his perception Europeans are definitely not the worst ones.
Amrit also shared his idea of volunteering with us. He told us that volunteers must have a lot of money so they can afford going to different countries and work for free. It was interesting to look at it from this angle. However my opinion is very different.
To get to one place in Nepal to another we were using buses and this was another excellent experience that I would like to share. The way the luggage was stored on the roof of the bus, the way people were jumping in and out of the moving vehicle and conductors shouting the names of the stops from the open doors. Unforgettable! Also the serpentine mountain roads were quite a challenge that not everyone could handle.
The buses themselves have lots of decorations with religious symbols and colourful ornaments. During one of our trips I could make photos of so many trucks and buses as all the traffic was stopped for three hours because of the accident in the village nearby.
In conclusion I can say that Nepal left wonderful impression however for me this country is still far away from being discovered. The next time I will come to Nepal, I will take the routs that are not so touristic and are more unpredictable.