Nepal – rich experiences for budget travelers

Exchange rate: 1$~71Rs; 1e~102Rs (at the time of writing; check this page for the current status).
Minimum daily allowance: 1000Rs each:  a double room ~ 200-400Rs;   food ~ 50-200Rs per meal (omelette was 50; a big portion of fried rice – 100);   water ~ 60Rs (price per three – 1L bottles which we drank every day);   entrance fees to touristic attraction: 100Rs – 1100Rs (Durbar Square in Bhaktapur was the most expensive one with 1100Rs, the other squares were 400Rs).
A jungle trekking trip (3h) plus canoeing (45min) and one night sleeping in the jungle cost us 2000Rs each (30$!) in Sauraha. Prices in Kathmandu were a bit higher, but surprisingly less than what one would expect comparing a village (Suraha) to the capital.

The purr made by the air conditioning system is playing with my concentration, but I’m really enjoying the breath of cold air as I sit here in Hong Kong, composing my thoughts about Nepal. After all, this is the most expensive room we’ve stayed in since we started the journey, so I’m glad there are some benefits that came with the high price.

This post is not about Hong Kong though, it’s about our stay in Nepal – 14 days to be more exact.
I’ve shortly summed-up above some useful information to give you an idea about the things you can do in this country and how much you’ll have to spend.
Now that I look back from HK – this annoyingly expensive city – it feels like we should have enjoyed more from what Nepal had to offer as a very affordable country.

We started in Sauraha, the gateway village to Chitawan National Park where we were lucky enough to see a wild rhino! If you’ve missed the previous post about canoeing, trekking and sleeping in the jungle, I suggest to read it because it will definitely put a smile on your face and offer some useful details about these things.
Beside wildlife, the entire area can offer plenty of insight in the locals’ daily life especially since it has not been tainted by modernism. It has been touched by it, but both the old and the new coexist in peace or rather don’t meet that much in the daily routine. However, things are changing rapidly and I personally believe that this will be the one of the last generations to do things the old way.

The village itself is laid back and gives travelers the chance to completely relax and disconnect.. especially to those who come exhausted after a long time in the hectic India (which seemed to be the case with almost all other travelers we’ve talked with).

The very first thing we’ve noticed was the country side feeling with its silence and the people’s relaxed way of doing everything (which at times felt more like slow motion). I’m a science fiction fan, so naturally it didn’t take me long to find parallels between a short story I’ve read and our situation 😀 For the first two days it felt like we were still trapped in our own time-line intertwined with a slower time-line which made everything seem out of sync. Two days later we were already adapted having a perfectly natural lazy attitude towards doing anything.

In the previous month, everywhere we went prior to here the most dangerous thing to do was crossing the street.  In Sauraha it is as safe as you’d expect in a remote village – with one exception though: at noon elephants seem to appear behind you and there’s nothing more frightening that hearing a faint sound of footsteps, turn your head expecting a person only to see a truck sized elephant just a few meters away. I had no idea those big beautiful beasts can walk so silently!

If that happens and you see an amused mahout mounted on the elephant, I suggest to take advantage of the situation and ask him to take you along to the bathing place. For 100Rs (or more) you’ll have to chance to bathe with elephants – an unforgettable experience!

Long story short, we highly recommend this village in case your travels bring you to Nepal!

Now, a bit about Kathmandu:
This is truly a city where people live comfortably both in modernity and in sacred times. If that’s not enough of a reason to stir your interest, you’ll also like to hear that many of it’s attractions are within walking range. Everything is incredibly dense with a high concentration of old monuments and buildings which make it easy to overlook something important.
Close to the end of our stay Andra put it nicely in one phrase: “In other countries archaeologists dig the dirt to find stuff as old as what these people have in great condition all around them.”

The city is simply amazing and there are way too many things that happened in the seven days we spent there. When not strolling through the narrow alleys, dodging traffic and checking taverns, I played chess with the locals for a 2-4 of hours every day 🙂 Beside the capital, we also saw Patan and Bakthapur cities which have their own unique flavors, but also one thing in common: a central square – “Durbar Square” – packed with some of the most famous monuments including the royal palace and the house of “Kumari” the living goddess. Although it is kind of forbidden to take photos when the goddess appears for a few minutes to salute the commoners, I think I snapped a a few incognito shots of her 😀  I haven’t found them yet, but I’m sure they are somewhere in the collection of tens of thousands we’ve built since the beginning of the trip. I’ll upload them with a later edit of this post.
As usual, photos from each country are uploaded on FB. Nepal’s album can be accessed here.

I’ll close this post with some trivia:
– Just like in India, toilet paper seems to be considered a luxury and it’s probably imported mainly for tourists. I don’t even want to know what the locals use, I definitely hope it’s just the left hand since I shook a dozen of right hands 😀  The idea is that toilet paper is a lot more expensive than you’d expect. In both countries eight or ten rolls of TP were the equivalent of one night at the hostel.
–  Beer and chocolate are also some things the locals appear not to appreciate. Chocolate is quite hard to find and extremely expensive, while beer is available in most stores, but the price can keep you from enjoying it as often as you’d like. You’d stay one night in a decent hostel for the price of one beer and one normal sized chocolate.
– Eating, offering or receiving things with the left hand can be offensive to locals. The right way to do it is to use your right hand while touching it’s elbow with your left hand, this way showing respect towards the person you’re interacting with.

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