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The year that was in travel is the year that is.  And, it’s the year ahead in 2020.

Every 31 December we ask ourselves – “Where did the year go?  It feels like January was just yesterday”.  Why does time feel like it slips by so fast?  

Is it because technology steals so much time from us?  Our work days find us in front of computer screens and in our spare time we are always tip-tapping on our mobile phones or tablets?  Our meals are delivered to us quickly in restaurants.  And, we better hurry because “this deal” won’t last.  It seems as if we are continuously in a race against time. 

Is time the friend of anyone amongst us?  Time is certainly no friend of mine.  There is never enough time in my days, weeks or months to check off my to-do list.  I’m fairly certain my to-do list grows faster than the things I get done.  Is there anyway to slow time?  Is there any way to make 2020 move slower so we can savour the days?

2019 was a remarkable year in more ways than one.  I use the term remarkable as it can refer to both good and bad.  Everyone’s year is filled with both good and bad so I can’t very well say my circumstances are special.  They are unique to me, however.

People come and go from our lives.  Life becomes fresh as new and interesting people come into our lives.  There is a lesson to learn from every person who crosses our paths.  It is up to us to decide what to do not only with the lessons but the people we meet.  

Richard Bach said it best in his book, “Illusions” – one of my favourites.  Bach said, “Every person, every event in our lives is there because we have drawn them there.  What we choose to do with them is up to us.”  

I read the book and the quote more than twenty years ago.  The words made such an impact on me, I remember and use them today.  The quote refers to the good people in our lives, tho’ unfortunately, the bad people as well.  I won’t go into details but I can say I’ve been betrayed, told I was loved when I wasn’t, used, taken advantage of and  lied to as well.  At one point it got so bad I had to question what is happening in our world.  Where did all the good people go?

I still wonder and sadly I’ve had to become weary and cautious.  I’m a genuine sort of guy who prefers to see the good in people.  I’m kind and I’ll do almost anything to help you, if I can.  I won’t change they way I live and see life.  I’ll simply be smarter in 2020 and beyond.

When you travel like I do, my travel experiences are also my life experiences.  I talk a lot about opening your mind and heart while travelling.  Throughout the blog I talk about the good people I’ve met.  I stay away from talking about the not so good people I meet along the way.  Today I’ve chosen to only refer to the bad seeds.

Instead of harbouring feelings of anger and hurt, I turn to myself.  I’m always comfortable with who and what I am.  I’m also aware I can always be better.  What can I do to improve?  I take stock of myself and take steps to become a better person.  I want to be better not only for myself but for the people in my life as well.

All that said, how can I put a year of travel into one video?  Over 4,000 travel photos – all with an iPhone – in one fast paced video.  Four minutes and thirty seconds.  That’s a lot of time in our fast-paced world.  Thanks for taking the journey with me.  I hope you enjoy.

Best of Luck to Everyone in 2020.

When I first thought about visiting Nepal, I thought of fresh air, Hinduism and an incredible view of the Himalayas.  I did not expect utter chaos on the streets and pollution so thick that the highest mountain range in the world was near impossible to see.  This is Kathmandu I’m referring to and not the entire country of Nepal.

There were grand plans to tour around Nepal to see the incredible landscape,  but a near fatal airplane ride that lasted all of ten minutes changed my mind.  The airplane I was on was put together with Band-Aids.  I’m sure of this.  Once the plane landed again in Kathmandu, I swore I would never fly again.  It was that scary. 

So, all of my time was spent exploring the capital city of Kathmandu.  Visiting and seeing the Pashupatinath Temple and Kathmandu Durbar Square were incredible experiences.  The intricacy of the architecture alone is mind blowing.  The crowds at each historical site make them feel a little less holy as it were.  

The traffic from Point A to Point B, however, made the experience less than enjoyable.

I don’t mean to entirely knock Kathmandu.  The people are charming and everyone I encountered was more than friendly.   If you love people watching and have no trouble talking to strangers, you’ll love Kathmandu.  If you want to feel the unique vibe of the city  make your way to Thamel.

Thamel is interesting with its overcrowded streets and hundreds of electrical wire twisted and tangled on electric poles.  If you want to experience real Kathmandu life, venture a street or two away from Thamel.  Explore.  Discover.  That’s what travel is about.  Have a look a the video in this blog post and you’ll see what you’ll find.

All of the images in the video slideshow were taken with an iPhone.  If you’re interested in capturing better travel photos with your own mobile device, have a read below.

Tips For Capturing the Best Travel Photos With Your iPhone

1.  Keep Your iPhone Steady

The best way to eliminate camera shake is to steady your iPhone.  You can do this with a mini-tripod setup, but you can also just lean the camera on a flat surface like a table or chair using a sweater or similar to prop it up. Using the self-timer will make sure you don’t end up moving the phone as you take the shot.

2.  Click The Shutter Using the Volume Buttons

iPhones offer two ways to fire the shutter: pressing the on-screen button, and using either of the volume keys.  The volume keys will almost always be the better option because they allow a firmer grip. By holding the phone firmly with both hands, you’ll get a steadier shot than you would using the on-screen button. It also makes it easier to keep the camera level with the horizon, so you don’t get a tilted shot.

3.  Use ‘motor drive’ for low-light shots

Low-light shots are always tricky.  The iPhone amplifies the signal to the sensor to make the most of the available light, but it also needs to keep the sensor switched on for longer.  This makes it much more likely that camera shake will create motion blur.  You can maximize your chances of getting a steady shot by holding down the volume key to take a burst of half a dozen shots.  Usually one of the later ones will be better as you eliminate the small movement you tend to get when pressing the shutter release.  It sort of sounds like cheating, but it works.

4.  Keep HDR On

Camera sensors have limited dynamic range.  What these means is that if you expose a shot to capture detail in the shadows, the brightest parts of the image – the highlights – will be blown out, appearing pure white.  Conversely, if you expose for the highlights, shadow areas will appear solid black.

High Dynamic Range takes multiple exposures and automatically blends them together into a single image that captures details in both the shadows and the highlights, so keep HDR switched on.  While you may occasionally want to switch it off for creative reasons, you’ll want it on most of the time.

5.  Keep The Flash Off

A flash throws a lot of light a very short distance. A typical photo of a person with the flash on will light their face properly but everything else will be under-exposed.  The result is a photo that could have been taken anywhere.  If you want to show the surroundings, try the shot without flash first – using the above tips to help.  If you’re in any doubt about the result, you can take a flash shot as insurance.

When you’re taking a photo of anything more than a few feet away, flash is not only pointless, it’s actually counterproductive.  It won’t light what you’re trying to photograph, but will light up anything in the foreground, which may ruin the shot by making the rest of the shot dark.

So my advice is to keep flash off by default, switching it on only when you specifically want it.

6.  Pay Attention to the Natural Light Around You

When taking a shot, look at where the light is coming from. For most photos, you’ll want the light coming from behind you. If you shoot directly into the light, the shot is likely to be underexposed, and even if not, detail will be washed out.

When photographing people, you’ll show the shape of their face when the light is at a roughly 45 degree angle. This tends to produce the most interesting portraits.

As with all photography ‘rules,’ there will be times you want to break them. Shooting directly into the light – known as contre-jour – can produce great effects when done deliberately. You will, though, typically need to use photo editing software to recover detail from the shadows, and you’ll probably see lens flare in the shot.

7.  Know All About Where You’re Going

For travel photography, some web research can pay real dividends in the sights you’ll see and the photos you’ll get. On a visit to Shanghai, it was web research that alerted me to the fact that one of the most spectacular views in the city was actually seen from inside a building: the amazing atrium inside the Jin Mao Tower.

8.  Remember to Explore All Perspectives

Sometimes you’ll get a more interesting shot by getting down low, getting up high and shooting directly down or shooting straight up. (And consider tip 8a as ‘monochrome can be your friend when the weather is overcast’ …)

9.  Think of the Distance Between You and Your Subject

Sometimes with a portrait shot, you’ll want to show the person in their surroundings. This is particularly effective when you want to show what someone does, like showing an artist with their canvas. But often times, portraits have the greatest impact when you get really close, filling the frame with the person. Getting in close will also blur the background, something usually not possible with the small sensors used in cameraphones.

10.  Foregrounds and Backgrounds Are Important

A photo is a two-dimensional representation of a three-dimensional scene. A sense of depth can be lost when looking at a photo, so including something in the foreground can be a good way to restore that 3D feel.

11.  Wake Up Early or Stay Up Late

Ok, I’ll admit that pretty much the only time I take this advice myself is accidentally due to jet-lag!  But if you want to take a photo of a popular tourist attraction, getting there before the crowds can definitely help.  Staying late is always my option as so many people disappear from the streets after the sun goes down.  If you choose late, remember the rules for low light photography.

 

No matter how, when, why or where you travel around the world you are sure to receive one of the best educations of your life.  The lessons you learn may be small and unnoticeable or they may be huge and life changing.

A foreign culture may make you realise something you didn’t know about yourself and sometimes even move you to tears.  My visit to Bhutan took me to a state of peacefulness I’ve not found anywhere in the Western world.  I can’t begin to describe the effect the tiny kingdom had on me except to say when I viewed photos and video from the journey, tears rolled down my cheeks.  It’s a mystery to me why the tears came even today.  All I know is Bhutan touched me beyond measure.

The taste of new food, aromas, colors and even travel sounds can leave an impression on you well after you leave a destination.  The sensory elements of travel may inspire you to add them to your own creative adventures in cooking or music or handicrafts.

You may be in awe of Big Ben or Mont Saint Michel glowing against the night sky.  Istanbul’s Blue Mosque or the Old Medina in Marrakech send your senses into sensory overload.  A sunset on a beach in the Caribbean or Bali may change the way you look at the world.

But most of all, it is the people you meet along the way who will touch you in ways you never though imaginable.  Maybe you’ll understand that we are all just trying to make it in this world.  We just happen to speak differently or pray a little different.  Inherently, we’re all good people.

And so when I wanted to show the many places I’ve travelled throughout the world, I decided to do it in one go in one epic video presentation which I’ve titled “Travel Around The World With The Gentleman Wayfarer.”  There are approximately 3000 photos in the fast-paced presentation that span all the way around the world.  The places and people I’ve included have impacted my life in one way or another.  This is my tribute to every one and every place that has made a difference in my life.

Travel with an iPhone or any mobile phone is very common today.  If you are keen to improve your travel photography skills, a mobile device is a great way to do it.  Phones are easily accessible, they fit in your pocket and you really don’t have to think too much.

Consider these iPhone Travel Photography Tips during your next journey.

1) Strengthen your travel photos with different focal lengths.

The iPhone is equipped with two lenses, a wide-angle 28mm and a portrait lens, 56mm. Different focal lengths tell different stories. A wider angle generally gives a better sense of place, while a telephoto brings the viewer into the details of the subject.  Consider this while you’re shooting and experiment with both.  And remember – one key element to great photo composition is filling your frame.

2) Keep Using Your iPhone in Low Light

Some of my favorite images have been shot well after the sun has gone down.  I love the challenge of low light photography.  In the past, I would have put my iPhone away thinking the images wouldn’t be usable, but now with a new sensor and faster aperture (f/1.8), the iPhone autofocuses and captures substantially better in low light.

3) Be In The Moment But Also Think Ahead

Travel photography is about capturing the unknowns and unexpected.  Always be looking forward, and consider using the iPhone’s burst mode so you don’t miss a moment as it happens.   To use burst mode, press and hold the shutter button until rapid fire begins.

4) Buy An Unlocked iPhone So You Can Switch to Local SIM Cards.

Communication is super important while traveling.  If you’re roaming internationally, the cost can be astronomical.  Buy a local SIM card as it allows you to make new plans, call someone, google something, and more, while you’re on the go. In photography, this means your GPS data will be recorded with your photo.  The iPhone’s memories feature can organize your images together by location and create simple and fun video vignettes.

Later, you can also look on a map in Photos and see exactly where you captured different photographs.  I use this feature as I don’t always remember the names of the places where I’ve taken photos.

5) Bring a Small Tripod

A small, compact tripod can be helpful and is a great way to capture time-lapses, low-light images, and more. While the iPhones now all have a stabilizer built in, the extra support from a tripod can be especially helpful with the iPhone optical zoom.

Keep in mind that shooting with a longer focal length, like the iPhone optical zoom, amplifies camera shake.  You’ll find it will naturally be more difficult to get a sharp clear shot while shooting with 2x, especially in low-light environments or unstable foundations, like a moving vehicle.  To compensate, use a mini-tripod or experiment with burst mode. Sometimes I’ll shoot a 20-shot burst just to ensure that I have the sharpest shot possible.

6) Upload Your Photos to the Cloud Daily

Thanks to a the iPhone’s water-resistant feature, you won’t be losing our pictures during accidental swims, but it could be left at a hotel, or worse, picked from your pocket, which happened to me in Ecuador. At the end of the day, the iPhone can be replaced, but your pictures can’t. Don’t get two weeks into a trip only to lose them all in a moment.

If you don’t have your laptop because you’re traveling light, consider a SanDisk iXpand.  It’s essentially a USB flash drive with a Lightning connector, so you can quickly and easily off-load your images each day.  I love mind and take it everywhere I travel.

Be sure to keep your backup and your iPhone in separate bags for extra safety.

7) Play it safe.

Don’t put your iPhone—or any valuable—in the tray when going through security. Instead, put it in a pocket of your bag before sending it through the x-ray.  This way it’s protected from being accidentally—or intentionally—carried off before you get through the metal detector.

8) Play To The Strengths of the iPhone

One of the greatest strengths of the iPhone as a camera is its agility.  You can focus on getting to the best shoot spots instead of worrying about lugging gear. Don’t weigh it down with a bunch of unnecessary DSLR lens adapters.

Try leaving your DSLR at home and travel super light.  The iPhone  doesn’t replace your DSLR, but it’s plenty powerful and a really fun way to experience and capture the environment around you.  You’ll love leaving the extra chargers, batteries, lenses, and big tripod at home for a change.

When I recall Kathmandu, I remember just what you see in the video.  Chaos and I won’t go so far as to say organised chaos.  Somehow, some way, everything works and no one collides.  The roads are free for all.  As a westerner, and one who wants everything neatly organised, Kathmandu made my head spin.
Absolutely nothing made sense, yet I think I might want to return for more one day.

There are two things that vividly stand out in my memory.  One, the overhead power lines.  The power lines were like a tangled ball of yarn tossed onto a pole.  What fascinated me more was the repairman on a rickety ladder seemingly engineering something.  Seriously, how did he know what line went to what?   

Secondly, traffic lights.  Traffic lights are everywhere and at almost every major intersection in Kathmandu.  None of the traffic lights works and they’re not even turned on.  Why are there no major car or scooter collisions every minute?  Do be aware – even as a passenger in a car with an experienced Kathmandu driver, you will be stressed if you pay too close attention to what is happening on the roads.  I suggest deeply occupying yourself until you arrive at your destination.

True, this is a case of Western sensibilities attempting to project onto a land where the rules I know do not apply.  I thought I was over-applying Western rules to the rest of the world.  Apparently not.

Discover more about Kathmandu from an earlier post.

Destination:  Kathmandu

Step away from the perpetual horn honking and mad driving in Kathmandu for a genuine travel adventure in Bhaktapur.   Every dirt road, crooked building and Temple will take you to a time read only in books.  

BHAKTAPUR NEPAL

Travel Destination – Bhaktapur 

One of my favourite travel photos from Bhaktapur. Ganesh, the hen, and a sleeping dog. They all seem perfectly aligned in front of the weathered brick wall. Of the areas around Kathmandu, Bhaktapur was the one place that captivated me the most as it seemed to be a step back in time.

I will let this photo stand alone as for me it epitomises Bhaktapur.  This image is available as a Mini Art Photograph, printed on metal in Mark’s Art Photographs Store.

Consider these interesting facts about Bhaktapur, Nepal ::

Bhaktapur—locally known as Khwopa—is world renowned for its elegant art, fabulous culture and indigenous lifestyle. For its majestic monuments, colourful festivals and the native Newars best known for their long history of craftsmanship, the ancient city is also variously known as the “City of Culture”, the “Living Heritage” and “Nepal’s Cultural Gem”. Given such unequalled opulence in ancient art and culture, Bhaktapur is more like an open museum, and the ambience here is such that it instantly transports visitors back by centuries the moment they step into its territory.

Bhaktapur has its gem in the Durbar Square—a World Heritage site listed by the UNESCO. Strewn with unique palaces, temples and monasteries best admired for their exquisite artworks in wood, metal and stone, the palatial enclave has bewitched pilgrims and travellers for centuries. Yet, they are not all though. Adding to the mesmerizing environs is the holy Himalaya that makes the backdrop of the city. Stretching all along the township, the panoramic Himalaya levitates in the skyline as if to keep vigilance on the city’s enviable beauty and splendour.

Bhaktapur, at 1,401 meters above sea level, spreads over an area of 6.88 square kilometres. It grows from a collection of villages strung along the old trade route between India and Tibet. The capital city of the Greater Malla Kingdom till the 15th century AD, Bhaktapur was founded in the 12th century by King Ananda Malla, but it was only in the early 18th century that this city took its present shape. It was at that time that many of Bhaktapur’s greatest monuments were built by the then Malla rulers.

Monumental masterpieces in Bhaktapur are innumerable, and each is more attractive than the other. Mostly terra-cotta structures supported by carved wooden columns, elaborately carved struts, windows and doors, gilded roofs and pinnacles, open spacious courts all around and, above all, the fascinating divine images presiding over the monument—many edifices have many things in common, yet their varied shape, size and designs make the one even more wondrous than the other. Furthermore, each of their components reflects the religious belief, social outlook and the economic status of the builders, and the monuments in all carry along a rich artistic tradition of the native Newars.

In Bhaktapur, visitors confront a smaller or larger monument almost at every ten or twenty steps. Perhaps stunned by the clusters of monuments, a visitor in the past had admired the Kathmandu Valley, saying that “every other building (in the Valley) is a temple and every other day a festival”. The proportion, owing to continual external invasions and natural calamities, might have changed over centuries, yet the presence of variously shaped and sized monuments in Bhaktapur is still awe-inspiring. The world-famous Nyataponla Temple, Bhairavnath Temple, Taleju Temple, 55-Window Palace, Golden Gate, Golden Faucet, Big Bell, Yaksheswor Mahadev Temple, Dattatreya Temple, Peacock Window, Taja Math, Pujari Math, Wakupati Narayan Temple, Nava Durga Temple, Chandeswori Temple, Barahi Temple, Bharbacho Gate, Terra-cotta Windows and Nepal’s largest Shiva Lingum at Hanumanghat, and such historic ponds as Ta-Pukhu, Na-Pukhu, Bhajya-Pukhu and Bahre-Pukhu (Kamal Pokhari) are simply a few among many that embellish the city’s brick- and stone-paved squares, courtyards and open fields. Besides, the presence of a great many Buddhist monuments, many of them rubbing shoulders with Hindu shrines, simply reaffirms the age-old Nepalese tradition of social harmony and religious tolerance among its peace-loving populace. Because of this time-tested tradition, Bhaktapur’s well known Lokeswor Mahavihar, Prasannasheel Mahavihar, Chatu Brahma Mahavihar, Jaya Kirti Mahavihar, Sukra-Varna Mahavihar, Dipanker Mahavihar and many other Buddhist shrines have been the places of esteem and adoration for the Hindus alike.

Bhaktapur’s Durbar Square is the gem not only of Bhaktapur but also of the entire nation. The fascinating structure here is the world-renowned 55-Window Palace. The elaborately carved windows and doors are something that visitors simply cannot help admiring. The seat of royalty before 1769 AD, the building now houses the National Art Gallery—the museum better known for its rich collection of paubha scroll paintings and breathtaking artworks in stone.

The world-famous Golden Gate rubs shoulders with the 55-Window Palace. An unparalleled specimen of repousse art dating back to 1756, it is the entrance to the marvellous Taleju Temple Complex. Getting into it leads to a number of artistically designed chowks (courtyards) including the Royal Bath, which is adorned with the well-admired Golden Faucet among others.

Another artwork that unfailing-ly bewitches visitors in the Square is the Big Bell. Big enough to match its name, the bell was erected by Ranajit Malla (r. 1722-1769), Bhaktapur’s last Malla king. It was used in those days for paying homage to Goddess Taleju, the lineage deity of Malla rulers, as well as to call assemblies of the citizens to discuss on given subjects concerning the state. Today, it is rung twice a day as a mark of tribute to the goddess. Right next to it is a smaller Barking Bell. To one’s surprise, all dogs around it start whining the moment it is run by its caretaker.

The Yaksheswor Mahadev Temple equally adds to the Square’s unparalleled beauty. Named after its builder king, Yaksha Malla (r. 1428-82), the two-storied pagoda was constructed after Kathmandu’s world famous Pashupatinath temple. It is noted for its wooden struts full of erotic carvings.

Other notable monuments in and around the historic Durbar Square are the octagonal Chyasin Mandap, Siddhi Laxmi Temple, Shiva Temple (Fasi-dega), Vatsala Temple, Bhandarkhal Complex, Chatu Brahma Mahavihar, Indrayani Temple, Balakhu Ganesh Temple, Tripura-Sundari Temple and the Char Dham symbolizing the four greatest Hindu pilgrimage sites.

The Nyataponla Temple presides over the Taumadhi Square. Dating back to 1702 AD, the colossal five-storied edifice is the country’s tallest pagoda temple. The struts, doors, windows and tympanums—each embellished with attractively carved divine figures—perfectly portray the creative tradition of Newar craftsmen. The temple is dedicated to Goddess Siddhi Laxmi, the manifestation of female force and creativity. The latest major renovation of this monument was carried out in 1997 AD by Bhaktapur Municipality using the revenue it collected from tourists.

Next to the Nyataponla Temple is the rectangular shaped Bhairavnath Temple. It houses a gilded bust of Bhairav, the ferocious manifestation of Lord Shiva. The three-storied pagoda was razed to the grounds by the 1934-earthquake, and its latest renovation was undertaken by Bhaktapur Municipality in 1995 AD.

The enclosed complex facing the Nyataponla Temple is dedicated to Tilmadhav Narayan, a manifestation of Lord Vishnu, who is one of the Supreme Triumvirate of Hindu pantheon. A few steps ahead of it, to the southwest, lies the famous Pottery Square, where visitors can see the city’s well-known potters making variously shaped and sized earthenware. The major monumental highlight of this square is a temple of Jeth Ganesh, which dates back to the 14th century.

The Dattatreya Square is Bhaktapur’s third dazzling gem. The seat of royalty till the 15th century, the area still houses a great number of historic monuments including many wondrous Maths (residential mansions) and temples.

The Dattatreya Temple is the main attraction of the Square. Constructed by King Yaksha Malla, the giant three-storied temple is believed to have been built with the stem of a single tree. Having defied series of calamities, it still bears testimony to the incredible achievement made in those regal days of the Nepalese history.

The Wane Layaku complex, which lies to the south-western corner of the Dattatreya temple, is noted for Bhaktapur’s second Taleju shrine. Enclosed with old houses, the courtyard sees throngs of people, especially during the Mohani (Dashain) festival, when a rare Ghau-batacha (Water Clock) is put on public display. During the Malla Era, the water-clock was used by the then rulers and astrologers for fixing “propitious moments” for commencing and concluding various state and social ceremonies.

The Peacock Window, which is also called the “Mona Lisa of Nepal”, is a rare masterpiece in wood. Dating back to the early 15th century, the unique latticed window has an intricately carved peacock in its centre. The window adorns the Pujari Math which, with rows of exquisitely carved windows and doors, is equally appealing. The building presently houses the Woodcarving Museum. The museum has a rich collection of unique pieces in wood.

The Brass & Bronze Museum, housed in the historic Chikanpha Math, is the next highlight of the Square. It has a wide collection of bronze and brasswares including the ritual jars, utensils, water vessels, pots, spittoons and similar other household items.

Near the Dattatreya Square is the Wakupati Narayan Temple. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the two-storied structure is a unique specimen of pagoda architecture. Next to it is Bhaktapur’s second Pottery Square.

Travellers visit Nepal for their own reasons, tho’ all must begin in Kathmandu.  This city is chaos with its own unique charm.  Step away from the “tourist” areas and your senses will be overrun with a genuine and authentic view of life in Kathmandu.  Journey through the Thamel area of Kathmandu in this short video.

Top Things To Do In Kathmandu

Kathmandu is the capital of Nepal and a big city with many historic temples and old buildings, several of which can be found on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.

Swayambhunath Temple
A beautiful temple complex, also known as the “Monkey Temple,” since lots of monkeys live in the northwestern part of Swayambhunath Temple.  From here, you also get a great view of nearly the entire Kathmandu Valley.  The stupa is of great importance among the pilgrims, and the temple is one of the oldest religious sites in Nepal.

Kopa Temple
Kopa temple is a gated community of Buddhist nuns and monks. In the morning you can watch the monks perform the sacred rituals of the morning.  It’s also a place where one can learn more about yoga and meditation.   If you’re interested in knowing more about their courses, you can visit their website –  Kopanmonastery.com

Trekking / Hiking
When you think about Nepal, one’s mind wanders rather quickly towards the Himalayas and Mount Everest. Kathmandu is for many the start of a long hike, and there are plenty of local travel agencies that organize hiking tours. One could also get some of the required certificates in Kathmandu.

Thamel
Thamel is the main tourist area in Kathmandu and according to many even the heart of the chaotic capital. There is always something to do in Thamel, and there are plenty of shops that stay open from early morning to late evening.

Boudhanath Stupa
The Boudhanath Stupa was considerably damaged during the great earthquake that occurred in May 2015. It is still a very sacred building in Buddhism and Buddhists from all over the world come here to pay homage. At the moment it’s being repaired and rebuilt to its former appearance. The stupa is best to visit during the morning when the monks and locals perform their morning prayers.

Overnight stay in Nagarkot
Nagarkot is a cosy little village where you can see the mountain range of the Himalayas in the distance.  At clear visibility, it’s even possible to see Mount Everest from here.  Nagarkot is most beautiful at sunrise and sunset, especially in summer when visibility is at its best.

Durbar Square
A classic square which is full of old buildings and a history that stretch far back in time. The hustle and bustle will continuously go on until darkness falls and there are plenty of shops and stalls selling everything from local food to clothes and handicrafts.
Durbar Square is a classic attraction in Kathmandu, which is also included on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

Pashupatinath Temple
Pashupatinath temple is the most important Hindu temple in Nepal and an interesting attraction if you want to learn more about the religion and life as a Hindu.

Fly over the Himalayas and Mount Everest
From Kathmandu, it is possible to book flights that will fly you over the Himalayas and the different peaks, such as Mount Everest. One should have in mind that it’s a private aircraft, so it is relatively expensive; however, it is less expensive compared to western prices.  From the aircraft, you get a magical view of the majestic mountains that together form the Himalayas.

Kumari Chowk
The Nepalese themselves call her a living goddess. If you go on the guided tour, you will most likely visit the Kumari Chowk. Visiting is a cultural experience; it’s a little girl who has no choice and is trapped in a room, just because someone has decided that she’s a goddess.  She is considered to be a living goddess and must not do ordinary things. The locals worship her and visit whenever they want her to bless them.

White Monastery
Also known as Seto Gumba. A Buddhist temple is known for its five Buddha statues that look out over the valley.

Patan Durbar Square
Patan Durbar Square is Lalitpur’s equivalent of Durbar Square in central Kathmandu. Here you will find several old temples and buildings. The square is a  UNESCO World Heritage Site.  Lalitpur is known for its handicrafts and artwork, which can be seen in all of the details available on the temples and buildings.

Hiranya Varna Mahabihar
This temple is situated at Patan Durbar Square in Lalitpur and is also known as “the golden temple.” A beautiful temple where locals still today pay their homage.

Bhaktapur
Bhaktapur is the third city in the Kathmandu Valley and just like the rest of them a historic city with several old temples and buildings. Bhaktapur is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Destination:  Kathmandu Nepal

Travel Destination :: Kathmandu Nepal

I can’t resist sharing these images captured with the iPhone during a walk through the outskirts of the Thamel area of Kathmandu.  Away from the myriad of tourists, and tourist shops, I found an area far more interesting a few streets away. Unsure where I was going, I walked and found a purely genuine, and beautiful Kathmandu.

The perpetual noise of the city faintly touched this area reminds me of just how hectic Kathmandu is.   Life slowed down here and I appreciated the authenticity of how life is lived.  In a remote sense, if there was a Nepalese Norman Rockwell, he would have painted these scenes.

Nothing was staged for tourists, and only day to day life occurred just as it should.

Thamel is distinguished by its narrow alleys crowded with various shops and vendors. Commonly sold goods include food, fresh vegetables/fruits, pastries, trekking gear, walking gear, music, DVDs, handicrafts, souvenirs, woollens, and clothes. Travel agencies, small grocery stores, budget hotels and restaurants also line the streets. Cars, cycle rickshaws, two-wheelers and taxis ply these narrow streets alongside hundreds of pedestrians.

The area has been the centre of the tourist industry in Kathmandu for over four decades, starting from the hippie days when many artists came to Nepal and spent weeks in Thamel. Even though Thamel has been referred to as a “ghetto” by some, many low-budget travellers consider it a hot-spot for tourism.

You might enjoy discovering more about Kathmandu in another post on this travel blog.

Map Showing the Location of Thamel Kathmandu

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